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Tuesday , December 14, 2010
HOW TO DRESS YOURSELF: The nogoodforme Guide to Red Lipstick
I've been pretty much a makeup minimalist for much of my life, both out of temperament and general laziness. I have had periods of experimentation, including an intense eyeliner phase and a weird urge to "grow up" via finding my perfect mascara, which seemed like a grown-up lady thing to do at the time. But I've never been a girl who felt like I couldn't leave the house without putting a face on, preferring that whole fresh-faced natural thing both on myself and other people. (I just think people look more gorgeous as they are. I also have this weird innate belief that you can get away with wearing more fashion-y clothing without looking like a mega-narcissistic jerk if you have laidback hair and makeup. I'm not sure where that comes from, but I ain't gonna let that go.) So it's kind of weird that my latest thing in terms of style-style is red lipstick, which is like makeup for makeup's sake, the ultimate in straight-up decoration. It's not makeup pretending to be natural, it's not "healthy beachy sheen" or whatever. Red lipstick is all about "Yes, I am wearing makeup and you will fear/covet/desire/bow down to me in all its hauteur and artifice." Red is the bon vivant, libertine and mega-slut of lipstick colors.
So how does a lazy makeup girl like me become the ultimate red lipstick fiend? I blame my whole "exploring my inner Dita Von Teese" New Year's resolution, which got me buying some awesomely hot lingerie and, yes, trying red lipstick. This is what I've discovered so far in the course of doing this: hot lingerie works, and I LOVE RED LIPSTICK. I think it can change your life, or at the very least make you feel really, really happy and awesome and sassy and bold for a few hours or something. (Plus, it is generally affordable, even at the most designer-y levels, which is more than what I can say about any pair of Eres knickers.) I'm all about the lipstick-inclined trying it 'cause it's just a lot of fun and you should just go for it. Do I really think anyone need a "guide" to red lipstick? Of course not - in principle, makeup anarchy rocks, and I think it should be nothing to be anxious or driven crazy about. (The stuff rubs off, for God's sake -- so why take it too seriously?) Still, it's fun to pretend that red lipstick is like the ne plus ultra of makeup gestures that you have to work up to, like running a marathon or climbing Mount Everest, only about ten times more instantly gratifying. So here it is, the notes and observations gleaned from my own personal red lipstick journey so far. This is by no means an exhaustive list, but feel free to pipe in the comments about your favorite reds. Sharing is caring!
BABY STEPS: GLORIFIED LIP BALMS
This step (and type of product) is less about pigmentation and more about the psychological act of putting red upon your kisser. Red lipstick is such a femme-y, almost iconic gesture that it's like, "Whoa, ladytime!" when you put it on. If you're kind of a makeup conservative (as I admittedly am), it can make you feel a little drag queen-y psychologically. So this whole step is just to get over that so-called hurdle and apply a fancied-up bright red lip balm like this many, many times -- kind of like building up a muscle or drilling a sports maneuver into your brain so you do it automatically. And you WILL have to put this on a lot, because it's super-sheer: despite the bright red in the container, it barely covers your lips with any color. Why bother with this, I suppose, but it bears the distinction of being the one lip product I have completely, totally decimated through frequent usage, because the mintiness feels really nice and gets rid of chapped lip dryness faster than any other thing I've ever used. If you apply more than one coat, it does give you that a pretty wash of color that is super-natural. It's not full-on red lipstickism, but it's a start, and a nice thing to return to when you're feeling a bit low-key but need a bit of color to cheer you up or something.
BEGINNERS BECOME WINNERS: LIP GLOSS PROPER
These glosses are way more highly pigmented than the aforementioned fancy lip balm-y thingies, but they're glosses, so they're more layerable and easier to control and a bit of a step up in terms of decorative power. There's something about glosses that feel younger and lighter and more summer-y, more "laidback picnic in the park" (You know those picnics, it's where you still want to look cute 'cause some hot person you're sweating will be there.) The Dior is on the bluish, pinkier red tint, whereas the Make Up For Ever gloss is more coral-y; some people think knowing what undertone you are matters, but I say just go with what makes you happy. They have that gloss stickiness that drives me crazy personally, but they feel a bit more carefree and less serious than regular lipstick. This is like what you'd wear with a little skirt or shorts and a tank top and flip flops, kickin' it with your compadres while walking down the street. This level of red lipstickism is casual, but with presence.
TAKING OFF THE TRAINING WHEELS: SHEER LIPSTICK
Sheer lipstick is pretty much my favorite general lip color category - it avoids the spack-y stickiness of lip gloss but the color isn't as heavy as other lipstick formulations, which suits super-full mouths like mine. I feel like when you hit this level of red lipstickism, people will definitely start to look at you more on the street and on the subway: you kind of "step into" the role and responsibility of red lipstick, as opposed to "making it work for you." Which is not a bad thing when you think about it, because this is when red lipstick becomes your secret weapon. My favorite lipstick in the world is NARS, because their pigmentation is nearly perfect, the packaging is minimal, sophisticated and super-glam and their color names are super-cheeky and cultured. Manhunt is a sheer bright poppy red (meaning it has a warmth and a bit of orange to it); I can tell you personally that it is super-fun and something about it makes Irish bartenders give you free drinks -- so it has pretty much already paid back its $24 price tag in Jack-and-gingers for me. Flamenco is more of a strawberry red, kind of that exuberant kind of color like you ate a lot of cherry Popsicles. Either one is kind of free-spirited, loose, in a good mood and up for adventure, which is a total red lipstick thing.
