Women wearing red lipstick

25 Little-Known Facts About Makeup

By Cat Cantrill Updated January 23, 2019 By Cat Cantrill Updated January 23, 2019


She doesn’t want to sleep with you and is not easy. It may be hard for you to grasp, but just because a woman puts rouge on her lips, doesn’t mean she is loose.


She is not a vampire, a goth, or a stripper. Please stop being a moron, immediately.


It’s about sensuality, not sexuality. She is devoted to experiencing the world in a physical and mental way.


She is not wearing it ‘for’ any reason or special occasion. If you wear red lipstick often, you know that women are often asked, “What are you wearing that lipstick for?” The answer, “For me”.


She loves herself and doesn’t care what you think about that. Many women are intimidated by other women who love themselves. We wear red lipstick and we are amazing. Get over it.


We know that when a woman puts on red lipstick for the first time, she feels invincible.


She is confident and you can’t shake her. Red lipstick is her anthem.


She doesn’t care if you think women should be happy without makeup or au natural. Going without lipstick and makeup is fine, nothing wrong with that. We don’t mess with you, keep out of our way…


She is self invested and if you ask her to take it off, she won’t. “Can you tone down that red lipstick for our meeting today?” No… No I won’t.


She doesn’t care what time of day it is. Some people think red lipstick is just for dates or parties. This is false. Red lipstick is for 8 a.m. trips to the grocery store with your toddler, and every other time of day.


She is not wearing it for you. Red lipstick is not intended to make anyone feel a certain way, besides the woman wearing it.


She doesn’t mind eating, drinking, kissing, working, driving, or having sex wearing red lipstick. Do you?


If you pick her up on your first date and she is wearing red lipstick, the appropriate thought is, “Oh man, I found a powerful, self-invested woman”.


She doesn’t care if you don’t like makeup, or if you think lipstick is not inline with some feminist agenda. She might think you are wrong… so there.


Red lipstick makes her feel strong. Some women put it on before a breakup, birth, death, or a trip to the DMV.


Lipstick is something that women have that men don’t. It’s like putting on a magical shield, a link to the moon, a blood-red armor, impenetrable by trolls, bosses, and ex-boyfriends.


She knows that words that come out of a beautifully lipsticked mouth are more powerful. Our mouth is where a lot of our strength comes from. Why not make it kick ass?

When a woman wears red lipstick, does it mean anything in particular?

In particular? No. Nothing in particular. Actually there are lots of reasons to wear red lipstick. First up many brown-to-red shades harmonise with warm undertones, and many pink-to-red shades with cool undertones so red can look good on anyone regardless of their complexion.

Red is about the only hue that is generally wearable, particularly in daytime or any professional environment, as a true or pure colour in lipstick (that is not a tint, tone or shade of some other true colour) and this is important because a pure colour will not only be more heavily pigmented, and thus last longer but it allows for more dramatic contrasts.

Red and white also create an undeniably pleasing contrast. So red lipstick will make your teeth look whiter, while white teeth will make your lipstick look redder.

Finally it is also probably the most sexualised (if not necessarily the most gendered) of all colours. It is also a powerful colour in terms of its impact on the human psyche. It is a good colour to wear if you want attention, though it cannot ensure this will be good attention, and it is a good colour to wear if you wish to appear purposeful, though others will be left to infer what that purpose is, and they may not flatter you in doing so.

8 Reasons To Fall In Love With The Girl Who Rocks Red Lipstick

There is just something about a girl who fearlessly rocks RED lipstick. And when I say RED, I’m not being exclusive to the literal color red (I wouldn’t dare be so unimaginative) — I’m referring to the myriad of colors that fall into the unapologetically BOLD category.

Your version of the “red lip” can be an intimidating, ever-luxurious purple, to a sexy velvet-textured crimson, to a berry so deep it reads almost black when lit by the soft glow of candlelight.

For the purposes of keeping it simple, all of the aforementioned colors will reside under the umbrella of RED, whilst in the duration of this article.

Deepest apologizes ladies, but the tender tones of petal pink, coral, tangerine, beige or anything that might be described as “pastel” needn’t apply.

For today, we’re celebrating the bad b*tches of the lipstick world. We’re going to break down why ladies, who rock these “in-your-face” lipsticks, absolutely, positively win at life and make for far superior lovers.

1. She’s not desperate to kiss you (which makes her so irresistible).

Anyone who has ever ventured into the world of youth-infested nightlife has bared witness to the overabundance of girls wearing their desperation directly on the skin-tight sleeves of their polyester bodycon dresses.

What makes these girls so transparently overeager is the non-committal sheer lip gloss gleaming from their basic lips, which they’re OBVIOUSLY wearing out fear of scaring off the unfortunate souls they’re attempting to lock lips with at 4am.

They’re scared of getting lipstick on your face. How lame and desperate can you get?

The girl in the red lipstick quite frankly doesn’t give two sh*ts if she makes out with anyone at all. That’s not her mission; that’s not why she’s there.

She’s simply at the club to look fabulous, hang out with her friends and meet interesting people. She also knows that if she were to kiss anyone, they would enjoy a little of her red lippy on their body (I mean it’s an honor, really).

2. She’s unapologetically sexy.

The lips are the sophisticated, cast iron gateway to sensuality, lust, secrets and sex. A girl, who chooses to draw attention to this beautiful part of her body, is mega aware of her sexual prowess. She WANTS you to gaze at her lips and fantasize about kissing them.

A red lipstick girl doesn’t subscribe to the overly simplistic stereotypes that girls are supposed to be meek, shy little waifs fearing their own shadows.

3. She has confidence oozing from every pore.

No word in the expansive English dictionary so accurately pinpoints the very essence of a red lipstick girl as this wonderful word: CONFIDENCE.

Girls who rock the red lippy are unrepentant individuals, who leave us breathless, choking in the smoke of their utter confidence.

A red lipstick girl attains the blood and guts to rock the ultimate power color on her FACE.

She’s staking her claim in the world and refuses to tone down her vivacious personality just because mother once proclaimed, “men hate red lipstick.”

4. She’s a classic beauty.

I don’t care if she’s punk rock, red-carpet glamorous, pin-up chic, Connecticut preppy, East Village goth, conservative OR liberal, gay OR straight, all girls who flirt with a red lippy provide us with a healthy dose of American history.

The original screen sirens of our country coined the trend of red lipstick: Rita Hayworth, Marilyn Monroe and Elizabeth Taylor to name a mere few.

Regardless of her personal style, a girl who rocks red lipstick unearths the sweet nostalgia of old Hollywood, and in this dull age of “natural beauty” (who else is so sick of that BORING trend?) she’s a breath of fresh (yet vintage) air.

5. She’s all about fashion over function.

Any girl, who has allowed a sinful shade of red lipstick to make its way on to her bee-stung lips, knows that it’s a hard color to wear.

It would be so much easier to go nude; it would free her from its embarrassing habit of making its way onto her teeth while eating.

