Get out your gold mascara. Or green or blue or violet. And after you've put it on your lashes, rub it into your eyebrows like a tint. This spring there's a new take on what used to be thought of as high-tack: color mascaras.

Christian Dior was at the forefront of the trend. Now, nearly every leading beauty house is promoting an eyelash-colors collection. Most suggest applying shades of violet, blue, green or terra cotta over basic black to give the color a deeper, richer tone and to avoid a harsh, Las Vegas look. For just a touch of chorus girl, tip black eyelashes with electric blue.

Body paints have their place in sophisticated cosmetics circles this season as well. Not the Day-Glo sort, but subtle body highlighters in shades beyond bronze. Chanel, for example, makes a periwinkle-blue color to highlight shoulders, eyebrows or a plunging neckline. It's called Ombre Lumiere, or French Glow.

Apart from unexpected touches of color, the approach to makeup is lighter-handed for the months ahead. (At its extreme, it's the scrubbed, no-makeup look that fashion designer Ralph Lauren showed on models in his spring collection.)

Germaine Monteil's Beaute en Fleurs line features somewhat vibrant shades of melon and coral, but they're intended to be applied in moderation for a "sophisticated country" effect. Lisa Karp, Monteil's director of marketing for color, says the idea was inspired by spring fashions in the same country theme. Fabric blends in particular--floral chintz prints, blue-and-white checks, and mixes of the two.

Estee Lauder's Boating Party collection features a country-garden color theme as well, with shades of melon and peony for lips and eyes. "We see eye shadow combinations such as orchid, green and yellow on the same lid, but applied with softness," says Vivian Behrens, Lauder's vice president of marketing for fragrance and makeup.

The newest item in Lauder's extensive cosmetic line is a cream rouge in a compact with a sponge. Behrens says it's meant for younger women to wear "for fun." It gives a high-color, day-at-the-shore look.

Again this spring, Dior hears a different drum. In a season of soft shadings, the house is promoting strong contrasts. "On one eyelid, we might put a raspberry-pink base, lime-green upper corners and a shade of purple-blue at the crease," says Susan Biehn, senior vice president of creative services. Dior makeup artists might add a yellow-orange powder tint under the eye, with a lipstick that adds more contrast. With the eye shades she mentions, Biehn suggests tangerine lipstick.

She also says that women will be able to try the colors out at home before making purchases. As a new promotional tool, starting early this month, Dior is inserting "strips" of its spring eye shadows in magazines and in specialty stores' monthly bills, just as fragrance companies insert strips of their perfumes.

Skin-care products are making news of their own this spring, with the cosmetics industry's intensified efforts to achieve what it daringly describes as "the reversal of the aging process."

Advances in biotechnology, as well as the machinery used in medical and space research, are now being used by cosmetics research scientists to isolate the elements in a skin cell, investigate how the aging of the skin occurs and record the measurable changes after skin-care products are applied.

Alfin Fragrances Inc. (distributor of Bal a Versailles perfume) has stolen the limelight, for the moment at least, with its Glycel skin-care line. Promoted by Dr. Christiaan N. Barnard, the South African surgeon who performed the first human heart transplant in 1967, it incorporates Glycosphingolipids (GSL), which Barnard recently isolated while doing research on multiple sclerosis.

He defines GSL as a simple substance, like cholesterol, found in human cells, that is an integral part of cell renewal. It functions as "a genetic memory refresher," he says.

As Barnard explains it, as a cell ages it loses its "memory," or ability to manufacture all its elements. "GSL," he says, "causes reactivation of the genetic information of the cell."

While making much of Barnard's research in its Glycel promotion, the Alfin company stops short of claiming that the products actually reprogram skin cells, asserting instead that they encourage the appearance of younger-looking skin. In beauty business terms, that means smoothness and firmness of texture. Barnard himself cautions: "My research cannot authenticate age reversal." But the credibility his name lends Glycel has put pressure on other financially flush cosmetics companies to come up with a product that can compete.

Walter Smith, director of research and development for Prescriptives, says his company has a new treatment in production that "addresses the age-reversal issue." It will work with Prescriptives' recently introduced Line Preventor.

But despite the industry's vigorous efforts, Smith says, "we're far better on prevention than reversal of skin damage at this point. The reversal revolution has not yet hit." That, he predicts, will occur in about five years. In the meantime, Smith maintains that the best protection against damaged skin is daily application of a good sun screen plus an anti-oxidant, such as Line Preventor.

Morris Herstein, vice president of Estee Lauder's research and development division, says he works with a team of scientists to provide a means of "delaying" the aging process. To date, the company's breakthrough product is Night Repair, a super-hydrating lotion introduced in the United States three years ago.

Herstein says that Lauder recently tested its new Skin Perfecting Creme, a nourishing cream that showed "a significant change in the skin's firmness." But Lauder--like its competitors--is making greater strides in research than in age-reversal products.

"Through biotechnology we're coming to understand the complex aging process, so that we can learn to manipulate and program a cell," Herstein says.

It's too soon to say that skin-care experts have discovered the fountain of youth, but they may have discovered its source.

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