Why Medium Tones in Makeup and Hair Are Unflattering

Time for a sweeping generalization! Medium shades of anything—hair, nail polish, blush, lipstick—are just not flattering.
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Michelle Villett
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Time for a sweeping generalization! Medium shades of anything—hair, nail polish, blush, lipstick—are just not flattering.
Emily Blunt, Critics' Choice Movie Awards 2011

Emily Blunt at the 2011 Critics' Choice Movie Awards.

They really aren't. I mean, have you thought about it? I have, because I am ridiculous enough that I can call it my "job" to consider such things. And for a long time now, I've had issues with medium tones: you know, roses, tawny pinks, etc. (Throw anything frosty or pearl in there, like the lady above, and you've really hurt me.)

Anyway, I hadn't given this much thought other than how it pertained to lipstick shades. But then yesterday's post featuring Emily Blunt's "in-between phase" in hair colour inspired an off-blog discussion with my friend Liza, and we came to the conclusion that medium tones are just not cool, on any body part, EVER. (Okay, maybe on the eyelids. Or if you're a supermodel. But that's it.)

Now, I realize that the descriptor "medium tones" is a bit vague, so today I'm going to break down exactly what I mean—with helpful imagery!—so that together, we can banish medium tones from our lives forever.

Medium Tones in Hair

Let's start with hair. Forgive me for repeating the Emily Blunt pics, but does this not illustrate how dark brown and blonde both look good—but the muddy in-between shade does not?

I also feel the same way about Nicole Richie:

Emily-Blunt-medium-hair
Nicole-Richie-medium-hair

And even though Mandy Moore is my number one inspirational figure for all things hair-related (well, she and Sienna), even I have to admit that the blah brown doesn't do much for her.

Mandy-Moore-medium-hair

(Okay, I chose a rather unflattering, makeup-less portrait for the medium tone to assist in proving my point... I still love this girl.)

Possibly/probably I am biased against medium hair tones because my own experimentation with them, when I went Ombré, gave me the sads. You can read more about why I ditched that look here. From now on, my hair will only ever be dark brown, or blonde, but nothing in between. Ashy, mousy hair looks great on supermodels, but tends to just wash out us civilians.

Medium Tones in Nail Polish

Now, obviously we know that the French pedicure is the worst nail crime ever invented (and frankly, a real insult to the French).

But may I suggest that the second worst nail crime is wearing shades like these?

Sally-Hansen-nail-polish-2

Not to pick on Sally Hansen or anything (although I have to say that they do have a frightening selection of medium tones in their otherwise excellent nail products line), but it's colours like the one above, and this...

...that date your look faster than a shaker-knit sweater. Kind of hard to convey on the web since I feel like the hideousness of the colours doesn't really translate, but I'm talking about medium pinks ("roses") or berries with a tinge of mauve, or brown, or frost.

Sally-Hansen-nail-polish

So much better to either go with a nude or clear polish, or make a REAL statement and do a bold red, hot pink, coral, blue, etc. My personal favourite right now is this new one (out this month) from OPI called Too Hot Pink to Hold 'Em:

It's the perfect pinky red—neither too pink nor too red—and therefore goes with everything.

OPI-Nail-Lacquer-Too-Hot-Pink-to-Hold-Em

Medium Tones in Blush

I think the issue with medium tones when it comes to blush is that a lot of them have too much brown. Sure, I warned you all about the browns showing up at the S/S '10 Chanel show:

chanel_spring2010beauty

And I DO enjoy them on the models... but upon further consideration, I just I think for real life, it's safer (and more universally flattering) to stick with the pinks and peaches. I mean, there's a reason that this is the most talked about blush shade in the history of the world:

And nobody wants to look like this lady:

Busted Image
80s-blush

Medium Tones in Lipstick

And now for the category in which ditching the mediums is most important of all. You know how I've been musing about Sofia Vergara's lipstick lately?

Sofia-Vergara-2011-SAG-Awards

For a while, I couldn't put my finger on what, exactly, was bothering me—but now I think it just comes down to the fact that it looks like M.A.C Twig circa 1996.

MAC-Twig

It's just kind of... there. And personally, if I'm going to the trouble of wearing lipstick? I want it to LOOK like I'm wearing lipstick. I know it was very trendy for a while, before glosses became popular, to wear shades that looked like your natural lip colour "only better." Twig is in this category, and so is Clinique's Black Honey.

But now, as you've probably gathered, I think it's much more modern to make a statement with your lips in a bright colour: red, orange, hot pink, even a nude... Honestly, anything goes except for the frickin' mediums. (BUT: please don't interpret this to mean that I dislike berry shades. Like I said, berry is the one universally flattering lip colour—it's not as bold as red, but it still packs a punch.)

Kate-Bosworth-red-lipstick-2010

And frosts, pearls, metallics, iridescence or shimmer? As Liza says: "Tools of the devil."

Do you agree that medium shades are a bad beauty move?
Or do you approve of them for at least a few body parts?

Now that I've put all of this out there, I'll bet they come back into fashion and I'll have to eat my words. Beauty is fickle that way, because hey—I never in a million years would've dreamed I'd be wearing glitter nailpolish after age 12.