Mirror, Mirror: Get the red out: How to do the holiday lips

Posted: November 30, 2011

Red lips are bold. Fresh. Sexy. Beautiful.

Femininity at its best.

No wonder fashion types are touting the crimson lip as the holiday season's makeup must-have. What better way to make a sultry entrance to your holiday parties?

But the classic look can be tough to pull off. Especially these days when some of us are so busy we find ourselves applying our faces - gasp - without a mirror.

So, we set out to show you how to add some Hollywood pop to your holiday look. The main ingredient, of course, is the red lip.

"Red is one of this year's hottest trends," said Nola Weinstein, executive editor at Glam.com, pointing out that such red-carpet (s)heroes as Lady Gaga, Gwen Stefani, and Beyoncé all have been photographed with glossy, berry-toned lips. "And it's one of the most affordable ways to rock it."

It's important to remember that just because your lips pop doesn't mean the rest of your face should follow suit.

"If you have a gorgeous red lip then you must tone down your eyes and cheeks," cautioned Kevin Gatto, owner of Collingswood's Verde Salon, who said he had seen an uptick in red-lip interest. "You can't mix a smoky eye with a red lip. Pick one feature as your main focus point."

So how do you re-create yesteryear's perfect persimmon pout and maintain a millennium edge?

"It's about picking the right lip liner," explained Robert Francis, a makeup artist at Blue Bell's La Vita Bella Salon & Day Spa.

Seriously? I asked.

I always thought picking the right red was about matching skin tone. Cool dark skin tones should wear a cool red with a bluer base, as in pure fire-engine red; warmer complexions look better in more of a burgundy or crimson red.

That's only partly right, Francis said.

The classic Hollywood red lipstick - whether it's M.A.C's Viva Glam, L'Oreal's Infallible Le Rouge, or (Francis' favorite) Smashbox Legendary - is a clear, blue-based hue. Think fire engines, or candied apples.

That red, Francis says, can work on anyone. It must, however, be blended into the right lip liner.

That's when understanding your skin's undertones comes in. Those of us with yellow undertones should choose a brick-red or mahogany liner, while fairer faces with cool undertones should stick to primary red.

The rest of the secret lies in the application: Red is a classic color that requires a classic approach.

Using a rounded lip pencil, generously outline the lips, leaving only a tiny space in the middle of the lip sans color.

Then, using a small brush, apply your true red to the center of your pout, taking time to blend the liner and the lipstick together. Resist the urge to purse those lips together.

Mushing = mess. The only thing worse than the wrong red is messy red.

Finally (and this is key, according to Francis): Dust a makeup sponge with your setting powder and blot any lipstick that may have bled past your lip line. This will help set the lipstick and "ensure a fierce set of kissers," Francis said.

The mistletoe is waiting.


Contact fashion writer Elizabeth Wellington at 215-854-2704, ewellington@phillynews.com, or @ewellingtonphl on Twitter.

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