She wouldn’t have to be fearful that every time she goes to the bathroom, she will find an inexplicable red smear on the very tip of her nose (this frequently happens to me—I finally figured out it’s from taking too large a sip from my champagne glass).

“Fearless” is the name of the red lipstick game, however, and playing it safe isn’t in the DNA of this particular breed of girl.

Red lipstick girls choose FASHION over FUNCTION and are willing to suffer mild discomfort in order to contribute to the overall glamour and beauty of the world.

In a culture defined by Crocs and Uggs, red lipstick girls a scarce and endangered species, often shamed by the granola-eating masses for their fashion forwardness.

If you’re lucky enough to spot a girl in red lipstick (especially in the daytime), be sure to stop and tell her how amazing she looks, for wearing lipstick is becoming an increasingly thankless job (same goes for girls who brave heels before 7pm).

6. She’s unafraid to commit in a noncommittal world.

Wearing red lipstick is the ultimate cosmetic commitment, and in a time when flippancy and promiscuity are the norm, it’s no mystery why so many girls shy away from the RED.

You should choose the girl who wears red lipstick because her deep sense of commitment is demonstrated on her face; this is a girl, who knew the moment she took in the reflection of her colorless lips in the bathroom mirror, that as soon as she painted her precious pout red, there was absolutely NO turning back.

Red has a relentless pigmentation and aggressively stains the lips. You can’t merely wipe it off work while sitting pretty at your desk.

The only thing to do is to continue to build on the red through out the day, deepening and empowering the shade. While this is a true statement in literal terms, it’s also a metaphor for how a red lipstick girl will function in a relationship.

7. She’s speaks her glorious mind.

Why would a red lipstick girl choose to draw so much attention to her mouth if she didn’t intend on using it (get your mind out of the gutter, you dirty little minx)?

A girl who is unafraid to display a wealth of vibrant color around the vessel in which she releases words from has clearly got a lot to say.

In a world where so many women are brutally oppressed and viciously silenced, red lipstick is a celebration of the female voice.

If you think I’m claiming that wearing red lipstick has the ability to be a powerful political statement, you’re absolutely f*cking right.

8. She prefers the finer things in life.

Velvet, matte, cream textured lipstick that’s rich in hue is the epitome of indulgence, high-brow sophistication and affluence. A woman so inclined to wear such a shade is inclined to indulge in many of the lusters life has to offer.

A red lipstick girl prefers champagne to beer, cigar bars to dive bars, steak to gluten-free vegan salad.

She knows how to LIVE and is very aware that her number could be up at any given time. A girl, who is forever painting her mouth with luscious red, understands the concept of live fast, DIE GORGEOUS.

And if that woman happens to be wearing red lipstick, then she is saying “I’m a woman in control”!

As a styling and makeup consultant I regularly get asked for tips on wearing red lipstick. Usually this is because while most ladies would love to be able to wear red lipstick when they feel like it, they don’t know how to go about finding the right one.

So why wear red lipstick?

The colour red has so many meanings – danger, stop, energy, strength, power, passion, desire, love – and all those meanings practically scream the same message:-

Look at this! Pay attention! Don’t look away!

Red lips are a definitive and perennial staple of women’s beauty regimes for a very good reason. It’s the look that symbolises “classic” beauty. Think of all those iconic women whose signature look is red lipstick – everyone from Marilyn Monroe and Jean Harlow to the current stars of stage and screen like Taylor Swift and Scarlett Johansson. There isn’t one that doesn’t reach for a slick of red lipstick when they want to make a statement. It’s just one of the ways they portray their undeniable feminine power and self-possession.

When I see a woman wearing red lipstick I immediately think “this woman is confident and in total control”. Red lipstick is a source of strength. When you put it on you immediately feel more poised, more self-assured and empowered. It draws attention to your mouth and – subsequently – the words that come out of it. Red lipstick is all about asserting yourself. I often reach for a slick of red lips on days when I need a boost, it’s my own personal mood changer.

Why are some people scared of wearing red lipstick?

Red lipstick is often portrayed as bold and bright. On some women that works. But on most it creates too much of a contrast with their complexion and overall look. That’s usually because if a woman isn’t wearing the right shade of red for her, her lips stand out too much. When that happens you’re so distracted by the bold or odd-looking use of colour you’re not appreciating the rest of her. And that makes some ladies wary of trying red lipstick for themselves, they don’t want to make the same mistake.

However, if you get just the right shade of red, then Boom! Not only do you look in total control, you will be wearing the red lips rather than the red lips wearing you!

Can anyone wear red lipstick?

I need to point out that everyone can wear red lipstick – any age, any face, any colouring, daytime, night time, any time. So long as it’s the right shade of red for you, then I say go for it!

So regardless of your colouring, your style personality or even the shape of your lips, there’s a red lipstick out there that’s ideal for you. Identifying the right shade of red is a science-based art, but I can help you find it. Just follow these basic tips.

Which is the right red for you?

The beginning and end of choosing the right shade of red (whether that’s a lipstick, a jumper, a scarf or anything else) is your skin undertones: warm, cool or neutral. The idea with a red lipstick is to work with, not against, your complexion:-

  • If you have warm undertones then you may look good in oranges, salmon pinks, browns, creams, etc. A rich juicy red tomato-coloured shade would work wonders for your lips
  • If you have cool undertones you look good in blues, greys and fuchsia pinks – then a ruby-coloured lipstick at the bluer end of the spectrum is the one for you
  • If you have neutral undertones you might be a tad confused on whether you are warm or cool (as you might be able to wear blues and salmon pinks), then a lipstick shade between hot and cool is perfect. Think claret or geranium, or even strawberry colours for a real statement

These tips will be a great start to finding your perfect Valentines red. If I saw you in person, rather than say, over a computer screen, I would also look at depth of colour, and take your makeup style personality into consideration.

For personalised advice why not book a makeup assessment, or a makeup lesson if you want to learn some application techniques too. Or if your question is about the right shade of red for your wardrobe then book a colour consultation, and find out exactly what works for you.

Red lipstick is saturated with sexual connotations. Hardly surprising, given that its primary function is to make lips look like a female’s privates.

Crude, but apparently true. According to Diane Ackerman, author of A Natural History of the Senses, anthropologists believe that red lips serve as a reminder of the labia, which “flush red and swell when they’re aroused.” (Too much information?)

Ackerman also points out how, in more recent years, lips are almost always decorated in shades of pink or red and then topped off with a finishing layer of gloss “to make them look shiny and moist.” No need to clarify what Ackerman’s getting at there.

In which case, when you apply either red lipstick or lip gloss (and especially if you apply both) what you’re actually subconsciously trying to do is emulate your own physical state of sexual arousal. Goodness me.

So basically the purpose of wearing red lipstick and/or lipgloss is to increase sex appeal. Hard to deny that one. Take a look at the following pictures, and you’ll see that a strong element of each woman’s sexual allure is, indeed, a result of the bright lipstick she’s wearing.

