Beauty IRL: Don’t Fear The Bold Lip

I know the beauty industrial complex yells a lot about how the bright lip is the only thing you need in your arsenal, and how it makes you look instantly pulled together, gorgeous and glowy, hiding the hideous shebeast beneath with one swipe. This is the job of most beauty writing. It alternately intimidates and inspires you, telling you that you are both beautiful and a monster. It’s basically the manipulative best frenemy, expertly skilled in the backhanded compliment. Everything about this is bullshit. But, there’s a teensy nugget of truth in this lipstick mess. They might be kind of right with this one.

Contouring is a logistical nightmare that no one has time for. The extensive spackling of your face’s natural texture and skin tone will certainly make you look smoother and more even, but it also requires an arsenal of tools and brushes, not to mention a light but precise hand. Once you get the hang of the bright lip, and figure out what you like, you can roll out to wherever you have to be on three hours of sleep and a sugar-free Red Bull and get compliments for days.

I love the idea of makeup, the fiddly ritual of patting creams and powders into my face, but on the regular, I don’t wear that much. Mascara always, highlighter most days, and a BB cream if I remember in the morning. But, I never, ever leave the house without lipstick.

I get that the bold lip seems intimidating. It’s bright, it’s out there, and it begs strangers to pay attention to your mouth, and subsequently the things that are coming out of it. It has an annoying tendency to end up on your teeth, your toothy smile smeared with red or magenta, as if you’ve just devoured some mortal enemy. These are minor fears, and they are easily assuaged. Why cower when you can face this demon, head on?

You can waddle through life resting easy on a tinted Chapstick, or, if you’re feeling particularly bold, a swipe of the Black Honey Almost Lipstick you got in a free gift bag from the Clinique counter at Macy’s. That’s a way to live your life, and I am not here to tell you to do otherwise. But, if you’re like Claire, who wrote about looking for her inner red lipstick chutzpah, and want to crack the secret code of bright lipstick-wearing women everywhere, there’s really only one rule to follow: if it makes you feel good, then that’s all you need.

You do not need a drawer full of tools to apply lipstick. Lip brushes are fussy and require a steadier hand and much more thought than I am willing to put into painting my face. Some experts will tell you that in order to wear, say, a bright screaming neon coral, your lips should be massaged with a toothbrush, rubbed with various exfoliants and pampered until they’re the texture and softness of fine silk. If you’re someone who lives with the fear and/or reality of a high-def zoom lens trained on you at all times, then yes, for Christ’s sake, exfoliate your lips. The rest of us, shuffling off to work or the corner store or brunch, don’t need that kind of prep. You just need to find the most obnoxious shade that you can tolerate and go to town.

Usually I advocate dipping your toes in first, starting with the lightest shades and working your way up to those brassy, shout-y colors that assert themselves. In this case, fuck it. You’ll find your comfort zone by wearing the kind of middle-of-the-road, mauve-y “my lips but better” shades, and you’ll stay there. Those colors have their utility, but if you really want to conquer this fear of the bold lip once and for all, here’s what you’ll do.

If your lips feel dry and weird, put on Chapstick. Let it sink in. Then, if you’re really feeling fancy, go nuts. Grab your shiny little tube of Jungle Red or My Grandmother’s Negligee or whatever bright fuschia or shocking red you’ve been dying to wear, and apply it on your lips, straight from the tube. Yeah, you might have colored out of the lines, but that’s nothing your finger can’t fix. And yeah, maybe the color is REALLY bright, super bold and makes you look like a different person. But whatever, blot it once with a Kleenex, or more realistically, on one of those magazine subscription cards that tumble out of every periodical like snowflakes. Give it a big, substantial kiss. When you look back up in the mirror, you should see a happy, smiling face. That’s you, sunshine. And you’re wearing lipstick.