Random Wednesday: Seeing Red


Blogging off topic today on lips – particularly red lips.  If you like lipstick and/or working a red lip, please read on and give me advice, I have questions in here.  If not – sorry! – pretend the blog is down today.  Hey, I just freed up 20 minutes in your day!  Waste it by going here to Gwyneth Paltrow´s new, inexplicable website GOOP (for pete´s sake) and explain to me what I´m missing.  Is there any content there?  Or do you just get the same tripe loading on all pages about nourishing what is real?   The day I seek lifestyle advice from La Paltrow (“find inner peace by being rich and marrying that guy from Coldplay!”) is the day pigs fly, but I´m fascinated by the concept.

This is long and written in my usual maniacal, pedantic, obsessive style.  Feel free to get a cup of coffee before settling in.

* * *

Early last summer I looked at the 35+ lipsticks and glosses in my drawer and divided them into three categories:

  • Horribly dated frosts, too-dark shimmers and glitter glosses about which I will say nothing more, because if I did I´d have to put a bag over my head and enter the makeup witness protection program.   I got rid of those.
  • Variations on that pinky-brown YLBB (Your Lips But Better), complexion-enhancing shades that Bobbi Brown pioneered (in my mind, anyway) and everyone makes now, and lipstick lovers should own one.  Or several.  These I kept.
  • The not-quite-right lipsticks from Gift With Purchase sets, because they were interesting and pretty and, like the interestingly pretty top I bought on sale at Neiman Marcus that never makes it off the hanger and onto my body, these lovely lipsticks never seemed to be right for the moment.  I find it curious how seldom GWP lipsticks work on me, because I assume they pick their more universally flattering shades for their lippies, and they generally hedge their bets further by giving you warm or cool options. Those I tucked away or gave to the girls.

Leaving me with pretty much nothing else – which is funny, because I love lipstick.  I wear lipstick and/or gloss every single day.  I put it on to walk to the mailbox.  It is the sole makeup item I carry in my purse for reapplication as needed, along with a small mirror.  I don´t leave home without it.

This summer I went to several makeup counters, told the SAs not to let me buy anything YLLB, and we went from there.  I wound up with several interesting pinks in various tones and finishes.  But now it´s fall and time for red — the topic of today´s post.

I swatched reds until I developed what looked like some permanent, alarmingly pink skin condition on the back of my hand, and tried (fewer) shades on my lips until I looked like the Joker, due to spillover and multiple removals.  Here´s what I found, and anyone on here who loves lips, particularly red lips, please chime in. I should clarify: I´m interested in a more matte finish, rather than shimmer, and I can always add gloss (although then they don´t seem to last as long.) 

1) Stains, in brush or wand applicator formula.  Full disclosure: this all started as a search for a reddish lip stain because I thought I´d ease into red, but I gave up, because the stain concept didn´t work out for me, although I´m open to suggestions.  I have full lips with minimal lines, but stains tended not to flatter my face. Stains can be really drying (what´s up with that?), can taste terrible, last less well than you´d think, can be messy to apply, and often give that sucked-on-a-popsicle look with more pigmentation toward the inside of the lip – which looks sexy on a 20-year-old but is a little jejune on me.  Two stains I want to mention:  The NARS Lip Stain Gloss in Indian Red and Daredevil — both of which looked like hell on me (dried blood and hot pink, respectively) but they are so unusual and I am sure somebody out there must look amazing in them.  Extremely heavily pigmented with a totally matte finish, and you need about three drops to spread quickly because they dry fastfastfast.  Oddly, Sayonara, which gets a lot of static as garish on MUA, was a perfect YLBB on me.

2) Lip/cheek pot “stains.”   The Bobbi Brown Raspberry Pot Rouge is a fun color, berry pink rather than red, for someone who wants a pop of color that (like many of BBs colors) has a neutral undertone to keep it from being super-bright.  More a potted lipstick/gloss than a true “stain.”  Laura Mercier Lip Stain in Scarlet is a brighter option – a pink-toned red that looks garish in the pot but is surprisingly buildable, for a very sheer berry veil up to something cherry-bright, but not as bright as you´d think.  Again, more a satin-y lipstick/gloss than a true “stain.”  You can put these on with your pinkie or a brush.  No noticeable smell/flavor. Both of these are a nice intro to stronger color, not super long lasting, although Scarlet leaves a very pretty stain on the lips.

3) Poppy King´s Lipstick Queen line is my platonic ideal in terms of YLBB colors and formula, and I wish I had a dollar for every woman I know who´s whipped a LQ Natural Saint out of her purse.  Poppy does one thing – lips — and she does it beautifully.  All the colors come in two concentrations: Saint (10% pigment for a sheer color) and Sinner (matte, 90% pigment), and there are ancillary products (glosses, pencils, etc.)  I discovered them in NYC – a small, well edited selection of no-shimmer colors that don´t bleed, taste or smell.  I imagine an ideal customer is a woman who doesn´t want to spend a day pawing through 437 shades in Nordstrom to find two simple lipsticks  – a YLBB and maybe something more fun.  That doesn´t mean the rest of us can´t appreciate them, though.  The downside: there´s no store stocking them around here, so I had to read up online and guess for my order. I picked:

Medieval, her new cherry-stained lip tint in a lipstick.  A couple weeks ago a friendly Bobbi Brown SA gave me some incredibly enlightening information – my lips are more pigmented than average (who knew?), and they have a slightly cool (blue-brown) cast.  This would explain a lot about the terrible things I´ve done to sheer lipsticks over the years – my lips have a weird way of sucking the life out of a color, and I have to be careful not to go too dark.  It also probably explains how I can get away with a slightly warmer lip tone.  Finally, it probably explains why Medieval turned out to be my first dud – it was like an $18 Chap-Stik.  Where was the cherry stain everyone´s raving about?  I got nada – no real color at all.  It probably does work great on lighter lips.  I also got Red Saint, her signature red, because I thought her Red Sinner looked too orange, although it´s supposed to be a true red.  I can´t find a single review online.  I´m curious, because I think Saint veers in the slightly pink direction.  Anyone reading this have Red Sinner?  I wonder if I should exchange my Medieval for that one, or should I get Pink Sinner, which looks kind of fab?  Finally, Rose Sinner is a gorgeous, slightly warm blush pink-red for someone who wants a soft, romantic pinky-red that isn´t neon bright.

3) The Full Lip.  I had these done by the SAs, so I could see a professional result and study various techniques.  I tried:

Chanel, Bobbi Brown, Lancome – if you want to chime in with a specific color recommendation I´ll go try it, but everything I saw was too pink, too orange, too brown, too dark or too shimmery to interest me.  For cool-toned reds, it is a precariously fine lipstick line between a red and a fuchsia, and it´s a personal taste thing, but I don´t want a bright pink lip.  Also, I think it depends on the color, but all three lines can have a noticeable taste and smell, and I´d rather they didn´t.

One Laura Mercier, Truly Red, was a pretty blue-red, but waxy, very drying and came off in less than an hour, leaving me with the red pencil liner the SA´d used around my mouth, and I´ll never do that again.

Bare Escentuals Red Zin – a standout pink-red, slightly glossy, surprisingly long lasting given its creamy application.  There are also two slightly warmer toned brown reds, and I´ve made a mental note to revisit this line in the spring, because there are some really pretty colors.  Bonus points for no taste/smell.  

MAC Russian Red – oh my God!!  I realize for seasoned lipstick lovers this is like my discovering a great new substance called “air,” but I actually left this until fairly late in the game, even though it´s often named by makeup artists as a universally flattering true neutral red.  I was sure it was too garish – it´s the Dita Von Teese/Madonna-in-Gaultier red.  You know — that red.  I swatched several MAC reds, including the (very slightly pink) MAC Red and the interestingly matte-velvet but too-dry Ruby Woo.  The SA talked me into Russian and applied it with a brush, emphasizing my cupid´s bow.  I literally squealed in delight at the results.  No taste/smell.  Not moisturizing, but not especially drying, at least on me.  Lasted until I ate, then I needed a touch up in the middle, but the edges remained perfect and in place until bedtime.  Amazing product.  A hot tip based on my online browsing – if you try Russian Red as your potential Holy Grail red, and your first response is, those people are crazy, this is orange, then try MAC Red – that´s your HG red.  I also bought their retractable brush because I loved the shape – a high, flat dome with a very sharp edge.

