I’ve taken to wearing red lipstick lately, after years of safe ‘nudes’. And is that so very wrong?

Every time I read articles and news stories dictating what women can and can’t do once they get past girlishness and are in the domain of maturity, I want to scream. Conventional wisdom has it that we should rein in the strong colours and dial down the ‘notice-me’ looks, but we say rubbish. Make-up is fun, red lipstick is instant glamour and if we want to wear it right into our ‘80s why not? Especially as it can look amazing and make you feel even better.

Says Adele Mitchell, a former beauty editor, 54, who’s a fellow fan of a red lippie, “I’ve got to the point where I really don’t want to be told I can’t do this, that or the other. Nobody’s been us before. We were the generation that was into punk, Madonna and Debbie Harry, pioneers who broke the mould. We do things differently to our mums and grandmothers. Red lipstick on older lips may not have been appropriate for the generations that have gone before but I will wear leopard print and red lipstick if want to. Life is too short to be told you can’t do things”.

“Wearing red says ‘hello world here I am’. It means business.”

What’s more, says Adele, if you need to give yourself a boost this is one quick way of doing it. “Buying a new lipstick is a lovely feminine process and a fast fix to make you feel good. It’s not tons of money, like a dress or pair of shoes – it’s an affordable treat”. And even better if you can get the ‘£500 handbag shopping experience’ buying a £25 lipstick. “Go to Charlotte Tilbury where the retail experience is all about glamour and indulgence,” says Adele.

For me, it’s about being in a red lipstick kind of mood – I wouldn’t just wear it any day of the week. Wearing red says ‘hello world here I am’. It means business. “And it’s the quickest and most impactful way to look as though you’ve got make up on,” says Adele. “You can apply it quite simply. If you’re somewhere where you have restricted access to make up or are in a rush you can just slick on a bit of mascara and a red lip and you’re done”.

And how do we prevent lipstick ‘bleeding’ into the creases around our lips? “Use a lip crayon first to seal the edge of the lips, choosing a neutral coloured one so you’re not left with a visible pencil line when the lipstick comes off. Use a lip brush to apply the lipstick and press it in with a tissue and you’re good to go. But take it with you because you will need to reapply it”.

If you’re worried red lipstick will make your teeth look yellow, stick to ‘cool’ shades with blue undertones and avoid ‘warmer’ shades with an orange base… or get your teeth whitened.

“It’s worth investing in a more expensive brand of lip colour as it will contain more pigment. Also the packaging will last longer, which if you’re carrying it around is quite significant. What’s more you want something that looks nice when you take it out. It’s like a little power thing, whipping out your lipstick then closing it with a click,” says Adele.

“Choose a shade that suits the shape of your lips.”

But of course there are reds and there are reds. So how do we choose the right shade among the trillions that exist?

* Choose a shade that suits the shape of your lips. “Your lips do get thinner as you age. A dark colour or a berry shade won’t look great on thin lips, which look best with a warmer, lighter shade of red. If you’re lucky enough to have fuller lips you can play around with most shades, depending on your skin tone,” says Adele. 

Dark skin tones look great with berry and ruby red shades. Olive and medium skin tones work best with flamey orange red and shades with blue undertones. Red heads with fair skin should go for reds that have orange, coral and blue undertones. A light complexion suits a more pinkish red. “But finding the ultimate shade for you is about experimenting,” says Adele. You can only find out what suits you by trying it on in the store and most brands will give you a clean, one-use applicator.

If you’re really not sure what shades look good on you get your make-up done professionally and ask for advice, or to go to a concession like Bobbi Brown or Clinique where they’re usually happy to share the knowledge. Adds Adele: “But ultimately if you like the way it looks and it makes you feel good, that’s the only rule that matters. The one that makes you happy when you buy it is the shade for you”.

Salma Hayek, Meera Syal, Susan Sarandon, Helen Mirren, Madonna, Julianne Moore, Sade, Anjelica Huston, Michelle Obama, Joanna Lumley, Oprah Winfrey, Cate Blanchett, Gwen Stephani, Mary J Blige, Maggie Gyllenhaal.

Words: Marina Gask

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