By Kate Harvie


PAINT Cosmetiques founder Naieem Abdool

There is a scene in the camp classic movie “Mahogany” (1975) where Diana Ross’s character, Tracy, struts down a Milanese runway wearing a dress that can only be described as kaleidoscopic. Ms. Ross designed the clothes herself and the movie was directed by her longtime love, (and Motown Records founder) Berry Gordy, so this film can only be characterized as a vanity production. You can imagine my surprise when I learned that Naieem Abdool, the visionary makeup artist behind PAINT Cosmetiques, cited this scene as that which inspired him most visually of any movie he’d seen. Surprised because Naieem Abdool is about everything real and meaningful in beauty. Vanity is the farthest thing from his mind, which I learned in a fun and illuminating conversation with him from his company base in Indianapolis.

Naieem Abdool’s company, PAINT Cosmetiques, is the result of the artist’s work with models, actresses, and “real” women – all of whom are his devoted constituents, thanks to his affordable, portable, pigment-rich products. The line includes complexion products, eyes, cheeks, lips, and a full range of brushes. Naieem took art classes as a young person and growing up in Trinidad, he always had an appreciation of signature beauty, luminous skin, and rich color. He recalls seeing his sister, a model, applying vibrant blue eye shadow and playing with the charcoal pencils belonging to his brother, now an architect. When I asked him if he remembered what his first product purchase was, he joyfully replied, “Automatic Blue eye shadow from Woolworth’s!” which he purchased with his allowance. Naieem’s love of color and his penchant for looking in magazines, like most of us growing up, provided the basis for his years of working in theatre, with artists, photographers, on fashion shows and with models in Europe. The girls would tell him, “Paint my face!” This provided the inspiration for his brand’s name: PAINT Cosmetiques.

I asked Naieem how PAINT is different from other brands in stores now. He told me that the products speak for themselves. Boy, do they. His Oil-Free Liquid Foundation ($32, available in five tones) is the only oil-free I’ve tried that didn’t require continual powder or blotting paper touch-ups throughout the day; the first time I had to blot was nearly 11 hours after I applied it. His foundation is full of skin-friendly ingredients like, Vitamin E (to hydrate), chamomile extract, aloe leaf juice, cucumber extract, and allantoin (all of which are meant to soothe), silica (to absorb oil), as well as sunscreen. Its thinner texture goes on with a sleekness and it hydrates with water. His color range, while small, looks like the United Colors of Benetton, encompassing his mother’s porcelain skin tone to a rich olive. Another way that PAINT stands apart is within the names of the products: every name is positive or descriptive. One need not have an exhaustive knowledge of pop culture to understand the names of the colors. The liquid foundations’ names are Pretty, Lovely, Beautiful, Flawless, and Perfect.

The positivity in the PAINT line continues with Naieem’s dedication to the highest quality ingredients and formulations. His Powder Blushes ($20, available in five colors) are triple-milled for the finest consistency as well as being talc-free. Talc is a great ingredient for absorbing oil but on deeper skin tones can appear chalky or ashy. The blush colors appear rich and natural and can be applied sheer or with great intensity. Whisper, a lovely scarlet, is universally flattering – applied with a light touch on a fair skin and with more concentration on a deeper skin.

The packaging for the Lip Gloss ($18, available in ten colors) is a clear, flat, plastic pouch and a Pantone-inspired card depicting all of the un-sticky lacquer finish shades accompanies it. The glosses have SPF 8 and do not bleed – they’re hydrating and Naieem told me that the sunscreen was one of the most important ingredients he works to perfect and include in his products. Add to these 11 Lip Liners ($18) and 24 Lipsticks with SPF 12 ($20), and a woman has an awesome arsenal of lip color choices.

Naieem is most proud of his mascara, a water-resistant formula, which contains rose petals, a notoriously difficult ingredient with which to work. The rose petals infuse this mascara with a sheen and lash conditioning quality I’ve experienced in few mascaras and at $20 (available in three colors), it’s on my list of top five best mascaras – it doesn’t flake or clump or irritate sensitive eyes. Brushes are also something on which Naieem can assert his brand as next generation and consumer-friendly. Many high quality brushes are sold with merely a number stamped on the handle. Once home, the average woman has little background in these tools and brush #42 and brush #18 are both a mystery. PAINT’s brushes have color-coded handles (yellow = foundation, silver = powder, etc.) and the handles are stamped with the brush’s function or purpose (crease, lip, etc.). This makes each brush easy to identify. Brushes come in clear plastic cases to encourage safety and hygiene and the handles are weighty and made of high quality wood. The brush range begins at $18 and tops out at $48. A brush set for $75 is in the works for early 2006. Must-haves include the Foundation Brush ($32) and Powder Brush – great for loose powder and bronzers ($48). A true makeup minimalist can get by with the Liner ($18), Crease ($30), Lid ($18), Foundation, and Powder brushes, says Naieem.

Naieem feels that women are at their most beautiful when they focus on their favorite feature – eyes, lips, or skin – and to recognize that makeup is not “one size fits all.” Every person needs to embrace his or her imperfections and make them part of their look – my slightly prominent nose can be de-emphasized with strategic contouring and PAINT’s creamy Eraser Pencil ($16). Naieem prefers to do makeup on “real people” and he is working to fill the voids in the industry by listening to consumers – the results of his informal focus group research are seen in the creamy, blendable pencils, the accessible and high quality brushes, and the reasonable price point. While Naieem’s celebrity client roster includes an impressive array of bold-faced names (including Angelina Jolie, Rosario Dawson, and Jada Pinkett Smith), PAINT’s true target audience is comprised of working, modern women living all around the world.

PAINT Cosmetiques are available at specialty boutiques around the country and for New Yorkers via email and mail order on

Originally published December 2005



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