The perfect pout

For most women, lipstick is the cosmetics equivalent of shoes: an instant mood-booster that’s much better than buying new clothes because you don’t have to get undressed to try it on. Plenty of women have told us they actually feel naked without lipstick.

Applying lipstick is the ultimate feminine gesture – but most of us have to do it more often than we’d like because it wears off so quickly. So we set out to discover the secrets of successful lipstick-shopping – and of making lipstick stick.

Colour savvy

The worst reason to buy a lipstick is just because you love the colour. Understanding your skin tone is essential for error-proof lipstick shopping, believes make-up artist Brigitte Reiss-Anderson, and then being able to identify which colours work best with it. ‘The wrong hue can make you look sick, but the right one makes you look gorgeous.’ So, here are Brigitte’s guidelines:

Olive skins look good in light brown or raisin shades, with warm undertones that will light up your face. For a deeper colour, go for the browner reds (like blackberry or wine).

Fair-complexioned women should seek out brown-beiges with complexion-warming pink or peach undertones. For more dramatic colour, try blue-based or cherry tones with a hint of brown.

Women with really pale skin and really black hair (think of Angelica Huston and Paloma Picasso) are luckiest of all: ‘They can use anything so long as it’s a real contrast, including fuchsia, bright red and day-glo orange.’

Dark skin can carry off the deepest (but not the brightest) reds of all: those with dark blue or purplish undertones. Deep browns with wine, purple or bluish tones can look stunning, too.

Brigitte Reiss-Anderson warns the very fair- or very dark-skinned to steer clear of wishy-washy colours. ‘If those women try to put on a pale rose, pale beige or a pale orange, they’ll look like they’re ill.’

TIP  One make-up artist told us that her pet theory is that any two lipstick colours mixed together give a great new colour. (It’s certainly fun to try out.) Or copy make-up professionals and invest in a basic palette from an art supplies store, and use it to mix and match lipsticks and glosses. But keep brushes dry – water will inhibit blending, as most lipsticks are oil-based.


Look Coverage a.k.a. Extra Features
Glossy Very sheer, giving shine Lip shine/lip sheen/lip polish Has added moisturising ingredients, which can help dry skin. You can wear it with lip pencil or over a matte lipstick to alter their texture.
Sheer Ultra-light, with a little shine Semi-sheer/lip treat/stain/transparent Moisturises, and won’t wear off as quickly as gloss. Because these are usually summer shades, there’s often an SPF added.
Creamy Opaque coverage, with little shine Moisturising lipstick/lipmake rouge/velvet lipstick/hydrating Features conditioners, so lips feel smooth; colour usually wears evenly. Offers the widest choice of shades.
Matte Extremely opaque, flat colour, with the most coverage Demi-matte/semi-matte The maximum amount of pigment, so giving longer wear. Often leaves a flattering, temporary stain after it’s worn off.


Quick change act

Today’s clever lipstick ‘accessories’ can give your best-loved lipstick a wardrobe of different effects, adding a sweep of gloss to make it shine, a hint of shimmering gold or silver, or intensifying the colour.  By customising lipsticks in this way, you can resurrect and put a new spin on old favourites in your make-up bag…

For shimmer  Apply lipstick lightly, then cover with a sweep of an old pearlised lipstick, or a gold colour.

For sheer cover  Outline the lips with the edge of the lipstick, then cover the entire lip with colourless gloss (or lipsalve), and gently rub the lips together.

For high gloss  Put on lipstick as normal, then coat with clear gloss.