Red lips have been making fashion statements since prehistoric times. Today, many women are hesitant to try this great look because so much can go wrong. Poor choices in color or texture — or sloppy application — can make you look like a clown.
Done well, however, few cosmetic flourishes look better (or bolder) than bright red lips.
Choosing an appropriate color may be the scariest part, but it doesn't need to be, says Tracy Morgan, esthetician and owner of Tracy Morgan and Co. in Eagle Point.
"Skin tones are basically either warm or cool. If your skin has yellow or brown tones, and you look good in browns, oranges and golds, you're warm," says Morgan. Try a spicy tomato red.
Yellow-based reds can make dingy teeth look even worse, so unless you have a white smile, opt for a true red without any undertones (It's universally flattering). If you have paler, pinker skin and blue or green eyes, "try a plum- or purple-based red," says Morgan.
Texture is another important consideration. Matte lip colors have the most staying power and are more dramatic, but they're also the most drying.
"Look for a lipstick with a low wax content," says Sharon Browning, independent sales director for Mary Kay. "Beeswax can be very drying and takes some of the pigment away from your lips."
Glosses are fun, and the light they reflect makes your lips look fuller. They have the least staying power, however, and have to be reapplied often. Sheer glosses are generally the best choice for daytime or very young wearers, Browning says.
"If it's your first time doing red lips, glosses are a good starting point," says Tina Bullard, owner of Shear Elegance in Central Point.
While not as dramatic as matte finishes, satin lipsticks are a good compromise, adds Bullard.
Don't expect to get away with red lipstick and nothing else, the advisors say.
"That's the biggest mistake most women make," says Browning. "It's very important to have a good base of foundation to even out your skin and a little bit of eye shadow and mascara, or you'll look half-done. Less is more, though. You want the eyes or the lips to be the focus of attention — not both."
Prep your lips carefully for the best result. Red, more than any color, will draw attention to flaky, dry lips. Use a lip exfoliant to smooth away the roughness then moisturize with petroleum jelly or lip balm and allow it to soak in while you make up the rest of your face.
Bullard recommends using a lip primer to make the color last longer and keep it from staining your lips. And all our experts agree: Use lip liner.
"Otherwise, the pigment will bleed into the fine lines and cracks around your lips," says Morgan. Use a liner that closely matches your lipstick and draw exactly on the lip line. Don't try to make your lips look fuller by coloring outside the lines — it doesn't work and only looks messy.
Bullard recommends using a high-quality lip brush to fill in your lips.
Choose one that won't shed then do the top and bottom lips separately, and don't mash your lips together. It can smear your lipstick outside the lip line or in between the cupid's bow, which can be tough to correct. Blot once, using a piece of tissue. Finally, form your mouth into an "O" shape and put a finger in your mouth. Twist to remove any excess color clinging to the inside of your lips. It's this excess that results in smears on your teeth.
Make your rockin' red lips last by avoiding super-hot beverages, messy foods that require lots of dabbing with a napkin and excessive lip-licking. Reapply your lipstick in a well-lighted place with a mirror. Not only is it rude to redo your face in the middle of a dimly lit restaurant, your results will probably be less than stellar.
Wear red lips often and "don't be afraid to experiment," says Browning. You might feel a little silly the first time or two, but as you get compliments, you'll gain confidence that this is the look for you.