A slightly darker, slightly more muted variation, NARS Red Lizard, is a hair too dark for me but looks like it would be stunning on lots of ladies, and NARS Jungle Red is the yummy, slightly warmer alternative I´m now eyeballing. 

Make Up For Ever (swatched at Sephora) – a lot of good-looking non-shimmer reds, some opaque and others sheer, but none seemed like the perfect fit (205 was too pink).  I liked their red pencil, though – not too smeary, but not too dry.  Also, has anyone tried their lipstick mattifying gloss?  That looked interesting.

Hey, has anyone tried those Shiseido lip crayons?  Those look cool because they´re automatic, and they have a bright red now.

Final random thoughts/questions for people with way more makeup knowledge than me –

1) Blush.  I am in my 40s and wear foundation, am fairly pale (guessing a MAC 20/25), and I look better with a little bit of blush.  The red lip is really messing up my blush game.  Normally I can go either slightly cool or warm with blush, and with my usual YLBB lips, clashing lips/cheeks has never been an issue.  I´ve always ignored the lip/cheek stain pots on the grounds that they do one job better than the other, but certainly with the Bobbi and Laura Mercier stains it was easier to use the same color for both, applying the cheek stain with an extremely light hand (or rather, one fingertip).  I´m having trouble working a blush with the more saturated reds. Suggestions?

2) While I am in theory a pink-toned person, and thus should lean toward the blue-undertoned reds, I can “swing both ways” a little – a slightly warm red looks surprisingly pretty on me.  I was surprised how few lippies are “true” reds – almost every red, on the skin and blotted down, falls pretty clearly in one camp or the other.  And nobody can purple up a lippie like I can – I did heinous, Morticia-Addams things to all sorts of shades.  Maybe a neutral pencil would fix that?  Also, wouldn´t Morticia be a great name for a lipstick? 

3) All of these could be put on straight out of the tube and look fine, but after seeing the Cupid´s bow look at MAC, I´m investing in their lip brush (unless you tell me to get a different one.) too late, I bought it!   I´ll continue to apply straight from the tube most of the time, but there´s something very sexy about the Precision Lip, and that you don´t get without the brush.

4) Your thoughts on lip prep, primer, and liner, if I don´t need it to prevent feathering?  It´s not like I´m opposed to lip primer or liner, but the only time they used lip primer (at Laura Mercier) the color came off quickly.  And using something like lip balm to pre-moisturize my lips also makes the color come off faster.  I´m not dying to add another step to the process.  Pencil all over tends to dry, I think?  Also, I will never ever let someone just outline my lips in red pencil again.  It´s one thing for your lipstick to fade all over; it´s another to be left with a ridiculous bright red line around my mouth.  Would anyone like to give me a persuasive argument/product to try regarding lip primer or liner?

5) To any of you lipstick virgins out there, it seems worth stating – almost any red or pink lip color, including Russian Red, can be toned way down without too much trouble.  I am hardly a makeup expert, but in addition to the old blot-with-a-tissue-after-applying, which doesn´t work that great with the dry matte colors, you can:  put on lip balm (e.g., Chap-Stik) first and/or use your finger to dab the color on for a light, soft quasi-stain effect; apply a coat of your most neutral brown YLBB lipstick over top, and come to think of it, this is exactly how I use a tawny neutral lippie; apply a soft gloss and blot; if you are desperate and own no brownish lippies, apply a light dusting of tan or light brown eyeshadow (yes, I have actually done this.  Of course, I also wear room spray.) 

6) Finally, those MAC Makeup Remover Wipes – holy cow!   They were the only thing that literally took all traces of red lipstick off my hands instantaneously.  It was almost scary, I wonder if doing that to my face regularly would be bad?  But if you´re wearing a Christina-Aguilera-level full face, one of those wipes would be a godsend (and apparently she uses them).  If I really fall into this red lip thing, I am going to have to investigate further, although right now plain old jojoba oil (my trusty friend) on a Q-tip is getting the job done.  Do you all use a special remover for lipstick?

So… did anyone read this far?    Anything you want to add, argue about or educate me on?  Fire away.

image: Painted Red Lips, Japan, allposters.com

  • sparkyhatesme says:

    Sorry, must disagree about Gwynnie’s (Goop) online newsletter, Goop. It’s fun, gentle, cute, helpful…and a whole buncha other good stuff.

  • Cathleen says:

    I’m pretty pale, and generally wear some non-descript pink lipstick just to make me look like I have lips, but when I wear red, I use Guerlain Insolence De Rouge which is a matte, bluish red or Red Strass, which is a little more orange and has a shimmer. Oh, and I have a red by Dior Addict, it’s a little on the rust side, but it has a very nice shimmer. My everyday red is something with a little more moisture and less staying power, Kevyn Aucoin in Dantique.

    • March says:

      Kevyn Aucoin. Now there’s a loss. I miss that man. He did the most amazing makeup.

      I think a lot of women can relate to your comment about wearing lipstick just to make you look like you have lips! :*

  • I have an olive complexion, but I can relate on the pigmented-lip thing, my lips are practically purple-brown on their own, and Black Honey makes me look sick!

    I’ve had success with, believe it or not, L’oreal Target Red, which is a very true red with just the teeniest tiniest tendency toward blue. Of course I’ve pretty much given up on the whole thing and wear MAC Gentle Coral in an attempt to balance out my green skin.

    • March says:

      Balancing out your *green* skin? Yeesh. And I thought I had a tough row to hoe … I looked for Target Red this morning and it was sold out! Which tells you something, doesn’t it? :)>-

  • violetnoir says:

    Sorry, March. I know that I am way late on this, but it took me a while to read this thoughtfully and review the posts. Please excuse me.

    Well, our complexions (did I spell that right?) are nothing alike, lol, but I noticed that no one mentioned Chantecaille lipsticks. They are wonderful.

    I don’t know much about red…Yes, I know, I look fabulous in red, but red lipstick just isn’t my thing anymore.

    However, my fave YLBB shade is Chantecaille’s Nebula. Gorgeous color, coverage, feel and wear. These lipsticks are pricey, but totally worth it. And, the other shades, like Quasar and Saturn and Mercury, are beautiful.

    Right now, I am wearing Chanel Glossimer in Pagoda. That’s a shimmery natural one, too, that you may want to try. Also, Chanel Glossimer in Eclipse looks dark in the tube, but stunning on the lip. Their Hibiscus is a glossy shimmery red, that may look stunning on you, too. Well, I guess I do have one red-like color, albeit a gloss, in my collection!

    Hugs and love!

    • March says:

      Doesn’t the word complexion look weird? Now you have me wondering.

      Can I say how much I love the names of the Chantecailles? Who doesn’t want a lipstick named Nebula? Quasar would be perfect if it went with my red purse. 😉

  • DJ says:

    whoa. there are a lot of comments and I ‘ve got to get out the door but I have blue toned lips and a warm very pale complexion and reds have been almost impossible for me. What I have that works:

    Nars Scarlett Empress

    MAC Brick lip pencil,lips filled in, then with Three Custom lipstick in Warm Red all over.

    Sheers, I stay away from anything pale pink except
    Nars Roman Holiday
    Mac High Tea

    *None* of the Poppy LQ lipsticks look good on me, boo.

    you are lucky you can wear cherry reds 😉 they turn magenta/hot pink on me 🙁

    • March says:

      Adding these to my list! And will say, the red lip challenge has really fascinated me. Whether it’s skin tone and/or lip tone, the way the same lipstick looks *wildly* different on people is like the way fragrance can work with skin chemistry.

      • DJ says:

        forgot to mention one more–Three Custom gloss in Billie, and Nars gloss in Scandal. Not lipsticks, but great reds.

        and I agree–Chantecaille lipsticks are great!
        I have tried Cayenne, and while it is a wee bit orange on me, it is a fantastic red.

        Now I need to start a blog/question asking how I can find a new scent, based on what I already wear. lol

  • Aparatchick says:

    Ooooh, do tell us how you like Metro Chic! And I’m seconding Run With It.

    I’m no help at all with lipstick, but I must say that I’m glad someone else thought Gwennie’s website was (dare I say it?) vapid.

    • March says:

      Now I’m worried Metro Chic’s pale purple is gonna clash with my red lips! 😮 No, really. What should I do!?! Step away from this red lip drama? >sob< I can't! 🙂 Gwen has long irritated me, and it's not diminishing with time.

  • sylvia says:

    one question: what is mattifying gloss? doesnt that seem like an oxymoron?

    i think cargo makes a “reverse lip liner” which is kind of waxy but no pigment. that would prevent the ring around the lips syndrome, though i haven’t actually tried it.

