Simply Red

Photography Damien Bennett

Photography Damien Bennett

It was Gwyneth Paltrow who said, “Beauty, to me, is about being comfortable in your own skin. That, or a kick-ass red lipstick.”

And when she’s not talking about juice fasting and how she wants to marry kale, Gwynnie actually knows what she’s talking about.

Clinical psychologist April Benson says, “Lipstick is very primal… it’s part of the uniform of desirability and attractiveness.”

But a red lip? It’s a beautiful look, but one that intimidates some of us. Make-up artist Melanie Burnicle explains, “Women worry they’ll appear as though they’re trying too hard or are overly made up.”

But anyone can rock a scarlet pout; it’s simply a matter of finding the right one. When you do, you’ll tap in to its sensual power. Yes, really! Here’s why you should give red a chance…

The history of red

Unlike other cosmetics that conceal, correct and camouflage, red lipstick is unapologetically attention-seeking. It says, “Look at me. Listen to me. Or if you’re lucky, kiss…” Why is this colour so commanding?

“Red has been nature’s signal colour since the beginning of time,” says Leatrice Eiseman, executive director of the Pantone Color Institute.

The colour of food, fire and blood, red is essential to our existence as humans.

“It has an element of being simultaneously life-sustaining and life-threatening, and for that reason the colour red has always been powerful,” Eiseman says. (The jury’s is still out on whether red actually goes faster…)

From power to passion

Roses are red, violets are blue – men are just animals when it comes to you… “Red is a stimulant for men – it boosts arousal and makes them want to chase,” says psychologist Abby Calisch. Why? Well, here’s the slightly awkward physiological reason.

“In the animal kingdom, when animals are agitated or sexually charged, there’s redness involved, be it flushing of genitals or blushing, as humans do,” says Eiseman.

Cosmetically, wearing the colour red on the lips or the nails taps in to this sensuality and women have done it to attract men since Cleopatra’s days, when lipstick was made from crushed beetles and ants. Because it works.

Researchers from the Universite de Bretagne-Sud, France, planted women wearing red, brown, pink and no lipstick in popular bars. Men approached the women wearing red lippie more often, and the pick-up lines began within a shorter time of the ladies’ arrival.

More research from the same scientists found that women wearing red clothing in internet dating profile pics received more contact from men than women wearing either black, white, yellow, blue or green. Tell your mates on RSVP that little gem!

Find your best red: Which one will work for you?

Colour consultant, make-up artist and national education manager with L’Oréal Australia, Bronwyn Fraser, shares her guide for finding a shade to complement your colouring. First, how to tell if you have yellow or pink undertones to your skin – look at the veins on your inner arm.

“If they look blue, you’re generally a cool, pink-based skin type. If they look green, you have yellow undertones,” says Fraser.

What to wear with your red lip?

Green is opposite red on the colour wheel, making it a perfect pairing. “The most complementary shade to red is blue-green – so turquoise and teal work well,” says Eiseman.The power of black always works with the power of red, and browns and charcoals can be really enhanced with red, too. It will also work as a statement when worn with neutrals,” she adds.

Tip: How can you tell the warm reds from the cools?

“At the make-up counter, grab three or four different shades of red and place them side by side,” says Eiseman. “The blue undertone in the cool shade will immediately pop out at you. You’ll be able to see the warmth or orange in the other shades against the cool one.”

Fraser adds, “Wiping a little on plain white paper or a tissue will also reveal its true undertone.”

How to perfect your pucker

Step 1
Dry skin on the lips can create a rough, chapped surface. Prep your lips for a perfect lipstick look by applying Vaseline and then exfoliating gently by brushing with a soft toothbrush in a gentle circular motion. Wipe lips over with a warm cloth and voila!

Step 2
Outline your lips with a lip liner that matches your lipstick. A neutral or flesh-coloured liner is great for all other colours but red is best for red.

Step 3
Fill your lips by colouring in the entire lip with light strokes of your red pencil. This will create a base of colour, so when your lipstick fades you’re not left with a dark outer ring of liner. Apply lipstick either directly from the tube or with a lip brush. Blot with a tissue if you’re skin Type 1 or 4 and want a more subtle effect.

Match a lipstick to your skin tone