The Science of Fall 2012 Beauty Trends

Whether or not you’ve done the summer-to-fall closet switchover yet, it’s officially fall fashion season.  Accordingly, the world’s leading designers, makeup artists and hair stylists have created runway trends to help us update our get-ready regimen!

From black cherry lips to retro bouffants, Fall 2012’s beauty trends are hotter than ever. But they also tap into the science of evolutionary psychology—the way we’re wired to recognize attractive mating qualities in others.  Here, we explore how today’s top runway trends speak to our most carnal desires.

1Black Cherry Lips

The Shows: Rochas, Christian Siriano, Viktor & Rolf, Bottega Veneta, Nina Ricci, Gucci, Basso & Brooke

The Look: Deep, gothy-crimson lips jolted against bleached-out brows at Gucci, while backstage at Rochas, lead makeup artist Lucia Pieroni for Clé de Peau paired burnt red pouts against basically bare faces. “The inspiration is a raw, earthy girl—but for a punch, I stamped on a blackberry lip,” said Pieroni, who used Clé de Peau lipstick R10 for the stand-out shade.

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The Bottom Line: Attention-getting shades like black cherry can seduce a prospective mate to swoop in for a kiss, which is one of nature’s most valuable tools for romantic assessment. Science has shown that women intuitively “test” a man’s kiss for the scent of valuable immune system proteins, which would produce stronger, healthier children with a better chance of survival. Looks like you were wrong, Louis Armstrong—a kiss is not “just a kiss!”

MORE: The Science of Your Sexiest Pout

2Blunt Bangs

The Shows: Calvin Klein, Antonio Berardi, Marni, Versace

The Look: These short, sharp bangs were all the rage this season—call it the Rooney Mara effect!  YouBeauty Hair Advisor and Calvin Klein lead stylist, Guido, says bluntly cut bangs are evocatively flirtatious (no wonder the style was a hallmark of the ‘20s flapper). “The severity of the line focuses the attention on your eyes and face,” says Guido.

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The Bottom Line: A straight line across the forehead puts the spotlight on facial symmetry, which helps us decode the health, history and strength of genetic coding in a mate. When we grow as embryos and later as children, left-right symmetry of both the body and face require control to keep in sync, and that control can be affected by factors like stress, nutrition and environment, says Ian Stewart, Ph.D. and author of “Why Beauty Is Truth.” Adults with symmetrical features are thought to have been strong enough to overcome stresses in the womb and early childhood.

MORE: Why Is Symmetrical Sexy?

3Color-Blocked Eyelids

The Shows: Prabal Gurung, Prada, Roberto Cavalli

The Look: Bold strokes of color leapt off lids at Prada, Roberto Cavalli and Prabal Gurung, where M.A.C. Cosmetics lead makeup artist, Charlotte Tilbury, layered M.A.C. Eyeshadows in Delft and Freshwater over aquamarine eye pencil to achieve a peacock-like slash of turquoise. “Blue pops on any eye color,” said Tilbury. To pull off this look in real life, simply apply electric color to the top lashline only.

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The Bottom Line: So how could crazy eye makeup possibly attract a mate? Making direct eye contact is a trait often practiced by public speakers because it draws attention to our most animated feature. And a reciprocal gaze implies mutual adoration, which we’re programmed to love as social creatures. By drawing attention to our eyes with a riot of carnival-esque color, the makeup is practically commanding a suitor to connect with you.

QUIZ: What Eye Makeup Best Suits You?

4Nude Nails

The Shows: Christian Cota, Valentino, Dior, Victoria Beckham, Theory, Ashish

The Look: Creamy nudes and pastels are the season’s most practical, ladylike trend. At Christian Cota, CND’s Candice Manacchio said the terracotta shade “was inspired by drying clay in the Mexican desert.” She achieved this neutral, faded look by sponging CND Colour in Chocolate over a base of Putty.

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The Bottom Line: Smooth nails that are uniform in consistency and color are an indicator of vibrant health, while discolored, thin and peeling nail beds can indicate fungal infection, old age, poor health or injury. By sporting on a hard, glossy polish in either beige or pink, your nails can communicate the characteristics of a young and reproductively robust body.

GALLERY: Nail Polish Trends Worth a Sweep 


The Shows: Moschino, Oscar de la Renta, Carolina Herrera, DSquared2

The Look: From the Brigitte Bardot bouffant at Moschino that was intertwined with a thick ‘60s-era cloth tie to the modernized skinny headband version at Carolina Herrera, one thing is clear: Big hair is in. “To get this kind of exaggerated volume, first blow-dry with a round brush and follow-up by back-combing in two-inch sections, from nape to crown,” said Orlando Pita, lead stylist for Moroccan Oil at Herrera’s show.

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The Backstory: There’s a major evolutionary reason women love to tease, hot-roller and hairspray fullness into their hair:  Strands naturally thin with age, and volume is an easy way to make hair look younger and sexier. Thin, limp hair can imply illness, poor diet, stress or hormonal imbalance—a sure sign that all is not well.

