Has either of these scenarios ever happened to you?
Scenario 1. You head to the makeup counter to buy a new lipstick. You select a few tubes whose innards visually appeal to you and swatch them on the back of your hand. One in particular makes your knees buckle, so you whip out your wallet like a smoking gun out of a holster for a shoot-down at the OK corral. You get home, and with butterflies in your stomach, rip off the packaging and apply your new color. And ugh. It looks awful. Did they give you the wrong color? You look at the box. No, it says what it's supposed to. Oh, wait, was the wrong tube inserted in the box? No, the names match up. You sit there staring at your mouth, which mocks you like two slabs of raw salmon reeking in the hot sun, and you wonder how such a pretty color could turn so bad. You had swatched it to make sure the color complemented your skin tone, after all.
Scenario 2. You head back to your favorite counter, but this time you test the lipsticks on your lips. How else will you know? When you're about to spend anywhere from $14 to $45 you want to be sure. So you begin trying the lipsticks on your mouth, but after the second or third color you test, your lips are so flushed and so stained with pigment, and the skin around your mouth is so red from rubbing the color off, you can't tell what looks good, so you leave the store with nothing. Or worse, you make another bad purchase.
What if there were a way to improve your chances of going home with the perfect lipstick where the only prerequisite is to go to the store without any lip color on your lips?
Alas, I don't have a foolproof method. Existing lip pigment, bad lighting, lipstick formula, and other conditions conspire against us, but here's how I minimize the risk of picking a dud:
- Select. I choose between 3 to 5 colors from the display. Like wine tasting or perfume sniffing, I can suffer from sensory overload so I try to keep the contenders to a minimum. This means I go shopping for a specific range: red or rose or pink or nude; I try not to go bonkers over the entire lipstick display.
- Swatch. Swipe my selection on the back of my hand or on a sheet of plain, white paper. This is the best way to first see if a color will complement my skin tone and let me examine the lipstick's undertones, which lip pigment will mask. It's also easier to write the color names down on the piece of paper, and if the counter person looks at me like I'm a weirdo, I mention that I'm trying to avoid a return. That proves to be a conversation stopper.
- Examine. Walk the swatches over to the store entrance and examine the colors in natural light. Anything too (fill in the blank*) is immediately disqualified. I am ruthless at this point as I remind myself: Why look good when I can look great? (*For my coloring I reject anything warm or colors with obvious undertones of peach, coral, brown, or beige.)
- Fingertips. Take my final 2-3 choices and swatch them on a fingertip. Huh?? Yes, my fingertips are almost the same color as my lips when I force the blood into them. See for yourself right now by using your thumb to press firmly just below one of your fingertips on the same hand--between the first knuckle and the fleshy bit. See the blood flow into the tip. When testing in stores, I swipe the color there (making sure I continue applying pressure); then I walk over to the natural light again. (Tip: If you smoke, swipe the fingertips on your non-dominant hand so your skin is as free from overtones as possible.)
- Test pt. 1. Now with choices narrowed down to 1 or 2, I can try the lipstick on my lips. I never use lip pencil unless it is clear--not flesh toned--clear like Lipstick Queen's. I start with the lightest color and work toward the darkest. To remove a previous color, I use an oil-based remover and gently blot to avoid making the lip area red.
- Test pt. 2. When I have the lipstick I think I am going to buy, I put it on my lips and ask for a hand mirror. I hold the mirror over my head and tilt my head all the way back so I am looking directly at the ceiling with the mirror over my face. This position helps ameliorate some of the awful department-store lighting by cutting down on the shadows.
|Shu Uemura Rouge Unlimited BR 710|
A cool, clear pink in the tube but my lips EAT the pigment into oblivion
|Ellis Faas Glazed Lips L301 (Ellis Red)|
I love most EF lipsticks, but this version of Ellis Red is too warm
|Chantecaille Lip Chic Zinnia|
Do you see any color there? Cuz I don't
|Ellis Faas L307|
Color failure on me--would look great on a warm-toned redhead
|Laura Mercier Sparkling Pink|
So pretty swatched and in the tube; corpse lips on me
Do you have any near-fail proof lipstick-testing tricks?
Photo credits: (1) Lipstick Tubes Fine Art Print - Garry Gay; (2) sweethotjustice.com; the last 5 are mine