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I came across an article recently on one of the internet's favorite sites targeted to young women about the "secret" to feeling super confident in red lipstick. The piece included a slide show with makeup tips for how to properly include a bold, red lip.
We all love makeup tips, but the premise of the article got under my skin. How many times have you heard someone say — or have you been the person to say — "oh, I could never pull that off?" Hear me, dear readers: We can "pull off" anything we want by wearing what we like with confidence. It bothers me that the article's premise implies that it's difficult to feel confident in a red lip. Women don't need more reasons to doubt themselves or to second-guess their appearances. Our bodies endure plenty of scrutiny already, thank you very much.*
Choose what makes you feel good and wear it. No one gets to dictate how or when you feel confident in what you wear but you.
Now — with rant complete — if you want to wear a red lip but you're not sure how, that's a totally different story.
When it comes to wearing red lipstick (or any bold shade, really), there are three important things to consider:
I've been making lipstick and watching women try it on for a few years now, and — in my humble opinion — the best way to pick a lipstick is to try it on; colors look different on everyone, especially if they're nature-based pigments, and you never know what it will look like on you until you try.
With that said, you can narrow down your options by figuring out your skin's undertone. As a general rule of thumb, warm skin tones are going to look best with warm reds (think oranges and corals), and cool complexions will look best paired with cool reds (blue and purple bases). If your skin is neutral, you have the blessing and curse of probably feeling pretty good in most shades.
There are three primary ways to color a lipstick: FD&C color additives, mineral pigments, and carmine.
+ Provide the brightest, most saturated hues, like fire engine red and coral. Able to achieve shades not replicable with other pigment sources.
+ Smooth colors — no risk of graininess.
– A petroleum by-product derived from coal tar
– Legally allowed to contain low levels of lead and other heavy metals.
+ Earth-based pigments
+ Ideally manufactured in a lab to avoid human impact of mining, and also possible contamination from heavy metals found in the earth.
+ Vegan and Cruelty-free
– Can only be suspended in the formula, so they tend not to have as long of a wear time as FD&C colors (this is a generalization, not a rule!)
– Natural color limitations to what's found in the wild.
+ Produces a 100% natural, beautiful, bright pink-red hue. It's one of the oldest cosmetic ingredients.
– Not vegan, as it's derived from beetles (On a personal note, I would rather use this beetle-derived pigment than a lead-laden FD&C color additive. I say this only to provide a challenge to what we consider "gross." Is a beetle really more disgusting than coal tar?)
– May be irritating for those with significant allergies to bug bites, etc.
Now that we've done the whole circus of segmenting hues into warm and cool, I need to add that there is a class of reds that's more or less one-size-fits-all. These are classic, fire-engine, blue-reds that tend to look good on everyone.
Honestly, there are more ingredients in this product than I find ideal, but the color sure is pretty.
I love the sparseness of the Alima Pure formula.
FD&C-free, simply formulated, and buildable from a wine stain to a deep, vampy, blood red.
Free of FD&C color additives; on the brick-red spectrum.
FD&C-free, simply formulated, buildable from a pure pink stain to pin-up hot-hot-pink; on the brighter, coral spectrum.
Another fairly sparse formula, blue-red.
Free of FD&C color additives; berry-hued.
*Let me tell you a story. Freshman year of college I was in a dance class populated mostly by women, save a couple "popular" male NCAA athletes. One day before class, I put on a swipe of lipstick in a nondescript pink hue as a mini pick-me-up (I've always loved makeup). I arrived to class and was quietly minding my own business when one of these "cool" male athletes says to me in a sarcastic tone, "nice lipstick." I was 18, in a new city, at a new University, and in a class where I didn't know anyone, and — let me tell you — in that moment, I didn't feel like I was "super confidently" pulling off anything. I was suddenly painfully self-conscious of the lipstick I had loved 20 minutes prior.
It makes me sad that such a cavalier comment made me feel so small. I now know that someone who's going to make a petty, mean comment isn't someone who's opinion I care about, and certainly isn't deserving of the power to impact my confidence. I put on that lipstick because I liked it, and that's enough.