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A Fevered Dictation
I'm new to fashion and beauty blogging, and because I'm obsessive and undisciplined and almost everything I know of cosmetics is the product of my own explorations, I know a lot about the things that interest me and very little about other topics.
Red lipstick is definitely one of my obsessions. I think I might one day end up being one of those women who wear red lipstick all the time, although I'm too shy for that now. My experience supports Dain's contention that we are particularists in the shades we buy, acquiring multiple variations on the same colour. In my case it's really a spectrum, coral through warm red; I'm not nearly as interested in the nude or the tastefully understated.
My preferences are partly a function of having unusual colouring. I'll probably end up writing more about this because it's one of the major reasons for my interest in cosmetics. I don't understand the theory (or theories) of undertones all that well, but sometimes I think that's because nobody quite has it worked out. I've read that pale women of European descent invariably have cool pink undertones to their skin (um, no); I've been told my own skin is everything from "very pink" to "olive-y". It doesn't really signify, since the upshot is always the same: I can't wear most "universal" shades, they are either boring or flat-out awful on me. Blushes look sickly or too dark, lipsticks turn mauve or fuchsia, and "true, neutral reds" are not. I fairly easily found a blush that suits me (MAC Tenderling, a sort of washed-out terra cotta) and stuck with it, but I find lipsticks more interesting and more variable, and red lipsticks especially so.
I suppose I could go into detail about all the different kinds of red lipsticks I've tried, but I think that would get boring, so instead I'll just list my favourite warm reds in three categories: bright, true (but still warm), and dark.
Bright red: MAC Lady Danger ($14) is fantastically late-'40s, an uncompromisingly bright, matte orange-red that lights up pale warm-toned skin, although it can be a little overpowering -- but then, that's true to the era. The swatches on the MAC website are useless, and unfortunately I no longer own a tube, but I shall keep looking for photos. My cursory Google search turned up a good Flickr photo of a woman wearing it; her colouring is similar to mine.
Similar shades: MAC So Chaud (practically the same colour as Lady Danger, so I have no idea why they sell both), Julie Hewett Belle Noir (which is what I currently own). The brightest orange-red I've ever seen is NARS Heat Wave, but I think you need a tan and a serious attitude to pull that one off; on me it's hideous.
True-but-warm red: Ah, Guerlain. You've produced such beautiful, classic perfumes; whatever possessed you to name a line of lipsticks "KissKiss" and put them in this tastelessly bling-y packaging? (It doesn't look so bad in this photo, but bear in mind, it's large, and this is what it looks like with the cap on. Some people like it, but to me it's very LOOK AT MY EXPENSIVE MAKEUP.) Never mind. Sexy Tango ($29) is a beautiful, flattering red, not nearly as dark as it looks in the tube but not overpoweringly bright, with just enough orange, brown and rose to make it wearable for someone with warm undertones. The texture is balm-like, not dry, and the staying power is surprisingly good. I ordered mine from StrawberryNet, since Canadian retail prices are absurd.
If I had to pick one red to live with, it would be either this or MAC Chili, another matte lipstick in a beautiful bright brick red. Again, MAC's own swatches are crap, so here's a very unglamorous photo of my own tube.
Similar shades: MAC Lady Bug, NARS Manhunt and Flamenco. All three of those shades are slightly cooler than Sexy Tango; I find them slightly too cool (yes!), but most women probably won't.
Dark red: I think Julie Hewett's Noir lipsticks ($22.50) are excellent, as highly pigmented as MAC's Mattes but smoother and less drying, and the tubes are gold-tone packaging done right, not too large or heavily ornamented. Coco Noir is as close to dark, gothic red as I care to go (which is to say, not very). The website sells it as a red for women who think they can't wear red, which I don't understand, because although it's fairly neutral, it's a strong colour, even on women with darker skintones than mine (see The Non-Blonde's review). If you think you can't wear red you should probably pick a more toned-down shade, something with a lot of rose or brown in it, and apply it lightly until you get used to the strength of the colour. Dain has recommended Bésame Red Velvet, which I can't try because I refuse to pay $18-$25 in shipping charges for one tiny lipstick(!?!?!), but I'd suggest experimenting with MAC or Lipstick Queen lipsticks; each line has a great number of variations on red, including several softer, more toned-down shades.
Incidentally, Julie Hewett's lipsticks are available in Canada through Essential Day Spa, and the prices are not stupidly marked up.
Similar shades: Sue Devitt's Great Australian Bight is very similar in tone to Coco Noir, but browner and not as heavily pigmented. NARS Velvet Matte lip pencil in Forbidden Red is described as "brick red," but it's more of a ruby on me, slightly more orange than Coco Noir and not as deep.
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