THE BIG LEAGUES: MATTE LIPSTICK
This is the big leagues of red lipstick, full coverage, no pussyfootin' around it. You are wearing red lipstick, and there is no going back. When you wear a matte red lipstick, it's like you're aligning yourself in the tradition of hot femmes of times past, present and future: old-school movie stars, classy pin-ups, burlesque queens, Warhol superstars, Tina Chow, 80s Madonna, rockabilly chicks, basically a whole pantheon of gutsy broads. There's no escaping the fact that this is the sultry, sexy mode of red lipstick, so you better be prepared for the proverbial bumpy ride for the night. Generally, this type of application requires a bit more precision when you put it on. Unlike forgiving glosses or sheer lipsticks, when a matte lipstick goes out of line, it's hella noticeable. Professional makeup types will tell you to use lipliner, but I actually think it's hot to have kinda messy matte lipstick. It all depends on your aesthetic, of course. My favorite reds in this category are, of course, NARS ones: Jungle Red is a super-classic movie-star red, really bold and bright. They must use a lot of this in "Mad Men," I think, so classic and soigné it is. Fire Down Below is my other favorite, and is especially suited for medium- to darker-tone ladies such as myself, being a classic blood red and thus incredibly vampy. It is like sex on the lips -- super-provocative, and yes, it does provoke a lot of looks. I think the Givenchy lipstick is almost a perfect classic Grace Kelly kind of red - not dark, not bright, just absolutely cherry red. The tube is really pretty, too, in that kind of bourgeois-haute Frenchie way. Whatever color you find, a matte red is serious trouble, and I hope you find some to your liking when you wear it.
YOUR LIPS COULD BRING WHOLE NATIONS TO THEIR KNEES, SO POWERFULLY HOT THEY ARE: LIP STAINS
In truth, this is like the final frontier of lipstick applications, being the newest genre of lip product, and no one really knows what is out there. Long-wear lip stains and colors are genius in concept but rather "eh" in execution. They vary so much and from person-to-person that you could spend loads of dollars in frustration trying to find not only the perfect color, but the perfect feel. Lip stains are kind of perfect for those heavy-duty nights out, like going out to clubs, dancing in sweaty places, or any occasion where you might be too drunk to attend to your lip color. Unfortunately some stains act so wack that when you're having your nervous breakdown/puking fit in the bathroom, you'll realize that your color has worn off unevenly, leaving you a rather mottled color effect on your lips that can appear as a weird skin ailment. Or it does that weird 90s thing of making it look like your lipliner is darker than your lipcolor, which could be cool if you're really high-concept about your life but I personally find really odd.
I have not tried exhaustively in this category, mostly because I stuck to what I knew (NARS!) and discovered that the Lip Stain Gloss in Indian Red is ideal for me. The color: a lovely brick red that is kind of perfect for darker- and olive-skinned ladies like myself. The feel: it is a bit "silicone-y," which is no doubt probably icky-toxic and will probably annoy some people, but the feeling wears off after a bit. What doesn't wear off is the color, which does last for hours. The trick is to pat it on with the applicator, not smear it like you would a regular gloss - you can control the color a bit more. The Revlon is something I tried recently and still have not made up my mind on. First of all, Jennifer Connelly is wearing it in the new Revlon ads, which make it look a bit darker than it is - Top Tomato is actually a bright red, like 50s high school hussy red. It goes on quite nicely and doesn't have that weird feel that most long-lasting lip thingies have - it feels smoother than the typical product in this category, although kind of oddly dry. The trick to making it last a long time is that you have to leave it on for about ten minutes to let it "set" and not really rub it very much, but even then it performs kind of wonky. It dries to a matte finish and is slightly drying, but well, the color really does stay put for the most part. Either way, I think the key to any product in the whole stain category is to have very smooth, perfectly not-dry lips, but it's still a bit of a crapshoot. What can I say? I can only repeat a saying of my mother's: You can everything, just not all at once. That applies to lipstick as much as everything else, I suppose.
Apparently I love red lipstick so much now that I am willing to devote nearly 2,500+ words to it. Although I have never discussed this with Liz and LJ, I do believe that we at nogoodforme are red lipstick ladies, each in our own way. (Liz has paid homage to Fresh's Lady Tatami in the past, and LJ has mentioned NARS Jungle Red before.) One of the core beliefs in the nogoodforme DNA is that being a girl is fun, and red lipstick is one of the most womanly things ever. Be a lady! Embrace your femininity! Get into trouble! Have a great summer!
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