QUIZ: How Healthy Does Your Hair Look?

6Geometric Eyeliner

The Shows: Lanvin, Anna Sui, Giorgio Armani, Mugler, Zac Posen, Antonio Marras, Altuzarra

The Look: Graphic liner ruled runways this season, from the Cleopatra-like stripes at Antonio Marras to the wings and dots at Anna Sui. “It’s couture grunge,” explained Tom Pecheux for M.A.C. Cosmetics backstage at Altuzarra, where he sculpted two parallel bird-like lines across the eye with M.A.C. Fluidline in Blacktrack, and smudged blue in the inner corners for heightened drama.

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The Bottom Line: Contrast is at the heart of the fairer sex’s perpetual experiments with eyeliner. Studies have shown that the darker facial features are in relation to skintone, the more we perceive a face as feminine. So by adding such contrasting dark lines next to the whites of eyes, the sense of feminine sexuality is alluringly heightened. Bet you didn’t know you were pulling off such a sneaky trick, did you?

MORE: Why Your Makeup Is Hot

7Metallic Nails

The Shows: Behnaz Sarafpour, Alexandre Herchcovitch

The Look: “Steely surfaces and posh gold and silver manicures give an industrial, urban ice queen sheen when paired with crisp silhouettes,” said CND cofounder Jan Arnold, who created the metallic nail looks at Behnaz Sarafpour and Alexandre Herchcovitch—the latter of which was achieved with two coats of CND Colour in Gold Chrome for a “Midas Touch” manicure.

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The Bottom Line: Our hands and nails truly bear the brunt of our days; they’re continually exposed to external climate and the labor of any work that we do. The condition of our nails can broadcast messages about our health, social standing and quality of life. Dainty hands were historically seen as an indicator of aristocracy. Perfectly burnished metallic nails not only say you can enjoy the luxury of maintaining manicured fingers, but the choice of shades—gold and silver—take adornment to the truly prestige level.

MORE: Dr. Oz & Dr. Roizen Show You How to Get Healthy Hands 

8Shiny Hair

The Shows: Marc by Marc Jacobs, Christian Dior, Etro, Alberta Ferretti, Loewe

The Look: Shiny hair gleamed in simple styles, from the chic chignons at Alberta Ferretti to the deep, glassy side parts at Christian Dior. Backstage at Marc by Marc Jacobs, Guido, fashioned fresh strands into ponytails. “Simple, polished hair speaks for itself without saying a word,” said Palau. To get the squeaky-clean look, run a few drops of shine serum or argan oil over locks to amp up shine.

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The Bottom Line: We may think of gray hair as the first sign that strands are aging, but it’s actually shine that is the first to go, according to New York salon owner, Eva Scrivo. Shine is created when light reflects off of a healthy cuticle that’s laying flat and smooth. Unfortunately, sun and styling damage can roughen up the cuticle, which causes dull-looking hair. To help restore shine to ho-hum hair, regularly lightweight oils like argan, amla and coconut.

GALLERY: The Hottest Hair Oils: Editor Tested

9Sketch Eyelashes

The Shows: Derek Lam, Jean Paul Gaultier, Anthony Vaccarello

The Look:  Models working the runway on Fall 2012 catwalks were clearly channeling Twiggy (or Betty Boop!) with their wide-eyed, sketched-on eyelashes. To create the look at Derek Lam, Estee Lauder lead artist Tom Pecheaux wet a lip brush, dipped it into dark shadow and carefully painted on skin under the bottom lashline. However, he cautions against a literal interpretation. “I wouldn’t do this for the real world,” he said. “Smudge eyeliner on the lower lashline instead.”

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The Bottom Line: Eyelashes are structurally similar to hair strands on your head, since both are mostly made of proteins. As a result, poor diet and health issues can dramatically influence the thickness and amount of hair and lashes you have, since the body reserves nutrients in times of stress instead of routing them to these non-vital parts. A full fringe of long, lush lashes not only reveals that you’re virile and well, but also that you’ve got vitamins to spare. For nature, nothing is sexier.

MORE: The Alluring Science of Your Mascara

10Braided Headbands

The Shows: Fendi, Mulberry, Emilio Pucci

The Look: No hairstyle is more versatile than the braid! And depending on how it’s styled, it can look weekend casual, black tie formal or anywhere in between. “What’s great about braids is you can go from workday to workout in them,” says Guido. Braided milkmaid headbands elicited elegance at Emilio Puccio, where the rest of hair flowed freely down, and yet the same style struck an urban tone at Fendi, where it was paired with a pony of small braids.

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The Bottom Line: Braids have a long history of indicating high-class sophistication. Wealthy ancient Roman and Greek women wore ornate braids dusted in powered gold, while medieval maidens wore long braids down their backs or coiled against their ears. “The richer they were, the more complicated their hair styles were because they had slaves who braided and curled—their hair was a status symbol,” explains Guido.

GALLERY: A History of Hair