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50 shades of red lipstick: find the hue for you
By Linda Miller | Published: November 26, 2012
As they so often do, red lips are having a moment.
Red lipstick is iconic and classic. It's powerful, strong and sexy, and reflective of the way women feel today.
“I think we're still riding that whole Adele, 1950s, '60s ‘Mad Men' situation,” said Alex Mendez-Kelley, owner of The MakeUp Bar. “I think that's still kind of a big deal.”
Regardless of who you are, with a swipe of red on your lips, you're ready to go anywhere in the world, she said.
“You put on high heels to be dressed for going out. Lipstick is your face's dress up. It dresses up the most simple of T-shirts and jeans. And I think it makes any woman sexy going out after 5. It represents way too much for a woman to ignore.”
Red shades are plentiful, from barely-there scarlet glosses to dark cherry reds, and as makeup artists say again and again, there's a red for every woman.
“There are so many choices, and that's a beautiful thing,” Mendez-Kelley said.
Stained lips were popular long before actresses Lucille Ball, Marilyn Monroe, Elizabeth Taylor and Grace Kelly discovered the power of a red lip. In 3,500 B.C., Queen Shub-ad of ancient Ur reportedly used white lead and crushed red rocks to color her lips.
Red lips have had a colorful history through the centuries, denoting status in early Egypt and prostitutes in Greece. Lips have been stained with concoctions that include wine, mulberries and crushed cochineal beetles. Even Martha Washington is said to have liked a cherry mouth.
Choosing the right red
Fast forward to modern times, and red lipstick is always in style, a staple in Hollywood and in many women's cosmetic bags.
While skin tone and hair color often come into play when choosing the perfect red, Mendez-Kelley said the consensus is most women fall into two red camps.
Women with a vintage or pinup look often go for reds that have blue pigments. Women who are approachable and outgoing tend to reach for reds with orange tones. Orange is a happy color, and having warmer undertones in a red lipstick makes it more approachable, Mendez-Kelley said. Blue-reds often are perceived as more harsh.
“It's an attitude,” she said. “It's definitely an attitude.”
For a visual reference, cherry reds are blue-reds, and tomato reds have orange tones. Women with freckles look best in orange-reds.
True or neutral reds also are a good addition to a woman's makeup bag because the color can be enhanced or changed with a simple lipliner. A neutral red can look more neutral with a neutral liner; a blue-red liner can make it more of a vampy red; a dark coral liner can bring out the red.
Mendez-Kelley loves her red lipsticks, but she gives a nod to red lip gloss. Time was when she thought it looked cheap, but now glosses are so pretty and the color is so true that she's turning a corner with red gloss. She really likes Butter London's Chancer, a sheer red with glitter. It can be worn alone or over red lipstick.
Lip prep, upkeep
Perhaps with red more than other colors, prepping the lip is important. A sharp, crisp look starts with lining the lips, she said. Make sure the shape is good, then follow with lipstick, either applied from the tube or with a brush.
Makeup artist Lilly Stone prefers applying color first, blotting, then reapplying color. Carefully line lips with a red lip pencil that closely matches your lip color. Apply a little concealer around your lip and blotting powder to prevent color from bleeding. Nothing looks worse than red lipstick that's trying to escape your lips.
Another dilemma for many women is keeping that red mouth looking pretty, especially during a meal.
“When eating, pull the food off your fork with your teeth,” said Stone, owner of Sooo Lilly Cosmetics located inside Kokopelli in Shoppes at Northpark. “Oils in your salad will remove any color on your lip.
“If you need to touch up, blot your whole lip with blotting powder, reapply the color and line. If you wish to change the effect, apply a little gloss on the pout of your lip only.”
Bending the rules
Just as rules are changing in fashion, they're being twisted and often ignored in makeup as well.
Bold red lips don't automatically call for understated eye makeup. That's a more traditional way of thinking.
“I love a heavy eye and heavy lip,” Mendez-Kelley said. “If you're on the fence, let your lips be the powerhouse. If you're confident, just go for it.”
Of course, if you're going to do red lips and heavy eyes, then keep blush soft or perhaps just a little bronzer.
At times, Mendez-Kelley even likes a nude face with bold, red lips. “If you've got red lipstick on, you can do anything in the world.”