Makeup names | What’s in a name? Paying homage to the creative insanity of the beauty industry

What’s in a name? Paying homage to the creative madness of the beauty industry


When I was eleven I would buy nail polish based purely on its name. The more imaginative, the better. But this wasn’t always the best test of colour-wearability; I liked the idea of painting Hobgoblin onto my fingers more than I enjoyed the sickly off-olive hue. Perhaps unhelpfully, my favourite names were always those that bore no relation to the colour they represented.

As an adult, I prioritise aesthetics over linguistics, but that doesn’t mean the names don’t add that extra gram of joy to the purchase.

Nail polish is still the frontrunner when it comes to imaginative nomenclature. I’m currently wearing Rimmel’s District-ly Come Dancing – it’s turquoise – and other favourites include the literary Oh, Mr Darcy! and the existentially anguished cry of Round and Round in Circles (This particular shade of pale yellow was Camus’ colour). While Essie flaunts a virgin/whore polarity in the spicily suggestive After Sex alongside the frankly spinster-esque Mind your Mittens.

Lipstick runs a close second in the name stakes. The shades that spring to mind are Mac’s hygienically-questionable Sushi Kiss and demanding Yield to Love or Nars’ disturbing Fire Down Below and the not-necessarily-complimentary Fast Ride.

xoVain have defined the six categories of lipstick naming as food, sex, puns, alliteration, one-word-wonders and confounding nonsense. Of course the puns and alliteration hold a secret joy for my now English-degree-having-crossword-doing self, but it’s still the nonsense that really lights me up.

And it isn’t just your lips and nails that are away with the fairies; eyeshadow is getting in on the act too. Benefit’s Pause for Applause, Quick, Look Busy and Kiss me, I’m Tipsy all take an instructional approach to your face, and possibly your night out. Urban Decay on the other hand prefers a mono simplicity; their Naked 3 palette alone containing Strange, Limit, Buzz, Trick, Nooner, Liar, Factory and Mugshot.*

I don’t know who creates these names but, whoever they are, I love them.

I also like to imagine that this is their only job. That these brand-controllers sit in their offices amidst empty whisky bottles and mood boards furiously spitting out forty plus new names a day only for thirty five of them to get vetoed by the Powers That Be for not being ‘out there’ enough. Undeterred, they strive onwards in their perpetual quest to sprinkle creative glitter atop pharmacies worldwide.

How do they find the energy? At what point does their font of inventiveness run dry?

Imagine the Urban Decay Namer-in-Chief sitting at their desk surrounded by cosmetics and colour swatches. It’s gone 7pm, she’s had her eighth coffee of the day, she’s already ignored two phone calls from her husband and she’s staring blankly at the fiftieth and final eye shadow she must name that day, the last of the Naked 3 set. Her eyes are blurring, the colour throbs in and out of focus. It’s sort of a peachy shimmer colour, Peaches & Cream? No, not edgy enough. Fire? Too prosaic. Flames? That’s getting closer but it’s not quite… She can feel her legs withering beneath her, her eyes gradually closing…

A colleague finds her in the morning. On her desk, scattered balls of paper, snapped make up brushes and a single word scored into the varnish: Burnout.


*Speaking of the glorifying of mugshot style, remember when xoVain recreated Lindsay Lohan’s mugshot looks? Worth a read.

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