red lipstick

Review: Kat von D Foiled Lipstick in Adora

Leonard Lauder, chairman of Estee Lauder, once opined that women buy lipstick during shaky economic times as a quick and inexpensive way to make themselves feel better. (I think he meant “inexpensive” as compared to, say, a fur coat, not an ice cream cone.)

Although things now are economically better than they were a few years ago, retail makeup therapy still works an awful lot of the time, especially in or after stressful situations. I recently had one of these, and we don’t need to go into details except that it involved me and three other cars and everyone is OK. Also, buy Toyota.

So after a harrowing experience, I think it’s totally natural to have indulged in a little lip splurge, even though yes, yes, Sephora is just about to have a VIB 20% off sale and wouldn’t it have been smarter to wait until next weekend. To which I say, “Pthhhhbbbttt,” and “Pffffffft,” and “shut up, I was just in a car accident and I will buy whatever I like.”

This lippie wasn’t originally on my to-buy list, though I did swatch it in the store when I did those red lippie swatches a few weeks ago, but it was awfully cheerful, and the person I was with swore it wasn’t too bright for me. (You may make your own decision below. Most of the time I’ll end up buffering it with a gloss of some sort, because really it is very bright.)

Kat von D “foiled” lipsticks are so named because they have a metallic finish. It’s a pity Kat wasn’t making these in the 80s, because I think Pat Benatar would have happily worn this onto the battlefield, or at least in the music video. I think she and Joan Jett might have gotten in a catfight over them.

Adora is what I would call a light red. That is not the same as pink, although in both the hand and lip swatch photos I took, it pulls distinctly pink. When I look at myself in the same lighting, it’s clearly red. Yes, it’s a blue-based red, but it’s definitely red. The metallic finish not so much a frost or a chromelike gleam but rather a sheen, like stainless steel. Because of the finish, I can’t call it either matte or glossy. It’s neither drying nor particularly moisturizing on the lips.

I haven’t given it an all-day go yet, but these foiled lippies stain like nobody’s business, so I would be very surprised not to get several hours’ wearlength out of this. The swatch I put on my hand for the picture below was on my hand for maybe five minutes in total and left a pink stain that hours later I haven’t been able to get rid of even with diligent scrubbing. On the lip, after I removed what I’d put on for a lip swatch, I got beautiful results by putting balm over the remaining stain. Although it looks terrifyingly bright when applied full-force, it turns out to be surprisingly versatile when coupled with other products. It would also make a gorgeous, gorgeous blush if you needed a quick touch-up. (You will, obviously, want to apply very lightly!)


Hand swatch:

(This definitely pulls pink in the swatch. In real life it is redder.)

Naked lip:

Lip with Kat von D Foiled Lipstick in Adora:

(Sorry, I was a little crooked there. Oops.)



Kat von D Foiled Love Lipstick in Adora: $18 at Sephora

Provenance: Purchased.

Price/Value Ratio (high-end: poor/fair/good/excellent): Good. Less expensive than many other similarly-positioned brands.

Purchase again? Sure, if I found another color that worked for me.

(Have you used this product? Love it? Hate it? Want it? Give a holler in the comments!)


Some Red Lipstick Swatches

For those of you from Over There who have been asking about red lipstick, I thought I would swatch some when I was at Sephora the other day. After seeing all of these on my hand, the friend who was with me said something to the effect of, “you know, they all look pretty much the same, don’t they?” and I had to say “yes, yes they do.”

There are a couple of pictures in different lighting, none of which are studio or light-box quality. For reference, my skin tone is NW20 in MAC, which is medium fair and pink-toned.



The third picture (the unlabeled one) is probably the one that shows the texture/opacity of the various shades the best. The two on the far right on the bottom “row” (I use the term loosely) are the two foiled lipsticks from Kat von D. Adora is a bright but light red; Beranice is pinker. Of all of these, those two left the most stain, even a full day and several hand-washings later.

