Bul­let proof: red lip­pie’s power

✶ A slick of red lip­stick can make you feel bolder, sex­ier and in­stantly in charge. But what re­ally gives this shade such strong stay­ing power?

Grazia (UK) - - CONTENTS -

make- up mav­er­ick El­iz­a­beth Ar­den flipped pub­lic opin­ion in 1912 when she handed out pil­lar-box red lip­sticks to 15,000 suf­fragettes march­ing for equal rights on the streets of New York, us­ing the colour as a sym­bol to pro­mote strength and sol­i­dar­ity. More than a cen­tury later, red re­mains the ul­ti­mate power player on any dress­ing ta­ble – the most time­less em­bod­i­ment of con­fi­dence­boost­ing make-up. ‘ The shade has al­ways been syn­ony­mous with con­fi­dence be­cause it rep­re­sents some kind of spe­cific in­ten­tion,’ ex­plains Terry Barber, MAC di­rec­tor of make-up artistry. ‘It can be glam­orous, pro­fes­sional, so­phis­ti­cated or se­duc­tive. It’s never shy.’

Aside from its ob­vi­ous aes­thetic ap­peal, the colour red is in­grained within our psy­che to rep­re­sent a mul­ti­tude of

emo­tions, which can af­fect our ac­tions and how we per­ceive cer­tain sit­u­a­tions. Look at the ‘colour psy­chol­ogy’ brand of sci­ence, which re­searches di­rect links be­tween dif­fer­ent hues and hu­man be­hav­iour. Sim­ply see­ing red can speed up re­ac­tion times, while wear­ing it when do­ing sport has been shown to im­prove per­for­mance. But what is it about scar­let shades that means they’re so in­trin­si­cally pow­er­ful, in make-up and beyond?


Louboutin soles, a glass of Mal­bec, Am­s­ter­dam’s Red Light Dis­trict – red and pas­sion go hand in hand. Move this phi­los­o­phy over to mouths and it’s no sur­prise that red lip­stick is re­peat­edly linked to sex­ual at­trac­tion. In­deed, a study by Manch­ester Univer­sity dis­cov­ered that men spend on av­er­age three times longer star­ing at women with ruby lips than those wear­ing noth­ing on their lips at all. Con­sumer psy­chol­o­gist Kate Nightin­gale ex­plains red’s an­i­mal­is­tic as­so­ci­a­tion: ‘ When a fe­male pri­mate is ready to mate, she will dis­play red on dif­fer­ent body parts, and the same hap­pens when hu­mans are aroused be­cause blood pumps to the skin. This is why our skin flushes when we’re paid a com­pli­ment.’


We’ve been con­di­tioned to be­lieve that pared-back make-up in­di­cates pro­fes­sion­al­ism, but, as it turns out, it could well be quite the op­po­site. A study by Proc­ter & Gam­ble and Har­vard Univer­sity found that women pic­tured wear­ing dark lip­stick were per­ceived as more com­pe­tent in the work­place. And this ex­tends to our work wardrobes, too. ‘ Wear­ing red is a great tool if you are host­ing a pre­sen­ta­tion or meet­ing, as re­search shows it can lead to peers treat­ing what you say as more ac­cu­rate,’ adds Nightin­gale.


A study of 1,000 women by Har­vard Univer­sity and Cover­girl found that those who wore lip­stick four or more days a week had sig­nif­i­cantly higher con­fi­dence lev­els than those who went for a bare-lipped look. The study also found that those who favoured red lip­stick posted the most self­ies – a whop­ping three a week. That said, don’t force it. ‘If you’re feel­ing shy or self-con­scious, red will draw at­ten­tion to­wards you and could add ex­tra pres­sure, which will have an ad­verse ef­fect on con­fi­dence,’ says Nightin­gale.


In the an­i­mal king­dom, red skin (caused by in­creased blood flow to the sur­face) is a way to dis­play dom­i­nance to peers and preda­tors. Sim­i­larly, psy­chol­o­gists found ath­letes wear­ing red kit were on av­er­age 5% more likely to win than their blue-bib coun­ter­parts, be­cause op­po­nents per­ceived the reds as more dom­i­nant. And bold mouths? ‘ The “power lip” has been linked to both wealth and con­trol ever since the shoul­der-pad days of the 1980s,’ says Terry.


Red re­turns to the run­ways every sea­son with­out fail, and for S/S ’18, it reigned supreme ev­ery­where from Max Mara to Dolce & Gab­bana. With con­ven­tional matte tex­tures chal­lenged by pop­si­cle-like stains and high-shine glosses, we’re also be­ing in­spired to find new ways to wear it. ‘ This new wave of red is far friend­lier,’ prom­ises Terry. ‘Sim­ply blot­ting the edge of your mouth with a tis­sue or blur­ring lip­stick with a cot­ton bud im­me­di­ately makes it look like it fits your face with­out mak­ing the lips look thin­ner.’ For those afraid of go­ing bold, take Terry’s ad­vice and ‘try putting a red lip on a naked face to see how lit­tle make-up you can get away with else­where, as it’s more effective when the colour is not fight­ing with other de­tails.’ Another top tip: ‘ Try a red mouth with a fresh blush in­stead of a smoky eye for some­thing more soft and romantic.’ 

from top left anti-clock­wise: may­belline Color Sen­sa­tional Loaded Bold Lip­stick in Orange Dan­ger, £6.99; clar­ins Joli Rouge Vel­vet Lip­stick in Joli Rouge, £22; sis­ley Le Phyto Rouge in Rouge Mi­ami, £38; & other stories Cherry Idéal Lip­stick, £17; bobbi brown Luxe Lip Colour in Crim­son, £27; chanel Rouge Coco Ul­tra Hy­drat­ing Lip Colour in Co­rail Vi­brant, £31; max fac­tor Mar­i­lyn Mon­roe Lip­stick in Sunset Red, £7.99; l’oréal Color Riche Matte Lip­stick in Paris Cherry, £6.99; tom ford Lip Colour in Scar­let Rouge, £40; too faced Metal­lic Sparkle Lip­stick in Hot Flash, £18

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