I’m a big fan of frivolity. Life is either far too short or far too long to do without humor, glamour, joy, and silliness. And somewhere in the intersection of those things is lipstick. I am a firm believer in the power of lipstick–particularly red. Red lipstick has the power to dazzle, to conjure an interesting day out of ordinary moments. It can mask jet lag, lend an air of mystery, and elevate a quiet outfit to classic.
I wear red lipstick often, but it’s not the easiest color to master. Red is not for the faint of heart. It demands commitment. You don’t do red halfway. You have to be ALL IN for red. Last month, during a spell of mingling with fellow writers during a booksellers’ conference, I was asked more about my lipstick than any other topic. (I can guarantee you that none of the people who remarked upon my lipstick could have described my outfits for you. Another advantage to wearing basic black and a punch of red.)
The question I got most was HOW? So I thought I’d write up a quick entry about the nuts and bolts of wearing red for those of y’all who haven’t quite dipped a toe into the scarlet pool yet.
With apologies to Elle Woods, the rules of wearing red are simple and finite. First, your lips have to be hydrated. That means regular use of a good balm–Aquaphor is particularly effective. And when I say ‘regular’ use, I mean SLEEP IN THIS STUFF. Prone to peeling? Use a baby toothbrush to slough off the dead skin before bed, then apply your Aquaphor.
Ready for color? It’s a two-product process. First, you need a base liner. I use NARS Cruella, but any highly-pigmented matte liner will do. Fill in lips completely, blot. Fill in again, blot again. Now for the lipstick. You want something that’s creamy, not fully matte and not super-slick. (Red is powerful enough. It doesn’t need gloss for the same reason that red lace doesn’t work for dresses. It’s a bridge too far.)
I like Sephora’s Rouge–a good basic blue red–for every day. If I need a little more staying power, I grab my Urban Decay F-Bomb. I have literally never worn this lipstick that I haven’t gotten compliments on it. It’s also blue red which is far more flattering with most skin tones than orange reds. (I’m also not a fan of reds that are too brown. Anything that says “brick” needs to be avoided. Urgently.)
In any event, two coats of color, blotting in between. That’s it. Now, I don’t go for the super-long-stay-live-forever lipsticks–I find them drying–so I take the lipstick with me and reapply as needed, just a quick topcoat. If you’re not eating or drinking, the two coats will be plenty for HOURS. If you do eat or drink, the base coats will keep you mostly covered; reapply after. Not ready for full-on opaque red? Use a sheer red lipstick first. It will punch up your natural lip color and give you a little boost without making you feel like you’re wearing someone else’s mouth. (Although I should also mention that I’m a devotee of plunging in and just DOING. Red lipstick is a small enough act of bravura that it is worth doing fully from the first.)
Caveat: red is messy. If you’re careful, it won’t get on your teeth. No matter how careful you are, it WILL get on your coffee cups, napkins, glasses, straws, etc. I don’t mind. I find the traces of red lipstick in my wake to be a bit of glamorous detritus. (And I am VERY careful not to leave traces on cloth napkins that someone else has to launder. That’s just not on.)
What I found most interesting during my conversations about red lipstick is how reluctant other women were to try it. Without fail, each of them said she loved it but didn’t think she could pull it off. Piffle. ANYONE can wear red. It’s a matter of finding the right shade and adopting the right attitude. Red is powerful and strong and takes no prisoners. Neither should you.