Scarlett Johansson won the lips category of the 14th Annual America’s Most Wanted Celebrity Body Parts (image: colorfulwallpaper.net)Monica Bellucci is the muse for Dior’s lipstick, Rouge Dior (image: makeup4all.com)Jessica Rabbit has repeatedly been voted Sexiest Cartoon Character – those red lips must have something to do with it. (Image: telegraph.co.uk)

Having said that, lipstick hasn’t always been used purely for sexual purposes. As mentioned in Yesterface’s post It’s all in the lips… the cultural significance of lipstick has varied over the centuries according to societal trends.

To find out more about lipstick’s timeline, visit Yesterface’s post The History of Lipstick.

Lipstick on a shirt – the infamous image of adultery (image: thedailygreen.com)

Photo: Tom Medvedich

A good red lipstick is a necessity. But what makes one truly great isn’t the packaging, the price point, or the cult following, it’s how well it works for you and how it makes you look and feel. The individual, case-by-case approach is key, because no color is ever truly one-size-fits-all.

Given our shared fanatical approach to beauty and plenty of in-office opportunities to take countless red lipsticks for a test drive, we’ve got Opinions (yep, with a capital O) on the subject. We asked our editors to tell us a little bit about their red of choice, whether it’s a bright, showstopping matte formula or a tame, easy-to-wear reddish tint.

“I’m not a true red-lipstick girl. I always think I am … then I end up wiping it off before I leave the house. Instead, I prefer reds that skew a bit toward orange—a nice poppy shade, if you will. One look inside my bathroom vanity, and you’ll see I’m truly dedicated (addicted?) to finding the right variation, and I’ve pretty much tested every brand, from Wet n Wild to YSL. My all-time favorite, however—the one I keep going back to over and over—is MAC Lipstick in Lady Danger ($17).

It’s the ideal blend of red and orange for my light-medium skin tone, has killer opacity, and brings excellent staying power. It’s also insanely flattering to my features, to the point where a former colleague once told me it makes my green eyes look even greener. Plus, I love the way it works with everything from jeans and an old gray sweatshirt to going-out evening looks.” –Perrie Samotin, site director

“Growing up, I remember watching my mom swipe on bright-red lipstick whenever it was a special occasion or she had to dress up. She wore red exclusively (I don’t think she ever owned anything neutral), and I’d kiss her as soon as she applied her lipstick in the hopes that some of it would get onto my lips and I would look as beautiful as she did.

Naturally, when I started wearing lipstick, the first color I reached for was red. It took me a few tries to get the right shade (I have yellow undertones, so it’s really important that I stick to blue-based reds), but once I put on NARS Semi Matte Lipstick in Red Lizard ($27)—a deep, full red—I knew that I’d found the one. The lipsticks I’ve tried since run the gamut from shimmery nudes to vampy plums, but I always come back to the Lizard.” –Cady Lang, social media editor

“As a former beauty editor, countless red lipsticks have passed across my desk, (many of them epic in their own right!), but my all-time favorite has to be Tom Ford Matte Lipstick in Flame ($52). The reddish-orange shade is luxurious to apply, universally flattering, and lasts even after I tear into a Cronut.” –Beth Stebner, lifestyle editor

“I’m not much of a lipstick girl—clear gloss is more my jam—but when I do feel the urge, it’s always NARS Pure Matte Lipstick in Mascate ($27). It’s ultra-pigmented, so the color is powerful, yet the matte finish keeps me from feeling overly done-up.” –Jessica Teves, editor in chief

“I’m all about CoverGirl Colorlicious Lipstick in Hot ($6.99). The formula goes on smooth, it’s extremely pigmented, and it’s very long-lasting—it’s actually hard (almost annoyingly so) to take it off at the end of the day. I apply it straight from the bullet without a lip liner or any primer, and it still lasts.” –Victoria Moorhouse, associate editor

“Red lipsticks are to me as the Ring is to Sméagol: I crave them; I hoard them; I can’t keep my hands off them; I … don’t actually need them for any legitimate purpose. (For real: Why did he even want that ring so badly?) I own (and wear and love) many, so it’s very serious for me to say that NARS Velvet Matte Lip Pencil in Red Square ($26) is my ride or die.

It’s one of the few beauty products I’ve ever repurchased, and I love it so much I even bought a $6 sharpener for it, because I care. It looks stark and bloody against my dark hair, dark eyes, and fair skin, which is exactly how I want it to look. How’s that for a testimonial?” –Rachel Krause, beauty editor

“I use Clinique Long Last Lipstick in Merlot ($17) constantly. My skin tone is tricky, and I really have to stay away from anything too “berry” to avoid getting super washed-out. This shade is perfect for me—just dark enough to vamp up even the simplest of looks but not so dark that I look like a lost member of KISS. It never leaves my purse—I wear it on casual coffee outings, I wear it to work, I wear it to concerts, and I wear it to date nights. The best part? It doesn’t dry out my lips and stays on even after five cups of coffee.” –Emily McBride, producer

“At my core, I’m just not a lipstick girl. Sometimes I try to be, and I go through occasional bouts of enthusiastically wearing red lipstick every day for a week, but in the end I always, always return to Burt’s Bees Pomegranate Lip Balm ($3.30). Sure, it’s not technically a lipstick, but hear me out—I’ve got a case. For non-lipstick wearers, this is the next best thing. It leaves a natural, soft-red tint that makes you feel a little more done-up than just a clear balm does. And the finish is more glow-y than glossy; it’s quite subtle, which I love. For someone who spends 99 percent of any day that I’m wearing a bright lipstick wondering if said lipstick is on my teeth or cracking, this is the obvious alternative.” –Jasmine Garnsworthy, editor

“My favorite red lipstick is Tom Ford Matte Lipstick in Ruby Rush ($52). It’s the perfect slightly warm-toned red, which isn’t something I’m usually drawn to, but it looks incredible. The matte texture is smooth and comfortable, and it never dries out my lips. And the wear? Amazing. The color lasts all day, even through pizza—I just apply it in the morning, and I’m done. My ultimate red forever.” –Alle Connell, senior beauty editor

MORE: The New Cult Red Lipsticks

The perfect red lipstick for summer — for every complexion

A good red lip never goes out of style. And although we’re seeing lots of glosses and nudes this season, rouge is also having a major moment; no surprise since we saw pops of red at spring/summer 2019 runway shows like Rodarte, Hellesy, and Lela Rose. Plus, a red lip is a great option if you want to embrace the “bright lip, no other makeup” look.

But, how to know which red lipstick is best for your skin tone? Toronto-based, long time makeup artist Elizabeth Taylor outlined the general rule of thumb for choosing the right red for your complexion. “Fairer tones should look for more true reds or even coral-based red lipsticks. Medium and olive tones look best in more orange and sometimes plum-based reds. If you have darker skin look for brighter, blue-toned reds.”

So with that in mind, here’s a list of great red lipsticks, for you to find your match within.

