Lipsticks have to be the most ubiquitous makeup item in every girl’s beauty arsenal. I’d even say that they’re the gateway to the world of beauty — my first real makeup item was a M.A.C lipstick, swiped from my mom’s dressing table in a bid to be “grown-up” and “sophisticated” during those tender tween years. Thankfully, those words don’t need to be between air quotes any more — I am grown up now, and over the years, have tried my fair share of drugstore shades to luxurious reds that feel like liquid silk.
Trust me when I say that shu uemura lipsticks are always on heavy rotation in my makeup bag. Apart from red, my go-to shade’s OR585 in matte, a burnt orange meets rose brown that looks effortless, and dries comfortably on the lips. Sophisticated? Very much so.
So, what happens when shu uemura announces a revamp of their entire line of Rouge Unlimited lipsticks? Well, music to any beauty lover’s ears! You see, it does get better. We’re talking 155 shades in total, with the addition of two new textures to the already formidable line, and a sleek new packaging. As part of their biggest launch this year, the brand even brought us to Shanghai to discover the collection for ourselves.
shu uemura Rouge Unlimited lipsticks
Here’s the lowdown on what’s new:
- Packaging — a sleek, angular casing for all the lipsticks, focusing on a minimalist trio of colours: black, white and red.
- New Textures — Amplified and Amplified Matte; compared to the other shades in the Rouge Unlimited range, these contain at least 125% more pigments for an intense, true-to-colour swipe.
Of course, there are other great things to know about the lipsticks too, including the focus on Japan-quality ingredients, and how the shades are specifically suited to flatter Asian skin tones.
For that, we turn to shu uemura’s International Artistic Director, Uchiide to find out more about this lipstick revolution — while also, in earnest, asked how we can replicate his creative flair for a more low-key, everyday chic look. Read on for what he has to say.
on ‘Amplified’ and ‘Amplified Matte’ — the two new textures of shu uemura’s revamped lipstick range
“We have invented an innovative formula, it’s successful in packing more pigments than before. Hence the higher colour definition. This is my belief — modern beauty can’t just be expressed in cosmetics, we need hair, fashion, a holistic approach to aesthetic. Looking at the current trends in fashion, colour is very important. If you want to make a really strong statement with your makeup, Amplified and Amplified Matte are the best choices for you.”
He then goes on to explain the key differences of the new formula:
“Firstly, there’s more pigment. We also have to find a good balance [between colour and comfort], which leads to using good ingredients — Japanese camellia extract, or tsubaki oil, which gives a rich creamy texture, smooth, something really easy to apply.
Amplified is lightweight but with a strong colour intensity; and for Amplified Matte, it’s a more luxurious, velvety texture. For both, you don’t feel dehydrated; your lips are moisturised and comfortable, and you can still enjoy intense colour.”
Basically, if you must differentiate the two, Amplified offers a rich and creamy texture, while Amplified Matte is a velvet matte — both offer incredible colour payoff.
at the shu uemura event in Shanghai
At the exclusive event that took place in a converted warehouse, the brand introduced the media to what has to be one of the most impressive red-themed event we’ve seen. Projections, makeup demonstrations, a massive set-up of all their lipstick shades, all bathed in red light to convey the bold attitude of shu uemura’s latest inventions.
As for why the brand decided to look at lipstick again, here’s what Uchiide has to say:
“We have the expertise in colour expression. I feel, in the last few years, everyone’s been focusing on colours and makeup, so this is a good opportunity to show how we’re recognised — colour in makeup. We’re launching lipsticks, which are easy to infuse into your makeup; easy to use, compared to, say, eyeshadows.”
other highlights of the Shanghai press event
While in Shanghai, we also got a first-hand look at shu uemura’s makeup artistry, starting with a makeup demonstration that showed off precise brows and a deep red ombré lip. Edgy, yet wearable. A brush master also showed us how their handcrafted Japanese makeup brushes are made (he certainly makes it look easy!), while we also tried our best to sharpen the Hard Formula H9, the brand’s signature brow pencil. It looks just like a wooden coloured pencil, except with a sword-shaped tip that allows for both broad and precise strokes. I love the powdery texture for natural, defined brows too.
the importance of japan-origin ingredients and quality
Back to the lipsticks though. We know that a lot of thought goes into a single shu uemura item — which explains the commitment to Japan-origin ingredients, resulting in a quality product they can be proud of.
