Some gals, the Hollywood knockouts specifically, make it look so easy. The bright lip. I have my heroes, my untouchable stars who look flawless and fitting in just about any lip color, and it seems I can’t even find one that works for me. I’ll take you with me through the failures and ultimate win of this grand journey, the search for my perfect lipstick.
It’s so hard. It’s cold out, my lips are chapped, and I go into a makeup store. Sephora, for example. I start trying lipsticks, but as soon as I wipe one off, the residue looks funky and the mild irritation of wiping obscures the natural color of my skin around my mouth, and before long all bets are off. I had asked friends what colors they wore, but when I’d get around to trying them it seemed like the conditions were never quite right to really get an idea of what looked good on me. So I started slow.
The first color I ever tried was a Tarte “double dose” gloss that I’m pretty sure has been discontinued. I worked at a conglom-o-salon in Kansas City and had tons of cosmetics at my fingertips at all times, and I finally happened on an apricot tone that flattered my skin. Sort of. It mimicked the color of my lips, helping me simulate a healthy pout even in sad and dry weather. But gloss, friends, does not agree with hair clippings, a hazard of my job, and I admittedly just wiped it off by the time I really got rolling at work on any given day. It just drove me nuts.
Plus I kept seeing girls with the perfect colors. For them, anyway. It’s funny that it was even the case because I swear, I feel like most things I want and am looking for are nowhere to be found. Not that I have some otherworldly imagination, just that I feel like most of the things that strike my fancy are really basic, and clothes, makeup, and accessories, are often so over-frilled I find them unpalatable. That said, the lip I was seeing was bold and matte, and distinctly not pink, and I seemed to be the only one who didn’t get the memo on where to look.
Here lies the paramount issue: everything turns pink on my skin. Why? I have no idea. But an orangey red, any red at all, takes a turn for rosy when it hits my skin, and it’s really unnatural on my yellow undertones. It makes me look like a kid who played in her mom’s makeup, who had no idea what she was doing. I look like a clown. So I had to err on the side of orange, but I didn’t know quite how much, until I tried going cherry red. The color above is called “Salsa,” and while it looked great when the lady at the beauty counter applied it to my lips, I couldn’t make it work at home. My eyes are small and close-set. I use makeup to make them look bigger, but it all goes straight to hell with something this bright and shiny on my mouth. I felt like I was wearing those big wax lips you get at the fair. It just wasn’t me.
I went through others, but usually opted for simple gloss or lip balm. Then I started watching Project Runway All Stars and Mila, one of the contestants, had just the most divine coral-ish orange matte lip color on one day. And it revived my energy for the grand search. I started shopping straight-up orange lipsticks. My best friend, a makeup guru herself, had tons of recommendations, and she even offered to send me things only she could get — she’s in Chicago and has way better shopping than Austin — but I declined because I knew I wouldn’t know what I was looking for till I saw it on. And I really didn’t want a pile of reject lipsticks that just provided a monetary visual aid to my failures.
It was then that I got a tip. A tip from a friend at work who was wearing a gorgeous discontinued NARS shade she let me try (to no avail, went straight to fuschia), and she said, “Try lipstick on your fingertips. They’re the same color as your lips, and then you can see what it looks like without messing your lips up over and over.” Bloody brilliant. I told her so, and she said, “You’re welcome, but if you blog about it, give me credit.” So thank you, Lauryn.
My next day off, I found myself among the menagerie of makeup counters at my local Nordstrom. I steered away from NARS (high prices = high stakes if I’m disappointed, again), and opted for MAC. I picked up their most orange shade, aptly named Morange, and applied it to my fingertip. Could it be? It turned a lovely shade of bright apricot. As a control to the new experiment — and to quell my disbelief — I tried another shade on the next fingertip. I picked one I knew would look awful on me, and just like I expected, it turned an unflattering shade of rose. Okay, I guessed. The next step is to try this Morange on my lips. And… Yahtzee! It was the perfect color. Just bold enough to be noticed, but tame enough to be flattering. So I bought it! Just $14.50 and a sense of first-world relief washed over me.
My boyfriend even likes it, and he’s a big fan of all things “natural” when it comes to appearance. It’s not too avant garde for everyday wear; it’s comfortable enough that I don’t feel like it’s slowly taking over my whole face the way some glosses feel; and it’s fairly matte. So hair clipping don’t stick. Voila. And what a relief.
Sometimes I want my makeup to stand out without being the first thing people see. The whole point of personal style is for it to look effortless. All the reds I’d tried were just too much, and I totally encourage anyone on a similar journey to look at your undertones because you might have my issue, or you might have the exact opposite! But the work was worth it, and now I have a lip color I’m actually excited to wear.
Are you one of those girls who can wear any color? Or have you had a similarly difficult time finding your perfect shade?