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Red Lipstick: The Women Who Own It and How They’ve Changed Me

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Toronto MU chapter.

Today, you decide to swipe on a vibrant shade of red lipstick. Maybe you have an important meeting at work or a big presentation in class. You want to feel confident, empowered, and desirable. But when you look in the mirror, it feels wrong — like you’re trying too hard… being too bold… doing too much. You hastily smear it off onto a tissue before hurrying out the door.

This is a sentiment known all too well by women across centuries. While red lipstick is known for portraying confidence and allure, building up the confidence to leave the house wearing it is truly a battle in itself.

Since starting post-secondary school, I’ve begun experimenting with a wide variety of red lipstick, and I can’t express enough how much it has changed my life. 

Thoughts & Experiences

Throughout my teenage years, I’ve been a pretty minimal makeup kind of girl, so bright lips and eyes have always been far out of my comfort zone. However, with the recent rise in popularity of the “French girl aesthetic,” I’ve been tempted to explore the world of natural hair, timeless fashion, and classic red lips. After lots of experimentation, my current favourite shade is Revlon’s Super Lustrous Lipstick in shade 777, “Vampire Love.” 

I asked Ekaterina Gurevich, a fashion student at Toronto Metropolitan University (TMU), about her experience wearing red lipstick.

“Wearing red lipstick makes me feel empowered and sexy,” Gurevich said. “I have a specific shade I wear — a darker maroon colour — that compliments a lot of my favourite outfits.” 

Many women have experiences similar to hers, but, on the contrary, it can sometimes have the opposite effect. I know that when I first started wearing red lipstick, I often felt like an imposter.

Polina Machok, a fashion model and business student at TMU, shared her experience with red lips in the modelling industry compared to her personal life.

“When I wear red lipstick for a photoshoot, it’s like I’m playing a character,” she said. “I don’t like to wear red lipstick in my personal life… it almost feels funny.”

It’s fascinating how something as simple as a lipstick colour can have such a contrasting effect on different individuals. This goes to show just how personal our style and self-expression can be. Red lipstick might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but I believe that it is a beauty trend that will never truly go out of style. 

Inspiration & History

One great thing about the timeless nature of red lipstick is that there are endless examples of it being worn across centuries. If I asked you to picture someone that you’ve seen wearing the shade, I’m pretty confident that one of your favourite celebrities or public figures would pop into your mind. In my brain, red lips are typically associated with celebrities such as Taylor Swift and Marilyn Monroe.

Marilyn Monroe was one of the most popular actresses from Old Hollywood in the ’50s and is widely known for her signature, seductive red lip. While the bold lip was essential to a lot of the characters she played throughout her career, Monroe’s love of the product crossed over into her personal life. It’s said that her favourite shade was Max Factor’s Ruby Red

Taylor Swift — I’m sure you already know her — is one of the most widely-known pop artists of today. Her association with red lips gained popularity with the release of her album Red and has prevailed as a Swift staple throughout the following years of her music career. While she has shared many of her favourite brands and shades over the years, some of the most popular include MAC’s Ruby Woo, Pat McGrath’s Elson 4, and NARS’ Dragon Girl.

Both are very influential female figures in the entertainment industry, so it’s easy to wonder if there is a correlation between their signature lip colour and immense success. 

Many studies, including an issue from The Synapse: Intercollegiate Science Magazine, have found that women wearing cosmetics like red lipstick is linked to an increase in overall success. The article titled Lips Don’t Lie: Lipstick Effect, Self-esteem, and Social Implication by Jinhan Wu discusses how societies like ancient Egypt that promoted the regular use of cosmetics correlated to increased autonomy for women.

They speculate that “[i]f wearing makeup made them look more successful and confident, ancient female Egyptians could have experienced a relatively high level of self-esteem, matching with their social status.”

So what does that mean for us? Does wearing red lipstick increase our chances of being the next world-famous celebrity? Likely not — but that doesn’t mean it can’t improve your self-esteem the way it has mine.

At the end of the day, choosing the right lipstick is a very personal choice. It might not work for everyone, and that’s okay. However, if you’re looking for a little confidence booster or simply want to switch up your makeup routine, I highly recommend giving red lipstick a chance. Who knows, it just might change your life.

Pursuing a Bachelor's Degree in Fashion Communications at Toronto Metropolitan University (formerly Ryerson), Maddison provides expertise in social media, graphic design, and marketing through the eyes of the younger generation. She has a passion for written and visual storytelling, with experience writing and managing journalistic publications throughout her years in education. Maddison is an articulate writer in both English and French and continues to pursue language post-secondary through an English minor.