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The Right Way to Wear Lip Color

Posted Sep 23 2009 10:25pm

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In my world, lipstick is absolutely essential. But then again, in my world, mascara, blush and foundation are also essential. Still, lip color is such a simple application that can brighten up your entire face, which is why I never leave home without it.


I think maybe some women shy away from lipstick because they are not sure which colors will look good and they don't want to end up with ruby red lips that will leave everyone staring at them. While we're on the topic of the right lipstick color, it is true that I often wonder, "Did that lady stop to check her skin color this morning?" Lipstick color does not exist in a vacuum, and people come in all different colors - red, yellow, brown, black, white and even pinkish (is that a word) - which is one reason why there are approximately 17,542 lip stick shades. If you are starting at the beginning, which I call lipstick 101, just don't wear crazy colors. See, that was simple.

Well, maybe it's not that simple, but a general rule is that the lighter you are, the harder it will be for you to wear darker colors, as they will make you look seriously washed out and maybe ghoulish.

 WORK WITH YOUR SKIN COLOR. If you are seriously confused, start by noting your natural lip color and then find a shade that is within two shades from your natural lip color, either lighter or darker, depending on the look you are going for. For me, I can tell you I went through a lot of trial and error before I found the colors that look best on me, and a lot of heartbreak has ensued since. Only those who have experienced it can tell you the pain that ensues when you find the perfect lipstick, only to run out and realize the cosmetic company has discontinued it. For this very reason, if you find a color you like, go back immediately to the store and by five more. Another good trick, if you are seriously confused about colors, head to the cosmetics counter. You'll usually find a skilled technician who can at least help direct you to the pinks, the mauves, the berrys, the nudes, even if you have no intention of buying their department store priced product.

Another option is ditching the lip stick all together for a simple gloss or lip stain. You can even go with a colored lip balm or a lip shimmer. Burts Bees has a wonderful collection of "just a touch of color" lip products that are nourishing and sun protectant. There are tons of options outside of actual lipstick that are lightweight and that provide just the right enhancement to your natural color. Please, I'm begging you, try something, anything. . .you'll thank me later.

WORK WITH YOUR LIP LINE. Now this may sound completely unfair, but not everyone can sweep on some lipstick in the car and look like they just came off the set of a Cover Girl commercial. The reason? Some people have a lip line that just doesn't hold lipstick.The result? Lipstick then bleeds into the skin around your lips. This is especially problematic if you are a little bit older and maybe have a few lines around the mouth. I hate to bring up the dreaded words, "lip lines," but it's a reality we must deal with.

Additionally, for some people, certain lip sticks will adhere perfectly to the entire lip, but not for others. That's the individual aspect involved in makeup - everybody's different. For me, some lipsticks will bleed all into the skin around my upper lip, but then I can pick up a lipstick simply in a different makeup line, and it stays perfectly. A runny lip line can be remedied in one of two ways, with semi-permanent color or with lip liner. Semi-permanent color is a liquid color tube that dries matte with a glossy top layer to give lips sheen and moisture. This takes a little bit of practice since it dries quite fast. Semi-permanent color is not for people who are unskilled in the arena of lipstick and it is not for people who have dry, chapped lips.
I have tried Maybelline's Superstay Lipcolor, and I did find it to be not as drying as some formulas. There are two reasons I don't use it for daily wear, first you can definitely feel that it's there, that's just the nature of the semi-permanent color beast. And second, you have to first apply the color, then wait two minutes to apply the conditioning sealer, which is what locks in the color. I am usually putting on my lipstick as I'm pulling out of the driveway, and semi-permanent color is only a good idea if you have time to deftly apply it in the bathroom mirror.

As for lip liner, here's a quick tutorial.

First apply foundation on the lips and let it set for about 30 seconds. Then line the lips with either a completely nude lip liner, or one that is close to the color of your lipstick. Many lip color lines have corresponding lip color and liner for your convenience. Here's an important tip though, MAKE SURE TO LINE EXACTLY ON YOUR LIP LINE. We don't want duck lips to happen, and painting on a lip line is never a good idea, no matter how small you think your lips are.

Now, fill in the lips a little with the lip liner and then apply the lipstick.

You can dab your lipstick to clean off the excess and then, to really set the color, you can lightly reapply foundation and lipstick again. This is a technique that will seriously set the color, but it is not necessary. Oh, and for a seriously ferocious pout, dot on a bit of lip gloss to the middle of your lips.

WORK WITH YOUR MOISTURE LEVEL. This may sound a little weird, but it is imperative that you consider how moisturized your lips are. I am completely guilty of dry, chapped lips that I often even pick at without realizing it. The key is to exfoliate the lips and then hydrate them. You can exfoliate with a paste of equal parts sugar and olive oil or vegetable oil. Rub it on with your finger or a toothbrush and wipe it off. See, you don't need any fancy exfoliation system, just some sugar and olive oil.

Also make sure to apply lip balm at night to keep your lips hydrated and ready for the day. For me, I additionally use a moisture lip stick. The biggest problem I have, especially in the dry winter months, is flaking lips, and nobody wants that. It will make your lip stick look ridiculous unless you keep the problem in check.


I use Maybelline's Moisture Extreme, in Sweet Ginger, and I absolutely love it. It is one of those lipsticks that allows me to literally put it on while I'm walking out the door, with no lip liner and no fuss, and it makes me feel like I just finished shooting a cosmetic commercial.  It does not last all day and all night like a superstay or continuous wear lipstick, but it's simple enough for me to whip it out of my purse mid-day and sweep on some more color.

Oh, and as a bonus, on Maybelline's web site you can type in your skin color and eye color and it'll narrow down the colors that will most likely look best on you. For me, the first color in their natural shades category for my skin tone and eye color, is, you guessed it, Sweet Ginger.

Kate Turnbow

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