    • March says:

      Well, yes, but aren’t you curious? It’s a clear-whitish… goop in one of those lip-goopy things with the screw-off cap and an angular tip dispenser. I tried it on top of some color on the back of my hand. It certainly didn’t look matte to me, it looked glossy, but maybe what it does is take the sparkle off anything like a frost or shimmer? So it’s a gloss instead? 😕

  • Christina H says:

    I have Red Sinner and yeesh – it’s *bright* on me. I definitely have to be in a ballsy, take-no-prisoners mood to wear it, and not care that everyone is staring at my lips. Rouge Sinner is a much more wearable red in my opinion, and the Rouge Saint is lovely as well when you’re in not as much of a “red lipstick mood.”

    Oh, and for the heavily pigmented blush problems, try applying it with a “skunk” brush (those kinds with black and white bristles, with longer and shorter hairs). They pick up a lot less product so it’s easier to control the application. MAC’s #187 is the HG of the skunks.

    • March says:

      Rouge Saint is so pretty — I wore it last night. And thanks, I’d never even heard of a skunk brush!

      I just typed skink. 🙂 Could be skank…

  • Hannah says:

    Hi March,

    Coming out of lurkdom to say that we almost certainly have the same colouring (although I may be a touch paler), and that if you’re looking for another, slightly less intense MAC red, Lady Bug is fabulous on me. It goes on somewhat sheer, but layers into a really vibrant red. Also recently fell in love with Korres and Cargo PlantLove glosses, as well as Bare Escentuals Natural lipstick in Parfait (definitely one for you to try, in the YLBB category). Oh, and because your nail polish obsession needs more fuel on its fire, Opi for Sephora in Run With It is the most divine champagne-grey.

    • March says:

      Well, that’s three votes for Lady Bug, so I guess I’m going to have to try it! :)>-

      Aren’t some of those BE colors lovely?!? Maybe a couple I’d want in warmer weather, I’ll check out Parfait. I looked at several of them and what struck me was how pretty I thought the line was as a whole. Obviously some of them wouldn’t work on me at all, but they looked good — no obvious duds. And I was really surprised how well Red Zin stuck around, and I liked the formula.

      • March says:

        PS I’ll try Run With It! I just got Metro Chic after all of you talked me into that. /:) Haven’t tried it yet. I have on one coat of Chanel Haute Chocolate … getting the sinking feeling it’s kind of a snooze on the hands, although it’s pretty in the bottle.

  • helenviolette says:

    Oh and for a red lipstick perfume…Jasmine et Cigarette (like an ashtray full of stubbed out lippie smudged butts), or Mitzy…

  • sweetlife says:

    My god, March, first you started blogging on nail polish after I’d begun secretly hoarding bottles and reading the blogs and now, a mere week after I figured out how to make my first successful red lip EVER (like Juno up there, I have always, always, wanted to be one of those girls that can transform themselves with a swipe of red) here you are with so many details and options on the subject that…ack…can’t…breathe…*thunk*

    OK, I’m going to have to ignore most of this advice. It’s too much for my girly-challenged brain to handle. But I will say that I’m so pleased to see that the sheer red lip is an actual category and not just something I invented myself at home by very, very, cautiously dabbing on some of Guerlain’s super-red color (can’t remember the name) that I got in a sample and then putting on a layer of sheer rosy gloss to get that stained, matte-ish look that gives me the little spot of brightness I’ve wanted forever. I think I have that same pigmented-lip issue but I am way too lazy to make my lip neutral before adding color. Maybe. Or maybe I’ll try it this afternoon with some cover up. Hmmm…

    And that’s so cool the Poppy King takes returns! I’ve been dying to try Medieval…

    • March says:

      Great minds thinking alike? 😉

      Actually … to use one of my favorite overused words … I think the old blotting down of a red is a great concept that works better than any of the “stains” I tried. And it’s definitely much easier to wear than a bright red and requires a lot less precision.

      I’ve tried deleting all my lip color a time or two but can never escape the impression that my face looks weird afterward, no matter how good it probably looks.

      • March says:

        That was incoherent. What I meant was, even when I put lipstick back on, something about the absence of my true lip color seems off to me.

        • Frenchie says:

          I feel absolutely the same way. A few times my natural lip colour has been concealed before trying on a nude lipstick. I felt strange, my face looked ghostly. The SA would insist that I looked great but seriously… half dead was my impression.

          • March says:

            That whole LiLo/JLo nude lip look? Cannot go away fast enough for me. It’s one of those fads that we’re going to look back on and it’s going to look as dated as stiff 60’s hairdos and hammer pants.

  • Jubilee says:

    What a fun post for a cold Wednesday morning! You and I sound like complexion twins, March– super pale and cool-pinky. I appreciate the whole Snow White thing now that I live in New York, but believe you me, it was a toughie growing up in Florida.

    I’ve always loved the look of a red lip, but it took me a while to work up the nerve to try it. I have a somewhat dramatic look already (the uber-pale skin, dark hair with blunt bangs, fairly full lips) and I was always afraid a bold red would just be too much. Also, it seems like it’s a harder look to pull off when you’re young… a bit too little-girl-playing-in her-mama’s-makeup.

    Of course, I’m happily over all of that now (I think it was falling for the Fracases and Mitsoukos of the perfume-o-sphere that finally convinced that what some might see as “too much” can be a wonderful thing). Afterall, if you’re already going a little extreme, all the better to go a little extremier!

    As far as shades go, I love the wear and texture of NARS, especially the satin finish, but I still haven’t found a red in the line just yet. Red Jungle is pretty close, but I also love Shanghai Express and Rouge d’Enfer, though it sounds like those might be a little darker than what you’re looking for.

    The MAC Russian Red is indeed terrific, and is pretty much my top true red right now. There was also a red in MAC’s Stylistics collection from last winter that sounds like it might be what you’re looking for (I don’t recall the name– I didn’t end up getting it, but my similary pale and pink-toned friend did, and it looked just fantastic on her). I’m not sure if it’s around anymore though– maybe they still have a few rolling around behind the counter?

    As far as blush goes, this suggestion might be a little out-there, but it’s worked wonders for me. My go-to blush when wearing a bold red (or just with gloss, sometimes) is MUFE’s #85 powder blush. It looks scary in the pan, an almost indecent-looking fuschia, but, applied lightly and blended well, it’s absolutely lovely and mimics a delicate, natural flush.

    And as for perfume-red lip pairings, my current favorite– hear me out, now– is Muscs Kublai Khan. There’s just something compelling about the contrast between the womanly polish of a strong red lip with the dirty, fur-wrapped Mongol warrior thing.

    • sweetlife says:

      “Afterall, if you’re already going a little extreme, all the better to go a little extremier!”

      Yes! Yes! I love this, and your perfume rec. A friend gave me a card once with a quote from Mae West: “Too much of a good thing can be wonderful.” And wouldn’t she know?

    • March says:

      The thing that bums me about MAC (maybe all lines?) is I find some great color reference online, somebody blogs about it, etc. And then I go look for it and realize it’s some sort of LE/seasonal color. 🙁 I get enough heartbreak from fragrance…

      I need to try on the Jungle, and I’ll look at the MUFE (you’re right — Shanghai is too dark!). I think BB did a popular blush last spring that worked the same effect – super bright in the container but perfect on the face.

      And I love your MKK idea — that’s sort of where I was going with my men’s scent comment.

  • Elizabeth says:

    I was at the Lipstick Queen counter at Barney’s last night, and the SA told me that I have “blue-toned” lips! I have always felt that I never looked quite right in orangey-red and coral lipsticks, and now I know why. I was there to try Medieval, which showed up quite brightly on me (and I am not light-skinned), even when I applied just a dot of it with a lip brush. The SA called it a “warm” red, and suggested that Saint Natural might be a better match for me. She was right! I am now a member of the Saint Natural-wearing legion. 🙂 I also have and love Rose Sinner.

    • March says:

      See, there you go. You’re getting a big pop of color from Medieval. The reviews online are mostly ecstatic. And you know how dark it looks in the tube? So it was like a practical joke — I rubbed and I rubbed and I rubbed it on and — nothing. Okay, *something* — like a pink tinted Chap Stick. Almost nothing. Definitely returning that … but for what? What’s the Coral Saint look like — too brown? I think I should get Pink Sinner, did you try that one? 😕

      • Elizabeth says:

        I haven’t tried Pink Sinner, but I have tried similar opaque light pinks (MAC Pink Plaid is one), and they always make me look chalky. Saint Rouge (a neutral-to-pinkish red) works really well for me, though.