Bite is back at it with an Amuse Bouche limited edition collection, and this time they’re taking us on a road trip with city-inspired shades of their signature lipstick. There are eight new shades, but we’ve got emoji heart eyes for the Canadian city in the mix: Toronto. The shade is called Maple-leaf Spice. It’s a beautifully rich and creamy lipstick that goes on so clean you won’t need a liner. The warm orange colour is universally flattering, but ideal for olive, medium and darker skin tones.

Bite Beauty Amuse Bouche Lipstick in Toronto Maple-leaf Spice, $26, Bite Beauty

The stunning, vintage-inspired gold etching on the tube sets the stage for this gorgeous satin finish lipstick. It’s super opaque and feels lusciously hydrating even as the day goes on. This vivid red hue is definitely a true red and as a result, will really pop on fair skin tones. It also has a blueish base that will pair nicely with darker toned skin.

Gucci Beauty Odalie Red Lipstick, $48, Gucci

This is a bold and fun lip colour that’ll definitely make you stand out this summer. There are seven big bright shades, all of which are highly pigmented with a subtle satin shine. Don’t expect it to be long wear, but it will feel comfy and creamy on. ‘Hot blooded’ is a candy apple red; a great choice for darker or even olive skin tones.

Fenty Beauty Poutsicle Juicy Lip Satin in Hot Blooded, $25, Sephora

The look of this lip gloss reminds me of vinyl — that luxurious high shine that summer dreams are made of! I’d describe this as a pigmented lip colour dressed up as a lip gloss (you don’t often get such an intense, full-bodied colour in a lip gloss). It glides on silky and that lacquered look will stay. ‘Studio 64’ is a look-at-me orange red shade. Go for this if you’ve got an olive or medium skin tone.

Charlotte Tilbury Latex Love Lip Gloss in Studio 64, $39, Charlotte Tilbury

This new offering from Flesh is seamlessly smooth, shiny and lightweight. It’s uncomplicated to apply and doesn’t seep into lip creases. I also like that it has a refreshing little kick of mint to it. This new collection has ten shades, and the shade ‘a passing moment’ is a deep raspberry red. The plum-based tones of this shade make it flattering for medium tones, contrasting nicely with yellow undertones. Darker toned skin can use this as well, it will just show up more as a typical berry.

Flesh Hot Sauce Lip Gloss in A Passing Moment, $24.24, Utlabeauty.com

This is the classic Rouge G in a semi-matte formula. If you don’t like strong scented lipsticks then you won’t be a fan of this one. But note, you’ll only need one swipe to get a good coverage, and it’s got ingredients like black seed oil and jojoba to help keep lips hydrated. The matte shade no. 44 is a sultry and warm orange red. Complementary to all tones but particularly olive to dark tones.

Guerlain Rouge G Matte Lipstick in No. 44, $38, Hudson’s Bay

Not a brand new collection, but Selena Gomez recently wore the shade ‘Oh, Miley’ at this year’s Cannes film festival which reminded me of how fabulous it is. The lipstick goes on incredibly creamy, but actually settles into more of a satin, slightly matte finish. So there is some decent staying power, but like most cream lipsticks, you’ll have to reapply after eating. This colour is described as a strawberry spice red; it’s definitely a classic red with cool undertones perfect for fair or even very fair skin tones, but as we saw with Selena it also looks stunning on medium to olive tones.

Marc Jacobs Beauty Le Marc Lip Crème Lipstick in Oh Milley, $39, Sephora

These new lipsticks promise major hydration and more moisturised lips after use. As if that wasn’t enough, it comes in 50 gorgeous colours including a couple vivid red shades. A standout feature of these lipsticks is the ‘3D pearl center core’. A really interesting angular shape that helps you apply the lipstick with more precision, perfectly hugging (or creating) your cupid’s bow. I really like the colour ‘hot tamale’. It’s more of a coral red so will be best suited to fair to medium skin tones.

CLINIQUE Dramatically Different Lipstick in Hot Tamale, $25, Sephora

It’s back! MAC has relaunched a bedazzled version of its original Viva Glam 1 shade to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the iconic lipstick (and as usual, with all proceeds going to organizations that support “the health and rights of people of All Ages, All Races and All Genders”. This lipstick is a true matte but it’s not jerky to apply, nor does it leave your lips dry or feeling stiff. The shade that started it all is a brownish-blue red; a winner for all skin tones, especially darker tones.

MAC Cosmetics Viva Glam 25, $24, MAC

This lipstick has a creamy look with a semi-matte finish — a slightly similar look to the CT latex love lip gloss mentioned above, but it lasts even longer. Like all Sephora collection liquid lip colours, I find once it dries down, it doesn’t transfer. The smell is a bit on the strong side but the look and smooth vitamin E-infused feel outweigh that con. This is a pretty classic red with mostly blue undertones, great for fairer tones but particularly flattering for darker skin tones.

Sephora Collection Cream Lip Shine Red Potion, $18, Sephora

Nneka Elliott (@nnekaelliott) is a lifestyle blogger, host and actor. She shares her adventures with fashion and beauty in her pursuit of a gutsy life. nnekaelliott.com

Every woman has a beloved item or two in her wardrobe or makeup drawer that can always be counted on to deliver a reliable boost of empowering confidence: a dress with a fluid drape that’s especially flattering, for example, or a heady perfume that always attracts multiple compliments after it’s been daubed on the pulse points. The most popular of those accessories is comparatively inexpensive, and easy to acquire, and beloved worldwide for its unique combination of boldness, strength, and self-assured sexiness: red lipstick.

Red lipstick is powerful in the way no other makeup item or piece of clothing can be. It’s unavoidable and potent; it’s also simultaneously unquestionably, unabashedly feminine. That makes it unlike pretty much every other cosmetic or garment: it embodies strength and womanliness in equal measures.

It embodies strength and womanliness in equal measures.

Red lips are a classic but they’re always on trend as well. They’re at once classy and edgy, polished and elegant but unpretentious too. They work in a busy office—and are a truly womanly empowered accessory, unlike things like blazers and suits that are essentially feminized takes on menswear—and also on date night. With a myriad of different nuanced shades, textures, and finishes, there’s a red lipstick that’s a flattering, perfect fit for literally every woman.

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Red lips and the strength they radiate has been loved by women been for centuries. Cleopatra reddened her lips, for example, with a deeply-pigmented colourant made from thousands of crushed beetles. (That colouring, called cochineal, is actually still used in a variety of consumer items today.). The cherry-toned hue also literally signified her power, since her subjects’ lips were a more rusty tone, tinted with colouring made from red ochre, which was far less expensive to produce. Queen Elizabeth I daubed her lips in red and felt the colour would ward off evil spirits. Queen Elizabeth II has acknowledged the power of red lips as well: she commissioned a custom shade of deep crimson to be produced for her coronation in 1953, blended to precisely match her ceremonial royal robe that was worn on that day.

With its implied confidence, it expressed boldness even if you’re really feeling tired or unsure.

