The Ubiquitous Red Lip

red lipstickRed lipstick has been around forever. Remember “Fire and Ice”, “Cherries in the Snow” and “Love That Red” when Revlon was practically the only game in town? Every classic screen goddess smoldered in the red lip, as it is now known.  Picture Ava Gardner, Rita Hayworth or Lauren Bacall who were almost never seen without it. Yet every Fall, red lipstick is trotted out as the “new thing.” And the hackneyed “there is a red for everyone” accompanies different red variations splashed across the pages of the glossies. Especially near the holidays. There is no denying, red in all its hues conveys passion, polish and drama. It’s the quickest route to making a facial statement.

Yet we over 50 should approach the red lip, or even the more vampy burgundy one, with some trepidation. Extremely bright and dark colors have a tendency to age a woman. Even worse, they have been known to creep right off the lips into those pesky lip lines all the while screaming, TOO OLD FOR RED! Surely there is a red for every skin tone and taste, but for every age?

You can actually nail this look with some adaptation and preparation.

  • First, prepare lips by exfoliating. Rub with a little Vaseline or Aquaphor mixed with sugar for a smooth surface. There are also exfoliators made especially for lips.
  • Next, take a creamy concealer stick the exact color of your skin and outline OUTSIDE  the border of your lips. This is your first line of defense against bleeding color. Blend well with a finger or small brush.
  • Outline the lip line with a nude pencil, as close to your lip color as possible. ( I like Subculture by MAC.) That way when your lipstick (inevitably) fades, you won’t be left with a noticeable ring around the lips. So last decade! Follow with lip balm and blot lightly.
  • Most important, choose a LIGHT textured, lustrous lip color. Heavy, waxy or matte lipsticks will instantly age you. LESS is definitely more as you get older. Try a pigmented gloss or balm like those by Revlon, Fresh or Elizabeth Arden 8 hour.
  • Apply with a lip brush for a crisp outline. Anything less precise and you are verging into Baby Jane territory. Dab lips with your little finger to remove any excess.
  • Tap a bit of gloss on the center of upper and lower lips for a fuller pout.
  • A bright or dark lip becomes the focal point of your face. So resist the temptation to heavily make up your eyes or cheeks unless you’re working the oldest profession. Emphasize one feature at a time for the most striking and least overdone look. A touch of neutral shadow, a little eye liner for definition and a swipe of mascara is the best balance. But when all is said and done, bold lip color will call attention to the entire mouth area. Consider yourself warned!

Helen in redHelen in pink

  • Charla Krupp’s How Not To Look Old flatly claims that pink is the most universally attractive choice for older women. Compare these photos of Helen Mirren, one with red lips and the other with a pinky nude and, hands down, she looks much younger (and prettier) in pink. BTW,she happened to be on my plane last week (in FIRST of course, while I rode steerage) and looked fab in a chic short hair cut and no apparent makeup.

Personally, I have spent hours, not to mention mega bucks, trying and discarding reds that didn’t work on me. As a red head, when I want something beyond my 20 shades of Nude, I look best in brown or orange based reds which complement my yellow/olive undertones. My new fave? Charismatic by MAC, a rich russet. Those with pinker skin tones can make a splash with more blue based reds.

Shades of orange

Shades of orange

But wait! Orange is coming on strong for Spring so why not try a fiery balm like Revlon Colorburst Lip Butter in Tutti Fruitti, or a softer take like peach or tangerine?  In any case, take advantage of the testers at department stores or Sephora. Nothing looks on you like it does in the tube or on the magazine page.

Original artwork by Johanna Bohoy

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2 Responses to The Ubiquitous Red Lip

  1. Ginger Lane says:

    I never were dark colors anymore and am still quite obsessed with wearing lipstick. I only wear very light pinks. My favorite is Revlon 405 Silver City Pink. Also love Revlon lip glosses with the wand. I used to wear dark browns but I agree with you that they are aging…

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