I know these swatches are messy and untidy, but I thought they might be useful. And I do intend to buy one of these that I swatched, but you’ll have to guess which. ;)

Review: Guerlain Kiss Kiss Lipsticks in #521 (Red Strass) and #525 (Folie de Grenat)

I had a few other products next in line for review, but none of them came from Sephora and I figured that since the F&F sale was still going on, I ought to do products that are available at Sephora in case any of you want to pick any of them up for 20% off.

My love affair with the red lip continues (and will probably last through early January). These are two lovely red lippies by Guerlain, from their (less expensive) Kiss Kiss line. As I remarked elsewhere, I hate the Betty-Rubble-esque packaging, but the products are quite nice.

Both of these shades are blue-based reds, and neither one is what I would call a “starter” red lippie along the lines of the Shiseido Natural Red or a red gloss like Lancome’s Rouge Magnificence or 3CC’s Candy Apple. These are definitely lippies for red-letter days, or, as I like to call them, Tuesdays. #521, Red Strass, is a festive, cheerful, happy, look-at-me! lip color: a vibrant red with just-noticeable-enough gold shimmer. #525, Folie de Grenat (pictured at top), is its more sophisticated, slightly darker, unshimmery older sister: the Beezus to 521’s Ramona, the Jo March to its Amy, or Elizabeth Bennet to its Lydia.

(This is not to say, of course, that if you wear #521 Red Strass you are liable to find yourself ruining other people’s birthday cakes, falling through thin ice into a freezing pond, or running off scandalously with a dashing but unsuitable scallywag. Or if you do, don’t blame it on the lippie.)

These lipsticks are moderately creamy, and I find them neither moisturizing nor drying. I haven’t noticed any feathering BUT they are quite bright and so I have always religiously used a lipliner and primer with them. Wearlength is about average given the intensity of the color: about 3 hours plus some staining.


#521 Red Strass:

Naked lip, and lip with #521 Red Strass:

#525 Folie de Grenat:

Naked lip and lip with #525 Folie de Grenat:

They don’t look as different in the swatches as they do in the tube, but Folie de Grenat is definitely darker and more sophisticated, while Red Strass is lighter and less serious.


Guerlain Kiss Kiss Lipsticks in #521 Red Strass and #525 Folie de Grenat: $31 each at Sephora ($24.80 each during F&F sale!)

Provenance: Purchased.

Price/Value Ratio (high-end: poor/fair/good/excellent): Good.

Purchase again? Yes, I’d try other colors.

(Have you used this product? Love it? Hate it? Want it? Give a holler in the comments!)

Review: Shiseido Perfect Rouge Tender Sheer Lipstick in Natural Red

For some reason I’ve been on a red lipstick kick lately. While out of town I picked up two red Guerlain Kiss Kiss lipsticks (reviews to come as soon as I can swatch them) and just yesterday I got a lipstick sampler with two red lippies in it. I now have more red lippies than I know what to do with.

Fortunately for me, red lips are super-hot this fall, so at the very least I will be trendy. Poor, but trendy. Students will pass me on campus and say, “Pfft! Typical absent-minded professor, wearing threadbare clothes from 1972 with holes in them. Nice lipstick, though.”

One of my favorite recent buys is the Shiseido Perfect Rouge Tender Sheer lipstick in Natural Red. Wasn’t someone asking a couple of months ago about whether or not there was a sheer red lipstick that would be a good starter red for someone who wasn’t yet red-dy (ha!) to take the plunge to a full-on scarlet? This is the answer to that problem: a sheer, gorgeous, mistake-proof, you-cannot-possibly-go-wrong-wearing-this-lipstick red.

That I even investigated these at all is purely due to the good PR that Inthelab gave Shiseido, which made me think maybe I should reconsider my former not-interested stance towards the brand. She should get a commission!

Shiseido’s Perfect Rouge Tender Sheers come in four colors: Tender (sheer petal pink), Natural Red (sheer deep red), Pout (sheer mauve rose), and Natural Wine (sheer burgundy wine, which I really want to try now). Natural Red looks terrifyingly dark in the tube but it really is sheer. One coat gives a slightly red glow to the lips, and two coats makes them positively pop.

