5 Steps to Red Lips

One of my favorite things about aging is that I feel like I have finally figured out my style...what works for me, what doesn't, and what lights me up. It's not a trivial thing given that I spent so much of my life trying to mimic other people in order to fit in! Several years ago I took the plunge to try red lipstick and have not looked back. At first I reserved the look for evenings, and eventually realized how much I love it for daytime too; I just feel more finished with a bold lip. When I started wearing red lipstick during the day, I was a little shocked by the result -- I received countless compliments (including people I didn't know stopping me in my tracks) and also many comments such as, "Oh, I could never do that," or "I have no idea how to find the right color." So today, I wanted to share my 5 steps to red lips. Really, I think anyone can pull this off and it looks spectacular!

1. Seek professional consultation

If you are, like me, paralyzed when it comes to picking shades at the drugstore, visit a professional cosmetics counter. Yes, the high end products are more expensive than the drugstore products, but I probably have spent more money experimenting (and failing!) with drugstore shades compared to what I have paid for the right colors. And make sure the folks at the counter actually assess your skin tone and try the shade on you before you buy it. I had one unfortunate encounter at Sephora (a place I typically love) where I asked for red lipstick recommendations and the salesperson simply picked out the bestselling store color and rang me up. I tried it on at home and it looked terrible and I ended up returning it. I was smarter the second time around and ended up at the Chanel counter at Nordstrom. They not only advised that the deep red I was envisioning would look Goth and not great on me, but they selected a fantastic shade that works well both for night and day.

2. Invest in the tools

At a professional makeup counter, you may be tempted to skip the lip pencil to save money, but you will need the pencil to help set the lines and prevent color bleed (aka "feathering") around the lips. Following my Chanel consult, I purchased the Carmin #14 lip liner and Gabrielle #19 lipstick. The lip liner is especially awesome because it comes with a lipstick brush built into the other side. (Note: I was surprised to see how pink and brown, respectively, these products look online -- all the more reason why you should go for an in person consult and save online shopping for once you have established your colors.)

3. Budget in extra prep time for application

Because red is such a strong color, I find that it requires more application precision than my usual super quick lip pencil + gloss. Allocate 10 or so extra minutes in your routine to quickly exfoliate your lips (I simply run a warm washcloth gently over my lips), add a little lip balm to moisturize, then apply the pencil and lipstick (use the brush for nice clean lines). Once you're done, make sure you bring your lipstick and lip liner with you, as you will probably need to touch up periodically.

4. Keep up on maintenance

Red lipstick is, admittedly, a little more high maintenance. It's definitely an eat-with-a-fork instead of chow-down-a-burrito type of lip color. Check your color whenever you're stopping in at the bathroom. Also, later in the day, I typically need to deal with a little feathering (when the color spreads a little outside the lip line). This is easily remedied by running a bit of tissue along the edges of my lips to clean up the color bleed then reapplying. Also, make sure you check your teeth after application!

5. Try it and own it!

Many women who asked me about wearing red lipstick say they love the look but "just can't do it" or that it would "look terrible on them." Yet, when I asked if they had ever tried, they said no, it was too intimidating. I conveyed the importance of steps 1-2, and that knowing you have the right shade helps with the confidence-to-wear factor (it certainly did for me!). Then once you procure the red, OWN IT. Try it at an evening event first, just to get your legs under you, then try it during the day.