Privilege Blog

The Truth Behind Women And Their Lipsticks

Some women buy a lot of lipsticks. Why? Is it necessary? Do we change our lip color every day? And what is up with that basket of lipsticks on the bathroom counter?

Une Femme D’Un Certain Age
recently reviewed her lipstick collection. Which got me thinking. Here’s the thing. I buy my lipsticks because they are magic. Little red wizards with convenient pop tops. I imagine I’m not alone.

The Privileged[d] lipsticks of 2010.

Most days a pair of colored lip balms. I have a drugstore pink version purported to contain grapeseed oil. I have a reddish Burt’s Bees Balm, which I’m told is absolutely fully of pomegranate something or other. In any case, everyone ought to own a similar duo. The chief benefit being that when you put lip balm on without a mirror you don’t look even one tiniest bit like a clown.

For dress up, I continue to recommend Lipstick Queen’s Medieval red. Manages to show up both sheer and matte. The only red lipstick 99% of the population ought to wear. With black or brown eyeliner and mascara. If you are in the mood for adventurous eyes, green, purple, red, whatever, you’ll want a nude lipstick. I wear Nars Cruising, with YSL Golden Praline lipgloss on top if I feel a need for shine.


Or so you might think.

I also wear LipFusion lip plumper, on occasion. I swear either technology works or placebos are powerful. However, I made a mistake last time and bought a pink called Full Frontal. What was I thinking? I recommend clear, you can wear it with anything.

So, now, done, right?

Nope. Now we enter the halls of what might be. What used to be. What should have been.

I used to wear the dusty taupe mauve below. To work. Every day. It was the color of my lips. Myself, but vice-presidential. In time, my lips faded, leaving me eclipsed by my lipstick. Never a good thing. Luckily I came to the end of the tube. It can be hard to relinquish the tools of our youth. Then Nars discontinued the color. Damage, it was called. Quite apt.

And then, of course, we have the lipsticks of all the women I imagined myself to be. Rarely worn. The Nars orange Giza gloss was the most risky, for the few days when I found the Versace gal in my soul. Not sturdy at all.

Then I collected various pinks. Because Charla Krupp told me that women over 40 should wear pale pink lipstick. Which perhaps they should. But I don’t. And won’t. Especially not one full of gold flecks. Nars Galaxy Girl. I’m no longer a girl contemplating galaxies. But I might have been. Once.

Oh, and who doesn’t own a tube of lip stain? Vincent Longo’s Cupid’s Breath. Purchased in a burst of baroque. Believing that pigment mimicking bitten lips would indicate, perhaps even provoke some deep inner, um, depth. An Artsy Cousin to Sylvia Plath. Only without the ending my own life part. Didn’t work. Turns out stains are no more romantic than anything else. But in the right light, the little bottle appears to hold blood against a vampire’s visit. So I keep it for my long-lashed, porcelain-skinned, tragic imaginary self.

And finally. One New Year’s Eve Shanghai required my presence. I scooped up a lipstick at the airport Sephora en route. Redder than anyone in their right mind would wear. The evening was spent at the Jin Mao Grand Hyatt, some 50 floors above the street. No one seemed to find my red mouth even one bit unexpected.

I haven’t worn it since.

Lipsticks open more space in my imagination than they take up on the bathroom counter. I will not throw them out until they decay.

39 Responses

  1. Mmm, so true. I had some really ugly colours as a girl, and came to fear/hate lipstick as a result. I threw them all out. Then, when I was older, I tried a daring red. Found myself being called glamorous. Then, for my wedding, I found the perfect nude. Now I have a summery pink, and, at my husband's insistence, a deeply autumnal berry. My collection grows. My frequency of use varies, depending on my mood. But the lipbalm (also Burt's Bees, so friendly) is always with me.

  2. Let us no forget those lipsticks kept for sentimental reasons, like the Revlon "Love That Red" that I keep just because it is the color my mother always wore.

  3. I love this. I so rarely wear any kind of make-up at all but something about lipstick makes me all happy and pretty. Not wearing it, mind you, just sort of having it. Dabbing a bit on now and then.

  4. I love this glimpse of you through your lipsticks! I may have to try that Medieval red….

  5. You do have quite a few choices, and they appear to be tools for your imagination…I like that!
    A versatile collection that covers all the bases and you see them on the counter everytime you go into your bathroom…firing your imagination….you have a keen sense of observation.

    I am with you on the sheer easy application of the lip tint…my recent acquisition of Aveda Berry is my fave.

