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Women go nude

17th March 2014 Print

British women are going nude and ditching their classic red lipsticks for softer, more muted shades.

For the first time in three years nude lipsticks are outselling red at High Street retailer Debenhams. Sales of sheer, natural shades are up 62% compared to this time last year.

Lipstick sales are often seen as a broad economic indicator with sales of bright red lippy said to rise in a recession and fall during an upturn. Estée Lauder chairman, Leonard Lauder named it the "lipstick index" theory in 2001, although the effect was first noted in the 1930s Depression.

As economists insist we are now out of recession Debenhams’ figures back the theory, with a more modern look for lips the clear trend on red carpets and catwalks since the New Year.

Actresses Cate Blanchett, Julia Roberts, Amy Adams and Kate Hudson all sported nude lips at the Oscars while singers Rita Ora, Pink and Alicia Keys did it first at the Grammys. 

“The trend for sheer, nude lips and more natural makeup was first highlighted on the Spring/Summer 2014 catwalks and has been seen on countless celebrities ever since,” says Sara Stern, Debenhams Health & Beauty Director.

“Even Kim Kardashian has recently undergone a make-under, transitioning from bright red lipstick and heavy application, towards a softer more relaxed appearance I like to call ‘Naked make-up’. This look creates an illusion of being make-up free but with full coverage, perfect for summer.”

In the past scarlet-lipped icons Marilyn Monroe, Ava Gardner and Elizabeth Taylor helped sales rocket and more recently Gwyneth Paltrow has spoken in favour of the, “kick-ass” effect of a red lipstick.

“There will always be a time and place for the classic red lipstick,” acknowledges Mrs Stern, “but on occasion it can look a little outmoded. Today’s trend-setters are definitely embracing the less-is-more concept when it comes to cosmetics and for an image that is bang up to date a nude lip is key.”

Current best sellers at the 200 year old British retailer include Rouge Dior Nude Lipstick in ‘Trench’ by Christian Dior, Clinique’s Long Last ‘Twilight Nude’ Lipstick and Urban Decays ‘Naked’ Ultra Nourishing Lip-gloss which has been a best seller since its launch last month.

An estimated 81% of women world-wide wear lipstick. Ancient Egyptians made it by mixing together bromine mannite, iodine and fucus-algin – a plant dye. It made a nice red, but unfortunately was also poisonous. Elizabeth I used beeswax and plant extracts to create crimson lips, but in 1770 parliament made lipstick illegal ruling that women found guilty of "seducing men into matrimony using cosmetic means" could be tried for witchcraft. Queen Victoria thought lipstick vulgar, but it was popularised by silent movie actresses in the early twentieth century. The first  modern swivel lipstick tube was patented in 1923 and companies such as Chanel, Helena Rubenstein, and Max Factor soon ensured almost every woman had one in their handbag.

A selection of ‘Naked Make-up’ can be found in Debenhams stores nationwide and online at, all at 10% off in Debenhams New Season Spectacular.