Playing the name game

Caitlyn Mckinzie, Editorial Board

“So intense, you might need a safe word.”

At first glance, this seems like a tagline for something advertised only to an adult audience. In actuality, it’s the text on the back of Urban Decay’s Perversion mascara box. 

Whether it’s the name of a product or the name of a color, this oversexualized marketing is everywhere in makeup. You can find Too-Faced’s Better than Sex collection, ELF’s O-Face lipsticks, and Urban Decay’s Stay Naked concealer in any Ulta, Target, or Sephora (don’t worry, I didn’t forget any NARS products– we’ll talk about them in a minute).

At first, this may not seem like too much of an issue. It can be pretty funny, especially as a teen or young adult.

However, makeup is marketed towards girls starting at an increasingly young age. Sex sells, but one wouldn’t think it would sell to a younger audience. So why is this kind of language acceptable and used so often by makeup brands?

Consider how many people have been turned away by this marketing. Young girls who are tired of being sexualized, for example. Nonbinary and genderqueer folks who may be curious about expressing themselves in a new way but can’t bring themselves to start. Young boys who just want to cover up their acne to help their self-esteem. 

Even worse, imagine being a parent of a young child, no older than twelve. Imagine them walking up with one of these items, asking what the name means or why it’s named that way. Imagine that child internalizing this over-sexualized message before they’re even able to comprehend what sex is.

Many brands are guilty of it, in all kinds of price ranges, and that means most people who wear makeup will have seen at least one product like this. It isn’t hard to think of how this marketing could go wrong.

But let’s get back to NARS, a repeat offender if there ever was one. I can’t think of a brand more culpable in this than they are, and oh boy, do they have some winning product names. I’d like to mention that none of them say anything about the color they represent, instead saying everything about the people that name them. 

These include, in order from least to most horrible, Take Me Home, Touch Me, Shag, Do Me Baby, Sex Machine, and Deep Throat

Yup! NARS’s innuendos are about as subtle as a brick thrown through a window.

Makeup can be a great thing. But when brands approach naming their products and shades like this, it turns people away from it. The implications of naming products this way are simple: It perpetuates the idea that makeup is inherently sexualizing, that those who wear it are asking to be judged or worse. 

There are many ways to be eye-catching when it comes to naming makeup products. So please, steer away from the sexual messaging, and start naming things in a way that actually gives an idea of the color it’s meant to be.

Graphic: Guess the Color

These two names belong to some of NARS’ lipstick shades. Can you guess what color they are?


  1. light pink
  2. soft peach
  3. dull red


  1. light purple
  2. red-beige
  3. dark red


Answers: a and b, respectively