Because it is sheer, it doesn’t stain as much as an opaque lipstick does, so expecting more than three or four hours out of this lippie is as futile as expecting Lindsay Lohan to stay out of jail for longer than six months at a stretch. After the shine has worn off, it leaves only a light stain, but the upside to that is that there’s little chance of it feathering or bleeding into fine lines. There is no scent that I can detect, and it feels very moisturizing. It fades evenly and doesn’t get crusty, so frequent touchups (while inconvenient) are not unpleasant or troublesome.

Close-up and swatch!

Naked lip:

Lip with two coats Shiseido Perfect Rouge Tender Sheer in Natural Red:


Shiseido Perfect Rouge Tender Sheer Lipstick in Natural Red: $25 (at Sephora, online only)

Provenance: Purchased.

Price/Value Ratio (high-end: poor/fair/good/excellent): Good. Price itself is excellent, but I wish it had a longer wearlength.

Purchase again? Yes.

(Have you used this product? Love it? Hate it? Want it? Give a holler in the comments!)

Beauty on the Cheap: Drugstore Red Lipsticks and Glosses

Last week, LadyStarlight posed the following perplexing puzzler:

So I was in my local WalMart looking at makeup (because I was alone, ie, no boys of any age with me) and saw Cover Girl lipsticks on sale and thought “I would like a red lipstick but… 1) How do I choose a shade that flatters me and 2) Are there any drugstore available glosses or lip stains that aren’t as…noticeable, I guess, as a lipstick?”

And so, I hitched the dogs to the sled, packed up provisions for the long journey, put my affairs in order, and set off on the quest to find some good drugstore red lippies.

(OK, I am being just a tiny bit melodramatic. I got in the car and drove to ULTA. Satisfied?)

I talked a bit about Question #1 in this post, and it fundamentally comes down to the warm vs. cool issue again, just like it does with foundation. If you are cool/pink-toned, look for a neutral-to-blue-tinted red. If you are warm/yellow-toned, look for a neutral-to-orange-tinted red. The true neutral reds, which are hard to find, can usually be worn by either cool or warm skin tones. It can be difficult to tell just by looking at a lippie by itself whether it is blue-tinted or orange-tinted (red just sort of looks red, after all, until you figure out what you are looking for), so I suggest you look at at least two lippies at a time for comparison. The white paper trick is also still a good one. Also remember that your lips are at least a little bit (and in some cases a lot) darker and more pink than your skin tone, so unless you’re planning on covering your lips with foundation before putting on lipstick, you can expect it to look a little different on your lips than on your hand.

It will also depend on the lightness of your skin; dark- and olive-skinned women can wear some gorgeous shades of red that are overpowering on my pale skin. (You lucky ducks!) As I mentioned in my last foundation post, I’m an NW20 — light-skinned, slightly cool. I look best in reds that are neutral to slightly cool. This is not a very wide range (others may have better luck), but within that narrow pie wedge, I can wear things from sheer to full pigmentation and in a range of tints from light to dark. So it’s less limiting than it sounds. I am still a big fan of buying some inexpensive lip palettes and mixing colors just so you can see what looks good on you; then you can take that color to the store and try to find yourself a match in a brand you like.

OK, let’s get to the goodies. I have four products to recommend; I’ll cover them from the most sheer to the most pigmented, starting with the glosses. By the way, the reason I’ve been in such a snit over my missing Lancome Rouge Magnificence gloss is that it’s a lovely, soft, sheer, subtle, neutral shade of red gloss that looks good on top of anything. If you decide to go high-end, I recommend it. I’m sure the lipgloss-eating monster under the front seat of my car would also give it a strong endorsement, since he’s had it for at least two months now. Stupid monster. I’m sure he looks very pretty.