        • March says:

          That can be a really tough color to work. Maybe it looks better as a “reverse” color on darker women? It makes me look dead. 🙂

  • Anita says:

    I want to mention the lipstick I have recently discovered which is the most moisturizing I have ever tried and is very long lasting for a moisturizing lipstick. It is the Cle de Peau Touche de Rouge Extra Silky Lipstick (comes in a long skinny wand). The only negative is that it is quite expensive but if moisturizing is important to you, it is worth it. There are quite a number of mostly muted colors but only two reds.

    • March says:

      I burst out laughing when you mentioned the price — I have some Cle de Peau eyeshadow and I remember when they rang them up I thought I’d have a stroke! I went through with it though. :d

  • Disteza says:

    I feel your pain. As one of the palest of the pale, I have a hard time finding ANY makeup, and I gave up on finding the perfect red. I would have hints of pink if I had any circulation in my face (you know, like after I run a mile or two), but mostly I have hints of !blue!. For real. I’m so pale you can see some of the veins n’stuff, so I have to deal with the blue. Then there’s some freckles–between them I have a ridiculous time trying to match lip color. My YLBB is Laura Mercier’s Courtisane–the bit of gold shimmer is playful. I also have Russian Red, but I find that it plays up the blue in my face too much and makes me look even paler 😮 , so I end up having to mix it with something rosier to take the edge off. Anything vaguely brown or orange looks like pure cr@p on me, so mostly I’m stuck in the rose section, but sincce that’s basically my lip color anyway, I usually just go with some gloss. Don’t be afraid to use the lip brush to mix your colors though–I get some fantastic results from mixing .

    • Disteza says:

      Oh, forgot to mention the blush–or rather the lack thereof–I’ve never been able to find a blush that didn’t scream “Look everyone, I’ve got on blush!” It always looks fake on me. I have toyed with the idea of getting a normal, pink-skin toned powder and trying that though. I end up having to mix a bit of that blue-toned powder with translucent to get something that matches most of my skin, and I don’t put powder over the freckles at all.

    • March says:

      I’ve always been envious of the palest of the pale. You know, those women who look like they’ve been in the basement for the last 20 years? Translucently white? (I am pale pink.) I would work that uber-pale look like nobody’s business. I stare at that color, I covet that color the way other people covet a deep tan. It’s a color no amount of money can buy.

      Hey, maybe a pink-toned powder would work on you! The kind that’s old-fashioned pink powder? Also two folks up there are recommending MAC Strada, we’ll have to look at that.

  • Patty says:

    I am so pathetic. I can’t wear reds at all!!! So I have 40 varitions of my basic pinky nude lipstick/gloss, etc. It’s ridiculous, and I’m officially jealous.

    • March says:

      Patty, thinking about your coloring — yeah, you are so much prettier in a pink or a fawn or something similar. You have that soft, glowy color — a red would be kind of harsh, wouldn’t it?

  • Karen says:

    Hi March,

    Makeup has taken a backseat with me, since the full-on fragrance obsession started, but I had to chime in and second gina’s rec for MAC blush Strada. I’m in my 40’s, pale with with lots of pink undertones, and that colour just always looks right.

    • March says:

      Okay, two recs for a blush I will pay attention to! 🙂 Blush is a b!tch for me — it’s not like I’m super-pale, but finding the right shade that isn’t too pink OR too brown is really hard.

  • Divinemama says:

    OMG! I am SO clueless. I have some idea from skimming posts, but could someone please give me the literal translation of YLLB before I totally freak out. :((

    Yes, I tried googling it…thanks. :”>

    • Lee says:

      Your lips look bad/ beautiful/brilliant/bodacious?

      Yes Lee, lip blog!?

      You look lovely, Brenda?

      Yesterday, Linda left Birmingham?

      You! Look! Look! Bastard!?

      Yep. Look lively, bigboy.?

    • divinemama says:

      Never mind…found it…you lips but better. I think I fall into that camp but am willing to experiment and venture into some more vivid colors. I tend to stick to brownish pinks, recently tried some bronze and plums and I think I am ready to jump into the REDS!!! 😮

      • March says:

        PS Noticing I can’t find my original definition of YLBB in my post (I spelled it out.) I rearranged, maybe I edited it out. Sorry.

    • March says:

      Well, it would help if I’d abbreviate it consistently, first of all. I keep typing YLLB. Second, a lot of people use MLBB (MY lips but better, what do I know about YOUR lips anyway?!?)


      Your brownish pinks are the ultimate YLBB — what I call pinky-browns but for a lot of people are maybe nudies. But ultimately it gets boring, sounds like you are feeling like some adventure yourself.

    • Musette says:

      Don’t listen to him – he’s in Full Guy Mode 😉

      The Correct Answer Is: Your Lips, but Better.

      It’s my favorite look, much to the dismay of my makeup artist who would love to do a full-red lip on me – but I just CAIN’T!!! I’m such a wussie.

      So I have 325 variations of YLLB. My all-time favorite is the sadly discontined Laura Mercier Secret Lips. That, plus a little liner, is the HG for me.


  • Natalie says:

    Russian Red is fabulous! I have super-pale skin, and cosmetics SAs always want to steer me to blue-reds, but they all turn pink on me. I’ve found that in order to get a true red, I have to apply a slightly orange-red. Some of the ones that have looked best on me have been reds with a smidgen of gold — not enough to see sparkles or frost, but enough to keep the red gleaming and true. Chanel used to make the most fabulous gold-red called Rouge Anniversaire, but it’s been discontinued, sigh. I also have the red hair issue (OK, OK, it’s from a bottle, but I get asked all the time if I’m Irish, so it must look natural!), so while I can rock hot-pink lips, blue-red just doesn’t look right. Due to poverty I’ve been sticking with drugstore brands lately, and Revlon LipGlide in Ruby Slippers is terrific; it’s a gloss, but you can blot the bejesus out of it to get rid of the shine, and it stays really red.

    As for lip liners, I think they’re a big scam! Lip brushes, too. Then again, I’ve never had a problem getting a perfectly be-lipsticked mouth straight from the tube, and I’ve never noticed feathering, so I’ve never bothered. I’ve never worn blush either; my cheeks are really pink anyway, so I can’t justify shelling out big bucks for a lackluster imitation of what I’ve already got.

    By the same token, I’ve never really understood YLLB lipsticks. If I’m going to shell out my hard-earned cash for a lipstick, I damn sure want everyone to see it! They’re the lipstick equivalent of innocuous perfumes, and to me they scream of suburban moms and corporate drones (have I offended everyone yet?!). I’ve got bright reds; dark, borderline-Morticia numbers; hot pinks; and one pale nude (fabulous with smoky eyes); and if I’m not wearing them, I’ll just slap on some Blistex (which is more often than not these days, unfortunately!).

    • March says:

      Thanks for the Revlon rec — I almost never get anything from the drugstore, not from snobbery but because we seldom have testers. And I know technically you can bring them back but I never do, so…

      Let me defend the YLBB — by emphasizing the “but better” part. I think for most of us it’s a shade that is more enhancing of our natural beauty (where’s my eye-batting emoticon?) 8-| My naked lips are not really all that great a shade on me, which is probably why I wear gloss, etc. so regularly anyway! I great YLBB is like a really good foundation — it’s not asking to be noticed, it just looks good.

      • Natalie says:

        I realized after typing my comment that I sounded way too harsh! My apologies to YLLB, lip liner, and lip brush fans… I guess I do get it, but I’m just too cheap and lazy to spend time and $$$ to look kinda like I look anyway. Good analogy with the foundation, however — the actual, measurable difference is probably slight, but hoo-boy do I look better with it!

      • Natalie says:

        Also, I hear you on the lack of drugstore testers (and even when they have ’em, I’m not sure I want to touch ’em), but I must say that I’ve probably bought just as many department store products that didn’t work out — despite the testing — as drugstore cheapies. That said, I usually buy drugstore stuff on recommendations (Allure mag has usually steered me well) rather than out of the blue.

