That is truly amazing lipstick,’ exclaims the woman standing next to me at a fancy hotel bar. ‘Thanks’, I say breezily. ‘It’s couture. I created it with Yves Saint Laurent. It’s called “Betts Bitch”.’
I whisk out my YSL compact to reveal my bespoke, Forties-screen siren shade, a gang of fashionable women elbowing each other out of the way to mob me. For the first time in my life, I am the coolest girl in the room — because I am the proud possessor of one of the first personalised lip-colour-creating devices in the country: The space-age YSL Beauty Rouge Sur Mesure.
It may sound like something out of our wildest dreams, but this sleek bit of kit can pump out legions of lip shades at the click of an app. It can match your mouth to your frock, or to a flower you like the look of. Spot a celebrity on the cover of a glossy magazine whose pout you’d long to emulate? Give the Rouge Sur Mesure a couple of seconds and it’s yours, all yours!
Beauty columnist Hannah Betts (pictured) gives verdict on the space-age YSL Beauty Rouge Sur Mesure
As we drag ourselves ever further into the 21st century, the trend for custom beauty is going increasingly mainstream. A British brand called Dcypher uses artificial intelligence to detect skin tone from mobile phone images then knock out perfectly matched foundations.
Another — Base Plus — allows customers to concoct moisturisers and serums based on their skin issues, scent preferences, and chosen active ingredients. The company Carra sets up video sessions to create custom hair products to work with your hair’s texture and your lifestyle.
If you have a beauty itch that needs scratching, there will be some whizz-kid who can design tech to do it.
However, all this feels small beer — and tediously long-winded — next to a gadget that creates your very own super-luxe lipsticks.
This superpower doesn’t come cheap, at £250 per machine and £60 per cartridge (both available from yslbeauty.co.uk), but YSL’s couture kit is the holy grail of customised beauty — and the label claims that, if you equip yourself with all four cartridges, one machine can pump out 4,000 different shades.
As a fashion house, Saint Laurent has long been famous for its kapow colours — saturated satsumas and fabulous fuchsias. This device combines that love of colour with patented technology. It was so hotly anticipated it had a waiting list of hundreds in the run-up to its arrival in Britain.
When mine arrived, I was beyond excited, until I remembered that I’m so technically challenged I don’t even know how to find face-tuning apps to use on Instagram, let alone use them, and am thus inadvertently forced to keep things real.
Happily, the Rouge Sur Mesure is a cinch. You download the app, then it guides you through each step, with simple, midlife-technophobia-proof instructions.
Hannah (pictured) explained that the shade wheel on the app allowed her to experiment with what her face looks like with different colours of lipstick
Cartridges are sold in nude, orange, red and pink ‘colour universes’, each said to supply 1,000 shades when mixed in precisely measured quantities.
Being cool-toned, I opt for pink, like most women harbouring firm views that it must be one palette and no other. There are said to be between 200 to 250 applications per cartridge set, depending on which of the three sub-tones you use most frequently.
Thus a couple of applications a day might last you about six months, meaning £60 for around half a year or more of lipstick.
Matte black, upright, the Rouge Sur Mesure looks like a cross between a fancy coffee maker and a posh sex toy, albeit smaller than the first, and bigger than the second. I plug it into my laptop, switch on the light, and we’re away. Beat that, Buck Rogers.
On the app, the shade wheel allows me to experiment with what my face looks like in a carnival of pinks from Sixties-dolly-bird pastel to bruised-mouthed goth.
I could gaze at this for ever — trying on virtual pouts proves curiously soothing. Once I find a look I love, all I have to do is click.
The shade-match colour recognition technology allows me to scan something — a bag, scarf, or picture, say — unearth the shade closest to it, then click and create. Vistas open up in which I will be able to coordinate my mouth to my walls, my favourite paintings, or my boyfriend’s florid face next time he upbraids me for owning too much make-up.
With the shade stylist function, I can, meanwhile, take a photograph of myself and place pins over key areas of my outfit, skin, hair, or slap. The Rouge Sur Mesure will then generate hues based on colour harmony principles to suggest match and clash options. For my metallic party frock, it suggests a ravishing blush hue, or a vivid wine.
Hannah (pictured) designed a trio of shades, but admits that she isn’t convinced that she should be in charge of such impressive tech
With each new lip I come up with, then press go on, the machine makes tiny Dalek noises while dispensing different amounts of colour from three holes. I then mix them in its portable compact using the YSL lip brush, ready to carry my new war paint off into the world.
The textures are sumptuous velvet-mattes, so creamy they go everywhere — on my teeth, up my nose. However, once fixed, they prompt coos from every woman I parade them in front of.
I design a trio of shades. There is Basic Betts, a sort of Queen Mother salmon that I dislike, but other people tell me they love. Second comes Bubblegum Betts, a hot Hubba-Bubba with a glossy Eighties finish contrived to match my Marc Jacobs blouse that proves another fan favourite.
And then there is the aforementioned Betts Bitch, a gloriously vampy retro purple that I would happily live in. These three coinages are very obviously different. However, I don’t appear able to get as much nuance into my creations as I would like. I crave extremes, yet there’s a touch of sameness to my formulas.
Doubtless this is me, rather than the machine. In the same way that I don’t want to produce my own perfume because professionals take lifetimes to train themselves to do so, I’m not convinced I’m the idiot to be in charge of such impressive tech.
Still, it’s such a tonic, and not just on the female-bonding front. Forgive me for sounding 50-going-on-six, but the Rouge Sur Mesure is simply terrific fun: A Girls’ World toy for adults, in which I get to be the doll.
If — like me — you’re feeling that the Covid crisis has quashed you, then maybe what you need is 4,000 lipsticks up your sleeve, without said sleeve having to be the size of the Empire State Building? (De-cluttering queen Marie Kondo would be proud.)
Rumour has it that YSL’s parent company, L’Oreal, is also working on custom foundation and skincare devices. This makes us one step nearer to being able to computerise our beauty regimes in the way that the heroine of Clueless did her outfits. Technophobe, did I say? No more!