I never leave the house before applying a coat of lipstick. I’ll be the first to admit this seems like a bit much. In fact, my friends in college used to laugh whenever I ran back to reapply before leaving the dorm, but it quickly became a signature look of mine, and now instead of laughs, I get compliments.
But compliments aside, I eventually asked myself, “Is this just vanity? Or is it possible that wearing red lipstick is more than that?”
I know that, for me, when I swipe on a classic crimson lip I instantly feel more pulled together and confident in myself, like I can face the day head on. After a little research, I discovered there is actual scientific proof backing up how wearing lipstick can encourage you to embrace your own boldness! As it turns out, a dash of color can really impact your confidence.
A study titled “Lipstick: More Than A Fashion Trend” found that “women use lipstick in a significant way to transform and present themselves; using it to reflect their daily fluctuations in moods and identity.” In the study, 300 women were interviewed and 253 of those reported lipstick made them feel “very confident.” While many might assume the use of lipstick is to appear more sexually attractive to men, the study’s findings suggest that the use of lipstick has more to do with self-esteem than sexual allurement. Furthermore, their study found that while many colors of lipstick can impact the emotions of the wearer, red was the favored color and made the respondents feel happy. Overall their study concluded that, “lipstick has a valuable role to play in constructing self-identity and providing understanding in how women experience appearance in their daily lives.”
Verily found similar results in a social media challenge from February that encouraged women to don their favorite shade of red on Instagram along with a statement on how red lipstick makes them feel. One woman stated, “Forget the power tie….for me, it’s all about the power lip. In a gym dominated by testosterone, a red lip is a reminder that beauty has a strength of its own.” Another said, “Swiping on a deep cherry shade reminds myself that self care is paramount.” Other women similarly said, “I realized in college that the brighter the lipstick I wore, the more confident I felt. And so, as I interviewed for internships, started my blog, and put myself out there to make new friends, my lipstick collection grew.” And another said, “When I was faced with adulthood and terrified by it. Lipstick was at first simply a way to embolden myself on daunting days.”
These responses reminded me of a class I took in school about the psychology behind marketing a lipstick. A girl in class was sporting a purple hue and the professor had her breakdown her thought process while she chose that particular color and why she ultimately decided to buy it. It was fascinating to scratch that surface-level response of, “It was a fun and interesting color,” to arrive at, “I wanted something that was going to make me feel original and confident when I came back to school.”
There is a common theme between all these personal testimonies on the power of lipstick. Rather than being used out of mere vanity, lipstick is more commonly used as a tool for overcoming challenges or obstacles in life. It turns out lipstick has a history of being used to increase morale in women. Meghann Mason writes in “The Impact of World War II on Women’s Fashion in the United States and Britain,” that standard service beauty kits were “given to servicewomen which included ‘Auxiliary Red’ lipstick,” because of the positive effect in had on the women.
Clearly, there is a transformational aspect to lipstick that encourages women to be bold while remain true to themselves. Lipstick isn’t a sign of superficiality, but rather a symbol of confidence and feminine strength in the face of struggle or uncertainty.
I remember reading an Elle UK article about Keira Knightley a few years back, and she referenced the best beauty advice she received from her mom: “Lipstick is an armor to the world. . . . If you’re doing something hard, a really vibrant color is a good thing. Lips are the easiest thing to put color on.”
This got me thinking, “Why do I wear certain lipstick colors?” I know depending on the day, I like to choose a different hue. I have my pinks for lighter, casual events. My mauves and browns for somber and “serious” events. My personal favorite, however, will always be Crimson by Clinique. It is a bold red, and I save it for the days I need extra “armor.” I realized that like many women, a red lip gives me that added ounce of courage to take on the world no matter what challenges stand before me. Who knew leaving a mark could begin with a swipe of lipstick.