        • March says:

          You have NO IDEA how much testers gross me out… it’s always a crap shoot, to test or not? I am pretty sure the two times I got pinkeye in recent years was from trying eye product, so I don’t do that any more. And don’t get me started on lipstick — you should have seen me spraying those things with alcohol! And I don’t even know if that really does anything…

          • Musette says:

            Usually the high-end makeup counters have a little slicey thing they use to, well, ‘slice off’ the top of the lipstick. I always snag that, spray it with alcohol, then (and only then) do I use it, but I don’t apply it directly – I either use a dampened Q-tip or my finger (if I use my finger I take the slicey thing and slice off a bit to use, rather than smushing my finger all over the lippie)

            I’m totally with you on the eyes – I’ll do a shadow and an eye pencil but I’m wrestling like an anaconda if anybody tries to put a mascara anywhere near me. To be honest I don’t even do makeovers except with Nicole because I’ve had some bad experiences, skin-wise.


  • Lee says:

    I have entered an unfamiliar world. I have no comment.

    Other than you’re smashing and super.

  • gina says:

    Hey March! I’m a makeup artist. I’m thrilled to hear you found Russian Red, it’s the red of all reds, and I adore it. I’m going to answer some of your questions fairly quick, because, haha, I’m supposed to be at work…so here goes. Lip pencils – I don’t always use them, but when I do use a neutral pencil, something that matches your lip color. I don’t love lip pencils, really, but in some cases the lips need more definition or are prone to bleeding, and this helps. If the lips are dry, I prime them with good old Chap Stick. Lip primers never really did anything for me. With blush – I try to stay in the same color family as the lips, or, I use the lipstick I’ve used on the lips, sheered down with a little moisturizer or applied with a super-light hand, as blush. Or I use a tiny bit of bronzer or a super nude color called Strada (by mac) or Zen (by nars) on the cheeks when I’m using a strong lip color. Foundation brushes are great blush applicators, as are fingers, as long as you blend the edges out with sponge.

    Ever tried Julie Hewett reds? juliehewett.net

    I hope I’ve been helpful, ask me any questions you’d like. My guess is I’ve already told you a bunch of stuff you already know, so forgive me if I’m redundant as hell. I teach makeup at a school here in the evenings a couple of times a year, so I get all kinds of great questions from my students. You’re helping me prime up my answering questions skills. They can ask some doozies.

    • March says:

      No, this was great! I really appreciate it — really, I do not have endless makeup experience — and the red lip doesn’t leave a ton of room for error, you know? Done poorly it’s awful.

      If you come back — could you give me more of a sense of how to use the lipstick as a blush? The problem I have is, I dab a little on a finger and then on my cheek, but I have trouble getting it to blend out smoothly on top of my foundation (I use MUFE face and body in 20). When it works the color is perfect, of course, but I’m terrified of overapplying and sometimes I just wind up blotchy-looking. And where precisely do you *put* blush? Bobbi Brown has that whole thing about two colors — one color on the cheek and the brighter “pop” on the apple. OTOH I read someone (Napoleon Paradis?) saying he always starts the color out a little further, not right under the eye. I tried that and think it looks better, but not sure why. BTW I have good cheekbones but don’t do much “sculpting” — I feel like I always get it too dark in the valley and end up looking silly. Advice?

      • gina says:

        Ok, blush is a little tricky. The top of your cheekbone, right under the eye socket, is typically a “highlight” and the bottom of your cheekbone is a “shadow”. You can feel the bone, where it sinks it and is usually naturally shaded. You want cheek color to be in between this highlight and shadow, joining the two together, sort of. I start at the back of the cheekbone, near the ear, and swirl the brush forward towards the nose. Try not to go much further than the outer corner of the eye and don’t go lower on the cheek than the nostril. Is this confusing? I wish I could show you. You don’t want color too low or too high on the cheekbone, especially too high – tends to make the face look “flat” if you put it on the high part of the bone, near the eye.

        With using lipstick as blush, I use a little bit on my finger before I powder (over foundation) and dab it lightly. I start with very small amounts and build it up as needed. The blotchyness you’re getting might be because of using it over powdered skin, typically creams don’t go well over powders. The only exception to this is a cream blush by Julie Hewett called “cheekies”. They’re amazing, and can be used over powder without looking blotchy. I hope I’ve helped – if anything is confusing or I didn’t answer your question, please feel free to email me – ginasandler at yahoo dot com – and by the way, I do love MUFA’s foundation, really the shizzzzzz. ha.

        • March says:

          I emailed you. I kneel at your feet. You have pinpointed EXACTLY what is wrong with my blush placement (too close to the eye), and EXACTLY why the one time I did it right looked so much better. Wails — why did I have to wait until 45 to learn this?!?! It’s not like I haven’t been made up before… when I think “apples”, on my face that’s the prominent place *right under* my pupil. Moving it out didn’t look weird, it looked great. Starting out and moving forward in the application makes total sense.

          I don’t powder the MUF first. I think it’s lack of confidence… if I overapply the lipstick as brush, wth do I do then?!?! I mean, I don’t want to have to remove my makeup right there and start over. So I think I dab on too little and then it doesn’t blend properly. (also, I have dry skin – not like everything’s all lubed up in that spot, my MUF finish is pretty matte)

          • gina says:

            If you apply too much, try putting a little foundation on it and “moving” it out. If you use a foundation brush or a sponge, both are great for fixing mistakes. You may be better off using a cream blush – they’re a little easier to handle than lipstick as blush. It may be that your foundation is too matte to layer a cream product on top, in that case, powder blush is your best bet. SO happy to help!!!!

      • Louise says:

        March, I have to say that I think BB suggests two blushes, because, well, then you buy two 8-| You have a classic oval face, so I think that Gina’s suggestions on placement are great. With my longish face, the “pop” of (one)color works well.

        Clearly, we need to go to the mall again-BTW, I know 2 SAs at Chanel who are great-maybe they were off when you were there? They’re both great with application techniques :”> (that’s blush on the emoticon).

        • March says:

          Oh, no, it can’t be THAT! :d I’m sure Bobbi has our best interests in mind.

          Blending blushes can look really nice, but I’m not sold on two blushes either.

  • helenviolette says:

    Hey March! I have Saint and Sinner Red (and Rose)- and I think you definitely need to get a tube of Red Sinner pronto. It is a true red with more orange undertones rather than blue- but sounds like that may be just the thing for you if you tend to turn up the purple. It is a beautiful matte red. I like the Saint red as a nice easy application/ non- drama red for day.

    More great reds: Nars Velvet Matte lip pencil (a chubby stick)-in Cruella (like Morticia but red 😉

    Armani makes a beautiful shiny creamy red- can’t tell you the name (i think it is just a number)- this one does not have the orange thing that Sinner Red does-

    And I know you are not looking for gloss- but I have to tout Smashbox Starlit (Christmas party for your lips)- wonderful color that can be full on red or applied more sparingly- delightful texture (not sticky at all)…

    My blush rec for red lips- Nars Deep Throat (pinky peach)

    I am going to have to check out that Russian Red…


    • March says:

      Adding these to my lists! Hmmmmm…. okay, maybe I should swap out for that Red Sinner. The Saint is fine, but for a sheerer color I have glosses I like just as well.

  • barbara says:

    I own Red Sinner-deep red matte-not drying, and covers the same problem.I have more pigment in my lips, so I, too,did not chose the sheer stain.Yves St. Laurent also gives great, long lasting cover to those who need deep lipstick pigment-and I challenge the need to reapply, as Yves leaves a nice(pigment covering)stain(through popsicles and vinegar dressing), and does not need to be reapplied quite so often.
    Sinner is not orange,but a very slight rosy hint(not bluish).If you fill in your lips with liner, lipstick lasts longer, you can change the tone of it(deeper, even, or totally change the color if you hate it and cannot return it)

    • March says:

      Thanks for answering my question! It’s funny — in all the pics Poppy is wearing Red Sinner (she must be, right?) and maybe it’s her coloring and the coat, but it’s always looked slightly orange to me — nice, but not on my skin. Then I got the Red Saint and thought, if this is the same base as sinner it must be pink — and I like your clarification (rosy, not bluish). Maybe I’ll send my Red Saint back for the sinner — I think they let you exchange for 30 days.

  • sara says:

    Shalimar, Mitsouko, Narcisse Noir, and Coco are my red-lip spritzes! Here are some red lip recs: Chanel Tijuana, Clinique Angel Red, Laura Mercier Cranberry,Bobbi Brown Ruby, and Face Stockholm Cranberry Veil. My trick for making reds last and not look too high-maintenance is to apply a sheer red (all of my recs here are sheers), then a red pencil, then the sheer again. then blot like a mo-fo! I like the red pencils made by Clinique and Face Stockholm best. I am a very pale natural blonde and this is the only way I can make it look attractive in a non-garish way.