    I have 2 other lipsticks, Chanel, Dr. Hauschka, one Chanel gloss and a Burts Bees lipbalm.

    I use them up, even resorting to using a lipstick brush to dig out the last bits!

  6. I have only one lipstick. The same color for a long time . Chanel, Provocative. All I need.

  7. I wear the cheap Max Factor or Revlon stuff from CVS that stays on all day.
    BTW, your product photography is really good.

  8. I'm intrigued by your medieval red – I've never found a red that doesn't make me look dead! I lean towards the sheer pinks, perhaps because I don't like to draw attention to my slowly diminishing lips. I will HIGHLY recommend Benefit's Lip Plump. It's a flesh-toned primer that goes on first – it makes my lipstick application perfect and longer lasting. It's so great that I keep one in my handbag and one in the bathroom. It also smooths out those tiny lines – you know, the ones supposedly caused by drinking from a straw.

  9. After a week clearing old papers from various household files, it's fun to see a much more colourful, pleasurable, version of the hoarding instinct.
    btw, that lightbox was a great investment — your photos look so professional.

  10. agirl – That's a veritable lipstick sonnet you've got.

    Madeline – That's wonderful.

    Hannah – Dabbing on a bit is all it takes, really.

    Deja – Thank you for the inspiration. You might like Medieval…

    hostess – I've used the Aveda lip balms too. I like them.

  11. Metscan – OK so I looked up that Chanel lipstick and I now have a whole new understanding of your fondness for grey::).

    Belle – Perhaps you could author a tutorial on how to buy drugstore lipstick? I can't do it for the life of me. And thank you. Thank my trusty little lightbox.

    Gourmetmom – Oh no! Another lip product! Perhaps I should thank you. More ways to imagine:). And seriously, if you get to Barney's ever, just give it a shot.

    lauren – Wow. That is one hell of a post-modern documentary on the female mouth. Beautiful photo.

    mater – Yes, few old files bestir the imagination. Thanks on the photo comment. I've always just adored the photos in Vogue where they cut up lipsticks and photograph the chunks like ravaged butter.

  12. Back in the day when I wore makeup all the time, I was the Queen of Red. I loved it, and it looked good with my fair, but clear, complexion. But, my lips are getting thinner as I age and when I try to wear red lipstick I look silly – like I have a red line between my nose and chin. *sigh*

  13. I always regret buying red! And once the Lipstick Queen herself, Bobbi Brown, outfitted me with a much pinker color than I would have selected: shell pink, I believe. But I'm with you on the Burt's Bees pom lip balm, for sure!

  14. I go between two MAC colors, Faux and Fabby (that would be a great girl band name!).

    I wish I could share the Burt's Bees love, but alas, they have no spf.

  15. Yes, my Mother always wore "Love that Red" also…so very Mad Men. I like Kiehls lip glosses in the tube. I keep one lipstick in my purse and one in the bathroom…seems to be sufficient. Lip liner is an amazing invention; makes the stick color last longer, or at least it seems to.

  16. This is so true! Just the other day I was contemplating my little rack of 20 or so lipsticks that linger around doing nothing while I proceed to wear the same shade of pale peach day after day. Interestingly, my best shades have all been given to me by others — the lipsticks I pick out for myself all seem to require mixing with other shades to get them right.

  17. So glad to know I am not alone with my basket of lipsticks! Though I do suspect I am the only woman in Glacier County, Montana, with a tube of Chanel Brown Sugar she'd fight for. Fun post.

  18. Lisa, first, thank you for your nice comment on my recent trip up north. I have a couple questions for you – is all coffee made up north so strong it will curl hair and does anyone water their yards anymore? I read about the drought but I have never seen so many weeds in my life. I can't understand why they aren't whacked down. I thought you might have an answer in your all-knowing wisdom.

    Now back to your post – I literally have handfuls of lipsticks and glosses. Damage is one of them. What is worse, I cannot leave my house without about 5 in my possession. It's like a security blanket and I have no idea why I do this. It doesn't even matter what color they are since all mine are roughly in the same color family. There must be medication or a cocktail for this condition.

  19. Oh, I love Burt's Bees lip balms! After some trial and error, I discovered that rhubarb works far better on me than any of the others.

    I used to love playing with many different colors of lipstick. It was almost like trying on different identities. I've narrowed it down to what works for me, though. NARS Dolce Vita, the Burt's Bees balm and Shu Uemura BR170 are my go-to everyday colors. Laura Mercier is a perfect very sheer red, and NARS Gipsy topped with reddish gloss is my evening out shade. I may have to try Lipstick Queen, though. I keep hearing all kinds of raves about the Medieval.

