Reader Questions: Lipstick & Blush

Anonymous writes:

Thanks for this! I have zero sense for what makeup colors look good on me, so even though I would like to occasionally don lipstick to brighten up my very pale face, I haven't found one that doesn't make me feel clownish. I've tried visiting makeup counters at department stores, and they have been surprisingly unhelpful - they seem to expect you to already know what you want. I've had a couple of makeup counter salespeople try to help me pick a color, but everything looked garish on me. Suggestions?

and Irene writes:

Lipstick (in some traditional shade, of course, not blue or anything) as rouge -- yes or no? My mother used to recommend it, and it seems like the obvious way to get the cheeks to not clash with the lips, but I always fear that it's a classic newbie error. (I wear makeup roughly once every six months to a year -- usually lipstick and mascara.)

Anonymous, you should wear any lipstick you thinks makes you look nice. A lot of sales people will tell you that you "can't" wear certain colors, and this is total BS -- the only lipstick you can't wear is one that you are deathly allergic to. Different colors come and go in fashion, and if you like one that isn't currently hot it can be a bitch and a half to find it, but the reason they expect you to know what you want is mostly that the "right" lipstick depends on what you want to look like. If you don't know what you want to look like, you're never going to find it.

I can't give you any personal suggestions unless I know what you look like already, but a good way to start is to go find some celebrities who are wearing makeup you like, and trot into someplace like a Sephora with a bunch of photos. (Don't try department store makeup counters. They're crap. Sephora is a boutique chain that specializes in cosmetics; there are others like them. Specialty chains will also often give you sample sizes to take home and try before you fork over money for the good stuff.) Aside from that, there are only very general rules -- one that people seem to be pretty consistent on is that the shinier/glitterier/slicker the lipstick is, the 'younger' the look is going to skew.

If the problem is that you think they all look too strong and fake on you, you can try a tinted lipgloss, or for a non-shiny color, a lip stain. I forget what Cover Girl calls theirs, but Revlon makes one called Just Bitten that works fairly well. Lip stain is an oil-based ink, basically -- it comes as a felt-tip pen and you pretty much just color in your lips. They work less like Magic Markers and more like Copic pens in that they don't dry instantly, and you have a few seconds to blot if you think there's too much color, or blend colors if you want to get fancy. It stains the top layer of skin and lasts about 24 hours, assuming you're not drinking cooking oil. (Like removes like, with makeup. Pigments that go on with an oil base also come off when swiped at with more oil. This is really good to know before you try to remove it by scrubbing your lips off with face wash.) The stuff ignores petrolatum and beeswax, so you can wear lip balm over it.

As for lipstick as blush, the only reason you might not want to is that a lot of super-long-stay lipcolor is designed to dry instantly and opaquely, two qualities that are beyond horrid in a blusher or bronzer. As long as you can get it to go on subtle and blend properly there's no reason not to. Pigments are rated more strictly for use near the mouth or eyes than they are for use on other parts of your face, so if it's safe for your mouth, it's also fine for your cheeks. I don't personally wear any blush unless someone wants me in super-duper gaudy contouring makeup for effect or brightly-lit video work, so I don't own anything that was packaged as rouge to begin with. I once asked a trained aesthetician what color she'd recommend I wear as a daily blush and she was stumped, so I've concluded I'm just not meant to have any color. If the lipstick works, stick with it. Just remember to set it with some translucent powder after you finish blending.