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making faces :: can guerlain improve on its rouge g perfection?

earlier this year, guerlain did something that managed to be both predictable and shocking: they discontinued their iconic rouge g lipsticks and reinvented them with new colours and new packaging. given that guerlain had tinkered with almost every part of its cosmetic lineup in the last few years and that the rouge g assortment hadn't had even a refresh since 2014, the line was definitely due for big changes. on the other hand, the rouge g formula has been held up for years as the ideal to which all lipsticks should aspire and with good reason; tampering with perfection always entails risk.

thankfully, guerlain have deftly navigated the seas of risk and opportunity to arrive at a final destination that combines their established strength with a clever way of reaching out to new customers, namely those customers who are a little hesitant to fork over the money for the rouge g in its luxury packaging. now, rather than paying one hefty sum for one lipstick in deluxe packaging, you can buy the lipstick and the jewelry-like cover separately. and, yes, that does mean that you can buy just the lipstick without the cover. that said, a number of the new covers are just gorgeous and the allure of variety is even greater than the allure of their luxurious silver packaging. of course, if you never liked its considerable heft, there's not a lot here that's going to make you any happier. [some of the plastic/ enamel casings are, however, lighter than the metal ones.]

here's a view of just some of the options available, depending on your mood and preferences. some of these, you'll note, look a bit familiar because they've been used in limited collections before. also, you can see that the original version is still available.

if you'd like to save some cash, the plastic demi-cap that you get is more than sufficient to guard against drying and the old casings fit the new bases, although i must note that the fit is very loose. i recommend against carrying them loose in your purse if you're using either the plastic cap or a "classic" one [something i often do, even though i know i shouldn't]. put 'em in a makeup bag and carry that on your person instead.

you might have noticed that this is a loooooong ass post. that's because i wanted to cover a few aspects of the launch:

  1. review the shades i've acquired [purchased or acquired through the miracle of shoppers drug mart optimum points]. 
  2. do a recap of what's new, what's carried over and some things i think might be a little confusing in terms of "naming". [naming, in this case, is actually numbering since guerlain have irritatingly decided to go the route of armani and dispense with shade names.]
  3. show some looks i've done so that you can get a sense of how these babies look in the wild.

let's start with the shades that have joined my collection.

actually, let's start with my overall impression of the line then move on to the shades i've chosen thus far. i'm happy to report that my overall impression is excellent. in terms of the formula, while there are a few variations [some of which are flagged by the brand as different from the standard], i'm hard-pressed to come up with any difference from the previous iteration. that means that these new shades have the creamy consistency, hydrating effect, lasting power and, in many cases, the pearl finish that has always made rouge g lipsticks more distinctive. several of the shades are slicker and less opaque without any warning given, which is annoying, but also in keeping with the previous line. several of the new shades are presented as "toppers", colours intended for layering rather than stand-alone use, however, even that isn't necessarily a guide, as we'll see shortly.

to clarify about the "slicker and less opaque" comment above: i found that a couple of shades from the previous line [geraldine and geneva, specifically] had a lot more slip and a tendency to feather more than the mostly stellar other shades. there are some in this line that feel the same and i seriously wish that guerlain had noted the difference.

i've given good homes to three shades thus far. the first i grabbed was 888, which is one of the colours that guerlain indicates is meant to be used as a shade for mixing. uh, ok. if you say so.

the colour is for all intents and purposes a nearly opaque a cool, bright fuschia with a dose of silver-white shimmer that just glows on the lips. to anyone who is drawn to the sparkle and glamour of frosted lipsticks but who doesn't like the pinched effect they often give: this is the formula for you. the sparkle is actually somewhere between a shimmer and glitter but it's more sophisticated than you generally see from products bearing either of those names. i don't have anything even remotely close to this in my collection and believe me when i tell you that that is a monumental accomplishment on its own.

the application is extremely smooth and i don't feel even a smidgen of grittiness from the shimmer. neither the base nor the sparkly bits emphasize my lip lines, a problem to which shimmery shades are often prone. the colour is just short of entirely opaque but i feel like there's little chance this is going to be apparent without a makeup mirror. since it is marketed as a layering shade, i would have expected it to be semi-sheer. the texture is a little firmer [not drier] than i would expect for a less than opaque colour, which translates into fantastic wear time. the shimmer remains visible a long time and hours later, there's a lovely kind of popsicle stain on the lips. i didn't get any feathering at all.

