The Balm

Friday Fun: The Balm illustrations, solved (partially)

I had always been drawn to The Balm's kitschy retro packaging, especially since it reminds me so much of Too-Faced's Quickie Chronicles palettes (see my original post on The Balm from nearly 5 years ago for the company's background).  Many months ago Hautelook had a sale so I stocked up on a lot of the brand's items that I had been eyeing literally for years. 

I got Bahama Mama bronzer, Down Boy blush, Read My Lips lipsticks, Cabana Boy blush, Hot Mama blush, Rockstar palette and one of the Instain blushes.  



While I still haven't solved the mystery of why the company chooses to go with retro images for a such a modern-themed brand, I did manage to track down a couple of vintage illustrations that were used in some of the packaging.

Illustrator Al Moore (read a great profile of him here) was famous for his drawings of pin-up girls in the '40s and '50s, with his work appearing in McCall's and Cosmopolitan, but his main client was Esquire magazine.  Moore was commissioned to create a special calendar for the magazine in 1949.  Below is the June calendar girl: 

(image from

So now we know where The Balm got their Bahama Mama!  

Next up we have the work of Peter Driben (1903-1968), possibly the most prolific American pinup artist.  This image appeared on the November 1946 cover of Titter magazine.  Yes, you read that correctly.   "America's Merriest Magazine," indeed!

(image from

It looks The Balm replaced the mirror with a maraca in the packaging for Hot Mama, which is puzzling.  But what I had been really wondering about all these years is how The Balm, and Too-Faced, for that matter, had been able to get approval for these images for commercial use.   According to my cursory research, they didn't have to.  Apparently once a copyright expires on an image they are considered to be part of the public domain, so anyone can use them for anything they wish.  This is probably common knowledge but I had no idea until now.  I can only assume that these images were in the public domain (i.e., the copyright on them had long expired and was not renewed) and so were able to be used freely on these products.  However, it would have been nice to see some acknowledgement of the original artist on the packaging somewhere.

In any case, I tried to find the images for Down Boy and Cabana Boy but to no avail.  However, my searches did turn up quite a few original illustrations for many of Too-Faced's Quickie Chronicles, so perhaps another post comparing those palettes and their original artwork is in the making.  ;)  Stay tuned!

p.s. This is quite a timely post, as The Balm is once again on Hautelook today. 

Retro deja-vu with The Balm

Ah, The Balm.  I've posted about this line and their unique brand of fun retro packaging a few times before.  While some other brands (Benefit, Too-Faced) have created and continue to come up with designs reminiscent of decades past, The Balm is the most consistent.  Their latest offering is Instain, six long-wearing powder blushes packaged in cases illustrated with a very posh, sophisticated woman clad in vintage-style clothing and accessories.  The overall look suggests a magazine cover.  And while I'm no fashion historian, to my eye the clothes/hats look like they span anywhere from the 1920s through the 60s.






(images from

I was really impressed with the design since it seemed to be well thought-out.  Not only does a different woman appear on each, but there is a different clothing pattern (lace, toile, pinstripe, etc.).  I'm not really sure I get the fall/spring designations, since houndstooth and argyle scream fall to me while Swiss dots seem rather springy, but I appreciate that they're all exclusive patterns.  The text changes ever so slightly as well - "Keep your color around the clock", "Color that won't quit," etc. While each one is a little different, at the individual level the palettes still have a cohesive look due to the blush color matching the band at the top of the case.

As I looked at these I was reminded of Stila's Front Cover Lookbooks from way back in 2007.  I don't think I ever posted about these (gasp!) so here's a quick peek. (Click to enlarge.  These did come with tubes of lip glosses but I have no idea what happened to them!  Curating FAIL.)


Like The Balm palettes, these resemble magazine covers (albeit contemporary ones) and each one has different text as well.  In Stila's case the text highlights the name of a color contained within the palette.  For example, Front Cover Lookbook No. 1 says "Feel confident & grace-ful" and includes one of Stila's best-selling eye shadows named Grace.


So while the same basic design idea has been done before, The Balm, somewhat ironically I'd say, manages to update it by using their signature retro twist.

Are you digging the Instain blushes?  And what do you think of Stila's previous iteration of the magazine cover idea?

Friday fun: The Balm Girls lipsticks

I was perusing The Balm's website for a post on some of their newer creations (Meet Matte, Nude 'Tude palettes) and I stumbled across these.  I'm not sure why they're not up at Sephora but they should be.  Not only are they cute representations of film's famous Bond girls, they have funny names.

Anita ima

Foxxy amanda

Mia mai
(images from

I don't think they're meant to be exact reproductions of Bond girls (except for Ima Goodkisser, whose white bikini getup is identical to that of Ursula Andress in Dr. No) but they spot-on  '60s Bond girls. 

I'm not going to go into a lengthy essay on the feminist (or unfeminist) implications of packaging like this, but I do want to mention the topic.  Some scholars have made the argument that Bond girls are feminist icons (see the book Shaken and Stirred:  The Feminism of James Bond), or at least, not the symbols of patriarchy they appear to be on the surface.  However, these particular illustrations seem to make the girls  eye candy and nothing more.  Notice that the men, although relegated to the background, are leering at the girls, their gaze ever present.  Plus there's the issue of putting these women - who arguably have been seen over the years as mere accessories - on an accessory itself.

All my feminist leanings aside, I'd still argue that these are harmless and fun.  These retro items always makes me wonder who did the illustrations!

Friday Fun: The Balm

The fall makeup collections are everywhere and the thick September magazine issues bursting with fall fashion are weighing down my mailbox, but it's still sweltering here so I wanted to look at some fun summer-themed items from The Balm.  I like to think of this line as a cross between Too-Faced and Benefit - kitschy, retro and girly.  Created by Marissa Shipman, the brand has a "beauty in five minutes" philosophy, which explains why so many of their products are multi-use, and is meant to be "fun and nostalgic."

Below is Hot Mama (pinky peach blush), Bahama Mama (bronzer) and Cabana Boy (eye shadow/blush):

Balm summer
(photos from
I'm not sure if the images are original artwork since I haven't checked these out thoroughly in person, but they would definitely be a worthy addition to the Museum.  :)