Why you should be putting on some red lipstick right now

It has the power to boost your mood!

Some say hemlines rise and fall with the stock market but in beauty circles we talk about The Lipstick Effect: in a financial pinch, we experiment with lip colour.

History backs up lipstick as a reliable barometer of human psychology in times of relative hardship. In the 1930s, when industrial production and employment plummeted, lipstick sales soared.

The same thing happened in the ’90s recession and again in the noughties’ global financial crisis. The theory, which is called ‘The Lipstick Effect’ goes that, when we have to tighten our proverbial belts, we turn to indulging in smaller luxuries like lipstick to lift our flailing spirits.

The only time this didn’t hold up was during the pandemic (presumably because mandatory face masks smothered that small joy too). But given the 2023 economic situation, unsurprisingly, lipstick sales are once again booming.“Wearing lipstick can be a huge mood booster,” says Sarah Laidlaw, Priceline Hair & Makeup Director.

“Firstly, because looking at ourselves with more ‘colour’ in our faces makes us instantly feel better. Secondly, because colour is an actual mood-altering thing. Red is a colour of action, power and passion, so wearing a red lip can give you the feeling of confidence, a go-getter vibe. Pink is about romance and kindness. Orange is about enthusiasm and stimulation. Wearing it is said to increase the supply of oxygen to the brain and creates an energising effect.”

Salma Hayek wearing red lipstick, which has many benefits.

Can a slick of lippie really wield such power? Research shows that lipstick does indeed hold substantial sway, particularly red. One Harvard paper found wearing a bold lip colour helped women to feel empowered and more confident in the workplace, while another study from France’s Université de Bretagne-Sud discovered waitresses who wore a slick of red on lips received 50 per cent more tips.

Yet a bold lip – particularly an attention-grabbing red – also fills many women with some trepidation. “When we’re younger, and our lips are still full and our jawlines are tight, a red lip is often an easy choice,” says Sarah, who notes the trick to pulling off a racy hue is all in the application.

“As the lips get thinner and the edges of the mouth start to droop, following the lip line faithfully can leave you with a downturned mouth. Apply the colour a few millimetres in from the outer part of the mouth to keep it from migrating into creases at the edge and create the illusion of lift.”

The same trick should be applied to lipliner (totally worth the hassle if you’re hoping for longevity and definition). “Lipliners are, I believe, one of the most important items in your make-up bag,” says make-up artist and Holme Beauty founder Hilary Holmes.

“As we age the pigment and collagen in our lips decline, so our lips shrink. More often than not, people don’t realise that lipliner can easily bring the shape back. If in doubt, overdraw a little on the top and bottom lip line.”

Red lipstick benefits can be enjoyed by all, even Helen Mirren.

Don’t be too enthusiastic as you’re aiming for subtle illusion, but if you’re daring enough to try this trick, go just one shade darker than your natural colour and use a magnifying mirror to help control the precision.

Then there’s the million-dollar question: Which colour is ‘the one’ for you? To be honest, your shade of choice will change depending on your mood and what you’re wearing but, if you’re after guidance, make-up artists tend to base it on your natural colouring.

“Blondes can wear orange-reds for a pop and blue-reds for sexy. Brunettes wear blue-reds best. Those with red or auburn hair should go for deep and warm orangey reds,” says Hilary.

“This rule works for most people.”

Norma Jeane Mortenson who went on to become Marilyn Monroe loved a red lip.

Texture is the last (but not least important) element to consider. Matte, shimmery and metallic shades are challenging if your lips are thin or tend towards dry because that’s what it will amplify. The other extreme – high shine – has its downsides too.

“A glossy texture can be great as long as you don’t have deep lines around the lip line,” says Sarah, who advises settling for a happy medium. “I love a long-lasting satin formula as it has some moisturising ingredients but stays in place more effectively.”

Ultimately, though, the best way to find a spirit-lifting shade is to just hit the shops and go with your gut. Trying on colour is both fun and free. Should you find a happy match, it’s also a fairly small price to pay for a daily spark of joy at your fingertips.

To borrow from the legendary Coco Chanel, “If you’re sad, add lipstick…”

Related stories