The Science of Spring 2013 Beauty Trends

Spring has sprung! And with it, the fashion runways of the world have exploded in a kaleidoscope of beautiful ways to step out of the winter stupor. “This is an especially sensual season in beauty,” says Guido Palau of Redken, who styled several of the shows. And the science behind these hair, makeup and nails trends all point to what the season of blooming buds is known to excite: the art of love and attraction. We explain how.

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1Trend: 1960s Hair Shapes + Accessories

Seen at: Dolce & Gabbana, Lanvin, Louis Vuitton, Marc by Marc Jacobs, Marc Jacobs, Prada

Coifed couture stole the spotlight on fashion runways from New York to Milan, where kitschy bouffant shapes made a modern day appearance. “It’s all about how a Sicilian woman in the 1960s would just quickly pin her hair up and tie on a scarf,” said Guido, lead stylist for Redken at Dolce & Gabbana. At Marc Jacobs and Prada, the scarf was tossed in favor of ornate renditions incorporating braids and ponytails.

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The nutrients associated with reproductive health are needed in abundance to produce a lush head of hair. From Cleopatra’s heavy headdresses to Marie Antoinette’s 17th century “bigwigs” to the modern American Texas woman, women have long blasted the fertility message through big hair. There’s a saying that “the higher the hair, the closer to God,”—along with being a popular drag queen punch line, it’s actually quite an accurate statement on reproductivity.

QUIZ: How Healthy is Your Hair?

2Trend: 3-D Nail Art

Seen at: Binetti, Joy Cioci, the Blonds

The beauty world’s obsession with all things nail art continued this spring, as designs leaped off the nail bed to form intricately imagined three-dimensional designs. Micro-beads and small pearls mimicked bubbles at Joy Cioci, and the same materials were dressed in red to conjure caviar at The Blondes. Binetti was the show-stopper, where CND manicurist Heather Reynosa-Davis stacked pearls between three layers of press-on nails to create a tier of oyster shells. “You won’t be washing dishes in this design!” she laughed.

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The manicurist may have been joking, but her comment hits the evolutionary nail on the head. Our hands and nails reveal the type of labor–or lack thereof–that we do, advertising to the world clues about our lifestyles and social standing. The ability to wear an ornate nail design that all but renders hands useless for physical work suggests you have means that makes picking you as a partner a potentially more stable choice for which to bear and raise children with.

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3Trend: Nude Lips

Seen at: Lanvin, Diesel, Alice + Olivia, Vanessa Bruno, J. Mendel, Rebecca Taylor

Nude lips arrived in a spectrum of undertones, from the peachy bisque at Alice + Olivia (done by Sarah Lucero for Stila Cosmetics) to the fleshy pink at Lanvin. Perhaps alluding to such famously nude-lipped Parisian sirens as Catherine Deneuve and Brigitte Bardot, lead makeup artist Lucia Pieroni for Clé de Peau said of the look at Vanessa Bruno, “The bare lip feels very French in that uniquely feminine and effortless way–it’s pouty and full.”

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Yet the science behind the sensuality of a nude lip suggests that it’s actually the eyes that are at play. One way humans perceive gender is by observing the amount of contrast in the eye area; females have more, while males have less. A nude lip only serves to accentuate that contrast by immediately drawing attention to the eye. The potential mate is drawn to the gaze—with likely no idea that it was the lip that laid the tracks to visual connection.

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4Trend: Smoked-Out Eyes

Seen at: Roland Mouret, Marc by Marc Jacobs, Nicole Miller

Smoky eyes usually smolder up into the eye line and crease, but this season stormy color slid below the lower lash for a full-dimensional look that would have most of us looking like raccoons. But Val Garland, lead makeup artist for NARS Cosmetics at Roland Mouret says it’s more about the ‘tude. “This eye is for the reckless rebel, who is daring but sporty–like the girls Herb Ritts would photograph.”

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When responding to sexual chemistry, experts say our pupils dilate when we’re looking at someone we’re attracted to–so both males and females subconsciously rate large pupils as an attractive quality. Flanking the pupil in deeper color from top to bottom with a smoked-out makeup technique makes the pupil appear larger, perhaps communicating a very bold, “Shall we get it on?

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5Trend: Lustrous Nails

Seen at: Christian Siriano, Rebecca Taylor, BCBG, Diane von Furstenberg, Monique Lhuillier, Malandrino

Call it the new ballet slipper pink. Glimmering nails in healthy-looking shades emerged after countless seasons spent in the liquid dark. “The new nude nail is incandescent with a glowing finish—the color may be neutral, but these are still nails that get noticed,” said CND lead manicurist Angi Wingle backstage at Christian Siriano.

