Beauty & the Brush

Published: July 1, 2010
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January Jones adds dash to a white outfit with red lipstick. PHOTO: REUTERS

January Jones adds dash to a white outfit with red lipstick. PHOTO: REUTERS

January Jones adds dash to a white outfit with red lipstick. PHOTO: REUTERS Vaneeza Ahmed’s red lipstick coordinates with the red accents on her clothes. PHOTO: FAISAL FAROOQUI/TAPU JAVERI      Maria Saadat is a freelance writer based in Washington, DC. She is the author of the popular desi beauty site Lipstick Masala - (lipstickmasala.com)

Dear red lipstick, how we love thee. But, finding the right shade and the perfect outfit to match is always a challenge. At times we believe we have found a flawless specimen, but numerous Facebook photos later, we realise we have made a frightful mistake in our choice.

So how do we find the consummate colour, unparalleled in its ability to draw wistful stares? Many artists say women with warm undertones look best in orange or brown reds and cooler undertones work with blue-based lipsticks. This guideline works great for Caucasian women. But, when it comes to Pakistanis, this “rule” isn’t applicable. Some of us are not ‘yellow’ enough for orange-based lipsticks while others are too pale to pull off blue-based reds.

You’ll probably never hear us say this again, but in terms of red lipstick, ignore the “rules” when it comes to picking a colour and go with your instinct. Go to the store and try on a variety of shades, the one that warms your complexion (i.e. you’re not left looking sallow, washed out or ashy) is the one to go with. If you are a red lipstick newbie, then by all means use the basic orange/blue guideline as a starting point.

Choosing the perfect red is not just about colour, the consistency is just as significant. Lipsticks come in many different textures, matte that adds a touch of old Hollywood glamour (think Rita Hayworth) or glossy that evokes images of young Bollywood starlets. The right formula will bring out the colour you choose against your lips, and the wrong one will make you look much older than your years.

Matte red lipsticks are best suited for women in their 20s and 30s as they enhance fine lines and wrinkles around the lips. So, if you’re older or prone to parched skin, thoroughly moisturise before application, preferably use a primer. Mature skin types should ideally go for the creamy version – it takes years off the face and the pigment is usually softer than glaring matte tubes. Finally, going glossy is great for all skin types and ages. However, too much shine can look positively scary in red. Give the gloss a rest and stick to matte and creamy formulations.

In our mothers’ day it was considered chic to match lipstick shades with your clothes and nails. Skip this passe look and paint your nails a colour that complements the red, not matches it. Try a black shade similar to the ones found on actresses like Kim Kardashian and Kate Beckinsale at movie premieres. If you absolutely must paint your nails red too, be sure the colour matches exactly – two contrasting shades of red is simply unacceptable.

As far as clothes go, again, don’t pair your lipstick with your red clothes – its overkill!

A hue that enhances the red rather than matches it looks best. Try a nude outfit, white or even yellow. As with nails, if red attire is a must, coordinate carefully. The colour should not only be perfectly duplicated, but beware of the clothing item. Red lipstick with a red dress – old fashioned, but doable. Red lipstick with a red sweater? This look is not just dated – it’s antiquated. Accessorise instead – coordinate the colour with your handbag or your shoes rather than your shirt.

And ladies, if you are going for a red lip look, remember to keep the rest of the face light! You want to look sophisticated, not like you you’re auditioning for the next Twilight movie.

Published in The Express Tribune, July 2nd, 2010.

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