#1. Revlon Super Lustrous Lipgloss in shade #80: Cherries in the Glow ($6.99 at

OK, so pardon the horrible, horrible skin tone here. I appear to have been zombified when I wasn’t looking. The lighting was bad, I swatched it right over the tendons and veins on the back of my hand, and I was taking the photo with my iPhone;  in correcting the image to accurately render the color of the gloss, I have now made myself a candidate for the next Twilight movie. My apologies. Please don’t let it put you off; this is a good product!

This is, I think, an excellent “starter red.” Because it’s a gloss, it’s nice and sheer. It can be worn over bare lips or, if you’re feeling a little more bold, over another lipstick or lipstain to intensify and redden the color.

I think they’re undergoing a packaging change, but the product should look something like this (minus the “tester” sticker):

#2. Neutrogena Moistureshine Lipsheers in shade #50: Ruby Bliss ($8.99 at

This is packaged like a lipstick, but has a sheer texture, like a lip balm stick. The color is more intense than a lip balm, though; it may be applied very sheerly or built up for more intensity, so it is a good “intermediate red.” It looks moist, like a balm, but does not have an obvious glossy shine.

I looked on a lot of sites and didn’t see any swatches that actually represented the color of the product, so don’t be alarmed if you go to the website and say, “uh, that can’t be it; it looks too pink/brown/green.” (OK, not green.)

#3. Revlon ColorStay Mineral Lipglaze in shade #545: Stay Ablaze ($8.99 at

I love this. I very nearly bought all four of the products in this post, but this was the most tempting. This is a beautiful, rich red that is on the warm side, but because it is darker and not fire-engine bright, it will flatter many different skin tones. It has the shine of a gloss and the pigmentation of a lipstick.

(P.S. — Dear Revlon: Your website sucks. I will not send any of my readers there. Plz fix. Love, Voxy.)


#4. Cover Girl Outlast Double Lipshine in shade #265: 14-Carat Ruby ($9.29 at

OK, now don’t be scared of this one, but if you are new to red lippies, you will probably want to work up to this one via glosses and less pigmented products, like those listed above. This is a gorgeous, gorgeous red. The Cover Girl Outlast Double Lipshines are double-ended products with a long-wearing lipstain on one end and a clear gloss topcoat on the other. I only swatched the lipstain side here. I was really impressed by both the shade and the amount of pigmentation. The only problem with these kinds of long-wear products is that sometimes the lipstain portion is drying (which is why you get the gloss; that’s meant to keep the lips moist). I didn’t test it on lips, so I don’t know. I do have some other products of this type and in general I like them a lot.

You can also “thin” the application of the stain if it’s too intense for you by putting on the gloss first. Then dab the stain on the center of your bottom lip; rub lips together. Dab additional dots where you need it; rub lips together. If you need more precision to get the cupid’s bow right, use a small lip brush.


So, there you go. Four good drugstore options for red lippies, from gloss to lipstains. Please let me know in the comments if you pick up any of these products and if they work for you, or if you have other drugstore reds you’d recommend!

Photo: / CC BY 2.0

How to Do Red Lipstick

Every woman should have two things in her arsenal against the world: a killer pair of red heels, and a fabulous red lipstick. (If worse comes to worst, you can stab people with the stiletto heels and jam your lipstick in their eye.)

I’m a fan of natural-looking makeup, I really am. But every once in a while, you just need a Red Lipstick Day. And if you can’t remember when your last RLD was, chances are you could use not just a fresh start, but a fresh tube of lipstick. I mean a really red, bold, luscious, daring, watch-out-world-here-I-come lipstick.

The thing is, of course, that you need the really red, bold, luscious and daring lipstick that tells the world to watch out because it’s you who’s coming, not someone you’re pretending to be. The red lipstick that’s right for you can give you confidence, style, and sass, but only if you believe in it. (Kind of like Santa.) There shouldn’t be a power struggle between you and the lipstick. You want to be wearing the lipstick, not letting it wear you. If the lipstick is winning, it’s the wrong shade.

Fortunately, there are approximately 39847923876 shades of red lipstick to choose from. By figuring out whether you look better in warm reds (ones that tilt towards orange), or cool reds (ones that tilt towards blue), you can eliminate approximately half of those right off the bat, which leaves you with only 19923961938. See? Easy as pie.

