Why a Brown Pencil Is Your Secret Weapon For Pulling Off Red Lipstick

Plus, the key to achieving the anti-Instagram brow

Alicia Keys made an unexpected appearance at Stella McCartney’s Pre-Fall 2017 presentation/party at the Cotton Club in Harlem, wowing the tough-to-please fashion crowd with “Empire State of Mind.” And in New York, as Keys croons in her hit song, “there’s nothing you can’t do”—and that includes pulling off red lipstick and a “boy brow.”

Makeup artist Chantel Miller created a diffused, cherry-stained lip on a handful of models, basing the entire mouth with MAC Lip Pencil in Cork, a teddy-bear brown hue. (Skipping the matchy-matchy lip pencil in favor of a shade that provides “dimension” can take classic crimson up a notch and add some interest, said Miller.) Then, she used a Q-tip to trace around the perimeter. “This makes the edge ghost, so the line is still there but it’s not strong,” explained Miller. Next, she used her finger in lieu of a brush to stamp a bespoke blend of reds from Diane Kendal’s forthcoming MAC lip and cheek palette and MAC’s Liptensity range around the edge and into the center of models’ lips. “It creates this very subtle moment where the brown and the red are laying next to each other, which gives you a blur [effect],” she added. And for the color shy, consider brown lip liner the key product that opens a multitude of doors: “If you’re terrified to death of wearing a bright tone, using a pencil like Stripdown or Cork will always help because it allows you to keep your edges more neutral, “ said Miller. “Or, you can mix your lip color in with the pencil and it will take the tanginess out of the bright.”

Want to bulk up your brows without going the etched-on Instagram route? Put down the pencil and pick up a palette of neutral shadows (preferably MAC Eye Shadow in Omega, Copperplate, Coquette, and Typographic—the four shades Miller used to fill almost every brow backstage), opting for a combo that’s a bit lighter and ashier than your natural hair color to create the illusion of fullness. “When I do a brow, I like a rounder, softer brush,” said Miller as she picked up a MAC 228. “It ghosts the brow instead of structuring it.” She likes to “stamp” the shadow into the bristles so that when you “wag” the brush (i.e., a rapid-yet-gentle windshield wiper motion) through the hair, it deposits a “halo” of color. “Using a brush like this keeps the edges quite a bit softer than a traditional [angle] brush, so it allows you to grow and expand someone’s natural brow without over-defining it,” she explained. “It strays very far away from that pop culture, Instagram brow, but you can get that shape, dimension, and size and still keep the technique hidden.” The final step is to blend and soften any visible lines with a toothbrush or spooly. “It’s a fast, freestyle brow,” Miller added. And in the city that never sleeps, a few quick and dirty beauty tricks that can be done in the back of a cab—like slapping on a brow or some red lipstick—are all it takes to “make you feel brand new.”

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