Today, the potency of red lipstick certainly hasn’t waned. It’s still the signature accessory of a long and diverse list of powerful women: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Amal Clooney, Rihanna, and Madonna, to name just a few. (Ocasio-Cortez is a stellar example of a woman whose red lips radiate a mixture of self-assurance, resolute femininity and confident beauty.). And it’s the colour you see most often on the lips of stylish real-life women out and about every day. For both celebrities and “civilians”, it looks polished even if you’re just wearing a t-shirt and jeans. With its implied confidence, it expressed boldness even if you’re really feeling tired or unsure; on stronger days, it’s the sword that intensifies and underlines every word the lips it covers utter.

Getty Images

Since it’s so forceful—the shade that’s not for wallflowers, if you will—some women feel that they can’t wear red lipstick. That’s truly incorrect. The trick to red lipstick’s power is to “own” wearing it—to find the one that’s right for you and know it’s the ultimate accentuator of feminine strength. For most women, that’s actually about finding a wardrobe of reds: the perfect choice for a big meeting in the winter probably isn’t the one you’d opt for a sunny summer weekend brunch with friends. Landing on a technique of application that’s right—using a lip brush versus swipes straight from the rub, and whether or not to use liner—can also help wearers feel in control of their crimson mouth.

There’s a famous quote from Elizabeth Taylor, an especially high profile red lipstick fan during the fifties and sixties, that reads, “Pour yourself a drink, put on some lipstick, and pull yourself together.” Certainly, lipstick is a finishing touch that can lift the spirits, but, when it’s in a rich shade of red, a simple swipe of crimson is extra-empowered, emboldened, and assured, even if it’s furtively hiding any latent insecurity underneath.

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Rachel Felder, Red Lipstick: An Ode to a Beauty Icon, published by Harper Design, £18.99 is out now.


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Russian Red Lipstick Bundle MAC lookfantastic.com £27.50 Bobbi Brown Nourishing Lip Color Bobbi Brown lookfantastic.com £24.50 Lancôme L’Absolu Rouge Drama Matte Lipstick Lancôme lookfantastic.com £27.00 Red Hot Susan Charlotte Tilbury cultbeauty.co.uk £28.00 Related Story

Mood boost: Match lips and mood

For me, red lipstick will always be associated with a particular woman – Jill, the charismatic, clever and fearless linchpin of our office, whose scarlet lips signalled like a red flag that she was in charge. Everything about Jill was graceful and confident: from her sophisticated wardrobe, to her opinionated views and crimson Chanel pout – she was everything I wanted to be.

Inspired by her potent combination of cosmetics and confidence, I set about experimenting with the bold lips that she was never without, and myself and others had always deemed me too shy to wear. I armed myself with a rich, creamy red lipstick, the kind that slips on like satin and sets like velvet.

Although it wasn’t instant, with time and practice, simple sweeps of vibrant colour helped erase years of self-doubt and bestowed my lips and confidence with the characteristics that set me on my way to becoming what I considered ‘that kind of woman’. However, I’ve realised that, even now, it’s unclear what kind of woman actually does wear red lipstick.

The cosmetic itself is rife with associations (some flattering, others considerably less so), and she who dares to wear red lipstick welcomes the gamut of assumptions about her character. For centuries, red lips have largely been seen as a stamp of immorality. In more God-fearing medieval times, it was believed that creating a plump, sexualised mouth would earn you a fast-track ticket to hell.

Several hundred years later, Parliament passed a law condemning lipstick, considering it a sign of witchcraft. To confuse further our feelings about the cosmetic, there have been large stretches in history that were entire pro-red lippie. The Sumerians invented the stuff (just 200 miles outside Babylon), and Egyptian women fully embraced deepening one’s lip colour, going as far as to make sure they were buried with pots of rouge.

Perhaps most famously, Queen Elizabeth I, known for her piercing red lips, elevated the shade into something regal, instead of seedy. It wasn’t until the Golden Age of Hollywood, with its Technicolor films and glamorous studio portraits, that red lipstick came to be considered widely acceptable – even aspirational.

Consider Jean Harlow’s pointed red pout in the 1930s, Veronica Lake’s in the 1940s and Marilyn Monroe’s in the 1950s. None of these actresses was known for playing the girlish ingénue. They were women with overtly feminine power. They were knowing. The lure of looking feminine but remaining powerful was such a glorious notion, it’s little wonder women started to use red lipstick as a tool to communicate their own self-possession.

‘Red lipstick is a source of strength,’ says Poppy King, creator of Lipstick Queen. ‘You put it on and suddenly you feel more capable than you did without it.’ Debbie Harry asserted herself in the boys’ club that was the New York City punk scene with talent and red lipstick. Gwen Stefani is rarely without her signature crimson pout. And shy Heather Sweet from Michigan probably wouldn’t have made the same cultural impact as Dita Von Teese if it weren’t for her red lipstick.

If some of the world’s most intelligent and charismatic women are using red lipstick for all it’s worth, it begs the question – why do so many women avoid it? If red lipstick is a sign of self-assurance, our collective confidence must be coming on in leaps and bounds. On the small screen, we’ve elevated Mad Men’s office vixen Joan Holloway into an unlikely style icon. Hardly a slip of a woman, she wears red lipstick and a quiet confidence, to boot. ‘It’s a show of female strength,’ says King. ‘Look at where we are at the moment: some think this economic mess we’re in is men’s fault. So it’s as if subconsciously, we’re feeling entirely justified in going back to the way we women do things.’

Even the act of applying red lipstick is empowering. By dressing your lips in red, it draws people’s attention to you, especially your mouth, and subsequently, the words that come out of it. ‘It’s a symbol of prowess,’ says King. Unlike other cosmetics, many of which correct or camouflage something we don’t like about ourselves, red lipstick is about assertion. ‘When I cajole a red-lipstick virgin into wearing it, they often say they feel like they could do anything now,’ says King. ‘One customer said she put it on before giving birth because it made her feel strong.’ That’s the thing about red lipstick – it’s a beautiful case of chicken and egg. It may require confidence to wear, but confidence can actually be a result of putting on red lipstick – and no one needs to know which comes first.

More inspiration:

Read Red schmed – there ARE other colours for Valentine’s Day by Mandy Lehto on LifeLabs

You can spot a baller woman by the fact that she wears no makeup, not a slick of it, except for one thing: a bold red lip. A lot of power women do this and, as with fashion designers who – maybe unexpectedly – seem to wear only black basics (roll-neck sweaters, trainers), it displays a simple self-assuredness. These are women who Get Things Done. A bit like how Mark Zuckerberg says he wears the same normcore outfit every single day because he is so busy. But also not. Because, euw, Mark Zuckerberg.

I am one of the women who often goes makeup-free aside from a red lipstick. But in my case it is more down to laziness, losing eyeliners and mascara, and being exceptionally time-poor. I can state with more certainty than Einstein’s theory of relativity that I am not in the power women clan. But the thing about a red lip is that, precisely because it is the look of those who have their shit together, it instantly elevates the rest of us. It also signals that you have made an effort, even though that effort has probably taken a single minute.