How far does that commitment go? Well, in order to pack more pigments into the formula, the brand relied on a special reproduction process and Japanese high-tech pigments, thanks to a long-standing collaboration with leading ink manufacturers. These are ultra-fine, and if you really want to talk molecular level, of an even shape, for a pure colour payoff. What we then get are the intense shades.
In the area of comfort, the lipsticks are also infused with tsubaki oil, extracted from Japanese camellia seeds — these are grown in Japan, especially Toshima Island that has a legacy of over 200 years, and are handpicked for use. The luxurious tsubaki oil keeps your lips moisturised, so any colour that goes on is going to look its best all day.
how it’s suited for asian skin tones
“Our colour development process starts from RD163, which is the ultimate red. Sometimes, red is quite tricky — like cool-toned reds and warm-toned reds. Every colour can be divided into these two categories. RD163 is perfectly in the middle between warm and cool tones. Based on that, we developed the lipstick shades. Based on our research, most Asian skin tones have warm-toned skin, so we have more lip colours for those.
We also pick up data by trends, like ‘MLBB’, iridescent, holographic, and recently, looking at fashion, the use of many unique textures. We conduct research based on these, Asian people for Asian beauty.”
I also used Uchiide to pick three of his favourite shades in the collection, so you know, you won’t be as spoilt for choice while staring into infinite rows of lipsticks. Here they are:
- A 163 — shu uemura’s version of the perfect red that flatters all skin tones.
- AM RD 195 — a dark red, which Uchiide says is a must, good for an edgy vibe.
- AM BG 972 — a versatile nude-rose, for that MLBB trend.
that sleek packaging
Black. White. Red. These three powerful colours are the core to the brand, both for their modernism and almost ironically, their roots in Japanese culture.
“Those are our brand colours, and also reflect Japanese aesthetics. Black means chic-ness and professionalism, red means timeless beauty, and white means purity, pure beauty. I feel it’s perfection, you know? I hope that everyone’s gonna love it too.”
Uchiide explains that the minimalist, boxy packaging serves a functional purpose as well, and welcomes the change.
“It was one of our challenges for a long time. Maybe you’d remember a previous packaging, a long time ago? It’s transparent, and functional from a makeup artists’ point of view. We’re known as a makeup artist brand throughout the world — thank you for everyone’s support — so in terms of packaging design, we wanted to harmonise functionality and also luxury. That’s one of our biggest challenges for the long time.”
a current lipstick trend to try
If you’re wondering what’s going to be cool past ‘Hot Girl Summer’, here’s to burnt orange, deep browns and bold tones.
“For Summer, definitely warm-toned colours are in trend. Orange, red. Towards Autumn, those shades go deeper, more mature. Orange still, but more of a burnt orange. Also brown, much closer to dark brown. Really transparent skin and really dark shades are going to be fantastic, it’d be really nice.”
how to amp up our everyday lipstick game
Lastly, since shu uemura’s Instagram feed is more often than not, an aspirational but more avant-garde point of view on makeup, Uchiide also offers some advice on how we can take that edgy attitude, and really run with it (and yet, keep it sane for our daily lives).
He says of the visuals: “Artistic, unique, but not far from daily life. We say aspirational. Unique, with a twist. You can infuse the essence of it into your daily makeup.”
“I feel like most people think of lips in one shade. I want to say, try and discover something new — bi-colour is easy to try. A graphic lip might be too difficult, but just using two shades, one on your top lip and another on the bottom, it’ll give you a different impression, something fresh. Look at eyeshadows! Everyone uses at least 2 shades right, it’s normal. But why not more than 1 shade on the lips too?
For your colour choice — pick two warm-toned ones for instance, a warm red and a bright orange will be a perfect harmony. I’d pick 163 in Amplified and 565 in Amplified Matte; the texture difference might be interesting.”
shu uemura Rouge Unlimited lipsticks, in 6 textures, $42 each. Available 2 September at shu uemura stores and counters. shuuemura.com.sg