Fashion & Beauty

The Lipstick Effect

July 30, 2019

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YOU’VE HEARD of the Lipstick Effect, right?  It’s the theory that women spend more money on small, affordable luxuries, like lipstick, during economic uncertainty and potentially unstable times. Purchasing an inexpensive item like that is a treat that doesn’t have much impact on one’s available fund

But whatever the ups and downs of politics and the economy, I suspect that we grown-up girls buy lipstick—both inexpensive and not—because it makes us feel confident and powerful.  A swipe of color on the lips and bingo, a transformative effect on looks and attitude. Philadelphia lawyer Nancy Gold is fond of the riff on the airplane safety instructions:  “In the event of an emergency, apply lipstick before assisting others.”

In honor of National Lipstick Day (ICYMI, it was Monday), we asked MyLittleBird staff and friends to tell us about their favorite brands and colors. Here’s what they said:



NANCY MCKEON: I just bought a new lipstick! L’Oreal’s Matte-ly in Love (above, right). I wonder about matte finishes, though. As my lips get more and more “approximate” and ill-defined, I think maybe matte is a bad idea. I’ll see.

For almost a decade now I’ve been wearing Lancôme’s Color Design lipstick in the Groupie shade (above, left). It’s a red-orange and has a bit of shimmer to it, which may hide my thinning mouth and give my whole face a color lift. (The color also comes in other finishes, like sheen and matte, even metallic.) The only reason I switched was because I’ve misplaced my lipstick case and happened to be in a Duane Reade.

I think even more important than lipstick at my age is lip liner. I’ve tried the more liquid and waxy kinds, but they don’t sit firmly enough to establish boundaries. I want a matte pencil liner that will define my mouth and then just sit there and shut up. I can color between the lines, although I sometimes use the pencil all over, for a very subdued effect.

The nice thing about makeup in general is that you can be successful at so many price points. A $10 lip pencil from the drugstore may work out better for you than an expensive brand exclusive to Bergdorf’s. And you can mix and match: no reason that $10 lip pencil can’t play nicely with the $175 tinted moisturizer.


KATHY LEGG: I used to buy primarily Lancôme, and their “free” gifts almost always included a lipstick and mascara so I never had to actually “buy” either. The rosy shades work best for me as do the creamier variety. The matte feels too dry. But no matter what lipstick I wear I swear it doesn’t stay on for more than four minutes and I don’t know why. I don’t lick or touch my lips, but the lipstick just disappears. So I tried lip stains, but never found a color that suited me. Nor did the stains seem to last either. Like Nancy, I’ve used lip liners like lipsticks and they do stay on a bit longer.

Right now I’m using a Lune & Aster color I like a lot. It’s called Double Booked (above, left)—a nice soft rose on the creamy side. I don’t know in how many forms their lipsticks come, but this one is like a big crayon. Kinda fun. I’ve also become partial to Dior’s lipsticks. The label’s Coral Mood (above, right) is perfect for summer. Feels very tropical. But as much as I like them, they don’t stay on any longer than any of the others I’ve worn.

I once saw a clip about lipstick on a daytime TV show called “The Doctors,” where they were warning about the effects/dangers of long-term lipstick use. They were going on and on about the chemicals and gunk used in making it. Yadda, yadda, yadda. You knew it was never going to dissuade any woman from wearing lipstick. But then they brought out this clear container, about the size of a kitchen garbage can, full of something that was supposed to be lipstick and pointed out that this was equal to the amount of lipstick a woman consumes during her lifetime. Now that was pretty gross!




JANET KELLY: For someone who doesn’t wear lipstick much, I must have about 10 different varieties—some  crayons (above, far left, Honest Beauty Truly Kissable Lip Crayon), some liquids, some glosses, some, well just plain lipsticks. To soothe dry, chapped lips, I turn to Patchology’s Lip Service Gloss-to-Balm Treatment (above, center). It tastes like honey.  My usual go-to combination is Burberry’s Lip Velvet Matte in Nude Rose (above, far right) and to add shine, Liquid Lip Velvet (above, right) in Primrose. I have run out of Dior Addict’s Lip Maximizer Plumping Gloss (above, left), but I miss it because it’s perfect for those times when you need to run out quickly but still want to look as if you’ve made an effort. 


NANCY GOLD: I like the MAC satin finish ones. Right now my favorite is Twig (above). Mattes don’t work for me at all, including the fact that they’re drying on my lips, no matter what they’re billed as. I think as our skin dries out with age, we all need a bit of low shine.

CYNTHIA TILSON: Several years ago, I had Mohs surgery to remove a piece of my upper lip diagnosed with squamous cell cancer in situ.  Several weeks later, it was apparent the doctor had done a masterful job of concealing the thin scar, which healed into a barely noticeable white line lost among all the other upper vertical lip lines that come with aging skin.

The last piece of advice my doctor delivered was this: “Do not go outside for even an hour without covering your lips every day in a layer of protective lipstick.”  “But,” I complained, “I have never found a lipstick that stays in place long without constant reapplication. What’s a girl to do?”

“Go to the drugstore and buy those 24/7 lipsticks,” he advised. “They last until you either sand them off or remove them with a special makeup remover.”

Since then, I’m never seen without my “lips on,”  whether biking, skiing, swimming, or gardening. I used to be a bit snobbish about the lipstick I bought.  Now though, every morning I apply my inexpensive drug store go-to —L’Oreal Paris Infallible  # 105, with a thin coat of any lip balm containing SPF 30, and I’m set for the day. At least once a week, someone stops to compliment me on this lipstick color—an unusual lavender tint with a hint of iridescence. If I am dressing for an evening event, sometimes I will go bright with L’Oreal’s #215, or dramatic with Revlon Colorstay Overtime in Limitless Black Cherry. At night, I easily remove all the above with Neutrogena make-up remover cleansing towelettes and apply a swipe of Bioderm’s Atoderm Levres for nighttime rehydration.


IRINA PERIS:  I use Rouge Dior Hot Red (#634), above right) as a base and then layer shades of pink or creamy, shiny things. Those are Dr. Hauschka and Smith and Cult, some with more pink/cream and others with wine shades. Sometimes I use Blush Apple by Burt’s bees and Dior Addict Lacquer Plump in Fever (above left). And that’s pretty much it. I am kind of a minimalist.

Got a favorite color, brand, etc.? Tell us about it! Or in comments below!


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2 thoughts on “The Lipstick Effect

  1. Carol says:

    I’m always buying a new brand/type lipstick but always revert to the pinky mauvy shades…
    I do use a slightly darker shade in the winter and for dress up
    My good buddy and hairdresser gave us girls who have those disappearing lips a great hint
    Outline with a white pencil liner, then gently rub it in (sort of), then apply lipstick
    It works for me as it helps the color stay and makes my lips fuller

    1. Janet Kelly says:

      That’s a good suggestion. Thanks for telling us.

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