Besame: retro chic for the 21st century

January 2, 2014
My latest Besame stash.

My latest Besame stash. Isn’t the rouge compact pretty?

It started with Mad Men. Well, it really started with Dita Von Teese, this 1950s retro thing. Because for a long time, no one wanted to look like a 1950s woman, and then? Poof! It was stylish.  Dita brought it to mainstream attention and Joan Holloway on Mad Men popularized it. Oh, if only I could look like that! Joan Holloway’s the sexiest thing, at least to me, and her 60s makeup strikes a chord–a nice one.


Besame red rouge in a cream compact

I remember my mother standing in her tiny pink-tiled bathroom and delicately applying red-red rouge from a tiny gold compact.

She dabbed a round fabric applicator that was too thin to be called a “puff” on the rouge and then rubbed the color on to her cheeks. She wasn’t as careful to blend it as we are today.  Of course, once the 1960s hit “rouge” disappeared in favor of powdered blush with a brush. Blush-on was what we first called it and it became a huge hit in my generation.

Did you know that blush or rouge is one of the most controversial cosmetics ever, once thought to be used only by prostitutes?  Heavy application of rouge was how prostitutes were differentiated on stage, too.  That shady history is why all blush how-to instructions emphasize blending well.

Today, though, we’ve got a range of blendable cheek color options: carmine-colored liquids, ruby-red gels we can squeeze and all shades of cream pots to dip fingers in for a refined cheek.

So when retro cosmetic company Besame sent me a nice gift certificate to try their products, its Crimson Cream Rouge was my very first choice. It’s a generous tin-full and a little goes a very long way. They advise applying under foundation for a more natural look, so that’s what I did, for a very natural flush.

Oh, and compacts! Today, they’re plastic and functional (affordable, too), but I miss the idea of the beautifully designed and oh-so-feminine classic compact as an accessory.

Besame face powder in a compact

Besame face powder in a compact

My mother always completed her cosmetic regime with powder applied from a beautiful gold compact that was significantly larger than the one that held her rouge. The matte finish she achieved accentuated her already beautiful complexion. But it’s the ritual that I remember.  First rouge, then powder. It’s how little girls of the 1950s learned about makeup, and we longed for the day we, too, could apply it and go out for an evening on the town.  Or pull a lovely gold-swirled compact out of an evening bag and touch up at the table.  I don’t go out on the town much, but if I did, I would have to have a pretty compact. In fact, I may have to buy one next.

Besame red lipstick

Besame Red Hot Red  lipstick

My husband loves red lipstick. Partly it’s because he’s color-blind and red is one of the three colors he can actually see. But it’s not my best lip color. I wish it were. Still, I swipe on a red from time to time and he never fails to compliment me on it.  My favorite is Besame’s Red Hot Red and I bought a full-sized tube. It’s my December lip color and its pop of red is such a great pick-me-up I think it’s going to be my color for the entire winter. When I swivel the tomato-red waxed bullet up out of the tube I always feel like I’m channeling my  mother, who wore her red —Fire and Ice by Revlon–every day.

Besame lipsticks are highly pigmented with great quality and they stay put longer than most other lip colors I’ve worn. And that’s saying a lot.   First, I use a nude lipliner.  Then: apply lipstick, blot, reapply, blot again–and then I dab clear gloss on the center of my lower lip and right at my cupid’s bow. That nifty little technique gives me a fuller lip and also keeps the red from coming off on my teeth (and isn’t that a big pain in the rear?)  Now, be forewarned: Besame’s tubes are slightly smaller than most lipsticks, which means they are easier to carry (and they come in a tiny red velvet bag!). I can only think of one time that I’ve ever finished an entire tube of any lipstick, so the slightly more compact size is perfect for me.

Oh, and here’s something fantastic. Besame has little matchbooks with teeny samples of its lipsticks. Isn’t it a great idea?  I bought a bunch to try –what fun! That’s how I found that Red Hot Red was my best color. They don’t travel well, so use them at home.

Although Besame’s product line is limited, I’m quite taken with its romance.  My mother would have loved every one of their products, and so would most modern women. Beautiful colors, gorgeous packaging and everything so feminine. Besame Cosmetics are a tonic in a world in which femininity is often replaced by hit-you-in-the-face sexuality. Oh, wait. Joan’s character on Mad Men is pretty hit-you-in-the-face. Well, whatever!

Travel-sized Besame lipsticks

Match-sized Besame lipsticks

I discovered Besame by reading a review of a Wantable beauty box, which came with a Besame product. I signed up for Wantable, and what luck! A few months later a Besame pink came in my box.  I love it, and I’m sure it’ll be my spring lip color.

If you’d like your own Besame products, visit and shop away! I suggest beginning with some of the sample-sized lipsticks.  And do it quick, before Valentine’s Day!



5 comments on “Besame: retro chic for the 21st century
  1. Laura Kennedy says:

    Oh, yes! The Ritual. Always finished with a touch of Chanel No. 5. I watched, fascinated, each time, and remember it each time I put on my own makeup.

  2. Those compacts are lovely!

    You made me chuckle with your comment about why your hubby loves red lipstick. (Maybe I shouldn’t admit that.)

    I have never been one to wear rouge; my cheeks are always rather rosy… and downright embarrassingly red after a drink or two. (I could never be an alcoholic as it’s always quite obvious when I’ve had a drink… darn cheeks!)

  3. Love the Match-size lipsticks! What fun! My mother was a fashion print and runway model in the 60’s. I not only got to see her put on make in her own boudoir, but I saw many other models work their magic. as well. I really should write about that….. {inspiration via Carol!} Thanks!

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