Red lipstick is the first kind I think I ever became aware of. Its unnatural hue draws the eye in. It’s seen as a classic, sexy and mature.
Red lips have been worn by iconic women the world over, from Marilyn Monroe to Betty Boop. Yet even though red lips are widely respected in pop culture, I felt intimidated by wearing it for years. It felt like it was for older women who had a confident grip on their personal style. When I used to try on red lipsticks at a makeup counter at a department store, it felt like I never suited any of the colours. Plus, I’d get it on my chin or teeth. Maybe I just wasn’t a red lipstick kind of girl.
All that changed one Christmas when I finally found my perfect red lipstick. Matt’s sister Anna gave me my favourite ever shade, one which I could wear looks amazing on everyone - MAC Matte Lipstick in the shade ‘Ruby Woo’ ($40).
Not too blue and not too orange, this colour is a universal shade which is now part of my makeup arsenal. It isn’t just for special occasions. It can be worn to work, to walk the dog or even to pop a bit of colour back in your face if you’re having an unexpected Sunday drink in the afternoon, and you’ve been lazing around in Pyjamas all day.
As a general rule, go with your skin-tone. See what looks good against it and consider your own personal tastes. For example, I really like my red lipstick to have a balance of both blue and red in it. Anything too orange I feel makes me look like a ‘football mum’ (just add pearls). Lipstick is personal. Yes, you can go out there and google rules, but really the best thing is to try colours on both sides of the spectrum (admittedly, it does help to know if your skin is more yellow or pink toned. If you can’t work this out, go to any beauty counter and they’ll be able to tell you).
Another great way to experiment with red is to start soft and build it up. Use lip stains like my favourite old-school classic Benefit’s Benetint ($24) - a soft rose scented lip and cheek stain which was perfect for me as a teenager because it is subtle and has that ‘just got some’ look. Another option is light glosses. Last year, or the year before, Clinique did a great collaboration with Marimekko and developed a perfect apple red sheer gloss (see the cute pink and red designed lip-gloss in the photos). You’ll find similar here. While this range isn’t available anymore, Kiehl’s do some lovely sheer glosses in red ‘Love Oils’ which I like, available here. They’re $39.
There’s also crayons which are so much fun. I love the Nars ones from Mecca Cosmetica ($46). You can draw them directly onto your lips and leave them or add a balm or gloss for some shine. These are good if you like a defined line around your lips. Another way to wear them is to rub a bit in the centre of your lips and blend out in a sensual manner.
If you’re feeling bold, go for a liquid lipstick. My favourite are from Estée Lauder - especially this one from the first Violette x Estée Lauder range ‘Poppy Sauvage’. It just says ‘Banging!’ loud and clear. This is probably the messiest of all textures, and you have to be careful when you apply it and keep it topped up during the day. A great trick I was taught is that after you apply, put your pointing finger in your mouth in an ‘O’ shape and pull it out again. That will take the excess lipstick from on the insides of your lips off. You can also blot it by grabbing a tissue and putting it between your lips to make the colour stick better, then apply another coat on top to finish it off. I also adore Hourglass’s red liquid lipstick in ‘Icon’ ($48). This is a slightly deeper blue hue and perfect for a sophisticated evening out.
And of course, there is the classic bullet lipstick. If you like buying New Zealand brands, Antipodes has a beautiful red lipstick made with natural ingredients - Forrest Berry Red ($28.90). MAC has an incredible selection and if you ask at the counter the staff will give you really superb advice on which shade is for you. Estée Lauder again do bullet lipsticks very well, and if you want to go dark, I love Violette x Estée Lauder from La Dangereuse collection ‘Diabolique’. These lipsticks are also reasonably priced. A good red lipstick shouldn’t cost the earth and you can rely on big brands to do lots of great shades. Lancôme also have an excellent range out - L’Absolu Mademoiselle Shine - which gives you a ‘just woke up like this’ look ($63).
I love red lipstick because it has the power to transform an ordinary look into something special. I truly believe that there is a shade for everyone out there. You just need to start looking around and embrace your inner Marilyn. As the iconic goddess said: “We should all start to live before we get too old. Fear is stupid. So are regrets.” And what better way to truly live that to start your day with a pop of red lipstick!