Everyone suits red lipstick, whereas other shades can wash out complexions, not suit, or terrify (think Fairuza Balk’s purple slash of a mouth in The Craft or when people attempt quirky orange). Crimson colouring also used to signal a plump, sexualised mouth (Marilyn Monroe, for instance). Red was the mark of the femme fatale. The sexy cherry tone of Sherilyn Fenn as Audrey Horne in Twin Peaks (and the seductive tying of an actual cherry knot with her tongue). Rihanna’s scarlet pout as she leaves the club, wine glass still in hand.

But now the red lip can be a little more utilitarian. Refreshingly, it is also something that draws the attention and complements facial structure. It is not designed, as with concealer or foundation, to hide. It is the lipstick equivalent of heading the boardroom meeting and walking into the party, shoulders back, chest out. It is also an affordable, accessible slice of glamour.

Sumerians are credited as the inventors of lipstick, followed by super-fans the Egyptians; both women and men would stain their lips with ochre or carmine. Elizabeth I, however, is probably the best known of the scarlet-mouthed. My favourite red lipstick tale, which unfortunately is disputed by historians, is that a law was passed in the 1770s banning it, aligning it with “witchcraft” and “trickery”. Disappointing that this probably isn’t true, but the fact it’s been believed for so long is proof of the red lip’s mighty power.

You may know that red lipstick makes a bold fashion statement, but do you know the history behind this classic shade?

Many women throughout history have sported hues of crimson and ruby lips to communicate their social status, leadership and great power.

Dating all the way back to Ancient Egypt, Cleopatra created her own shades of red by crushing ants and beetles for their rich carmine pigment. She also made use of flowers, red ochre and even fish scales to add a luminous finish.

Queen Elizabeth I wore red lipstick despite the 16th century belief that wearing red lipstick would challenge God. Like many members of royalty at the time, she achieved the stark contrast of vermillion lips against an alabaster complexion using white powder made from deadly chemicals, specifically white lead.

In the Darnley portrait ofQueen Elizabeth I, she’s seen sporting red lips.

Red lipstick eventually lost its high status symbol as it became synonymous with women of ill repute. In the late 1800’s, Queen Victoria deemed cosmetics “impolite” and the use of cosmetics continued to fall in popularity.

Then, in the early 20th century, a French stage/film actress shocked the masses with a swipe of crimson across her lips. Her name was Sarah Bernhardt, and she was unapologetically enamored with the bold hue. She referred to her favored lipstick tube as her “stylo d’amor,” meaning “love pen.” She challenged what was deemed impolite for a woman of the time and made red lipstick fashionable once more.

Georges Clairin’sPortrait of Sarah Bernhardt(1876).

Red Lipstick as Revolution

In 1910, a woman named Elizabeth Arden also broke the mold by opening the Red Door Salon on Fifth Avenue in New York City. It was rare for a woman to own a business at the time—it had only been a few decades since it became legal for women to hold property at all. In 1912, the Suffragettes took their fight for the right to vote to the streets of Fifth Avenue. Eager to join and empower, Elizabeth Arden designed a shade aptly named “Red Door Red” and handed tubes of the lipstick to Suffragettes passing by her salon. She intended the color to be a symbol of hope, power, strength and camaraderie for those marching. Imagine what an inspiring sight that must have been!

Suffragettes march on the streets of NYC in 1912.

Red lipstick steadily rose in popularity over the next few decades. Old Hollywood actresses like Greta Garbo, Clara Bow, Gloria Swanson and Louise Brooks used lipstick to alter the shape of their mouths, and the famous “Cupid’s Bow” look was born. By lining the lips inside of the natural line to create a much smaller mouth, it gave the appearance of pursed lips blowing a kiss. The Cupid’s Bow created an interesting shape on film, but it wasn’t until the 1930’s when Technicolor films were introduced that consumers could finally see the rich colors of the lips they were admiring.

These early Hollywood stars owned their sexuality and commanded the public’s attention. Women all over wanted to emulate their self-assurance, so they too purchased shades of lipstick in tones of reds, berries and burgundies. This look became popular during the era of “The Flapper.” Women cropped their hair into stylish bobs. The dresses were shorter. They painted their eyelids in smokey shades. They shaped their eyebrows into graceful thin lines. These changes were a declaration of independence and disdain for social norms.

1920’s flappers and movie stars used red lips to signify power and allure.

Red Lipstick for Boosting Courage

During WWII, red lipstick and patriotism became popular themes when recruiting women to contribute to the war effort. In munitions factories where women labored to provide weapons to troops, the workers wore red lipstick to boost morale. Bathrooms of factories where women were employed kept red lipstick well stocked. Elizabeth Arden designed a lipstick called “Victory Red” and many other cosmetic brands followed suit.

At the same time, it was well known that Adolf Hitler despised red lipstick. Women who visited him were strongly urged to abstain from wearing any shade of red on their lips. So American women would wear the color as a sign of defiance.

Still to this day, many women feel rebellious and empowered with red lipstick on.

In 2005, cancer survivor and producer Geralyn Lucas wrote a book detailing her difficult decision to undergo a mastectomy after a breast cancer diagnosis at age 27. The title of the book is Why I Wore Lipstick To My Mastectomy. To Geralyn, red lipstick was a shade that only courageous women wore. She chose to wear red lipstick during her operation to bring her comfort and strength.

The Psychology of Red Lipstick

While it’s true that red lips boost confidence, it goes even deeper than that. The psychological effect of lipstick as a mood lifter has been documented in an economic theory known as “The Lipstick Effect.” In times of hardship, women tend to choose lipstick as their luxury good of choice as opposed to higher cost luxury goods. After the 9/11 terrorist attacks in America, Leonard Lauder (of makeup parent company Estee Lauder) claimed that lipstick sales increased. During WWII, lipstick sales soared for women at home and women in the factories. Throughout history women have faced hardships and have had to compromise, but many have been able to find small comfort—and power—in a simple tube of red lipstick.

Trends in lipstick have come and gone and will continue to do so. However, red lipstick remains timeless.

I have several tubes of red lipstick ranging in undertones from cool to neutral to warm. Knowing the history that comes along with one of my favorite shades makes it all the more enjoyable to wear.

When I apply my lipstick, I think of the women marching down Fifth Avenue demanding the right to vote. I think of the women daring to “misbehave” and disregarding the rigid social rules set upon women of the early 20th century. I think of the women who worked long, strenuous hours in factories during WWII towards the hope of victory.

Like Geralyn, I also view red lipstick as a symbol of strength. It lets people know that there is plenty of fight left in us. Even today it can be a symbol of rebellion against the harsh beauty standards and shaming that women face based on what they do or do not wear. Of course you don’t need red lipstick to communicate your strength, but the history behind the color is inspiring. It serves as a reminder of how women have always been in times of trouble: resilient, strong, determined, courageous and unabashed in our beliefs.

Get Your Fashionable Feminist On

Did you know that you can own two of the historical lipstick shades mentioned above?