i've been begging for a beautiful purple from guerlain for ages, so it should come as no surprise that my second choice [i'm actually shocked i didn't go for it first, but 888 was so lovely] was 74. it's a bright, happy, grapey purple that's just barely muted enough to work as an everyday colour. [it is likely to be an especially great and versatile choice for very dark-skinned, cool-toned beauties. think lupita nyongo, karine jean-pierre, or alex wek.]

this one is creamy and opaque in the way that rouge g's have generally always been. it deposits rich colour, true to what you see in the tube, at a single swipe and lasts for hours. [how many hours? i have no fucking clue, because i am constantly drinking water or coffee, or nibbling on snacks, which shortens the wear time. i do not have the time or temperament to sit still for the better part of a day seeing how long it takes my lipstick to fade. besides, how long it takes to fade is always influenced by the condition of my lips, which isn't something i control. based on what i saw, if you are a person who goes several hours without drinking or eating, you'll get excellent wear time from this shade. does that work for you?]

74 is a delight that leaves my lips feeling happy afterwards and it also does a great job of making them appear smoother and fuller. top marks all around and very much up to the high standards i expect of a rouge g.

the closest comparison i have [and i have a lot of purples] was nars "kate", which is a bit darker, cooler, less glossy and more muted. in other words, it's in the same general range, but there's no danger that they'll be mistaken for one another.

l to r :: 74, nars kate
third and, for the moment, final, i picked up shade number 65. this was a bit of a nostalgic choice for me because the shade "grenade", which was number 65 in the old line, was the first rouge g i ever bought. that said, i'm not a total fool and there was no way that i was going to take home something that was exactly the same as one that's still working just fine, thank you very much. [seriously, does anyone actually pay attention to the "best before" dates on cosmetics? have you ever looked into the arbitrary nature of "best before" dates on everything, including food? trust me, until you can actually smell something musty about your lipstick, there is nothing wrong with it. cosmetic scout's honour.]

the colour is a slightly muted red plum with a high shine finish. it's just slightly short of opaque, at about the same level as 888, although this one isn't flagged as a layering shade. the glossy finish means a wear time that's noticeably shorter and a little prone to feathering if you were to reapply it without taking the time to wipe your lips completely clean.

it's the sort of red shade that will suit people who are a bit shy of wearing red lipstick since it's deeper and softer than a true red. it has an understated pearl finish that helps give the lips a fresher, smoother appearance and that distinguishes it from similar shades.

the newly minted 65 is cooler and more glossy than "grenade". it's also a less muted shade and appears more red and less plum than its predecessor. it has a sparkly quality to it, like sunlight on the water, that's different than the soft pearl of "grenade". the photo below was taken on an overcast day, so you can't see that quality at all. sigh. mostly what you see in the photo below is the difference in opacity. what can i say? they don't look the same in person and if you need evidence of that, compare the "in use" photos below with ones of "grenade".

l to r :: 65, grenade

guerlain's [bad] decision to move to a numerical identification system for rouge g lipsticks is complicated by the fact that they always used numbers and names to identify rouge g and rouge g le brilliant [semi-sheer] shades. many of the numbers are reused from previous launches and there is no consistent rule as to whether or not the new shades correspond to the old ones with the same numbers. what the ever-loving fuck, guerlain?

here are some of the weird duplications and my opinion on how they compare to the originals:

78 :: the artist formerly known as "gladys". the new 78 is a fuchsia with a pearl finish that looks kinda similar but they're definitely not the same animal. the new 78 looks warmer and perhaps a bit deeper. i'd say it's a berry rather than a fuchsia shade.

77 :: this was perhaps the slipperiest and shortest-lasting of the previous rouge g shades. it was a cool, light pink that stopped just short of a baby pink. the new version looks like it has the same kind of coverage but it's way warmer.

71 :: this one actually does appear quite similar to the previous number 71, "girly". both very warm, bright coral-pink tones.

28 :: the new one looks almost identical to "genna", which used to bear that number. both are bold orange-reds. "genna" was one of my very favourite of the old rouge g's.

41 :: "gipsy" in the old line was a muted pumpkin orange with a fairly prominent pearl. the new 41 is a bright orange-coral. same universe, different planets.

62 :: this one looks pretty similar to "georgia", the old 62: a soft, warm go anywhere pink.

06 :: this shade and the old one, "garance", are similar looking but the new one is much pinker/ cooler, while the old one is more of a soft beige-brown. i think the colours might appeal to a similar customer but there's no chance of mistaking them for one another.

25 :: the new shade and the old one, "garconne" look to be dead ringers for one another. entirely understandable, as this is what i'd call guerlain's "flagship red"- pretty neutral, bold and classic.

65 :: i've gone through this one already. my final word is that i think that the new one is the most similar to "grenade" in the new line but that in no way means they're the same.

