Tag: Lipstick

“The Lip That Launched A Thousand Sticks”

“This is the first red lipstick that I ever bought.”
“So this is the lip that launched a thousand sticks?”
“…You’re really proud of that one, aren’t you?”
– C. and Jeff

My love for lipstick is fairly well documented, but I was well into my 20s before I slicked that first wash of carmine on my face.

I wasn’t quite a tomboy as a kid, but I certainly wasn’t interested in makeup and fashion for most of my adolescence. A good portion of that was frankly bad old fashioned female-on-female disdain, I’m sorry to say. Growing up I always put a lot of value in my brainpower and based much of my sense of identity on my intelligence and interests rather than my personal appearance. This in and of itself is NOT a bad thing, but my major error was in simultaneously being harsh on girls who did put effort into their appearance. I too fell prey to the common but sloppy thinking that girls couldn’t be brainy and stylish at the same time, that to be interested in clothes or makeup was to be silly. It took me years to untangle that sort of black and white thinking around female identity and presentation!

The other reason I was so hesitant to really explore makeup in general and red lipstick in particular was because they intimidated me. Makeup was a skill that I didn’t possess and I was terrified of looking or feeling foolish in adulthood, as I often did with my early teenage forays. This is of course more or less a right of passage growing up, but to the young brain I think such fears are common. From time to time I dabbled with cosmetics, sometimes well but usually unsuccessfully. I particularly admired girls and women who worse intimidating slashes of red on their lips. They looked grown up, in command, at ease with themselves, and slightly dangerous–how I wanted to look and feel–but I never really bit the bullet and the few cheap drugstore lipsticks I bought usually languished barely touched in drawers for months before a move necessitated throwing them out.

I remember the actual image I saw that convinced me to just go for it, already. Here it is, I’ve saved the pin for years. I was working my first job after university at the time and remember being stunned at how pretty and simple the model looked wearing it–she wasn’t covered in a full vintage style slap, she looked fresh and chic. Aside from her obviously stunning red hair, the lipstick was her only highlighted feature, the only product doing any heavy lifting on her face. That doesn’t look so hard, I thought to myself. I bet I could do that.

Jo Goddard (of a Cup of Jo fame, the site where I spotted the image) was able to confirm the exact shade thanks to her contacts in the magazine world. The shade was Red Red Red by Clinique (which I think has been discountinued, or is at least as far as I have been been able to deduce, unfindable in the UK). I bought it the same day I saw that blog post, and wore it almost every day for months/years. Eventually I wore it down to the nub; to date it is still the only lipstick I have ever fully finished, but I still own the tube for sentimental reasons.

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I will never, ever throw this tube away.

That color became my totem for early adulthood. It was a silly, small thing, but it made a big difference in how I felt about myself when I slid the bullet over my lips. I was now a girl who word red. It gave me a sense of bravery, command, and self that I honestly didn’t have before I discovered that it was okay and not at all shallow, shameful, or otherwise silly to want to feel pretty. I coined the phrase, “Lipstick is armor,” during this phase, and I still mean it today. Much later on, lipstick has became a sort of brand item for me–a fact I realized when someone at my old job couldn’t remember my name to a colleague but described me as, The Girl With the Lipstick. My lip arsenal has grown by leaps and bounds since them, but I’m never without at least a couple on my person–different shades ready to be deployed as circumstances warrant. I could feel embarrassed by how many I own…but I don’t. They makes me feel beautiful.

Lipstick was a gateway drug into the world of beauty and make up, that strange place that in my adolescence I simply never felt brave enough to really enter.  The consequences have been, ah…pricey, but also really satisfying. I’ve made some beauty mistakes along the way, I’ve continuously experimented with different style personas, and I’ve occasionally laughed at my expense when the results don’t turn out great. I’ve had some hilarious misadventures in trying to find my correct foundation shades, and the skills required for a really killer smokey eye still escape me after years of trying. More than once I’ve left the house thinking I look fine only to catch sight of myself in a mirror hours later and think, I’ve made a huge mistake. That’s okay.

It’s just make up. It comes off. And if all else fails, I can put on a red lip with nothing else and still feel pretty damn great about the way I look.

Lipstick Pilgrimage

“All my life I’ve pursued the perfect red.”
—Diana Vreeland

One of the highlights of my trip to New York was the day X and I spent out and about indulging in some beauty therapy of the old school variety: cosmetics. Custom ones at that!

For some context, apart from sharing what is now pushing two decades of inside jokes, adoptive family titles that we take very seriously, university experiences, spiritual journeys, unexpected career paths, and any number of binding overlaps, we also share an unholy love of lipstick. It is a rare text or email chain that does not include a close up image captioned with the make and model of whatever shade we happen to be wearing that day. So obviously, in planning our NYC itinerary, there was one spot we had to go: the Bite Beauty Lip Lab.

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X was in need of a true coral color, I was on the hunt for the perfect blend of berry and fuchsia. Both of us wanted a highly editorial gray/greige shade that we decided to double up on because if you can’t do a custom best friend lippie than what is the point of life, I ask you? X prebooked our appointed (required) and Jeff bowed out to go hang with a university flatmate currently getting a masters at Columbia…and to do some shoe shopping.

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It’s a thing of beauty to be able to mix your own shades and amazing to see the Bite team whip up your requests expertly. I had a bad moment of doubt or two when a seemingly odd color was dropped into my swirling mash of pigment but inevitably it was precisely what the concoction needed. Shut up and let the pros work, C..

The Bite team are fantastically enthusiastically patient, mixing and tweaking and allowing customers apparently unlimited time to stare at their lips in the mirror and waffle on whether you need to go a touch warmer, cooler, redder, bluer, or whatever. It’s a good thing this place is 1) not entirely cheap, and 2) in another country otherwise the amount of my money it would otherwise suck down would be dire indeed.

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It’s not just the colors that are fun, it’s that you can customize everything from the texture to the scent using oils. I went for a creamy semi-gloss for my purple shade, and X and I decided on a matte finish with a unusual mix of oils for our scent to keep it weird, gorgeous, and unique

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If you’re still on the hunt for the perfect red (or gray, or green, or goodness knows what shade) it’s absolutely worth a visit. Plus the tiny thrill of being asked where you got your lipstick and being able to respond that it’s a creation singular to you is not to be discounted. Couture we cannot have, custom we can!