Elizabeth Arden’s brand remains one of the strongest makeup contenders in the industry, and many of her products have reached cult status amongst women everywhere. “Red Door Red” is still available for purchase today on www.elizabetharden.com.

Besame Cosmetics is a brand founded, owned and operated by Gabriela Hernandez. She is a vintage lover and cosmetic historian. All of her shades are replicas of popular shades from past decades. She recreated “Victory Red” and you can pick up a tube at www.besamecosmetics.com

Join the Movement to Empower Women “

Ashley Hesse is a 20-something writer/musician and women’s rights activist. She is a former beauty/special FX makeup artist who put down the makeup brushes and raised her fist in solidarity to help fight the social injustices against women all over the world. When she’s not crusading for social justice and defeating bigotry in all its forms, she also enjoys feeding her soul with musical theatre, red lipstick and Ghirardelli brownies.

The History Of Red Lipstick, From Ancient Egypt To Taylor Swift & Everything In Between

The history of red lipstick is a winding tale of power, death, rebellion, and bawdiness. Some smeared it on despite the stigma, while others literally poisoned themselves with toxic lipstick formulas in order to look beautiful. Powerful women used it to assert their space, and others used it to build courage and flirt with the idea of coming out of their boxes.

Lipstick has inspired women like Dita Von Teese to assert, “Heels and red lipstick will put the fear of God into people,” and was the driving force behind Coco Chanel’s comment, “If you’re sad, add more lipstick and attack.” Wearing a bold red can give a feeling of power, making one feel like a different version of themselves.

The beauty-minded public has had a long love affair with red lipstick, as it made its way from Cleopatra’s vanity to giving Queen Elizabeth I her “kiss of death,” leaping from Marilyn Monroe’s flirty smirk to your mom’s lips when she swiped it on in the mirror each morning. From murder, to prostitution, to witchcraft accusations, the history of red lipstick has a sexy past that’s 5,000 years deep. Revel in it below.

Ancient Civilizations


Even 5,000 years ago, people dabbled with pots and paints. Ancient Sumerian men and women were the first to invent lipstick, making it out of crushed gemstones and white lead and painting their lips and eyes with the concoction. According to The Toast, “this was not the last time people were like, ‘Check out all this sweet lead! Hey, what if we put it on our mouths oh god I’m dying.'” Egyptians like Cleopatra also added red lip paint to their arsenal, crushing bugs to create a crimson for their lips.

“She (or her slaves) allegedly created lipstick out of flowers, red ocher, fish scales, crushed ants and carmine in a beeswax base to create her own signature red,” Rachel Weingarten, beauty historian and author of Hello Gorgeous! Beauty Products in America ’40s-’60s , tells Bustle. She says that royalty and the upper class wore color on their lips as a display of social status rather than gender, which is why you’d also see men decorating their faces.

While stains were seen as signs of aristocracy in Egypt, Greece saw it as the mark of the plebeian — or the prostitute. This led to the first known regulation related to makeup, which determined that prostitutes without their trademark wine stained lips could run into some trouble with the law. “Prostitutes were expected to use lip colors and obvious makeup in public, or else they would be punished because it implied that they were deceitfully posing as ladies,” Gabriela Hernandez, author of Classic Beauty: The History of Makeup and founder of Besame Cosmetics, explains.

The Middle Ages

During the Middle Ages, people tended to go bare-faced, but not out of choice. Instead, the Church decided that painting one’s face was a challenge to God and his workmanship, and banned their use.

“Pictures of devils putting lipstick on women appeared often, and women frequently had to address their lipstick use at confession,” Sally Pointer, the author of The Artifice of Beauty: A History and Practical Guide to Perfumes and Cosmetics, wrote in her book. But then again, priests did offer some sympathy for husbands, creating a loophole: the use of lipstick was not a mortal sin if done “to remedy severe disfigurement or so as to be not looked down upon by husband.” Bless.

The Elizabethan Era

Throughout the 16th century, the relationship between lipstick and the Church continued to be a rocky one, like that one couple that keeps breaking up and getting back together again. While the Dark and Middle Ages saw a strict policy against lip rouge, Queen Elizabeth I paid no attention to the Church’s fire and brimstone.

So devoted was she to her lip shade that she went as far as believing it had magical powers, suspecting that it had the ability to heal and ward off death. Which was a darkly ironic leap, seeing how one of the main ingredients was white lead.

“Queen Elizabeth I made her own lip colors, but many of the lipsticks of the time contained ceruse which is made from lead. This would slowly poison and disfigure the wearer until they died of lead poisoning,” Hernandez confirms. Finding the Queen dead with a half-inch of lead heavily caked on her lips led to her very literal “kiss of death,” giving lip paint a sinister spin.

After her death, the Church swung back to treating lipstick as an issue of morality, to the point where laws were issued. It wasn’t just impolite to go trade turnips at the market while wearing red: It was black magic. “The church discouraged the use of cosmetics as being deceitful to men and sinful, and England even had a law punishing its use as witchcraft,” Hernandez shares.

The hysteria managed to cross the ocean and over to the colonies. “Like England, some American states also ‘protected’ men from the ‘trickery’ of lipstick by allowing a marriage to be annulled if the wife had used lip color during the couple’s courtship,” Fashionista reported.

That law made its way even to progressive states like Pennsylvania, though according to Racked, Martha Washington still had her own favorite recipe for red lipstick that involved ingredients like wax, hogs’ lard, and raisins. Rules or no rules, women weren’t giving up their stains.

The Victorian Era

While the notion of pointy hats and striped stockings disappeared with the turn of the Victorian era in the late 1800’s, red lipstick was still seen as something uncomfortably shocking. This fact that only egged on French actress Sarah Bernhardt, notorious for applying her lipstick at cafes and street corners.

“Applying makeup in those days was considered an intimate act simply because it wasn’t done in public. So the logic goes that applying it in public made men think of the boudoir where most women beautified themselves. It was also done with a brush, so it was a fairly sensual process. Add to that Bernhardt’s flair for the dramatic (the woman slept in a coffin, after all!) and it’s likely that it was very saucy indeed,” Weingarten notes.

The Early 1900’s

Before the flappers got their hands on it, the first and most famous public demonstration of red lipstick was performed by suffragettes as they poured into the New York streets in protest in 1912. In fact, according to Mic, Elizabeth Arden herself was handing out lipstick to marching suffragettes. “Whilst the explicit intention of the suffragists was Votes for Women, the implicit message was that whether they were ‘New Women’ cycling in bloomers and sensible shoes, or elegant ladies in big hats and bright lipstick, women should be free to chose what they wanted to look like and who they wanted to be,” historian Madeleine Marsh shared in her book Compacts and Cosmetics. After centuries of the patriarchy limiting women to putting on their lip rogue in secret, the silk wrapped lipstick became a radical symbol of feminism and rebellion.

In 1915, the first lip color in a sliding metal tube was pushed into the market by inventor Maurice Levy, freeing women from the messy task of applying paper-wrapped red. “When the first twist-up lipstick tube was invented in 1915, lipstick became even more popular, as it was now much easier to carry around, versus before when it was found in small compacts or wrapped in paper,” Toast reported. The modern recipe was made out of crushed insects, beeswax, and olive oil, and the it would turn rancid on the lips after just a couple of hours of wear. Surprisingly, that didn’t stop women from using it.

