| In Helena Frith Powell’s delightful
book All You Need to Be Impossibly French, the pre-pubescent
author meets Sophie, a Parisienne so impossibly chic
that she is, so to speak, the word made flesh. Sophie tells
her that all she really needs to be a Frenchwoman are two lipsticks
and a lover. This simple, straightforward statement puts the
priorities of the Frenchwoman into perspective.
Finding that perfect shade of lipstick has an almost spiritual
significance for her. And every time she glides it over her
lips, she takes pleasure in that feminine gesture, at once so
mundane and yet so sensual. And more than likely, that perfect
shade will be some shade of red. Frenchwomen truly love their
When Eurodisney (now known as Disneyland Paris) opened to the
north of Paris some 15 years ago, my friend, Sandrine, thought
it might be fun to work there. Upon applying for a position,
she was told that female employees were not permitted to wear
red lipstick. Her choice was either pale pink or none at all.
“Quelle horreur!” she responded and walked
out on the spot, as did many more like her, until the Disney
people finally came to their senses and changed the policy.
Some form of enhancement of lip color has been around since
Cleopatra smeared a concoction mixed with iodine and poisonous
mercury onto her lips to give her pucker a lethal punch; but
the first modern lipstick in a metal tube, the product of a
French chemist, was born in the 1920s and baptized “Rouge
Baiser” or “Red Kiss.” And at about that same
time in America, the Revson brothers created a new company and
launched Revlon’s own line of luscious red lip colors
followed a decade later by nail polish to match. While there
is some question as to whether “Revlon Red” predated
“Rouge Baiser,” there is no question about their
effect. Suddenly, for the price of a tube of lipstick, any woman
could look and feel like a Hollywood film star.
In the last twenty years, an amazing array of high performance
cosmetics and skin care products have been developed to ease
the Baby Boom generation into middle age and beyond, but as
an image consultant and member of that generation, I can say
that the easiest and quickest way for a woman of any age to
look and feel her best, is still to slip on that perfect shade
of lipstick that all by itself can have the effect of lighting
up your face. You need only follow three simple steps and your
lips will speak volumes without ever saying a word.
Step 1 - Find Your Perfect Color
The color of your lipstick should complement the color of your
skin. My first lipstick was a pale pink confection called “Pink
Parfait.” And it was ----- wait for it ---- frosted! I
know, I know, “quelle horreur!” It was
the sixties. Need I say more? Besides, most 13-year–old
girls don’t start out with “Vixen Red.” That
would be like going from training wheels to a Harley. By the
seventies I had figured out that pink was not a good color for
Most people’s skin tones are either predominantly “cool”
or “warm.” Pink- or blue-based skin tones are considered
to be cool, while yellow- or peach-based skin tones are considered
to be warm. If you are unsure, or think you may fall somewhere
in between, put your hand on a stark white tablecloth and you
should be able to tell whether pink or yellow predominates.
Do gold earrings suit you better than silver? Your color palette
is warm. Do silver earrings suit you better than gold? Your
color palette is cool. And somewhere within that color palette
you will find your perfect shade.
Cool tones look best in lipstick shades of pink, rose and blue
reds; warm tones look best in shades of peach, coral and yellow
reds (think tomato).
A common mistake women make as they age is to choose a shade
that is either too light (which can wash you out) or too dark
(which can be too harsh) in an effort to brighten or add color
to their faces. The trick here is not to go lighter or darker,
but to go brighter while staying within your color palette.
In other words, you might consider trading in that pale peach
for a bright coral or that pale pink for a bright rose.
Of course, everyone needs a luscious red lipstick for evening,
and now is the perfect season to find your perfect shade of
red. Overnight, cosmetics counters have gone from the bright
pastels of Summer to the golden russets and deep burgundies
of Fall, and somewhere within that range of rich colors is a
red lipstick with your name on it. For those of you with very
full or very thin lips who’ve been told to avoid red altogether,
I have only one word to say – “Nonsense.”
Just make sure that you avoid dark, matte reds and opt for clear,
more translucent reds.
Step 2 - Prep Your
Now that you have chosen your perfect lipstick color, you have
only to apply it to complete the transformation, n’est-ce
pas? Not so fast! Your lips need a proper prepping first.
We all know the benefits of exfoliating our skin – removing
dead cells from the skin’s surface allowing healthy, new
ones to take their place. The skin on our lips needs regular
Every morning after you brush your teeth, take that toothbrush
and give your lips a good brushing. Now is the time to add a
lip plumper, if you need one, and then a lip balm with a sun
block of at least 15. Now you are ready to apply your lipstick.
Step 3 - Apply Your Lipstick
There is no question that lipstick looks better and lasts longer
if you take the time to apply it with a small brush made of
synthetic bristles which are stiffer than natural bristles giving
you a cleaner line. Starting at the Cupid’s Bow (that
little “V” at the center), line your upper lip,
then your lower lip, following the natural contours of the mouth,
and then fill in. Resist the temptation to smack your lips together
to distribute the color, which will make a smudgy mess of both
lips. Gently blot upper and lower lips separately with a Kleenex.
A touch of clear gloss in the center of the bottom lip (or a
touch of gold or silver for evening –ooh là
là!) will give you just the right amount of shine
without looking gloppy.
The Great Lip Liner Debate --- To Line or Not to Line;
That is the Question
With apologies to those of you who are emotionally attached
to your lip liners, by and large they are best left to the professional
make-up artists who know how to use them properly, which most
women do not. Quite simply, your lip liner should never be visible
through your lipstick. As for that first woman who lined her
lips in dark brown liner, filled them in with clear gloss and
walked out the door, there is a special place in Fashion Hell
reserved for her. She has a lot to answer for.
Ladies, a lip liner should only be used to correct small imperfections
in the shape of your lips (such as a less-than-perfect Cupid’s
bow), not to line your lips or to make them look bigger. If
you absolutely must use a lip liner, apply it only after you
have applied your lipstick and before you blot, and it must
be the same color as your lipstick.
The pursuit of the perfect pout can drive women to extreme measures
which can have unpleasant or downright disastrous results. It’s
worth keeping in mind that it might just be that small imperfection
you spend so much time fretting about that catches his eye and
makes his heart beat a littler faster. Just ask my husband about
the girl with the “turned-up” lip who caught his
eye 30 years ago.
So, was Sophie right? Are two lipsticks and a lover all a woman
really needs? Probably not, but it’s a great place to