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Makeup Memo - red lips are sexy lips

November 16, 2011 Reviewed by admin 5 Comments

Truth #11

Red lipstick looks amazing on women of all ages and complexions.

No matter where my makeup brushes have landed, in whatever country or on whatever occasion, women will often lean in to ask about how to wear red lips. I don’t blame them because it’s the one classic makeup staple that will never go out of style, because it makes women, all women, look hot.

While confessing a desire to wear red, women often follow with hesitation, usually accompanied by the pervasive phrase, “I want to wear red, but I don’t want to look like a hooker.”  For extra emphasis sometimes they’ll say, “an old hooker.”  Oh, you all are so funny! No worries, hooker red isn’t what we are aiming for, and unless you have the outfit to match, don’t concern yourselves with being confused with a lady of the night.

The truth is if you aren’t used to red, it can seem terribly audacious, as if you are asking to attract a lot of attention.  But what fun is life if we are always playing it safe?  It just takes some guts and spunk to pull off a bold red mouth. Think of pinup bombshells like Dita Von Teese and Marilyn Monroe, and rocker Gwen Stefani, who are all elegant, sexy and empowered in their own ways.

What’s even better is this vibrant hue has no age limit. Last year I had the privilege of doing Zelda Kaplan’s makeup for a portrait commemorating her 94th birthday.  As a famous New York socialite, party-goer, and do-gooder, Zelda’s incredible spirit and her signature red lips are her accessories for every outfit. She refuses to be seen without them and they may just be the secret to her looking young, fabulous and being the life of every party.

My inspiration for this article came from my client this week. A Truth in Aging reader (who I’ll call Kate) was brave enough to ask about red lips during our makeup lesson.  Kate had just turned 50 and was stepping out on a limb, and I was thrilled!  The majority of women, just like Kate, say their added reluctance with red is they aren’t sure what their best shade is.   It took some trial and error before we found the right one for Kate, because her complexion turned most reds very pink.  Changing colors is something everyone should be aware of.  When you wear a color on your lips, give it five to ten minutes before you decide on it.  Each person has a unique body chemistry that can dramatically alter a color.  So we found Kate a more orange-based red (Dr. Hauschka #6) to achieve the classic red mouth she was dreaming of.

No matter how light or dark your skin, or what tone your hair is, there is a red out there for you! It’s just a matter of deciding which type of red you like, and trying a few on until you get it right.

The sales people at the department store aren’t going to know what “your” red shade is unless you first decide on your “red style.”  Everyone in retail knows that most women say they want change, but they just buy a different version of their safe color over again.  So no sales person is going to push, because she doesn’t want to lose a sale or have you come back to return it.

Let’s figure out your red style.  What sort of reds are you attracted to?  Are you a classic gal who needs a brighter red, like a bathing beauty from the 50s? Are you a more vampy type that steers towards something more sultry and dark? Which type of women have you seen with red mouth who you admire?  Mine tends to be a fantastical image of a graceful Parisian woman riding around on her bike with a baguette in the basket, wearing a cream colored coat and a silk scarf blowing in the wind.  Once you have the style of red you’d like to wear, you then have to do the legwork and apply a variety of shades until you find the one that works for you.

Red lipstick rules:

1. The more fine lines you have around your mouth, the more you need to use a lip liner.  (See the Lip liner is your frienemy article).

2. You must be willing to conceal ALL redness on your face (other than on the cheeks) and blue under the eyes, and powder your t-zone well.

3. Wearing red is high maintenance so you will have to do touch ups throughout the day/night.

Once you have that perfect red tube in your hands, put it on!  Give yourself a bit of time to get used to it, wear it around, feel empowered and sexy – just because you can!  After all, it’s just a little makeup. You can wipe it off and be back to your safe self anytime you please. Life is short.  Have fun!

  • January 16, 2012

    by Kristen Arnett

    Alright my thin lipped women! Let me answer Marta and Julie's questions first by saying Michelle has the answer. Try a lip stain. Keep the color lighter (not brighter) so that your lips look a bit plumper. Dark and overly bold colors can draw emphasis to thinning lips. Ann, if you like your red, then good for you. When you say brick I wonder if it's not too brown or too dark. The Parisian red is a very playful true/cherry color. The more brown that's added the more "wearable" and neutral it becomes, but then it does suck some of the life out of it. So be careful not to go too brown.

  • November 18, 2011

    by Michelle

    I've just taken the leap to red recently. But I'm very self conscious, so there was the possibility that I would keep worrying that it would smear or get on my teeth, and not relax and enjoy myself.

    So I went with a lip stain instead. Now I have confidence when wearing red.

  • November 17, 2011

    by Julie Kay

    I'm with Marta on this- thin lips. I used to wear red all the time (I'm 60) and was very confident. But during the past 2 decades my lips have thinned dramatically. Red seems to emphasize this. Is this just imagination... ~jk

  • November 16, 2011

    by Ann

    I love the idea of red lipstick and have, in fact, been trying to use darker colors since I read your memo on lip liner. My question is about color. I, like you, love the idea of the romatice Parisian on her bike, but what color is that? Also, should certain complexions /hair colors try for certain shades of red. I'm currently using a very brick red that I got at a makeover last year. I think it looks good with my brown eyes and blonde hair but I wonder what your advice would be! Maybe color choices for eyes, lips and cheeks would be a good idea for a future makeup memo! Thanks, Ann

  • November 16, 2011

    by Marta

    My question is about thin lips. Mine are thinner than a snake's. Rather than a sexy pout, I fear a bright red gash. Is red out for me?

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