  20. I am a lipstick tragic. If I could only have one makeup item, unquestionably it would be a beatiful lippie. In my cabinet, there is Chanel "Lover" (doesn't last), Clinique "Ruby Lite" ( like divine intervention on the face) and Dior "Hollywood Rose" and "Dolce Vita" (I looove Dior. It lasts weeks) lip glosses, little samples and of course, like you, lip balm. Mmm I'm in heaven.

  21. What a color treat today! I tend to fall for new lipsticks, sometimes one "sticks", but most are short term infatuations

  22. Jan – You're still the Queen of Red in our hearts.

    Miss Cavendish – No regrets!

    Patsy – Love the names.

    teorwine – oh yes, I have some lipliners too. Just didn't want to wear out my lip product welcome.

    DocP – Run into a Barney's somewhere and try it.

  23. Audi – They are "lipsticks of leisure." :)

    glaciercounty – I suspect you're the only woman in Glacier County doing a bunch of stuff.

    Pink – You are so welcome. Ha! We water our yards but I guess we don't weed…. And I don't drink coffee, so I don't know. I love it that you have Damage too, even if it is a modern fuffie for you:). If there's a cure, clearly I am ignorant.

    VA Gal – Rhubarb, huh? And I will look up Nars Dolce Vita. I love just looking at the colors.

    Paula – That is an adorable quiz. I'm concave. You?

  24. Wow. I am a true minimalist.

    My best color is Rose, so I only try out that color in different makeup lines. Then I search for the best Rose I can find with the best formula.

    This leads to me only wearing one and tossing all the "inferior" ones. ;)

    Currently, I'm wearing Victoria's Secret Sheer Gloss Stick in "Only You Rose". It's very balm like, but gives a finished look. I love it.

    I also use Cover Girl's "Pure Gloss" which is in lipstick form in a navy tube. It's really just a wonderful clear lip balm. I put it on under the V.S. gloss stick because it improves the texture. And I wear it to bed for moisturized lips.

    That's it!

  25. Also – the problem with reds is that they look best on full lips. Red makes lips look smaller and thinner. It doesn't work on me even though I technically have the coloring for it.

  26. I have that kind of Northern European skin that gets red, so red lipsticks don't do it for me. That's the color I want to not see in the mirror.

    My mother's father made his living in the drug store business, before it was all Walgreen's and CVS, so she got us started on drug store lipsticks.

    You go in, you have some ideal in mind, for me it's "I don't want to put a color on my face that makes me look like a clown" and you pick. A recent fashion magazine or article is often my inspiration.

    Sometimes you get a dud because you didn't try it ahead of time but they don't cost that much and you still got the thrill of picking up a new little goodie.

    And yes, I toss old ones.

  27. Once, I saw Liv Tyler on the cover of a magazine, thought, "She has exactly my coloring," and bought the lipstick she was wearing. It's still my best color. (Givenchy Lip Lip Lip! Rose Romance, I think.) But I might try that Medieval. I'm looking for a real red.

  28. Lipstick is, sadly, my crack. What does it say about me that I am drawn to bright lipstick?

    The two best drugstores deals ( and I've tried them all) are the Revlon Matte and the Prestige lipsticks. Both rival any high end product. With the Prestige, look for the classic line – the color # will start with a CL.

  29. I bought the Medieval Red on your recommendation in a previous post and I *love* it. When you first put it on you think it has no color at all, and then (at least on me) you see that your lips are just a slightly redder version of themselves. It's like a very sheer lip stain, and very moisturizing. It's now my everyday lip color. So thank you!

  30. Noelle – I admire your focus! You must feel quite lipstick peaceful.

    Lori – That is a limitation, I agree.

    Tabitha – All the more attention span left for shoes:).

    RoseAG – Thank you for the drugstore advice. Much appreciated.

    Jenny – That's a good way to look. I wonder what Sharon Stone wears:).

  31. Genuine Lustre – Oh thank you for winnowing out the good drugstore brands.

    Paula – :).

    Booklady – I'm honored. And yes, that's exactly my experience. Just a redder version of my own lips. And not a trace of orange.

  32. i love the story behind that scandalous red lipstick. my new year's resolution this year was to wear more red lipstick. haven't been following through, but i found a perfect sheer red from NARS called 'manhunt' (ha!) last time i was in sephora…looking forward to wearing it lots this fall :)

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