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From Lethal to Luscious – the Lips Have It
By Marie-Thérèse M. Norris
French Touch Image Consulting LLC

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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 red lipstick.

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 me.

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 Lips
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 exfoliation, too.

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 start!
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