    • March says:

      So, you do the red pencil all over, over the sheer? Not just as liner? It sounds like something fun to experiment with and it wouldn’t give that hard finish. Adding your color recommendations to my sample list, thanks.

  • Juno says:

    Did you try the clear lip liner from Lipstick Queen? I’m finding that a total miracle when it comes to a red lip – any lip really. Holds the edge without have to fuss. I had a recent conversion to Lipstick Queen – I think her mattes are the best texture around and they wear really nicely. I can’t do a true red, MUCH too fair, but Rose Sinner gives me the LOOK of a matte red mouth, that contrast? in a skin flattering way. And Rouge Saint gives me the brightness, when I want that. Medieval, for a more casual red works as well.
    I’ve been looking for a way to wear red lipstick since I was 16, so this was something of a makeup counter miracle.

    • March says:

      I have the Rose Sinner on right now. What a pretty color! I’m not sure I did it justice up there. Your description about what makes the line work are perfect, thanks.

  • Esri Rose says:

    Just found this blog YESTERDAY and have already ordered one full bottle of perfume and three sample sizes. And now I get to contribute. Life is good.

    Also in my 40s, and the best lip liner I’ve found is DuWop reverse lip liner. You put it around the outside of your lips. It’s waxy, moisturizing, doesn’t mess with your foundation, and is completely invisible.

    I only recently started wearing blush. I’m very pale, but have a more yellow undertone. Still, Benefit’s Dandelion blush is incredibly neutral. It’s also pale, so might not work for winter. Still, it’s the most natural, pure blush tone I’ve seen. (I imagine it as the color of a baby’s smacked bottom, although I’ve never tested that.) Every pale gal should at least see what it looks like on her. For me, it just makes me look fresh and younger, as opposed to, “She’s wearing blush.”

    I bought both products at Sephora.

    • March says:

      So glad you found the blog and we’re already getting you into trouble! :d Welcome!

      I’ll go look at that DuWop, I remember someone else raving about it and I like the idea of an invisible liner.

      Dandelion. Giggling, one of my mistakes. I can totally see how it would work on a slightly olive-toned complexion and look natural. I got it because it’s pale and I’m pale, but on me it’s *just* that much too girly pink. My girly girls were happy to take it off my hands. I do steal it back if I’ve overdone the bronzer in the summer and need to “pop” the pink back up!

  • angelaS says:

    As a redhead who loves red lips, I have special red lipstick issues. It seems like 9 out of 10 reds turn pink on my lips. After about a jillion tubes of experimentation, I found that Nars Fire Down Below great texture, too), Clarins Illusion, MAC X-treme (nice and bright), MAC Dubonnet (a little bluer), and an old creamy Revlon called Temptress stay red. I love having red lips and no eye makeup, but it calls for a good pat-down of face powder to even out skin tone.

    The big question is, though, what perfume goes best with a red lip?

    • March says:

      There’s a beautiful redhead at our Nordstrom makeup counter, and I’m always studying her makeup in fascination. It’s always tawnier and browner than you would *think*, because visually it “reads” as brighter on her skin. I’ll have to look for Temptress (does it taste?) I tried that other iconic one, Cherries in the Snow, and … ugh. It was hideous on me. Who can wear that color? :”>

      At first I thought what went with a red lip was something spicy like cinnamon, but it felt underdressed. I’ve been working my red lip with Mitsouko (natch) even if the bottom half of me is in jeans! I also find men’s scents with red lips fun and subversive.

  • Melissa says:

    I am lazy where makeup is concerned and I don’t own that much, at least compared to others. I also have the habit of leaving the house partially made up, swearing that I will stop somewhere and complete the job. So a perfect red lip color is just the ticket for me. My latest love is NARS Cruella-a fat lip pencil, not a liner, and not a lipstick. Goes on beautifully and stays on. Perfect for my light olive tinged complexion, especially with just foundation, some black eyeliner and a cream blush. I am partial to Stila Convertible Color in Poppy as a blush, but not so much as a lip color. Although I love the color for both purposes, it isn’t long-lasting on my lips and I need to constantly re-apply. Too bad. It’s another gorgeous red.

    • March says:

      Melissa, I am so envious. You remember I raved over your lips, right? Because they looked so awesome in that NARS pencil? Only I couldn’t remember the color but figured it would be *obvious.* Well, it must be your (gorgeous) olive tone vs. my pink one, because Cruella is a too-dark brown on me, and the redder one (forgot the name) is too pink. I drove the SA crazy insisting there must be ANOTHER red, the one you were using! /:) It’s too bad, because it is gorgeous on you. 😡

  • Flor says:

    I love a beautiful red lippy. It’s my go-to color for night. I’ve found a few that have become staples in my collection:

    MAC Russian Red (love!)
    MAC Dubonnet (darker red and a little creamier, beautiful)
    Shiseido P6 (Rouge Indulge, Rouge Ambition)there is another shade that’s a bit darker that my friend bought which is really, really beautiful, but I don’t know the name. This lipstick is very light in feel and has a lot of pigment. It’s creamy, but not icky. Last a good amount of time. You can put on one or two coats and get a perfect amount of color, or you can apply a third coat and it looks a shade darker, so cool. I call it my Lucky Shiseido because it goes with everything and every occasion.

    For a really beautiful lipstick that’s universally flattering and easy to wear, try “O” from MAC. It’s one of their bestsellers for a reason.

    As far as blush goes, when I’m using red I shy away from pink cheeks and go for Guerlain Terracotta bronzer and use it like a blush. It goes very well with red and they have different options for different skin tones so it’s easy to find one that looks good.

    Another blush I think is perfect for a happy cheery face is MAC Fleur Power. It’s a peachy pink (which is flattering on everyone). You have to apply it with a light hand, but totally worth it.

    • March says:

      And some others to try! Shiseido SHOULD make a really great red, right? And it sounds like they do! I’ll go visit them, I want to look at their automatic lip crayon as well.

      I will also look at your blush recommendations. I think I look washed out with *no* blush, and I think the bronzer is actually the right idea and I’ve been picking the wrong colors to try. They wind up too orange or too dark, for that 80s “natural” look… :”>

  • Erin T / Tigs says:

    Hey, just dropping in with my complete lack of makeup and application knowledge to comment on Lipstick Queen. I found them here at Holt’s and somehow managed to defy your Allure-like pronouncement that everyone looks good in Saint Natural. Ugh. Everyone agreed. The SAs gathered round and kind of all collectively startled and were like: “Oh that’s too bad. Weird. That sells well.” Very, inexplicabily pink on me. My weird skin tone (and pigmented lips!) strike again.

    OTOH, happily, Saint Nude is lovely on me. I notice half my makeup products have the word “Nude” in the name – and the other half have “Beige”. What does this tell me? I don’t know. Anyway, this post is weirdly appropriate today, since I just got off my quest for the Ideal Orange (no Platonic Red yet for me, either) and bought MAC Midimauve, my old YLBB standby that I used to wear years ago. Needed something other than Saint Nude, Clinique Superbalm and Arden Plump Perfect in Perfect Spice in my purse. (Hey, Elizabeth Arden Ceramide Plump Perfect line must have a good red. I found them through the Paula Begoun website and they’re great lipsticks from a line I normally ignore completely. Not “plumping” of course, but they wear/last great, are all creme mattes, and don’t really taste. Quite expensive for the drugstore, but great product.)

    • March says:

      You have some of the most beautiful skin I have ever seen (and are you wearing your suncreen, young lady?!?! You’ll thank me in 15 or 20 years! Don’t forget your neck and chest!!!) Not surprised, though, to hear you struggled a bit with the color, with your peaches-and-cream complexion.

      It’s interesting what you say about the Saint Nude — and yes, clearly you are on a trend with the “nude” or “beige” thing which is helpful when shopping (I avoid those like the plague 🙂 ) The reviews of Nude online were funny — it was either FABULOUS or HIDEOUS. So clearly it either really, really works or doesn’t.

  • Kim says:

    Like you I am fair but I have an olive undertone. So I don’t have to get Snow White foundation but usually the next shade up on the olive side of the palette. I went through the same liptick search this summer when looking for something dressier than my usual Bobbie Brown product (see below). I was very disappointed at not being able to find a decent red in Chanel – all too brown or too pink. I used to wear Paloma Picasso’s red but couldn’t find it anywhere. Besides, I think I would find it too high maintenance and bold these days.

