Former Allure Magazine Editor Linda Wells Is Redefining Nude Makeup

Courtesy of Flesh Beauty
Linda Wells' new twelve-piece Flesh beauty line.

“We wanted nudes for every nude; that’s the M.O. of this line,” says Wells, who has tested at least 100,000 beauty products during her career.

In L.A. to celebrate the launch of her Flesh beauty brand, founder and former editor-in-chief of Allure magazine Linda Wells, now Revlon’s chief creative officer, sat down with THR in West Hollywood to talk about her latest adventure. The 12-piece cosmetics collection ($18 to $38, exclusively at Ulta stores and includes 40 shades of stick foundation, primer, three highlighters (drops, powder and balm), three formats of lip color (lipstick, compact and matte liquid), blush, an eye-and-cheek gloss, and an eye shadow palette. Mascara, eye liners, brow pencils and more are in the works. While the brand was incubated at Revlon, Wells is fast to say that it was a completely separate indie project created with independent suppliers and creatives, including a globally renowned makeup artist that insisted on not being named.

Why another beauty brand now? Does anyone need a new beauty brand? No, of course not. But it is a very familiar echo. When I started Allure, it was like, "Who needs another magazine?" So I don’t really think there is a limit on how many new beauty brands or fashion lines there can be, because what we’re doing is not filling a need but filling a desire and desire always wants something new and different.

What’s the core philosophy? I feel like most brands tend to go in one lane or the other: completely trend and style focused or totally basic and practical, and I wanted to bring those two things together. Comfort is at the core of what we do: being comfortable in a literal sense that the product feels good on your skin but also being comfortable in your makeup as a person expressing who you are. Self-acceptance is such an important message in beauty that I’ve written about and talked about throughout my career. This isn’t a line that’s meant to change your face or your identity. There are no gimmicks or tricks or elaborate methods so it will not appeal to people who think that transformative, heavy makeup is important. That’s really big on Youtube and it’s an art and a cool thing to see, but we won’t be making holographic gels or powders that turn into liquids.

Tell us about the name "Flesh" and what’s behind that. The thought was how to redefine flesh color, starting with the foundations, which were the first product that identified the line. Fenty Beauty started something that was so important and meaningful and really changed beauty by setting the bar at 40 foundations, so we couldn’t do less than that, but we wanted to do it in our way. I love the size of our foundation sticks; they’re portable and easy to travel with. They don’t leak or break, so they'res enormously practical, and a little goes a long way, so they’re efficient. It’s a medium-coverage, dewy foundation that’s buildable and you can also use it as a concealer or use a darker shade to contour. The hardest part to figure out were the delineations of each color, because you need yellow and pink and neutral undertones for all the different shades; the darker shades were really hard because they tend to turn ashy on the skin, so we had to reformulate those shades entirely. We also have 10 nude lipsticks that work with all skin tones. There are still lipsticks called nude and they’re beige. We wanted nudes for every nude; that’s the M.O. of this line.

What are you bringing to this space from your experience as an editor? I actually tried to quantify how many products I’ve tried in the past millions of decades and I think it’s got to be at least 100,000. I always think, "How does this fit in? What works and what doesn’t? And what would I do if I could do it?" Bobbi Brown gave me my first makeup lesson and I met the man who invented La Mer when I was an assistant at Vogue. I was really the first reporter backstage at fashion shows when I was at The New York Times because I felt like that’s where all the action is, so I watched all the makeup artists.

Any takeaway tips applied to the line? The makeup artists press their hands into the skin [during application] and that makes makeup look like it belongs on your skin. I know a lot of people on YouTube like to use lots of different brushes and sponges, but I like the idea of using your hands for your makeup. I’m also a cook and I used to be a food editor so I like getting my hands on things. Makeup artists touch the top of a bullet [lipstick] and press it onto the lips and it gives you that blurry lipstick look that’s kind of cool and doesn’t look like you tried to hard, which is always a thing in fashion. That’s why we have a fingerprint on some of the packaging and products.

I would also always see makeup artists put gloss on the eyelids; they would use some kind of petroleum jelly product or Elizabeth Arden Eight Hour Cream for a very sexy, summery glistening look. The problem is that it melts and it takes your mascara with it and if you wear contact lenses, it will go in your eyes. So it’s great for a runway, but when you have to wear it out in the world, you can’t do it. So we have a product called Fleshpot that has that glimmery shine with gold and pink pigments but doesn’t move or migrate. You can use it on your cheeks or lips or eyes. If you put it over black eyeshadow, it has that smudgy, kind of Peter Lindbergh look [the German fashion photographer known for his imperfect aesthetic] that’s really beautiful. It’s the best seller so far.