Thursday, March 30, 2006

The Case for the Basics: Red Lipstick

So here it is: the long-awaited 100th post. After this, I will post a few lipstick recommendations that have worked for me. Enjoy!

If you want me to explain why I consider red lipstick as a “Basic” - on par with mascara and a good bra - consider the fact that I've been wearing the stuff for more than 15 years now. Consider the fact that, before I discovered that I could wear red lipstick, all I had to practice on were the namby-pamby pinks, mauves, and corals that my Mom used to tote around - which, with my dark hair and tan skin, only made me look more washed-out.

I don't know what started my affair with red, but all I know was that I got my first tube - a “neutral,” true red from Cover Girl that was neither too yellow nor too blue - back when I was in eighth grade, during what I considered to be one of the most confusing moments in my life. Red lipstick with a powdered face and not much eye makeup was as much as I could get away with under my parents' watch - and for good reason, since the red went so well with my complexion and hair color at that time. By ninth grade I had given up my retainers in favor of red lipstick and dangling earrings, which I thought were as good as it got.

Then there was my senior yearbook photo: By this time the lipstick was a brown-based red from Max Factor, worn with pasty foundation and badly-blended neutral eye makeup. I look at that photo and cringe now - man, what I would have given to let Kevyn Aucoin do my makeup - and yet everyone who has seen it can swear that the red lipstick made me look more like a movie star.

For me - then and now - red lips are more than just the usual cliched symbol of sex and power. I don't wear them the way I used to when I was younger, all bright and matte with the winged eyeliner and pale face, but when I do, it's always a reflection of who I am at the moment and how confident and defiant I can be. When I started wearing it I could have been emulating any other lipsticked icon of the day - Bettie Page, Madonna, Robert Smith - and still getting away with being cool. Now, as I get older (and a little closer to 30), the red lipstick makes more of an individual statement on me, even when I don't have to say much of anything.

Case in point: There was a moment last year when I didn't wear any red lipstick because I had people at my church making comments about my makeup and giving unsolicited advice on practically everything I do. (Friends, this is what happens when you are an unmarried Christian woman in your 20s and you find yourself accountable to the wrong parties.) I am glad to let you know, however, that I do not listen to these people any more, thanks to a recent video slide-show presentation which included several shots of me wearing - what else - a lovely dark red lipstick with a bit of shimmer, which made my friends gasp at how good I looked on the jumbo screen.

(Come to think of it, I also tend to go for creamier brownish or berry reds instead of straight-up matte red, or even the glossy pin-up red that I used to wear back in the day.)

The red lipstick isn't just for the first date, but for the rough day at work, the all-day conference, and any occasion that warrants running into people you can't stand for good reason. The red lipstick stands for confidence and competence, for finding yourself and standing your ground. The red lipstick says, “Back off, I'm a grown-up now, and I will not stand for your petty foolishness.”

Edited 3/31: Hello to the folks reading this post from the link on BeautyAddict - and thank you Kristen for the shout-out! Also edited because my math skills have failed me by miscalculating MY OWN AGE to make me look OLDER. For the record, there's no way I could have been in "eighth grade" when I was nine years old!


kuri said...

Great 100th post. I recently rediscovered how flattering brownish reds look on me, and I feel the same confidence and touch of defiance that you describe.

silversonic said...

I was sent here for schooling by Beauty Addict and I thank you for your red liptick education!!!!

meimei said...

Thank you so much for stopping by, Silversonic and kuri! I'm just glad to be able to help!

SS, if you're still looking for a red gloss, I just remembered another rec - the Cargo duo in Hong Kong. This is another gloss I used to wear before I misplaced the pot - the nude gloss is nice, but the red gloss is pretty substantial but sheer and very moisturizing.

Toya said...


As a make-up artist and a fellow lover of red lipstick, thank you for these posts! There's something about a red lip that makes any woman look better, and consequently, feel better!

Erin said...

Did you know that a woman consumes over 4 lbs of Lipstick in her lifetime? Here is a link: