As runway beauty (and the makeup used to create it) becomes more broad and inclusive, why are lip colors being streamlined?

Slowly but surely, runway diversity is evolving for the better and castings are becoming more inclusive — and to an extent, that's also being reflected in backstage beauty. Designers and beauty pros are being more vocal about wanting to showcase models' individuality, rather than transforming all of them into identical clones with the exact same hair and makeup. Meanwhile, Rihanna finally launched her hotly anticipated Fenty Beauty line, which boasts an epic shade range intended to cater to every single skin tone (and skin undertone) imaginable. In fact, all 91 of the Fenty products were formulated with inclusivity and customization in mind. But amidst the 40 shades of foundation, 20 shades of concealer/contour sticks and 16 shades of highlighters, there was a bit of a surprise when it came to the lip category: Fenty Beauty's debut collection includes exactly one lip product in a single hue.

Models at the Fenty Puma Spring 2018 show. Photos: Imaxtree

Models at the Fenty Puma Spring 2018 show. Photos: Imaxtree

Fenty Gloss Bomb Universal Lip Luminizer is a sheer, peachy-taupe lip gloss with a super-fine golden shimmer and a shiny finish. It's what every single model (not to mention Rihanna herself) wore on the Fenty Puma Spring 2018 runway, and every single model in the brand's campaign imagery (and on its website) is also wearing it. For a brand so devoted to shade range and presenting shoppers with an almost overwhelming array of choices, it seems a bit paradoxical to provide only one lip option. Or does it? The idea is that it's a universal hue that will magically adapt and flatter everyone — a Sisterhood of the Traveling Lip Gloss, if you will. 

But truly, it does seem to work well on any skin tone. Below, it's shown on a selection of 13 models (but if you head over to Fenty Beauty, you can see it on a whopping 40 different skin tones).

The one-shade-fits-all lip color trend was going strong outside the Rihanna-verse as well. Nars is launching an Orgasm Afterglow Lip Balm for Spring 2018, and it was used on every single model, regardless of skin tone, at both Alexander Wang and 3.1 Phillip Lim. Orgasm, Nars' famed blush shade, is often considered to be a magically universal tone that works for one and all; and as a perennial bestseller, it makes sense for the brand to continue expanding the shade across other product categories.

"It is our favorite cult shade that everybody has loved and it is a lip balm with a little bit of a pink tone to it. We applied it with our fingers, so I just pressed the color into the lip tone," said Francelle Daly, the key makeup artist behind the look at the Lim show, in a backstage interview. "When you see color like this, you know that it would look good on everybody."

Models at the 3.1 Phillip Lim Spring 2018 show. Photos: Imaxtree

Models at the 3.1 Phillip Lim Spring 2018 show. Photos: Imaxtree

She argues that its sheerness is key to its universality. "This lip balm can look good on everyone, because it's just a hint of a color; it's not too pink-y, it's not too gold-y, it has a little bit of a shimmer to it so it just really enhances...the lip tone," she explains. But it's also versatile in terms of how you can apply it: "You could also put this on top of a lipstick and just make it a little bit more shimmery which would be really nice."

Models at the Alexander Wang Spring 2018 show. Photos: Imaxtree

Models at the Alexander Wang Spring 2018 show. Photos: Imaxtree

Backstage at Alexander Wang, makeup artist Diane Kendal was tasked with creating a no-makeup makeup look that let each model's natural features shine through. "We're celebrating individual beauty, so I wanted to do makeup that just enhances all of the girls' natural features and celebrates their diversity," she says.

She, too, sang Orgasm's praises. "For the lips, we're using Orgasm Lip Balm. As you can see, it's a really flattering look and that color kind of suits all of the girls. We've used it on every single girl." (While you'll have to wait until spring to get your hands on Nars' Orgasm Lip Balm, the brand suggests layering its existing Bianca Pure Sheer SPF Lip Treatment and Orgasm Lipstick for a similar effect in the interim.)

This one-shade-fits-all, no-lipstick-lip phenomenon is something of a refreshing change of pace, especially given the makeup industry's overwhelming obsession with opaque, matte, intensely pigmented lip colors over the past few years. Tyler recently discussed her recent lip gloss rediscovery, and it seems she's not alone in gravitating toward a more subdued, shiny lip effect. And if this idea of versatile lip products also happens to spur conversations about inclusivity in the beauty industry or create the space for a shared makeup experience? All the better.

Homepage/main photo: Imaxtree

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