If you don’t normally wear lipstick, then you’ll probably want to start with some more neutral colors before you jump into reds (or explore red glosses, which aren’t as strongly pigmented). This will also help you figure out if you look better in warm or cool colors: start with corals, bronze, or brown-tinted tones for warm skin, and pinks, berries, or plums for cool skin. Some people whose coloring is balanced between warm and cool can do either, but usually can’t go to the extremes of either half.

Recently it’s been über-hip to give products names that have nothing to do with the colors they are. Don’t ask me why. So if you are browsing a list of, say, NARS lipsticks, you will see the following “shades”: Mindgame, Success, Beautiful Liar, and Christina — which are very nice but which give you no indication of the tint. Traditionally-named warmer reds will have names that include things like brick, spice, terracotta, fire, sunset, etc.; cooler reds will have names that include things like berry, wine, currant, cherry, or ruby.

The single best thing you can do if you’re on The Quest For The Perfect Red Lipstick is to buy a lipstick palette that has as many shades in it as you can manage. This is a great way to get your hands on a lot of colors for not very much money. First, test each shade separately, and write down the shade name and your impressions. If one of those little tins doesn’t happen to contain your perfect red, start mixing shades together. (This is where it really gets fun!) I would advise mixing them right on your lips by using a lip brush. Don’t try more than two or three in one session, since your lips won’t fully release the stain and soon you won’t be getting a real idea of what the mixed color looks like on you. Also, try to remember the proportions of what you used so that you can recreate it (“mostly this, with a little that, and a dash of the other thing” is good enough). At this point, if you want, you can mash the various colors together in the right proportions and put your mixture in an empty palette tin.

When you go to the store (and you really must go somewhere with testers if you’re shopping for red lipstick, you absolutely must), take your mixed-up sample with you. Also take a white piece of paper. When you get to the store, use a tester lipstick applicator to smear some of your perfect mixture on the paper. Do the same with any lipsticks you want to test. Comparing swatches on white paper gives you the truest sense of how warm or cool the color is in comparison to your mixed-up sample. It’s much easier to compare tones on a piece of white paper than on your lips or skin. Remember that you are not looking for the color that you think looks prettiest on the white paper — you’re looking for whatever is closest to your blend. Note the closest color and one or two on either side (warm/cool) and test those on your arm (which should automatically eliminate at least one) and then on your lips. The best way to hygienically test lipsticks is as follows:

Easy way: Swivel the lipstick all the way up. Most people test from the top of the tube, particularly where the lipstick is faceted. Often a lipstick that has been ravaged at the top will be completely smooth and untouched at the base around the rim, particularly on the side away from the faceted edge. Go there first. I advise putting far more lipstick on the applicator than you think you will need — in order for you not to contribute more bacteria to the tester, you should use a clean applicator every time you scoop up more product. Better to just do it once if you can.

Hard way: If someone else has read this blog ahead of you and has already mucked up the area around the base, the second-best option is to remove the top 1/16″ of lipstick from the tube and swipe your applicator over the newly-revealed section. Dental floss usually works fine for this, as does beading wire or fishing wire. If you don’t have any of those things in your purse (i.e., if you’re not on your way to a taping of Let’s Make a Deal), you can also use the part of a nail clipper that swings out and lets you clean underneath your nails. Wipe this clean first with alcohol (which the store will surely have with the testing supplies), then use the side of it to slice right through the lipstick. It should be like slicing the heel off of a loaf of bread… except don’t eat it afterwards.

I’m going on forever, and there will probably be more posts about this in the future, but I can’t end without saying that carrying off a red lipstick also requires appropriate makeup on the rest of the face. So if you’re going to the store with no makeup on, or with a soft neutral natural look, don’t judge the red lipstick by how it works with that palette. You’ll need a stronger eye to balance the red lipstick. (That doesn’t mean a lot of dark eyeshadow, but it does mean you’ll probably need liner, mascara, and a good brow.)

