A lippy pro shares her top tips for wearing colour with confidence
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…which is even crazier when you consider beauty director Donna Francis is surrounded by it! We sent her on a mission to learn to love lippy
I’ll admit it: the fact that any woman can get to my age and announce that she’s never worn lipstick is unusual. But coming from someone who has worked in the beauty industry for nearly 20 years, it’s an especially surprising confession. Yet it’s true – the world of crayon-coloured stains and get-you-noticed glosses has only ever been reserved for the articles I write. You’d think that spending much of my time behind the scenes on photo shoots would at least tempt me to try the abundance of alluring cosmetic candy. But no. Even when given the amazing opportunity of a one-to-one makeover by an A-list make-up artist, I persuaded her that a subtle swish of clear lipgloss (just one coat, please) would suffice!
I can trace my lipstick aversion back to school, where my nickname was ‘rubber lips’ – so, naturally, the last thing I wanted to do was bring attention to my mouth! As a teenager, Vaseline was my go-to lip product. On the few occasions I did dare to stray from my signature barely-there look, my mum (a pioneer of the less-is-more make-up movement) would say, ‘You really don’t need it, you look much prettier without.’ Ah, mums – how we love your rose-tinted glasses!
So why, after all this time, have I finally been persuaded to move on from lip balm? The answer is that I want to be noticed. In the past, I’ve mostly used fashion to express my individuality – ripped jeans in the 80s, sequinned hotpants in the 90s, dresses over trousers in the noughties. But since becoming a mum, I’ve found that more sensible (and comfortable) jeans-and-a-T-shirt attire has taken over my wardrobe – which means make-up is a more practical option for being seen and heard. Now seems the perfect time to revolt against my usual concealer-and-lip-balm school-run routine and feel like I’m part of the cool gang again! And what better way to start than by trying the very lippy shades I so often extol on these pages…
After asking a make-up artist which shade she’d recommend for me, I choose a red – Bourjois Rouge Edition Lipstick in Rouge Jet Set, £7.99/799 points – for my lipstick inauguration. Giving her carte blanche is petrifying, but wearing a colour picked by a pro does give me the confidence I need to get started. At first, it feels weird to be wearing something on my lips (I keep licking my teeth – I’m paranoid that it’s staining them). But it actually does makes me feel prettier and smarter – two helpful characteristics for a busy, meeting-filled day at work. ‘Strong lip!’ shouts the Office Lipstick Guru (OLG) when I arrive at my desk in the morning. ‘You look amazing, what have you done differently?’ asks another colleague. I won’t lie, these compliments make me feel great. And it’s as though the colour is my cosmetic coat of armour – I reckon I’m ready for anything. Two meetings and one lunch later, I pop into the loo to check how it looks. And although I don’t really recognise myself, I’m happy with what I see. Plus, I’m sure the boost it has given me has even made me more productive at work. I’m sold!
Feeling quite smug with the success of my pilot run, I confidently plan today’s outfit around my next shade choice: NYX Professional Makeup Velvet Matte Lipstick in Miami Nights, £7/700 points – an almost neon-bright pink. What I haven’t planned for is sleeping through my alarm (who needs more than 10 minutes to get oneself and two kids washed, dressed and fed anyway?), a road closure on the school run (cue traffic bedlam) and an embarrassing trip that leaves me face-down on the pavement. When I arrive at the office, it’s no surprise that I feel a bit discombobulated. I hope a quick mirror-check will restore my confidence, but it doesn’t – I just feel very self-conscious! This colour feels much too bright for someone of my age – I’m sure it would look gorgeous on my 20-something niece – and I’m concerned it makes my teeth look yellow. ‘Oh, it’s quite summery for, err, winter,’ says OLG, with a little disdain. I avoid human contact for the rest of the morning. By lunchtime I grab a wipe from my drawer and fervently rub it off. Won’t be wearing that again!
By day three, I’m starting to enjoy being part of the lipstick brigade. I’m loving spending time choosing shades to suit not only what I’m wearing, but also what I’m doing. So, for a day out with the kids, I opt for a milky nude: Soap & Glory Sexy Mother Pucker Pillow Plump XXL in Nude In Town Boots Exclusive £10/1,000 points. I decide anything brighter will be too high maintenance – imagine the smudge potential of a loud lipstick while jumping around in a ball pit! This isn’t a day for escaping to the loo to reapply it, either – instead, I have to freestyle without a mirror. Yes, the application is a little messy, and out of sync with my lip line, but it somehow works for the occasion – just like the comfy pair of jeans I’m wearing.
A friend’s birthday party at a cool bar calls for a lipstick with attitude. I’m meeting a lot of her mates for the first time, so I figure this shouty shade (Clinique Pop Matte Lip Colour + Primer in Avant Garde Pop, £16/1,600 points) will help me stand out from the crowd – so different from how I felt a few days ago! – and it does. It’s also a great conversation starter; when I tell one of my new friends that I’ve only just started wearing lipstick, she’s surprised and says, ‘I can’t imagine you without it.’ It seems that loud lippies are slowly becoming part of my signature beauty look. I’m no longer looking twice at my reflection in the mirror, as if it’s a stranger staring back at me – I actually recognise myself now!
For my final test – Sunday lunch at the local pub – I choose a dusty-pink shade: Benefit They’re Real! Double The Lip in Lusty Rose, part of the Big Sexy Lip Kit, £24.50/2,450 points (4-pack). I want a more subtle colour to suit this low-key family meal, but it’s still obvious enough to be noticed. I know this because my dad greets me with an air kiss to avoid ‘getting it all over my face’. Charming! Mum, meanwhile, asks me why I’m wearing it. Erm, because I like it! And that’s when I realise how much I’m actually enjoying using lipstick. It gives me guts and makes me feel empowered… like those sequinned hotpants did all those years ago. And, biggest shock of all, I don’t care that my mum doesn’t like it. I definitely do!
To discover the perfect lipsticks for you, try No7’s Match Made skin tone analysis (available in selected stores).