    For every day wear, I use Bobbie Brown Lip Sheer (Claret or Blackberry are my choices for reds). Try them all on as the colour can look very different from in the tube – Blackberry looks almost black in the tube but goes on as a gorgeous sheer deep deep red on my lips. I love, love, love this product. It has SPF in it, goes on sheer but not shiny, doesn’t need primer or liner, doesn’t bleed. Yet it has enough weight to read as lipstick and definitely more than YLBB in Claret and Blackberry.

    For more everyday ‘oomph’ I go for Lip Sheer in Ruby. Sheer, not glossy but also not matte, doesn’t need primer, more weight than YLBB yet still low maintenance.

    I never bother with primer and – gasp – never with lip pencil. At most I just use my regular foundation and only when I am wearing Bobbie Brown Kir Metallic Lip Colour, my definite lipstick look. Don’t be scared off by the name – it has a slight hint of metallic but hardly any and is a nice, dressy, deep red on me. Not my perfect red but will do for now – until I get a chance to try your suggestions, especially MAC! You may find my choices brown on you but they work really well with my pale, slight-olive-toned skin.

    • March says:

      Yeah, what is the deal with Chanel? I took my whining screed out of my post, but in my mind they were kind of “known” for the red lip. Maybe this is just an off year? Complicating things for me was the massive unhelpfulness of the Chanel SAs (at 2 different stores.) It’s like they drank the Kool-Aid and are above, you know … HELPING someone find something. And my having specified a matte finish, the two I was handed were sparkly, so I gave up. :-w

      I have a soft spot in my heart for BB because it was the first time I ever cried (in joy, not horror) after a ‘makeover.’ The first time I realized how makeup could bring out my best without being too … makeup-y. I love her gel liners, and I have several lippies and pots rouge (although I wish the lippies tasted better.) I’ll check out your recommendations. It’ll be interesting to check the shades — I’m one of the many pink ladies who “cheat” my color wearing a cooler foundation for a more neutral finish.

  • Mariannetm says:

    Hi March

    How super, girls talk about lipstick with so many good ideas!
    My skinshade is also MAC 20/25 and with me both YLLBs in pinks and browns look good on me and I use those shades a lot during daytime.
    Finding the right, the perfect red lipstick was really difficult for me for either the shades were too hard, too pinkish or still too dark and too dark makes lips smaller. But I have found my perfect red shade, finally and that is Dior nr. 648 Stage Red replenishing lipcolor. It is smooth, feels very comfortable on the lips and does not fade away. As a little finishing touch I apply a tiny drop in the middle of MAC lipglass in Venetian red.

    I myself don’t use lipliner with red lipstick but I would use only a neutral lipliner like Dior 553 Heather Rose or Dior 783 Tile.

    Hope you will give Stage Red a try :).


    • March says:

      Thanks for the color recommendation! I figured if I did this post, I’d get some great things for my list to sample, rather than continuing to dig around on my own, which is tiresome. I will definitely check out Stage Red — what a great name!

  • Louise says:

    March, what a fun post 🙂 Though I suspect we’ll be missing our guy pals today, but maybe not /:) First shocker…you only had 35 lippies to start??? But as we’ve noted, you will hunt the perfect color til you find and slay the beast, while I’ll collect every variant of the shade, some of which languish for years after I’ve forgotten them ; (

    You completely, totally, rocked that Russian Red. First thing I noticed about you yesterday, no? You might have been wearing Borneo in huge doses 😮 (hey, that was me), but those lips just were purrrrrfect.

    A happy red is basic to makeup IMO. That’s all my mom ever wore by way of makeup, and still seems All-You-Really-Need, though a thin line of black eyeliner turns it all nicely retro. A have many reds (surprised?) as well as YLBB, plums, browns, etc. A few red faves: Smashbox Legendary (pretty much a bright true red), MAC Creamshine in Dare You (warmish), LQ Natural (red sheer on me), several of the Chanel Rouge Allures (the d/c Sexy is stunning). Chanel’s sheerer, but bright Aqualumieres in Tijuana and Macao are nice summer variants. I also love my tomato shades, such as MAC’s Love Bug, which work fab with my yellow, er, warmish skin tone.

    Stains are tricky, though I have a couple-a Helena Rubenstein cream in a tube bought in Paris (why is HR not available here???) and an old Lancome tube o’something called Shocking Mai-a great bright. The true stains just leave me with a popsicle-sucking look-ring outside, nothin’ inside.

    Liners are tricky-Chanel has a great true red (Rouge!), and MAC has a wide range of red tones (Half-Red is a great medium tone). Main thing is to smudge it in, so the Deadly Ring doesn’t appear. Using a lip brush is a great alternative, though it demands a good vermillion edge.

    Blush for you? This we’ll need to schedule :d/ for a shopping trip. I suspect that with the brighter reds, a neutral muted red will work (Laura Mercier has a great palette). As for prep-main thing is no flakies. I use a cheap balm, wipe off, then a plumper if I have time. Lip Fusion is great.

    Enough?-’nuff #:-s !

    • Louise says:

      Oh, the MAC wipes-marvelous for all makeup. I try to cleanse well afterwards, but have had no problem just using the wipes on lazy nights :>

    • March says:

      I’m making a list of all these color recommendations people are making… you made me tear up a bit with your reference to your mom. A bright red lipstick was pretty much my mother’s only gesture in the direction of makeup, and I guess I didn’t make the connection. No wonder red lips make me smile. And thanks for the compliments!

      Of course I try everything first and don’t buy much. 🙂 It’s not wonderful self restraint. Large “collections” of anything make me anxious. Buying one means getting rid of something else… books are an exception, though. 😉

      • March says:

        Ps I can’t BELIEVE I didn’t mention Lip Fusion. I am totally in love with those things. (smacks head in disbelief). They do amazing things for lips. In fact, that one bright red, Sexy, is a great, easy alternative to a more finished red lip.

  • Frenchie says:

    Hi March,

    your post has made me de-lurk after many months of regular visits to this blog. 🙂 I hope I can give you a few useful tips since I’m more comfortable with makeup than fragrance, ahem. I am quite fair with a bit of olive undertone, have dark, defined lips and wear all sorts of lipstick regularly.

    Here we go:
    I suggest you try Black Honey by Clinique. It is a sheer red (although it looks very dark in the tube) that adapts to the wearer’s lips. It is my red-for-during-the-day-casual-but-still-made-up look. I find it moisturising, not very long lasting but it is easy to re-apply and does not bleed. Lipliner makes it a bit stronger and defined, which is good for a sligtly different look. Jo by Stila I find quite similar althought a bit more berry than red. Benefit has very good quality lipstick, both sheer and matte. I remember seeing some tempting reds but don’t remember the names. I love the packaging too 😉

    I suggest you do use it, especially with strong reds. However, the trick that works for me is to apply it after the lipstick. I would not use a matching red liner (because it shows) but something that matches your lip tone. I first apply the lipstick with a brush (B.Brown best so far, MAC also good), then fill out the cupid’s bow and corners of my lips with a pencil. I use a natural shade that works with my lipcolour, 03 Sheer Rose by Clinique. After that, spreading a bit of lipstick with the brush over the liner makes it look done up but without hard, visible

    Red lips without any blush make me look too retro so I wear B.Brown pot rouge in 03 Blushed Rose over my foundation, or contour my cheekbones with powder blush. My new love is #5 by Emporio Armani. It looks very natural but makes the face look defined with just a hint of colour. Mac have a nice selection of natural colours that could work with red lips. After all that I lightly dust powder over my face. In that way the blush doesn’t look too harhs, and in case I put too much the powder softens it quite a bit.
    I have recently discovered that light shimmer on the cheeks balances red lips nicely for an evening look. In that case I don’t wear blush but something very sheer with a bit of shimmer that enhances the cheekbones. Meteorites by Guerlain and MAC Mineralize Blush (I find the shade Warm Soul very nice and easy to wear) are my favourites.

    I use B.Brown’s lip balm/primer that is sticky and helps the rouge stay on longer. It also contains sunblock. (Have not yet explored lip primers properly and feel that it is time to do so.)

    In the end I just have to tell you about my bold, crazy red that I wear when I feel particularly brave. It is Lady Bug by Mac. Bright and a bit shiny, it attracts attention for sure. It is my fun lipstick for diva moments. Now, if I could only find a scent to go with it…

    Wow, this is a really long post for my first de-lurk! I hope it will be of some use to you. Looking forward to hearing about your red lippy journey.

