Navigating the lipstick jungle on National Lipstick Day 2019

Colours from Bite Beauty  

She applies lipstick in front of the dressing table wearing a silk churidar-kameez with strappy silver stilettos, her straight black hair open. Five-year-old me is in rapture watching my mother getting dressed. My first memories of childhood are of her vanity case jam-packed with perfumes, kajal, and cake mascara with a toothbrush applicator. But the pièce de résistance of her beauty ritual was lipstick. She used a separate brush to first fill the outlines, then the centre, followed by just a dab of colour from the bullet. Some people grow up wanting to be astronauts and musicians. I wanted to be an adult so I could wear lipstick.

The first time I wore it was in high school, and the brand was Personi. You may remember it from the mid-90s. I used to wear a dusty rose outlined with dark chocolate (youth is truly wasted on the young). Thankfully, my aesthetics are more refined now, and I can confidently call myself a lipstick connoisseur. So I’m going to attempt to set the bar straight about choosing and applying colour that makes you look your absolute best.


How to buy

I know there are many ‘tricks’ written in magazines, but I like to keep it simple. Try it on when you’re completely devoid of any other make-up — if it makes your complexion look brighter and your teeth whiter, you’ve found yourself a winner.

Bobbi Brown Luxe Lip Color

Bobbi Brown Luxe Lip Color  

Stay all day

Brands and textures define how a lipstick will wear during the day. While Chanel Rouge Allure is touted as one of the most wearable, I find the range of shades leaves much to be desired. I only like Rouge Noir, an almost black berry, which lifts every skin tone. On a daily basis, I like to wear creamy and pigmented ones; they shouldn’t dry my lips, and should leave behind some colour after a meal. In this regard, I love Bobbi Brown Luxe Lip Color, YSL Rouge Pur Couture, Dior Rouge and Tom Ford Lip Color. I love the Luxe Lip in Pink Buff, which suits everyone, and Pussycat from Tom Ford, which is part mauve, part nude — there’s no other shade like it, #4 from YSL (a stunning neutral for darker skins), and 999 Celebrity Red from Dior.

Formulas that work

The world has moved beyond basic cream formulas and now we have stains, gloss, chubby sticks, gels, oils, and liquid mattes. Most of the new formulas are gimmicky, especially the 16-hour liquids that feel stretchy and flake on the mouth. The only brand that has perfected the liquid lip is Nars, with their Power Matte Lip Pigment. The formula is extremely thin, like a runny ink, which is why it clings to the lips and doesn’t budge, feel too dry or flake. My favourite shade in the range is Light My Fire, an attention grabbing red that lifts the complexion.

Stains and tints

My other favourite formula has to be a lip stain. Ever since Benefit came out with Benetint in the early 2000s, I’ve been on the hunt to find a stain that looks like it, but doesn’t disappear like it does. Recently, I’ve found the answer, with Etude House Dear Darling Tints. They cost nothing, but the wear and colour look expensive. I like to first apply a layer of the tint below the colour. This way, I don’t get a ring around my mouth. But even worn on their own, with a bit of balm, the tints look beautiful. Then there are the YSL Glossy Stains — two of my favourite textures in one product. Unlike the Etude tints, these come in a huge range of shades, including beautiful nudes.

Nars Power Matte Lip Pigment

Nars Power Matte Lip Pigment  

The thing about liner

The difficult part about wearing lipsticks isn’t shortage of brands or even discovering your ideal shade. Those who aren’t used to wearing it might find that their face looks strange with a bit of colour on the lips, especially when it’s red lipstick. For those women (and men), I have a simple solution. Instead of wearing lipstick, just wear lip liner — use it to fill in the entire mouth. In my experience, they are far more flattering than lipsticks, plus they don’t budge. Charlotte Tilbury Lip Cheat Lip Liners glide on like butter.

Clean beauty

Recently though, there’s been a deluge of ‘clean’ lipsticks. At the very top of my list is Bite Beauty; their Amuse Bouche lipsticks are rich, creamy, pigmented and long-lasting. My experience with a lot of non-toxic make-up is that it doesn’t wear beautifully, but these lipsticks are superior by any standards. My favourite shade is a cool-toned red called Gazpacho, which can enliven even the dullest of complexions. Then there is Kjaer Weis, not only for the formulas but also for the chic packaging. The beeswax-spiked Lip Tints are richly-pigmented and long-lasting. Besides, just whipping out the cool steel lip compacts is reason enough to splurge on these babies. Closer home, I’ve discovered a brand called Luaer, which is sustainable and paraben free. A shade called Rewa, which has become my go-to neutral, has the ability to lift every Indian skin tone.

Sabrina Suhail’s custom lipstick

Sabrina Suhail’s custom lipstick  

Euro advantage

Wear it every single day? Go for something a bit more pricey. If you’re travelling to Europe, shop there. Because of stricter EU regulations, the same lipstick is ‘cleaner’ than any other continent.

Made to order

Bengaluru-based Sabrina Suhail offers customised vegan lipsticks that are paraben and cruelty-free. For lipstick day, she’s giving 50% off on the second custom colour till July 31. Details on

Glamour in a bullet

Before I wrap up, it would be remiss not to mention the aversion straight men have towards lip colours. If I had a rupee for the number of women who say they stop wearing lipstick because their husband/partner/lover doesn’t like it, I’d be a millionaire many times over. We don’t wear lipstick for our men — we wear it because it makes us feel sexy, because it brightens our skin in a single swipe, because every shade is a different mood, because it is glamour in a bullet, it is instant gratification. A lipstick is dependable, it fits into your handbag and it will never let you down. Let no man take that away from you.

National Lipstick Day: An expert’s guide to wearing liquid lipstick

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Printable version | Sep 24, 2021 3:31:08 PM |

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