If you follow beauty trends, you know that there are a lot of unique lipstick shades out there. Blues, greens, sepias, grays — they’re all available for the adventurous to try, and the advent of stay-put liquid lipstick makes them more wearable than ever.
Wearable or not, the truth is that those off-the-beaten-track colors are for the brave, the young and the Instagram beauty gurus. The average woman, and particularly the working woman, won’t be sporting Anastasia Beverly Hills’ “Paint,” a new cobalt shade, this fall.
‘I can’t wear red’
But enough about the out-there colors. One of the things I hear most often from friends and coworkers is, “I can’t wear red lipstick.” I can understand their aversion, because not so long ago I thought the same thing.
Red lipstick has been around for thousands of years — Mesopotamian women in 3,000 BC wore a concoction of crushed gemstones and Cleopatra created a shade of red made of crushed ants and carmine mixed with beeswax. With that type of history, why are so many women today afraid of red?
As a child of the (ahem) 70s, my theory is that red was our mothers’ lipstick color. In the 40s, 50s and even 60s, reds and orange-reds were the rage. Think Marilyn Monroe, Elizabeth Taylor, Ava Gardner. Their crimson lips conveyed glamor, sophistication and sex appeal. Fast forward to the 70s, and the makeup game had changed dramatically. False lashes, dramatic eyeliner and bold lip colors were out, replaced by simple mascara, more natural eyeshadow, and nude or beige lipstick — or none at all.
Return to glam
In recent years, the pendulum has swung back. Today’s young women, perhaps in defiance of their own mothers’ barely there cosmetics style, are using products that echo the age of Hollywood glamor. They’re embracing vibrant lips in shades of red, fuschia and orange and pairing them with false eyelashes and winged liner that would make Sophia Loren feel right at home.
As for me? I’ve joined the peacock parade. As recently as a few years ago, I avoided bright lipsticks as a matter of habit, instead selecting the nudes, peaches, pinks and corals I’d always favored. Then I discovered YouTube. After watching dozens of gorgeous young women create makeup looks featuring complexion-brightening, in-your-face lipstick shades, I purchased a vibrant rose, then an intense coral, then a Barbie pink. But those were just gateway drugs to the real deal: an intense blue-red. I bought it. I wore it. I loved it.
Tips and tricks
If you’re on the fence (or hiding behind the bushes) when it comes to vibrant lip colors, here are a few reasons to give them a try:
- Have you seen the commercials featuring the guy who won’t sample almond milk because he doesn’t know what it tastes like? A lot of women are like that about red lipstick.They’ve never worn it, but they’re certain it won’t work for them. Ask yourself whether you’d accept that sort of reasoning from a child who doesn’t want to try a new food or learn a new skill. Buy it. Try it. Wear it around the house until you’re ready to make your public debut.
- Are you worried red won’t complement your skin tone? Good news: There are reds for everyone, from blue-reds to orange-reds to brown-reds. If you’re not sure which undertone is right for you, visit Sephora or Ulta or MAC or any makeup counter and ask the experts to help you choose a shade. If that makes you uncomfortable, buy a few inexpensive tubes at your local drug store and sample them to see which looks best. Take selfies. Sometimes photos can help you decide.
- Are you too old to wear red? Absolutely not — as long as your lips haven’t lost considerable volume with age. It’s true that dark colors can sometimes make lips look smaller, but you can work around that with the judicious use of lip liner. Use it to line the very outer edge of your lip (or even slightly — but only slightly — outside of your natural lip line). It will give you volume. Or the illusion of volume, which in the makeup game is same thing.
- Are you reticent about going from your usual nudes, pale corals and pinks to red in one swipe? Gradually go deeper, starting with more intense versions of your current lipsticks and working your way up to red.
- Do you worry about lipstick bleeding or feathering into fine lines? Pick up a lip primer and a reverse lip liner. The primer will help your lipstick stay in place and reverse lip liner — which is nude or clear and is applied just like tinted liner — will create an invisible ring around your lips to ensure color doesn’t travel.
- Speaking of traveling, do you shy away from reds because they fade, leaving your lips patchy and blotchy? The solution is liquid lipstick. Liquid lipstick comes in the same type of tube that houses lip gloss, but it colors your lips with long-wearing, fade-resistent, full-coverage color. Seriously, it stays in place for hours!
My final tip for those tempted by red is this: If you’re going to wear it, you have to own it. Red is not for the shy; it’s a power color that attracts attention. Once you break through the barriers that have you reaching for your usual nudes, you’ll find that intense reds (and other bright, can’t-miss-them shades) brighten your skin and make you look more alive.
The bottom line: You CAN wear red.
My favorite lipstick color use to be called Marilyn Monroe red. It was a blue red by Prescriptives and I loved it.
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I love Russian Red by MAC. So great and so classic! Great post, Ronda!
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I feel like a weirdo when I’m NOT wearing red lipstick. I used to be a nude or even bare lipped gal…. but around 2010 I started mostly wearing red lipstick (even though I was allegedly one of those redheads who shouldn’t wear red), and it stuck. I think it’s timeless.
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