This is one of my perfect reds. I’m one of those people who can go either warm or cool with most makeup colors, but reds are still hard for me. I have a few that I like. This is one of the bluer ones — it’s Styli-Style’s L3 lipstick/lip gloss combo (though the lipstick is really more like a lip stain) in a color called Red Hot. The pigment goes on matte, and then you put the gloss on top. In the below picture, the gloss I’ve used is actually a clear Smashbox lip gloss, just because I like it better than the one that comes with the product.


This was taken in natural light and not retouched. It really looks like I missed the bottom center of my lower lip with the gloss, but that’s just a weird camera thing.

I’ll show off some other good/bad red lipstick choices in future posts.

Opening photo: / CC BY 2.0

Estée Lauder’s Virtual Makeover Tool: Ur Doin’ It Rite

Estee_lauderDo you remember a few years ago, when the whole “virtual makeover” thing hit the streets harder than a hungover Real Housewife of Atlanta after an all-night party? You uploaded your picture and then told the website to apply various shades of makeup, haircolor, hairstyles, etc., and almost without exception the results looked like you had put on a cheap, ill-fitting wig, smeared dirt on your eyelids, rubbed a child’s watercolor palette somewhere in the general vicinity of your face, and then slept on the whole business? My favorite incarnation of this is the “HairMixer” application on Facebook, where I discovered that a) I can’t pull off Paris Hilton’s hair (much as I might want to), and b) I look disturbingly good with Anderson Cooper’s hair. I’m not really sure what that says about my foxaliciousness, but I’m pretty sure it’s nothing good.

Overall, I’d have to give these sites a pretty firm thumbs-down. They’re fun to play with, certainly, but their accuracy leaves much to be desired.

Just when you hoped thought this trend was going the way of the dodo (which I believe involves a left turn at Albuquerque), Estée Lauder has decided to dip its pedicured toe in the water with the Let’s Play Makeover tool, and I’m surprised and pleased to say that this is the best virtual makeover tool I’ve used (although I wish the name didn’t make me feel so much like a six-year-old).

The basic idea is the same as all of the similar sites: upload a photo, and then do things to it. However, the folks at Estée Lauder have taken remarkable care to allow you to actually map the products onto your face correctly, so that your lipstick doesn’t end up on your chin and you are still recognizable under what you’re wearing. It’s very sophisticated; I’m impressed. For best results, you should use a photo of yourself in which you are facing the camera straight-on, with good lighting and no makeup. They recommend that the photo be reasonably high-resolution; although they say not to, I used a picture taken with my webcam and it was just fine.

In order to get greater precision, they do ask you to map more points on your face than other sites do, but since this helps yield better results, it’s a worthy investment of an extra two minutes. The best part, though, is the number of options you get. You choose your skin tone in terms of both light-to-dark and warm-to-cool, specify the amount of coverage you want from a foundation, can tell the computer how you like your eyeshadow applied (lid only, lid and crease, or lid, crease, and brow bone), and can control how much of each product is applied to your face. It’s exceptionally elegant. Of course the selections you make also offer to let you buy the products in question with one click of a button, but you can’t blame them for trying to sell product!

You can save the looks you make, clear your look and start over, or apply one of their “one-click” looks, which are pre-loaded assortments of products that reflect current trends. Of the two currently on the website, one of them was horrendous on me, but the other was surprisingly good.

Now whenever you play with something like this, you have to keep in mind two things: a) if you go to the store and buy the product that looked great on you in the mockup, there’s no guarantee that it will look exactly the same, since you are both dealing with a photo taken of you in particular lighting, etc., and looking at the colors through your computer display’s gamma settings; and b) finding the right products does not relieve you of the obligation of applying them with some modicum of skill if you want to approach the mockup. But there is one thing in particular for which I think this tool is exceptionally useful: testing out possible colors in The Quest for the Perfect Red Lipstick. Although I wouldn’t rely on this for exact shades, you can see whether in general you look better in reds that tilt orange or those that tilt blue.