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And getting noticed is certainly what it’s about. Ridge-free nails with a transparent touch of pink color indicate a steady flow of blood and nutrients, and good health. A lustrous coat or two of nude polish amps up these attributes, with a glossy finish to boot—advertising that the wearer has vigor, with a body primed to pass on advantageous reproductive genes.

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6Trend: Straight, Shiny Strands

Seen at: Herve Leger, Jil Sander, Rodarte, Carlos Miele

Texture’s big moment may be on its way out; stick-straight strands reminiscent of 90s minimalism marched in. At Jil Sander, they were pulled into a decidedly Gwyneth Paltrow-esque pony, while a side part added intrigue at Carlos Miele (done by Rodney Cutler for Ulta). “Unless you wake up with straight hair–in which case, you probably want waves–the only way to achieve this smooth finish is with a flat iron,” said Guido, of the look he created at Jil Sander.

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The structure of the strand is at the heart of the reason why so many women pine for straight hair. Since the formation lays flat and smooth, mirror-like shine is reflected off the surface with more brilliance than any other texture. Shine in hair is the result of a surplus of attractive nutrients like proteins, and straight hair serves to exaggerate and broadcast whatever shine may be present.

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7Trend: Pretty Pastels

Seen at: Anthony Vaccarello, Michael Kors, Kate Spade

Spring was in full bloom on runways with Monet-like strokes of pastel blues and pinks on lids and lips. At Kate Spade, the shades were paired with downturned strip lashes for a “mod” Twiggy interpretation, while a painterly theme swept Anthony Vaccarello. “The makeup gives a transparent, fluid feeling – like a reflection of water on eyes,” said Estée Lauder lead makeup artist Tom Pecheux.

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Radiant skin is a much lusted-after trait with good reason. Glowing skin implies messages about your youthfulness, vibrancy and health, since a surplus of vitamins like A, C and B keep skin cells turning over at a rate that promotes brightness. Pastel makeup colors can have an incandescent effect on skin that copies the effect, making it appear as though the warmth of a candle is lighting your eyes and lips.

MORE: Master the Dewy Glow

8Trend: Undone Updos

Seen at: Vera Wang, Marni, Valentino, Bottega Veneta, Donna Karan, Chloé

Disheveled elegance wasn’t an oxymoron this season, as pinned-up styles captured a casual chic vibe with strands falling gently about. A slept-in ballerina bun was an approachable complement to prim prints at Bottega Veneta, and morphed into a nape-of-the-neck chignon at Marni. “It’s a poetic take on weathered hair,” said lead stylist Paul Hanlon at Vera Wang, where the inspiration for the fabric-like texture was a turban.

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Messy texture looks “young” – though not because of its preciousness, but rather the thicker hair texture it imitates. After about the age of 30, hormones eventually lead to hair loss and thinning, which can be accelerated by factors like stress, diet and smoking. Pulling the hair up gives immediate lift, and the fuller shape of a messy texture is reminiscent of the crowning hair of youth.

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9Trend: Lower Lash Liner

Seen at: Dolce & Gabbana, Karen Walker, Christopher Kane, J. Mendel

Eyeliner on the lower rim is a seconds-only trick that can completely change the mood of a look. Definition dominated the eyes at Dolce & Gabbana, where lead makeup artist Pat McGrath used dark chocolate brown on the bottom lash line to create “a strikingly feline eye.” At Christopher Kane, the technique was used to impart what lead NARS makeup artist Lucia Pieroni termed, “turning the dainty a bit dark by adding black to the bottom rim.”

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What deep liner applied right below the eye also does is it emphasizes the contrast against the whites of eyes. According to a University of Maryland study, it appears humans are the only species that distinguish red or white eye color as an indicator of health and emotion. The results showed that those with red eyes were assumed to be sad, sick and less attractive than their whiter-eyed counterparts, who were regarded as healthier and happier. Lining your eyes not only looks sensual, but it also enhances positive perceptions of your gaze.

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10Trend: Mermaid Hair

Seen at: Elie Tahari, J. Mendel, Binetti

We’ve previously called it the new beach wave and have admired its beauty on celebs like Jennifer Lawrence and Jessica Chastain; now, mermaid hair is making the leap to runway. At Elie Tahari, Esther Langham for Alterna said the glamorously aquatic look “was inspired by a 1950s Palm Springs cocktail party,” while Orlando Pita for (using Phyto products) said the “delicate and feminine” waves at J. Mendel were achieved with equal parts volumizing spray and a flip of a flat iron.

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The evolutionary psychology behind preference for long hair has shown us that it’s an indicator of fertility, with natural vitamins like biotin and vitamin E needed to cultivate long hair. And since hair grows about six inches a year, longer hair reads like a medical history for the past four or so years. Is the hair full and thick, or thin and damaged? In a world without Google or Facebook, these types of physical clues helped our ancestors size one another up.

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