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R&D Pushes Backstage Beauty Results

Science is downright sexy. That’s the sentiment backstage during New York Fashion Week as beauty companies use the runways to showcase their latest innovations.


That’s the sentiment emerging backstage during New York Fashion Week as beauty companies use the runways to showcase their latest technical innovations with the goal of pushing beauty’s boundaries in terms of speed, efficacy and results.

Using backstage as a testing ground for new lipsticks, moisturizers and hair tools isn’t new to the beauty world, but the R&D explosion has benefits for all involved: the artists creating the looks, the consumers who will eventually use them at home and the viewer who will likely be more aesthetically pleased.

Michael Benjamin, chief executive of Temptu, the New York-based professional makeup company which specializes in airbrush technology, said that tech advances are driving his company to stretch the proverbial makeup bag. But it’s not just about formulas anymore, he said.

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“Artists now need extra tools that haven’t been around before. Yes, part of [making the right product] is about chemistry and formulas, but if you need to get a certain shape, for instance, a tool will help you get it,” said Benjamin.

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Makeup artists relying on airbrushing can now reach for Temptu’s Airbrow template, a small, freehand plastic square that offers structure and shape when defining color for brows, lips and eyes, eliminating product from running over into unwanted places. The item came in handy backstage at Joanna Mastroianni, where colorful makeup looks were created with the template on eyes and lips, according to makeup artist J.P. McCary, vice president of artistry for Temptu.

The spring 2009 shows mark the first time the company has truly invested in its backstage presence, helping sponsor five shows this time around, up from the usual one or two. In turn, the company upped its backstage financial investment this season: sponsorship jumped from between $5,000 and $10,000 to between $30,000 and $50,000 — in part to fund fashion designers — but also to help generate buzz for their new consumer line next spring.

The investment is worth it, said Benjamin.

“At the end of one show, someone, I think a makeup artist, ran over to [McCary] who was wearing a company-branded shirt and said, ‘I hear [Temptu] is the one to watch.’ That creates a buzz in the professional market but also in the world of fashion. This is where people start hearing things,” said Benjamin.

Procter & Gamble’s professional division is all for science on fashion runways.

Reuben A. Carranza, managing director, P&G Professional Care Exclusive Line Organization (North America), said fashion week offers the firm a way to bring its innovations to consumers via the hairstylist.

“It’s a very fashion-forward way to the end consumer, that beauty individual who is just a beauty junkie. Research and development in terms of sexy science lends itself to fashion week, a place where we can use” all of the firm’s latest innovations, such as the new styling items from Sebastian, which was restaged this summer with a focus on versatility.

Makeup artist Tom Pecheux said he recently uncovered items by Kett Cosmetics, a company that manufactures makeup formulated for skin to be high definition TV-ready. Pecheux explained that while most of his work appears in print, the Kett Fixx Crème Makeup he uses to hide skin imperfections “does an incredible job of creating beautiful skin” and gives results in pictures that make for “very smooth skin, skin that does not look too thick with makeup,” but enough to hide blemishes. Pecheaux said Kett helped him achieve the flawless skin look seen at Isaac Mizrahi.

Kett Cosmetics, based in Long Island City, N.Y., has been available to professional makeup artists for about five years, and was formulated specifically to address the makeup issues that HDTV and digital photography pose, such as less flexibility with mattifiers and reflectors, and controlling red and violet skin tones. But only recently are artists outside of the TV and film realm discovering Kett’s potential. The privately owned firm was founded by a makeup artist, Sheila McKenna, and a film and TV producer, Doug McAward, in 2000.

Once products leave the lab they enter the studio and are tested in front of high-definition and digital cameras. Items are formulated not only to yield high results but to also address the wearer: McKenna said Fixx is formulated with “skin-conscious ingredients such as vitamins A, C and E and licorice root extract.” Products are sold exclusively in beauty supply stores and at makeup schools.

Makeup artist Kevin Mendelson, who works for the Jane Iredale Minerals brand, said the product he’s reached for most often this week is Iredale’s Dream Tint, a new tinted mineral moisturizer, an industry first. Dream Tint, he said, allows him to achieve a glowing, matte look for skin, made possible by advanced particle processing. “It gives an airbrushed look and it’s really matte. Not an Eighties matte that is flat, but a 2008 matte that has shimmer,” Mendelson said. He pointed to the dewy, pretty, feminine faces he created for Catherine Holstein as an example of the new end result made capable by technology advancements.

Free of oil and formulated with titanium dioxide for SPF 15 protection, Dream Tint contains shea butter and jojoba esters for a creamy application, as well as different kinds of algae for a variety of skin care benefits, such as detoxifying, stimulation and moisturizing properties, according to vice president of marketing and sales Theresa Robison.

Iredale herself said fashion week allows her to see her products under a microscope.

“It lets us know how it will look when they are walking down the runways, how it will photograph even with all the lights. It also gets us feedback,” said the mineral brand’s founder.

Backstage at Monique Lhuillier, MAC Cosmetics was testing out a new loose pigment, one that makeup artist Val Garland said offered her more of what she’s always looking for during fashion week: speed.

“It’s idiot proof and speedy. In terms of application and transferring of color, I can get a lot of color quickly from this,” she said, pointing to a small pot of gold loose crème shimmer, which she applied to models’ lids.

Nicole Masson, executive director of product development for MAC, explained that the new pigment, which right now is in test mode, “has a liquid binder, which helps it adhere to skin better. It also gives it a creamy look and feel.”

Hairstylists also said they are achieving never-before results due to tech advances. Omar Lopez, the key hairstylist at Monique Lhuillier and also brand ambassador for British hair tool maker GHD, said the brand’s new mini iron is as good for short hair as it is for long hair, but the real sell is its automatic temperature setting of 374 degrees.

“Through clinical trials and case studies, GHD has found that 374 degrees to 384 degrees is the optimum temperature for all hair types when heat styling to avoid damaging the hair, while delivering the best styling results,” he said, adding that GHD stylers have a microcomputer chip designed to regulate the temperature 1000 times per second. “This provides consistent heat from the scalp to ends, allowing you to pass through the hair just one time. The technology also allows the styler to determine how much heat is being used, depending on hair porosity or size of hair section being styled. It will automatically adjust the temperature as necessary between 374 and 384 degrees.”

And of course, there are purists, who like to rely merely on their hands, fingers and water to get a desired style. Hairstylist Eugene Souleiman is one of them, but when pressed for what product has most revolutionized his performance backstage he admitted that Dry Shampoo “has saved my a– several times.”