A Red Lipstick Kind of Girl?

Well, no, not really. That is to say, I'd like to be the kind of woman people remember for her perfectly-applied red lips. Just as I'd like to be the kind of woman people remember for her fabulous singing voice, her elegant dance steps and her incredible beauty. I'm old enough, and wise enough, to realise that, thanks to a lack of gifts bestowed upon me by Mother Nature, none of the latter three are going to happen. But I still believe there's a chance that I might just achieve the first. After all, how difficult can it be? All those red-lipped women we so admire always make it look so easy.

And yet, as just about any woman who has ever been tempted to try scarlet lips knows, it's not easy. Not easy at all. Because red is remarkably unforgiving. At least if you can't find the right red. It's not just about popping into the chemist, grabbing the first red lipstick to hand, swiping it on and looking like Dita Von Teese.

Now, I've been a little wary of red lips since my 17th year when I rocked up to my Sixth Form Christmas Party wearing a black and yellow checked shirt and bright red lipstick. (I did have other clothes to retain my modesty, but they didn't clash so much). Somewhere, buried very deep, there is a photo to bear witness to my foolishness. I really thought it looked so good, but the photographic evidence proved otherwise. Since then I've, periodically at least, been on the hunt for a red more suited to my pallid complexion. Somehow it has, so far, alluded me. Indeed, for many years I gave up the search. Opted for neutrals, no-colour-colour, if you like. But deep inside the yearning for scarlet lips remained. 

It was a bit like slippers (hear me out on this one). I always liked the idea of them, but could never really find a pair I was happy with. I'd see the most 'perfect' pair in a department store, buy them with great excitement and then find, once I got them home, that I couldn't really settle with them. That was until I threw a ridiculous amount of money at getting a really good pair (sheepskin, long-lasting, gorgeous) and now I am comfortable, cosy and feel like me. And that's the problem with red lipstick, if you're used to wearing beige lips most of the time, it can be pretty difficult to just feel like yourself.

So I decided to see if splashing a bit of cash around might solve my lipstick woes as successfully as it had my slipper ones. While stocking up on a few bits at my local Bobbi Brown counter I happened to mention my red lip issues to one of the makeup artists. To my surprise I discovered it was not a problem with quality. Or even with what I regard as my 'awkward' colouring (dark hair, grey eyes and pale skin with ginger freckles), but that I had 'too much colour' in my lips. This was, apparently, distorting any red I put on my mouth so that I could never get the same colour on my lips as appeared in the tube. On the up side, at least my lips have some youthful natural colour. Having learned that when it eventually fades with age (and let's face it everything either fades or droops in the end), then I might find the whole red lip thing much less of an issue.

At that point I decided I might as well give up entirely (only where it came to red lipstick, you understand …) But there are so many great things about red lipstick. It's a classic. Women have been tinting their lips red since Elizabethan times. Worn by movie stars, fashion designers and even burlesque girls. Women who wear red lipstick are strong, confident, overtly womanly. They can be romantic or edgy or just a bit arty. 

And red lips make a big impression. But is that impression what we always think? Say you're meeting your bank manager. Your red lips might well say: "I am a confident, organised woman with clearly defined goals and a realistic idea of who I am.". On the other hand, they might also say: "I am a frivolous thing that will always spend my loan on glamorous cosmetics before making a sensible investment."  On a date that same lipstick might whisper:"I have voluptuously kissable lips. Come and get me!" or shout: "Kiss me and I'll cover your face with sticky red goop!". It's a minefield out there, alright. 

Perhaps the answer is only to wear red lipstick for ourselves. If it makes us feel confident and glamorous then that should probably be the only reason to do it. And feeling good, and wanting to do something just a little bit 'stand-out' is probably why just lately I've begun dipping back into the vast pool that is red lipstick. In truth it was all for charity. You see QVC UK – a fabulous shopping channel with a vast website that everyone should really check out – is selling a red lipstick in aid of The Prince's Trust (a charitable trust established by the Prince of Wales in 1976 which has given practical and financial support to more than 600,000 young people and which focusses particularly on youngsters who may have struggled at school, been in care, suffered long-term unemployment or have been in trouble with the law). Created by makeup artist Karen Alder, with all sales proceeds going straight to the Trust, the lipstick is a true and vibrant red. Beautiful, bright and unapologetic. Not blue, not orange, not pink but just hot, hot, hot red. 

Now, if I'm honest, it requires a tad more self-confidence than I have to wear it straight out of the bullet. But the point, and surely this is the case with any makeup, is to make it your own. Yes it's required a fair bit of housebound experimentation for me to find 'my' red – a red I'm more than happy to be seen in. But that process has given me a whole series of reds that suit me. Combined with a little bit of brown it goes a nice terracotta red. Add a rose shimmer lipgloss and I have a pretty cherry shade. I've learned I can play it down with nude, blot it down as a stain and top it off with a little gloss for a clear yet bright lip. And, while I wouldn't say I actually prefer it to my usual neutral lip, I know I'll get lots of wear out of it this winter. After all what's more Snow Queen than a red lip? And, yes, wearing red lipstick does make you feel undeniably bold. And, you know what? I rather like it! And who knows one day, when I'm feeling particularly dramatic, I might just go the whole hog and throw caution to the wind (along with any other cliche I can muster …) and wear it undiluted.

Will I ever make red my signature look? Probably not. I'm far too demure (well, I can dream) for that, but now and then, when I want to make a statement or shake things up a bit, out that red will come.  Right, that's decided then. Now I just have to get my bravado up …