You might colour-block your outfit this spring… but would you colour-block your face?

Christian Dior - Spring 2011 makeup

Most days, when I walk around my neighbourhood lately, I can count at least five or ten girls wearing red, yellow or mint-green jeans. (Which is why I may pass on this trend, but we’ll see.) I’m talking about colour-blocking. It’s huge this spring in fashion, and it’s all about wearing two—or more—different solid colours, preferably bright ones, in one outfit.

I suppose it was only a matter of time before people would start to talk about colour-blocking with makeup. And this is the subject I delved into yesterday at the America’s Next Top Model Live event in Toronto, where I was part of a beauty panel on the French Connection Style Stage, with Jill from 29 Secrets and Elaine from Toronto Beauty Reviews. Not surprisingly, I had a lot to say. (Too much, really. Sometimes it occurs to me just how much of my brain space is occupied by obscure beauty facts, and that it is not normal.)

Anyway, let me share—and then I wanna know what YOU think.

Colour-blocking on the runway

Funnily enough, colour-blocking actually started popping up in makeup a couple of seasons before it hit the big time (right now) in fashion. Here it is at Donna Karan in fall ’11:

Donna Karan Fall 2011 makeup You might colour block your outfit this spring... but would you colour block your face?

As you can see, one way of doing it is with equally intense colours on the eyes and the lips. The Christian Dior show, in the same season, is another example. The models all had red lips but different shades of eyeshadow. Like yellow…

Christian Dior Spring 2011 makeup 3 You might colour block your outfit this spring... but would you colour block your face?

Or blue…

Christian Dior Spring 2011 makeup You might colour block your outfit this spring... but would you colour block your face?

It’s a bit much, right?

Which leads me to the Jeremy Scott show. And the reason why I hesitate to recommend colour-blocking as an off-the-runway beauty look.

Jeremy Scott Fall 2011 makeup You might colour block your outfit this spring... but would you colour block your face?

I mean, she looks like a clown, right? And I don’t want to be responsible for that.

But that said, even I will admit that it can be pretty with the right technique and occasion. So if I haven’t scared you off already(!), let’s talk about the right and the wrong way of executing this…

Colour-blocking dos and don’ts

DO: Try pairing two (but no more than two!) different colours on your face at once. So, this could be a hint of purple liner underneath the eyes with a bright orange lip (as one of the models wore yesterday). Or some fuchsia gloss paired with a soft wash of blue shadow over the lid. Just remember to keep it all in balance. The Donna Karan show is actually a good example of the technique, since everything looks really fresh and modern. But Dior? Way too overdone.

DON’T: Go crazy with multiple colours. I repeat: all you need is two. This is an insane eye makeup job from Roberto Cavalli—it’s not even really colour-blocking, but could you imagine if this also had a bold lip? There’s just no need for this.

Roberto Cavalli FW12 makeup You might colour block your outfit this spring... but would you colour block your face?

DO: Skip the shimmer. (See above.) I think colour-blocking in makeup works a lot better with flat colours. It’s just more modern.

DON’T: Make it too complicated if you don’t have perfect technique. My model yesterday looked gorgeous, thanks to the makeup wizardry of Vanessa Jarman for Rimmel London—but there is simply no way any non-professional could have achieved that beautiful and complicated eyeshadow technique. At home, keep it simple with sheer washes of colour all the way around the eyes, or bright liner close to the lash line (top or bottom).

DON’T: Wear this to the office. Unless you work in a creative environment, of course. But for most peeps, this is strictly evening and weekend territory.

DO: Try colour-blocking with your nails. Even though there is a whole matchy-matchy movement starting to happen where nails and lips are painted the same shade (see: Dior spring ’12), you can also do contrasting bright colours, because that looks pretty awesome. And will not be nearly as scary as if you wore the two colours on your face. Here’s a perfect example at Milly:

Milly Spring 2012 makeup You might colour block your outfit this spring... but would you colour block your face?

DO: Try colour-blocking with cheeks and lips. Scroll back and have another look at this Milly pic. See how the model is wearing a fuchsia lip with a peach blush? Well hey now, that’s colour-blocking too! Just a more subtle version of it. You could do the opposite, too—pinky blush with orangey lip. I talked about this whole warm and cool colour thing (all at once) in this post, if you remember.

DON’T: Forget that certain colour combos just look weird. Like baby blue with baby pink—that’s a bit too ’80s for me. Or green and red. Does this say spring trend to you or holiday elf costume?

Christian Dior Spring 2011 makeup 2 You might colour block your outfit this spring... but would you colour block your face?

DON’T: Forget to keep your skin and brows in tip-top shape. If you’re going to wear intense colour on your face, you better have a perfect canvas, or it’s just going to draw attention to every flaw. Sorry. Oh, and on that note—the younger your skin, the better this is going to look. Again, sorry. That’s why models are usually 15 years old, after all. Everything looks good on them!

