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e hate to fuss over semantics, but we have to ponder the meaning of “natural beauty.” Devotees blithely toss around the phrase like puffs of powder (translucent, of course). In fact, a recent survey discovered that more women would rather be described as natural than pretty, feminine, or even beautiful. But if you were to ask them to elaborate, you’d find answers as diverse and complex as the women themselves. “Women are never going to acknowledge the monumental effort and artifice” it takes to look naturally beautiful, says Simon Doonan, creative director at Barneys New York. As such, the definition has loosened to accommodate our vanity and a growing arsenal of beauty rituals and trends. “Natural used to mean, ‘I am not

wearing pancake makeup and false eyelashes,’” Doonan says. “Now it means, ‘I drink herbal tea when I’m at the salon getting fake extensions glued to my head.’ In an era of Botox and implants, you’d have to go to enormous lengths to be labeled as fake.” So perhaps it’s time we introduce a new, more believable phrase to the lexicon. Supernatural (n): Down-toearth beauty that’s a touch above the laws of nature. Because while a little trompe l’oeil never hurt anyone, neither did a little restraint. Case in point: A bra has just been endorsed by a plastic surgeon for creating “a natural cosmetically enhanced look.” The oxymoronic nerve! And certain shades of bleached teeth say “natural” as convincingly as a bride’s white dress says “virgin.” Follow these tenets, and you can be a natural beauty (wink, wink) without eating your words.



In an age when bleached blondes with airbrush tans call themselves “natural,” the boundaries of the word are expanding. But how far? By Theresa O’Rourke

The goal: Effortless beauty. The reality: Exerting effort.




“They’ll all think you spent the week in St.–Tropez!” Some self-tanner promoters color the truth as intensely as they color the body. “It’s just not believable to look like you’ve been in St. Barts every weekend,” says Cindy Barshop, owner of Completely Bare in New York City. “You want a lighter glow on the face.” When the color is too dark, “you mask the angles of the cheekbones and the jawline, and the face loses its structure,” she says. Look for self-tanners, such as Clarins Radiance-Plus Self Tanning Lotion, that contain less pigment, so no matter how much you slather on, you still wind up with the kind of color that could exist without getting a stamp on your passport. If you’re dabbling in professional spray tans, skip the booth in favor of a human. “A booth is going to emit the same amount of pigment above the neck as it does on the body,” Barshop says. A lighter hand does the body good, too. Instead of painting one color from shoulders to shins, seek out salons that have airbrush tanning, and ask the technician to focus on the spots the sun would—the shoulders, the breast bone, the calves.



Nicholas Davis, a cosmetic dentist in Newport Beach, California, cannot tell a white lie—blinding Chicklet teeth scare the hell out of him. But that hasn’t stopped his patients from begging for them. “They want to bleach their teeth as white as my smock,” says the president of the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry. “There’s this idea that ultrawhite teeth are cleaner and fresher, but teeth that shade simply aren’t natural.” The trick to getting a brighter, more authentic smile, he says, is choosing a shade that is not lighter than the whites of your eyes. “In conversation, people look at your eyes and mouth most, so you don’t want one to overpower the other,” he says. What’s more, teeth have color gradations. “Each healthy tooth is whitest at the middle, where the enamel is thickest, and a slightly warmer off-white at the gum line, where the enamel is thin180

ner,” he explains. “And the tip of the chewing edge should look almost translucent.” If the concentration of bleach is too high or you bleach too frequently, you lose those nuances and “you get the top-to-bottom blinding effect.” Davis says at-home strip kits can deliver impressive results, but they present a problem if you have overlapping or crooked teeth. “The strip will only bleach what it touches, so you’ll get an uneven color. In that case, it’s best to see a professional.” And don’t think you can skimp by bleaching only the front row. “White teeth, and especially big white teeth, jump forward while the darker teeth seem to retract,” he says. “So it creates a horsey look.” And that’s anything but natural.


HAIR SHOULDN’T BE STRAIGHTENED TO WITHIN AN INCH OF ITS LIFE The Japanese hair-straightening trend that allowed even curly-haired girls to look like Cher circa 1970 should be lauded for killing frizz—but deplored for killing volume. “Flatness is the big-

True Confessions

We asked readers which fake treatments they tried to pass off as natural. Padded bra: Self-tan: Hair color: Teeth whitening: Chemical hair straightening: Salon blowouts: False eyelashes: Nail extensions: Hair extensions: Cosmetic surgery other than Botox: Botox and other wrinkle fillers: Liposuction:

26% 20% 19% 17% 3% 3% 3% 3% 2% 2% 1% 1%

gest concern of my clients,” says Haime Munoz, who has been straightening hair at his New York City salon for more than a decade. The good news is that Munoz says straightening chemicals have loosened up considerably, allowing for a wider range of versatile results. Now, “it’s more like a smoothing treatment—you take out the frizz but keep the bounce and the shine,” he says. Stylists are also able to create fuller, more natural looks by choosing not to relax the whole head of hair. “Sometimes it’s best to treat just an unruly hairline, or smooth the top layer so you have volume from the bottom,” he says. If you still yearn for a stick-straight look, Munoz wants you to snap out of it immediately. “Pin-straight hair can look very harsh on the face because it draws attention to lines, large features, any imperfections,” he says. “There are a few women who can pull it off, and they’re all under 19.”