While lipstick was still ascribed to unruly suffragettes, the stigma against a bright red pout began to recede thanks to Tinseltown and silent film stars like Clara Bow. “Women saw them in the movies and wanted to emulate their looks and personality. They became the model of what was attractive in women so it was easy to use their likenesses to sell product,” Hernandez explains.

So much so that by the ’30s, Vogue declared that lipstick was “the most important cosmetic for women,” according to Fashionista, officially taking away its past taboo.


With the start of World War II red lipstick took on a patriotic spin, turning the morning routine into a civic duty that gave Hitler the finger. “Hitler hated red lipstick and would not allow any women around him to wear it since he claimed it contained animal fat from sewage,” Hernandez shares. Lipstick became a “symbol of resilient femininity in the face of danger,” according to Sarah Schaffer, author of Reading Our Lips: The History of Lipstick Regulation in Western Seats of Power, which boosted the morale of both women and the soldiers overseas. So much so that the government ordered factory dressing rooms to be stocked with lipstick to keep up female workers’ efficiency.

Women also used their Victory Reds as a way to bring normalcy back to their new roles outside of the house. “Women wore it while going to the factories because it was the only thing left for them as far as a way to assert their femininity, since their clothing was very masculine and they couldn’t do much with their hair since it had to be secured so it would not fall into the machinery,” Hernandez points out.

Once the war was over and most women put away their work bandanas, red lipstick took a glamorous turn. In the ’50s, a magazine ad changed the way women looked at the lipsticks in their purses, linking it to women that seldom stay well behaved. Revlon’s iconic “Fire & Ice” campaign, split women into two categories via a quiz with questions like, “would you streak your hair with platinum without consulting your husband” and, “have you ever danced with your shoes off?” that would help them determine if they were “naughty or nice.” According to Marsh, it was to bring about images of “Park Avenue whores — elegant but with the sexual thing underneath.”

So why was it so successful? “It sparked interest in women because of the fact that it had questions that would qualify you as being either a good girl or a bad girl, more demure or daring. It sparked the imagination of women because it gave them a chance to explore both sides of their personalities since everybody could imagine themselves as being one or the other depending on the situation. The quiz included in the magazines helped to promote this lipstick and made the sales soar,” Gabriela shares.

The ’70s

When the images of Marilyn Monroe and Lauren Bacall were replaced by Jean Shrimpton and Twiggy in the ’60s, red lipstick lost its popularity in makeup drawers. “With the sexual revolution and invention of the miniskirt and birth control, red lipstick was seen as belonging to the last generation (and also, more visible on a man when you’re up to no good!) so color choices changed,” Weingarten explains. With hippies opting to go au naturel and feminists protesting against makeup as in cahoots with the male gaze, lips took on more neutral trends. But disco — and disco queens like Donna Summer, for example — changed all that.

“Disco’s influence with bright colors did bring back the popularity of bold red lip and dark cheek shades,” Gabriela confirmed. With Studio 64 and plenty of boogie nights, came a need for slinky jumpsuits and glamorous makeup, bringing back cherry red lips.

The ’80s To Present Day

Juan Naharro Gimenez/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

When the 80’s fitness boom played out across gyms and Jane Fonda videos, red faded in popularity. “Red lips were not as popular because of the workout craze in the ’80s, which brought pink or rose into popularity as day colors, leaving reds for special occasions only,” Hernandez shares.

But women like Madonna, Julia Roberts, and Linda Carter (aka Wonder Woman) kept vermilion in vogue throughout the decade. After that, the color has been on and off our radar and our lips. Nowadays, people choose their lip shade based on mood rather than trend, where they can pick out a cherry hue on a Tuesday and switch to black on Wednesday. But with the rise of Taylor Swift fans trying to emulate her classic red-lipped look, pinup styles rising in popularity, and beauty vloggers that challenge us to push beyond of our weekday makeup comfort zones, the world has recently seen a definite surge in bright-red hues.

Thankfully, there’s no more wondering if your red lippie is filled with lead, if you’ll be tried for witchcraft for wearing it on a first date, or if you’ll mortally offend someone while reapplying in the coffee line. These days, the biggest difficulty in wearing red lipstick is choosing which shade you want to slip into your back pocket — which, considering the history, is nothing to pout about.

Red Lipstick is a Symbol of Power Your 30-Something Self Should Take Advantage Of


Bright red lipstick can be very intimidating for some and even confusing for others. Red may be attributed to danger, but at the same time, passion. It’s a controversial and a very visible color, unlike brooding blue or calming green—which is probably why it came to represent revolution.


Put that in a tube and swipe it on your lips: now you have the red lipstick, a symbol of female resistance. Stains have long been a trend that went as far back as ancient Egypt, but red has always been a statement. European actress Sarah Bernhardt dropped a lot of jaws in the 1880s when she was seen applying red lip rogue in public, an act that was then considered as scandalous as changing your undies on the street. In the United States, red lipsticks were worn by suffragattes, women who fought for the right to vote.

“In both America and England, women publicly applied lip rouge with the express intent of appalling men,” notes a Harvard paper on the matter. “Lipstick’s long proscription by social, religious, and legal male authority made it a ready symbol for female rebellion.”

Until today, the red lipstick sends a signal of a take-no-prisoners attitude in women who wear them. And while there are those who find it off-putting, wearing red can actually boost confidence, which is why you shouldn’t be afraid to try it, may it be in a causal or an office setting.


If you’re a beginner with red lippies and are still looking for the right hue for you, you can start playing with affordable options. Here are a few that we’ve tried and loved:

Maybelline Super Stay Matte Ink in Dancer

P299 at beauty counters in department stores

If you want something that’s long lasting, this is your pick. Maybelline recently released the Super Stay Matte Ink City Edition that comes in 14 different shades inspired by the Big Apple, and as you probably know, the Super Stay Matte Ink line can last for 16 hours on your lips. Perfect for those long, tiring workdays when you can’t be bothered for a touch-up!

IMAGE Maybelline


Revlon Super Lustrous Crème Lipstick in Certainly Red

P350 at Watsons

Always have a basic, no-bells-and-whistles tube of red lipstick in your makeup collection. This one from Revlon slides on smoothly and gives a vibrant shade you can easily wipe off at the end of the day.

IMAGE Watsons/Revlon


L’Oreal Rouge Signature in I Am Worth It

P390 at beauty counters in department stores

If you follow Heart Evangelista on Instagram, then you’ll know that she has recently worn this product. L’Oreal launched a new innovative line called Rogue Signature—a collection of 10 liquid lipsticks that feel like water on your lips but has immense color pay-off. The light consistency also makes each shade very buildable. You won’t even remember that you put on anything after a while.

IMAGE (L) L’Oreal (R) INSTAGRAM/iamhearte