Very few things are bolder than red lipstick.
Around Valentine’s Day of all days, it’s time to honor the beauty icon. It was a sign of the elite in ancient Egypt and Elizabethan England. It was a symbol of sexuality during the rise of silent films and the epitome of glamour in early Hollywood. In 1912, when the suffragettes marched past Elizabeth Arden’s New York salon, the cosmetics brand founder and women’s rights supporter handed out tubes of bright red lipstick to them. During World War II, cosmetic companies ran ads for lipstick shades such as “Victory Red,” which encouraged women to embrace beauty upkeep as part of their duty to their country.
Red lipstick also has had its fair share of controversy. In ancient Greece, prostitutes were required by law to wear red lip pigment so they would not be confused with “respectable women.” Red lipstick was outlawed in England in the 1700s on the basis that women used cosmetics to perform witchcraft and seduce men into marriage.
Still, the bright hue has always been a sign of daring fearlessness. In 1952, Revlon introduced one of the most effective ads in cosmetic history, its legendary “Fire and Ice” ad. It included a list of 15 questions to “test” if a reader’s personality was suited for red lipstick. (Adorable examples: “Have you ever danced with your shoes off?” or “Do you think that any man really understands you?”) Then, actresses such as Elizabeth Taylor and Marilyn Monroe became synonymous with a red pout, which made red lipstick more desirable than ever and a staple of the beauty industry.
Today, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York seldom is seen without her signature red lipstick, Stila Stay All Day Liquid Lipstick in Beso. She adopted the look to stand out and look put together while campaigning door-to-door in New York City. As a Latina, a red lip has cultural significance and gives her a boost of confidence, she told Vogue.
I’ve been under the spell of red lipstick ever since I was a little girl. Unfortunately, growing up during the mid- to late 2000s, red lipstick wasn’t as trendy as ultra-glossy, clear or pink Lancome Juicy Tubes. It wasn’t until the rise of Instagram and showing off our selfies daily that bold makeup became the norm. Red lipstick always felt ultra grown-up and beautiful to me as a kid, and I feel just as sexy, strong and powerful when I rock a red lip today.
I’ve also perfected my technique over the years. The secret is to line the outside of my lips in a waxy liner the same color as my skin, like Bodyography Lip Pencil in Barely There. Then, I take a regular red liner — usually Charlotte Tilbury Lip Cheat in Red Carpet Red — and line over the nude liner and into my lips a bit, never fully covering my whole mouth. Using a nude pencil gives the red pencil something to grip onto and allows for a little overlining. It also helps to stop the lip color from feathering and bleeding. I then apply a liquid lip (I like Armani Beauty Lip Maestro in 400), wait about 20 seconds and blot my lips with a tissue. This gives the lipstick a base so, if eating or drinking takes some off, I still have a red stain on my lips. Finally, I apply a regular lipstick bullet, Charlotte Tilbury Matte Revolution Lipstick in Red Carpet Red (aka one of the best lipstick formulas on earth) over the top for a velvety look.
I know bright red can be intimidating, but it’s incredibly powerful to swipe on this bold shade. Life is too short to not wear red lipstick.
Gia Mazur is an award-winning staff writer and beauty obsessive who joined The Times-Tribune’s Lifestyles department in 2015. She’s a product enthusiast who can’t live without an eyelash curler. A proud Virgo, Charlotte Tilbury Matte Revolution Lipstick in Pillow Talk is her go-to. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; 570-348-9127; @gmazurTT