22 :: ibid? the new one looks lighter, fresher and juicier than "greta" but they're in the same general range of reds, without being the same.

21 :: "gala" was a fire engine red not entirely dissimilar to "garconne". the new 21 is a more original shade- cooler, lighter and a bit brighter.

in addition, there are a number of numbers that have been reused that correspond to shades that had been limited or discontinued in the previous line:

02 :: does look kind of similar to "gardenia" that was part of the original rouge g launch but was discontinued.

45 :: this one kind of looks like a more opaque, slightly cooler version of "orange euphorique", a limited shade from 2011. it's sort of weird that guerlain chose to use the number 45 for the shade that's most similar [while being notably different] to "orange euphorique" in the new line. i'm not sure that anyone was aware of that.

other than those, there are lots of numbers that have been reused from previous shades but they generally have nothing to do with their new incarnations. for instance, number 70 is a bold pink, a slightly cooler analogue to 71. the number 70 has been used twice before, once for the delicate, semi-translucent "fuchsia delice" and once for the deep, mysterious plum "gigolo". three shades, one number, nothing to do with each other.

this bothers me more than it should. if you're going to do repeats of names/ numbers, why would you not make them either consistently the same or consistently different? there's a whole whack of numbers that haven't been used before, after all. for instance, every three-digit variation chosen is new, even though guerlain used three-digit numbers on limited shades before. there's even a modicum of sanity when it comes to shades that are promoted as predominantly for layering: they all have repeating triple digits: 111, 333, 777, 888 [sadly no 666]... of course, there's a substantial difference in how opaque those shades are, so it's arguable that they shouldn't be classified as the same beast. at least armani maintains a sort of order: 500-series are pink, 400-series are red, 600-series are plum.

and i'm not even touching on shades that look similar to previous shades that have totally different numbers.

i expect that most people aren't terribly concerned about this sort of organisation, either because they're not interested in cataloguing lipsticks but wearing them, or because they don't have enough rouge g's in their stash to warrant puzzling over which ones might be duplicates.

what might interest people is what the lipsticks look like in use. fear not. i have you covered.


i find this does an excellent job of conveying the almost electric quality of this shade. something about it strikes me as very eighties-looking in a good, retro way. perhaps it's because of that low-level neon quality.

the eyes here are shades from pat mcgrath's la vie en rose palette. i can't stop wearing this palette. in this case, i have "pale fire" on the lid and "purple reign" on the lower lash line. the liner is marc jacobs "mist me". it's a super-simple look with major impact, i think.


have i ever mentioned how much i love purple and green together? i find that the combination just makes both colours pop. i kept the eye shades a bit lighter so that the luscious purple could command centre stage. although i often like a purple lip with more muted tones [grey, taupe, mauve, etc.], this one really doesn't jive with that sort of partner. it's a lively shade that combines best with anything from icy tones to pops of bold colour.

the greens, in this case, are from mac: aquavert, swimming and bio green, all of which used to be part of the permanent collection but have mostly fallen by the wayside. stupid wayside.


ok, these photos show the juicy freshness of the shade in comparison to its more muted predecessor. it's still what you would call an adaptable shade- office, family event, night out- but i find it's more lively than "grenade".

this is combined with an ancient [in makeup terms] mac palette called photorealism. it's an exquisite collection of greens including light and dark, yellow- and blue-toned options. the blush is another classic from mac- and another that i don't think has ever been duplicated- "marine life" highlight powder. it's really a blush, not a highlighter by any means, and the reason i say it's never been duplicated is that the combination of two shades [one a soft pink-coral and the other a bolder red-coral] allows you a whole spectrum of applications from combining the two.

tl;dr :: guerlain has done little to alter the stellar rouge g formula. the changes are more about the shades. however, the cleverest element of the new line is that it gives the buyer more control over how much they spend and also gives a sense of the value of the lipstick versus the deluxe packaging.

p.s. :: why yes, you keen observer, i did get a new camera. this one is, i find, better at capturing colour in most lights. ironically, when it gets them wrong, it skews in the direction of being too cool, whereas the previous one tended to skew too warm. the only edits i do on photographs are when i feel that there's a big enough gap between the photo and reality that the end result is misleading. even then, i'll try to take new photographs before submitting anything to my pathetic editing skills. i'm still learning the ins and outs, such as how to make the photos normal width and not anorexically thin. the photos above are pretty realistic, although i think that it's pretty obvious there's a warmer cast on the ones taken with the old camera. so yes, there's a range, however, i don't think that anything is so far off reality as to give an incorrect impression of the colours. 


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