WERE BORN WITH 4YOU’LLYOU THE PERFECT COLOR, AND DYE WITH IT “Only her hairdresser knows for sure.” That old Clairol tagline aimed high, but please. When a woman in her 30s has better baby blonde streaks than a preschooler, everyone knows. Still, using that preschooler as inspiration has benefits. Striving to re-create the shade you had as a child is the best rule of believable color, according to Brad Johns, artistic director at Avon Salon and Spa in New York City and Clairol global hair color director. “That’s how nature intended your hair to look, not the color it turned into.” And forget the wood-grain highlights. “The sun would never highlight your hair in thin streaks all over the head,” Johns says. “The hair around the face is lightest, while the hair at the crown is light, and underneath is darker.” Blondes may bear the brunt of the fake police, but brunettes deserve a summons, too, says Renée Patronik, colorist at Serge Normant at John Frieda Salon. “About 70 percent of my dark-haired clients drop the word ‘natural’ when they see me, but then they freak out at the mere mention of red or amber,” she says. Brunettes, she

argues, “need a little warm, tonal color, or else they end up looking too dark, oversaturated, inky, and flat.”



There are two sides to every story. Here are guidelines to help you err on the side of truth (kind of).


Arches have gotten so angular, we half expect brow groomers to whip out a protractor while they tweeze. Of course, looking more natural doesn’t give you license to grow your brows into caterpillars—but nor should you overpluck. “You want them full and clean,” says Anastasia Soare, owner of Anastasia Beverly Hills. “Overtweezing creates too great a distance between the brow and the upper lid, and that pulls the center of the face down.” Another sin: plucking the ends until you lose the arch you fought so hard to create. Looking effortless isn’t limited just to the architecture of the brows. Ramy Gafni, brow expert and owner of Ramy Studio in New York City, isn’t a fan of bleaching. “Even if a colorist does it, when they

“They want to bleach their teeth as white as my smock,” says one dentist. start to grow out, you get this zebra, multiple-color effect,” he says. Instead, soften the color with a neutral brow pencil or powder. What’s more, eyebrows shouldn’t always be lighter or the exact color of the hair, says Soare. “With blondes, the eyebrows should be one or two shades darker, but brunettes—especially dark brunettes—need two shades lighter to soften the look.”


LIKE THAT “NICE” BOYFRIEND, NATURAL MAKEUP DOESN’T HAVE TO BE BLAND AND BEIGE No need to limit yourself to a diet of taupes, beiges, and browns. After



The once-a-week silky, straight blowout by Pierre is great—until it draws attention to the days your hair is done at the humble Salon Chez Vous.

A biweekly blowout. Book a series of regular appointments for Mondays and Thursdays, and eke it out for the days in between. (Sunday is a day of rest.)

Padded bras make breasts look like puffy flotation devices.

A seamless underwire bra lifts and separates your God-given talents.

Colored contacts that ostentatiously turn your brown eyes violet-blue.

Colored contacts that subtly enhance your brown eyes with soft hazel flecks.

Gluing on a full strip of long false lashes—and then coating them with triple-volume jet black mascara.

Applying a cluster of false lashes meant for the lower fringe on the top, or a couple of single lashes on the outer corners.

all, you’re a human being, not an android—give the face some life with a slightly rosy mouth and cheeks, says makeup artist Carol Shaw, creator of Lorac Cosmetics. And don’t mask your skin. “The point is to cover imperfections with a spot concealer and let your skin show—the freckles, and, yes, even some shine,” she says. “Dab a little translucent powder on the nose, but leave the cheeks dewy.” It goes without saying that lips needn’t be lined, and nor should they be completely dressed. Glosses with a hint of color allow your natural shade to shine through. Eyeliners, however, can be put on hiatus, says Gafni. “It’s too easy to look obvious wearing them, unless the color is a muted brown or mahogany, and even then it needs to be smudged,” he says. Instead, eye shadows create soft drama, without the hard lines. Shaw prefers champagne colors with shimmer. “They blend into the skin but leave a satiny finish.”



Men are obsessed with length, and so are women. But for us, the area in question is the fingernails. Reaching dagger length with acrylic tips, though, is out of the question—unless your name is Bambi and you know your way around a pole. And the natural ones should stay short, too. “When you turn your

hand palm-up, you should just see a smidgen of the nail peeking out,” says manicurist Gina Viviano. As for shape, never file them into sharp squares. “Oval nails naturally mimic the tip of the finger and the line of the cuticle,” Viviano says. Sheer pinks and beigey nudes, such as Essie Sugar Daddy and Mademoiselle, are barely detectable and flatter all skin tones. But beware of shades with too much white in them: “They’re really good at masking the yellow stain polish can leave behind, but they’re too opaque to look natural.”



We’re not total naysayers. After all, being natural doesn’t have to be an all-or-nothing proposition. By all means, you can give one trait the full-on fake treatment. For instance, if you’ve always yearned to turn your mousy brown hair jet black, be our guest. Our only caveat is that if you engage in a drastic color change, you probably should skip the chickencutlet bra inserts, ass-crack-length hair extensions, pencil arches, and fire-engine red lips. Not to mention the other reason to take it easy: The more you spread yourself thin, the more beauty becomes a chore. And faking a natural look, says Doonan, “is only really offensive when you’re not enjoying it.” ◆ 181

"Natural" Beauty  

A humorous service piece I wrote on how far women will go to look "natural" in Allure Magazine