We love our lipsticks.
We spent a whopping £306 million* on them last year and, according to a lipstick study by Christian Dior, two-thirds of us consider it an essential luxury, one-third of us won’t leave the house without it and more than half of us have at least five lipsticks on the go at any one time. (Or, in my case, more like 105…)
Just like flatteringly coloured clothes, lipstick has the ability to light up your face, bringing warmth and colour to tired-looking skin, brightening your eyes and even making teeth appear whiter. It makes a difference to mood and morale, too, instantly lifting your spirits and boosting confidence – and it’s been doing that for a surprisingly long time.
Lipstick’s long history goes back many thousands of years. Even Cleopatra wore it – and not just the Elizabeth Taylor version. However, thanks to an unfortunate association with prostitution it developed the wrong kind of colourful past and in 1770 Parliament declared it illegal to ‘seduce’ an Englishman into marriage with artifice such as lipstick, fake hair, etc. (Goodness knows what they’d make of what we have now.) Practitioners were liable to face witchcraft charges as well as having their marriage annulled. Thankfully, our precious lippy became universally acceptable during the 20th century, largely through Hollywood’s influence, and it became so important that Winston Churchill kept it in production throughout WWII because of its benefits to national morale. And of course it’s been raising morale ever since.
According to clinical psychologist Dr Helen Nightingale, lipstick is clearly a confidence booster. “Behaviourally, it has an effect on the wearer,” she says. “Like clothes, if it makes us look good, it makes us feel good. It’s about paying attention to yourself and looking groomed – it says you believe you’re worth it.”
Clearly, L’Oreal’s famous slogan is on the money in more ways than one because lipstick has become a best-selling, relatively inexpensive and super-easy way to change how you look and feel – and it does the job in five seconds flat.
Dressing your lips
Modern lipstick isn’t only about colour, however. Texture is important, too. That lush coating of smooth waxes and creams adds a silky, comforting, skin-conditioning layer that protects your lips against the drying effects of the environment, but it also adds an allure of its own, giving your mouth a smooth, healthy, sensual finish. And while matte effects look sophisticated, sheeny creams and glosses are sexy.
Nevertheless it’s shade choice that has the biggest effect on how others see you. According to Dr Nightingale, “There are studies of women wearing red lipstick in the workplace which shows that those who wear red are seen by male counterparts as aggressive and go-getting, but by some female co-workers as predatory vixens. Bright red isn’t used as a stop sign and traffic light for nothing. As the colour of blood, it quickly draws attention. It’s confident and also sexy. Soft pink, on the other hand, can be a lot more sensual: think of Angelina Jolie who wears it often.”
As we age, we naturally lose colour and brightness from our faces – and our lips – so lipstick becomes a way of restoring some of that lost radiance. Just beware of using the same colours you wore when you were younger. As Dr Nightingale says, “It may seem to make sense to use the shades we wore in the 1980s or whenever we looked our best and had the most fun, but they aren’t always the most flattering because, like it or not, we look a little different now.”
While the original choice of lipstick shade was, to misquote Henry Ford, any colour as long as it’s red, there’s now a huge variety of hues from reds and pinks to nude, black and even green, along with an array of textures from creams and glosses to long-lasting mattes. So if you fancy trying something different and fresh, where do you start?
Your colour wardrobe
Lipstick Queen founder Poppy King, says, “It can be hard to keep up with fashion trends because they change every season. But with a new lipstick, your whole wardrobe seems fresh again. Clothes you’ve worn for years are suddenly exciting with a different lip shade. In these times of difficulty or uncertainty, we need more than ever to find comfort and reassurance from simple things that boost our mood or morale and nothing says ‘blitz spirit’ more than a deep red lipstick.”
Red is glamorous, assertive, sexy and bold. Poppy King particularly recommends it for adding confidence for job interviews or public speaking. Try: Lipstick Queen in Medieval, £22.
Pink is softer but still flirty, also suggesting nurturing and inner strength. Leading MUA Lisa Prostamo describes it as youthful and ideal for romantic situations, especially weddings, with soft pinky-beiges best for daytime, and deeper or raspberry pinks for evenings. We like Rodial Suede Lips in Big Apple, £22.
Wine/berry shades Poppy describes these as serious, sophisticated and groomed, ideal for job interviews and professional situations. Check out The Body Shop Colour Crush™ Lipstick in Raspberry In Love, £10.
Orange/coral/peach lipsticks suggest a fun, cheerful mood. Lisa says they work beautifully with warm or olive skin colourings and suntans. Shimmering peach is perfect on the beach, with hot tangerine fabulous for summer nights. Our favourite: Chanel Rouge Coco Ultra Hydrating Lip Colour in Arthur, £26.
Which is your fave shade of lippy? Tell us below!
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* Figure by Mintel