    • March says:

      Hey, thanks for delurking and all the great tips.

      Oh, I loved Lady Bug! I just noticed that yesterday. A fun alternative to the slightly retro (on me anyway) matte of Russian Red.

      See, the Black Honey illustrates perfectly that Morticia thing I do. It’s an AWESOME color on everyone I’ve seen it on — except me. 🙁 I don’t know if it’s a lip tone thing or a skin tone thing, but it’s like a dark, raisin-y purple on me, and I’m not slathering it on. I can’t blot it out light enough that it doesn’t look bruised. I gave it to my daughter who was thrilled.

      I am def. going to try the liner on top, that’s what they do at BB. I need to get the right color, my only liner is too pink. And if it wears off it’ll do so with the lipstick.

      That’s funny, I have the other two pot rouges — pink and raspberry (I think rose is in the middle?) The pink is a little light for my needs, but the raspberry works surprisingly well if applied with a VERY light touch. Maybe I’ll go back to MAC, I feel like that particular SA had a great sense of colors that would work on me, and she picked that lipstick. Thanks again!

  • hvs says:

    hey March! Well…on your recc I ended up blindly wandering the halls of Bergdorf looking for Lipstick Queen (oops, wrong store, entered hungry and caffeine deficient, ended up nabbed by Annick Goutal and YSL ladies, exited lighter of pocket change, hungry, and caffeine deficient), accidentally bought YSL fuschia lipstick. Which is actually pretty fab if I’m feeling up for lips you see across the room. Tried again at Barney’s – totally ignored, applied every Saint and Sinner on my hand, exited with red right hand (song reference! anyone got it?) and Rouge Saint, which is the one I thought you had. Now home and far away, I’m feeling it’s too brown. Maybe it was ROSE you had. Argh! Lip Amnesty!

    • March says:

      Rouge Saint IS a little bit brown, or I’d say, dark. I had Natural Saint, although I also have (and love) Rouge. Natural is the one I see more women toting, the one I blogged on before as YLBB for a lot of women. However, skin tone and lip tone really come into play here. FWIW given the wrong day/outfit, even Saint Natural can be a teeny bit brick on me.

      Wait 5 months and watch me blog enthusiastically on the hot pink lip this spring. 😉 But trying on the winter version thereof (a deeper, bright pink) even though technically it probably looked great, it just didn’t suit me like the red does. It’s fun playing, though, isn’t it?

    • Jubilee says:

      Well that just makes my day, hvs. Two of my favorite things, lipstick and Nick Cave, together at last!

  • Shelley says:

    Your barking is awfully nice, but I am the wrong tree. Burt’s Bees Watermelon is a happy YLBB for me, with the happy advantage that it keeps the lips in shape. :d Otherwise, for me it’s simply Make My Lips Better: CB Bigelow mint stuff, or Blistex Extreme, or good ol’ Carmex.

    Love that I have as an excuse the fact that I play a wind instrument, and that lipsticks–and liners, and all that other stuff that apparently exists to purty up my lips–would get in the way of my playing.

    (Now *there’s* a colorful hot mess, that what would be left on my instrument.)
    ((Hmmm… ;)) ))

    • March says:

      Yeah, and on my coffee cups. I’ve taken to wiping the rims off because the dishwasher isn’t doing the job. b-(

  • Musette says:

    I cannot recommend a color for you because you and I are at opposite ends of the spectrum (though you would look scrumptious in my old YSL hot pink that I don’t know if they make anymore). However, I can give you a couple of ideas on what works for application/staying power/looks, from my incredible makeup artist, Nicole Bond, who does actors (stage, TV and runway) and regular nutcases (like me).

    I am overfond of YLBB and in order for that to hold on me, she uses either concealer or a touch of mattifying makeup on the lips prior to use of pencil and lipstick (always with a brush – I love Clinique’s retractable brush for carrying around. Bobbi Brown’s stays at home, where it does yeoman work). If she’s using a more matte lipcolor, she omits the whole lip coverage thing and just sort of outlines the edges of my lips with the concealer, blots it a touch and then goes to the liner/brush, etc.

    Liner. Gotta have it. The question is: what are you trying to do with your liner? I like a structured lip, especially with YLBB colors (like Laura Mercier’s Secret Lips which is, sadly discontinued. You are so Snow White in contrast to my yellow-olive self that I can’t even imagine – but for me, I would use a brownish-red pencil for a warm red lipstick (Nars has a color called African Queen that only works for me when I’m using a warm, bright red. For YLBB I use a cheap brown-red pencil I get at Number One Beauty in Santa Monica or else I go with Mercier’s aubergine-colored pencil which actually ends up being neutral on me, with YLBB.

    So you would probably want to do the exact opposite of what I do, colorwise.

    But the application is appropriate. I forgo all those fancy lip fixatives. Foundation works just as well and it’s one less thing to clog up your makeup drawer. Line the lips, being careful to go easy on the line and sort of feather it in a little bit, then break out the brush and go to town with the lipstick, being sure to cover the liner a bit less than the rest of the lip (you want the illusion of structure there – sort of like wearing Spanx. You don’t need to actually SEE them;) If you want to matte it up, blot it slightly and you can even apply a totally neutral powder (I don’t matte my lips usually but when I do I use Mercier’s neutral powder to hold the color and matte).

    of course, you are probably =)) right now, as is anyone else who saw me at the Event – it didn’t hit me until way later that I’d spent the whole and entire day in nothing but beauty depts…..and I’d not even checked to see if I even HAD makeup on…until I saw the photos!b-(

    but whatever…..on a normal day I can work the living daylights out of lipcolor, thanks to Nicole and her tutorials!!!


    • March says:

      See, this is where practice probably comes in. I’ve read the outline-lips-with concealer thing, and I end up with a noticeable concealer ring. You’re talking on the skin, right? I mean, outside the lipcolor? The BB SA did it to me one day when I was wearing the full Joker 🙂 and it was awesome but I can’t figure out what she used (I think stick and a brush!) and how she blended it.

      Wait, I just reread your comment. Outline around lips with my foundation? Just foundation on a brush? The thing is, I can always spot my concealer. Further clarification for the newbie, please.

      Actually, I think a brownish red or something similar makes sense, and I can try it under (as you recommend) and over, as someone else does. I only have one pencil and it’s too pink to play this way. And in hindsight, I don’t think I’d have wound up lipstick-less and lined if the lip application had been better.

      • Musette says:

        When Nicole does my face for an Event (or, actually, even for just every day), I notice that she runs a fine cover of foundation over everything but my eyelashes (when I do it I tend to brush the bulk of the foundation out of my brows (I think she does, too) but I have very sparse brows that require filling-in anyway – if you don’t, then you might want to avoid the brows)! And if you think about it, it makes perfect sense. Think of gessoing a canvas – you don’t leave spots out, usually, unless you’re looking for some strange effect and most of us are not looking for a ‘strange effect’ on our face. Even when we’re going with YFBB it still makes sense to cover the entire face with foundation (you can go easier on the eyelids and mouth).

        If you do that, then hit it quick with a touch of powder, you have a relatively natural-looking gessoed canvas with which to work. But I wouldn’t worry overmuch about ‘natural’ – if you’re going with a strong red lip you just threw ‘natural’ out the window anyway!!! and that’s perfectly okay! 😉


        • March says:

          Actually that makes a lot of sense. And I already do my eyelids (even though “they” tell you not to) because it gets rid of the pink so nicely.

    • Natalie says:

      That YSL hot pink wouldn’t be #19, would it? It looks smashing on almost everyone, and I’ll weep if they’ve discontinued it…

      • Musette says:

        Natalie –

        I’ll have to look next time in Saks (or wherever it is now). I haven’t worn a hot pink in about 20 years (I’m just about 20 years past the sell-by date on that color) but when I did wear it, it was fantabulous!

  • Suzanne says:

    Sounds like you are rocking the MAC Russian Red, but if you’d like another recommendation: Lipstick Queen ROUGE Saint. It’s a true red on me, has enough moisture to make it velvety, and I’ve been getting all kinds of compliments since I started wearing it–from my husband and also from other women. (And I bought it after reading of the Lipstick Queen line here on your blog, so thanks!!)

    • March says:

      Augh, I left Rouge Saint off my list up there, didn’t I? It’s a slightly darker crimson on me (rather than a bright red) — probably about as dark as I can get and still look good — it’s a great color, you’re right, and I love the stain it leaves on my lips after it departs. :)>-