Product Gestures: The Choreography Of Applying Cosmetics

Without knowing it, you're moving the way product designer envisioned every time you open a lipstick or spray a perfume.
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Publish date:
October 10, 2013
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chanel, fragrances, perfumes, lipsticks, guerlain, Parfums Divine, terminology

Cosmetics have something in common with fashion. It’s not just colors and trends. It’s movement.

When a woman turns her head, her shimmery eyeshadow bends and morphs in the light. Her satin lipstick catches the light and visually plumps her lips. The light-reflective pigments in her foundation scatter light and obscure flaws and blemishes.

But movement goes beyond the interplay of makeup and light. The most beautiful shapes are made by the woman herself as she applies and reapplies her cosmetics. These shapes are known as the “gestures” of cosmetics.

This concept is well illustrated in Guerlain Rouge Automatique lipstick. This is a vintage product designed many decades ago that creates a gesture so famous as to overshadow the other qualities of the product.

The consumer grasps the Rouge Automatique in the palm of her dominant hand. She wraps her index finger around the back of the tube, and then slowly pushes the bullet out of its case with her thumb on the lever. Once the bullet is exposed, she lifts the lipstick up to her lips and presses it against her mouth.

It’s a gesture so erotic it’s practically NSFW.

These gestures are no accident. They are choreographed by product designers who seek to express a vision of femininity in the experience of using a cosmetic.

Between my skincare regimen, my daily makeup application, my lipstick and powder touch-ups on the go, I make a lot of beauty-related gestures. I am going to show you two of my favorite gestures of my daily routine.

I shower twice a day: once in the morning before work and once at night after my exercise class. I use this as an excuse to have two daily perfumes that suit my mood for day and for night.

Morning Gesture: Extrait de Parfum

My morning perfume, Divine by Parfums Divine, "opens with a fruity note, peach lightly spiced with coriander, passing through a cloud of full and tender flowers finally to reveal a warm and sensual chord of oak moss, musk and vanilla.” You may remember buying it with me in Nantes.

It is formulated as an extrait de parfum, which has a high concentration of fragrance and a low concentration of alcohol. This means that it comes in a tiny bottle and is applied drop by drop to avoid overwhelming the nose with fragrance.

The gesture is precise and careful. With the tiny bottle cap, I lightly touch my pulse points, being careful not to spill my bottle of perfume. I can also dribble a little bit of the perfume down my neck or arms for more intensity. I bend my wrists outward and twist my neck for the most precise application.

Evening Gesture: Eau de Toilette

My nighttime perfume, Beige by Les Exclusifs de Chanel, is "a bouquet of hawthorn, freesia and frangipani, with shimmering hints of honey. A stunning blend of white petals and yellow gold… in other words, a breath of beige."

It is formulated as an eau de toilette, which has a much higher concentration of alcohol and a lower concentration of fragrance. It comes in a large bottle to encourage generous application.

The gesture is liberal and carefree. Without paying too much attention to what I am doing, I spritz my upper body and hair, closing my eyes tight against the spray. It is a mini-shower of fragrance that fills the whole room.

These gestures literally take my entire body without any active thought on my own. Subconsciously, I create the pictures that the designers imagined when they chose the formulation of my perfume and the adapted packaging to encourage a particular application.

Do you have any favorite gestures from your cosmetics routine?