DO: Have fun with it. Even though I am boring and will probably nevah, evah try this, that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t! It’s makeup. It washes off.

Some easier ways to have fun with colour

I still like brights, mind you. But I’m going to revert back to some seasons past, because I’m still stuck there when it comes to my favourite looks. I still think a bold eye is prettiest worn in the style of Oscar de la Renta spring ’11:

Oscar de la Renta Spring 2011 You might colour block your outfit this spring... but would you colour block your face?

See? You notice the pretty eyeshadow without it fighting with something on the lips. However, you could always do a pink or peach gloss with this to colour-block, and it would be fine. The key is to keep everything super-sheer.

For lips, I have a lot of love for Fendi spring ’10:

Fendi Spring 2010 You might colour block your outfit this spring... but would you colour block your face?

Could this work with something more on the eyes? Sure, but I don’t think it would be nearly as flattering.

But that is because I still stand by my beauty philosophy that makeup is meant to enhance what you already have…  like these Balmain girls…

Balmain makeup You might colour block your outfit this spring... but would you colour block your face?

…instead of encouraging people to come up to you and say “Oh, so you colour-blocked your face today!”

That is NOT a compliment. Trust.

Tell me:

Do you like the colour-blocking trend in fashion?
Would you ever try it on your face?
What way would YOU wear it so as to avoid looking like a clown?


Monday, May 7/2012 at 3:10 pm

The older I get, the less adventurous I get with my makeup. The boldest thing I’ll ever do with colour is a bright lip…I can’t remember the last eyeshadow that I purchased that WASN’T a neutral.

I will leave this one to the runway…but I’ll keep my neon pink jeans!


Monday, May 7/2012 at 7:23 pm

I really like where you went with this post, taking colour blocking from clothing to make-up!


Monday, May 7/2012 at 11:33 pm

Out here in Vancouver, we don’t see a ton of color blocking other than with colored denims, but I really like the trend – it’s a nice way to ‘cheer up’ after four years of economic/retail troubles. I do play with color blocking in my makeup, but I try to keep it fairly balanced and work with not only subtly matching colors to my clothes but also coordinating ones too. So if I’m wearing a pastel mint top I’d do dark purple eyeshadow in my outer v with a neutral on thr lid and pastel pink lips. I have deep set eyes tho which lets me get away with bright shadow a bit easier because you don’t see a lot of the lid.


Tuesday, May 8/2012 at 12:04 am

I would love to be able to pull of that hot pink (almost neon?) lip! Love that look for summer!

Otherwise…. no! no! no! to that crazy color blocking. I do think the last three photos are great though!



Tuesday, May 8/2012 at 3:58 am

I really love the lips/nails at Milly. By the way, can’t wait to read your post about MET! :)


Tuesday, May 8/2012 at 10:33 am

hey i was at the antm live thing too! i didn’t see you there though. shame, i totally would have loved to have said hi :)


Tuesday, May 8/2012 at 12:43 pm

I LOVE looking at all the colour, & especially the Dior show & the Cavalli eyes! That is MY “Go Big or Go Home!” Don’t apologize, do it!

However, in real life, I OWN brilliantly coloured shadows, but never think to wear them. I pretty much live in my brown shadows, with green here & there. Guess I’ll have to start!

I hate brightly coloured lips, though. They have just never really looked “right” to me, just very unappealing. It might be because, outside of red, they look just terrible on me. But I know I’m in the BE minority here!


Tuesday, May 8/2012 at 8:00 pm

Maybe for the under 20 but the last thing I want to see in a few years is a photo of myself in 2012 looking like someone who got caught in a paintball crossfire. No, thanks, I will stick with what, after many years of looking like a fool, works for me. Classic beauty trumps trend every time!


Tuesday, May 8/2012 at 9:29 pm

I seriously nodded in agreement upon reading your comment on the “matchy-matchy movement”. Have you seen the new MAC collection?! It’s like trios of the same color lipstick, lipgloss and nails. I mean why on earth would I want to wear a gloss the same color as my lipstick?! If I want the same color, I’ll go clear on the gloss, ne? And something’s fundamentally wrong with a brown lipgloss (brown lip anything if you ask me), but that’s a story for another day..


Tuesday, May 15/2012 at 2:27 pm

I like this post :) I love the blue, green and yellow eyeshadow, i’ll try them!


Sunday, May 19/2013 at 3:47 pm

I like your article, and I know many people agree with you. But I am young, and I love the bold makeup, to a fault! Wearing just one bold solid color, was not something that even occurred to me! I love to do themed makeup patterns, or slap on some combo of whatever colors I feel. And I love the shimmers. Maybe I get away with it because I don’t get too cray cray with my clothing. Well, I mean I think I get away with it. :) But I essentially do everything you say not to, and directly translate runway to partay. Technique is crucial, but practice makes perf, and I say don’t FEAR. Own up to your LOOK.


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