Red Lipstick Challenge

Starting in February 2013, I'll be wearing red lipstick almost everyday for one year. I document my experience here on my blog as a way to reflect on the endearing, humorous and compelling lessons I've learned throughout this project. I post on the Red Lipstick Challenge about once a month.

Lessons Only Red Lipstick Can Teach

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Nine months ago, I brazenly and a bit haphazardly declared that I would be wearing red lipstick (almost) every day for a year. How did I do? Well, I gave up in July so I guess I failed but not before learning a few lessons that only red lipstick can teach.

Lesson One: Others Used Red Lipstick to Define Me

There is no other color lipstick that is simultaneously revered, adored and feared. Putting it on is complex and uncomfortable. Once I started wearing red lipstick on a regular basis, my friends started referring to it as my signature. What seemed like such a little choice soon became one of my defining features. It struck me how one simple change in my makeup routine quickly became part of my persona. And even more–it was others using it to define me.

As a teenager, I made a conscious decision not to let clothing define me. Later on in my twenties, I made the same decision about makeup. To me, what I choose to wear on my body or on my face has nothing to do with who I am. That’s why it was so disorienting to have red lipstick become such a big part of my identity to the point where people didn’t recognize me without it.

Lesson Two: Red Lipstick Increased Harassment

As an American female in my twenties, harassment by men is sadly part of my life. Luckily not every day, but enough to where I, like many women, have learned to deal with it. I found that wearing red lipstick was an invitation for more harassment whether it was on the street or in bars. I expected that people would stare at me because, after all, I was wearing bright red lipstick. But I did not expect the increased harassment.

Comments ranged from, “Look at that face!” to “I like them red lips!” One night while out with my girlfriends, a man grabbed my wrist, pulled me and said, “Your lips!” If this is awkward to read, imagine how awkward, weird and disturbing it was to experience firsthand.

Lesson Three: Red Lipstick Inspired Other Women

The more I wore red lipstick, the more women wanted to talk about wearing red lipstick. At a friend’s wedding, I was stopped by a woman in her fifties. A bit tipsy, she grabbed my arm and said, “My whole fucking life, I never tried that,” and pointed to my red lipstick. I told her it wasn’t to late to give it a go and recommended Maybelline. It wasn’t the first time that a woman lamented never trying red lipstick, to which I will always say it is not too late. The amazing thing about red lipstick is that it is timeless. It’s one of the only shades that can be worn by women age 16 to 80. It will look great. I promise. Don’t be afraid.

Lesson Concluded

Wearing red lipstick almost every day for six months really changed the way I saw makeup. The color itself is an extremely powerful statement both about myself and the world around me. It changed the way people interacted with me for better and for worse. Though the moments of harassment were painful to deal with, the conversations my lipstick sparked made the experience worth it. Whether I liked it or not, red lipstick changed the way I carried myself through the world.

I’ve been scaling back my use of red lipstick, but still wearing it enough that I see it as one of my signatures. The magic is still there, inside that little tube.

Red Lipstick Lessons: Comfortable with Uncomfortable

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As a teen, I was almost always comfortable with being uncomfortable. I found ways to stand out, not necessarily in how I dressed, but through my strong opinions on everything from sex education to vegetarianism. To the people who loved me and those who did not, I was the loudmouthed feminist wearing cat knee socks at Catholic school. However, somewhere along the way, I let go of my rebellious spirit and fell into the world of being comfortable, not because I didn’t know who I was, but it was some how easier to just give up rebelliousness. Until I decided to wear lipstick for a year.

Over the past two months that I’ve been wearing red lipstick (almost) every day, which has reintroduced the idea of being comfortable with uncomfortable. Red lipstick will turn heads in good and bad ways. A few weeks ago,  I was talking to my older sister about the feeling of being stared at by random strangers, and she remarked, “Well, you are wearing bright red fluorescent lipstick.”

By choosing to make a bold beauty statement, I was putting myself out there to be remarked upon whether it was with a double glance, whispers or a side eye. For the first time in a long time, I put myself out there to be comfortable with uncomfortable. As a regular woman moving through everyday life, this choice can be a bit jarring at times much in the way that my crazy knee socks and oddly cut hair were in high school.

I started to wonder at what point I stopped trying to be my bold self whether it was through my opinions or how I dressed. I realized that since I had moved in and out of so many different cultures, I simply found it easier to blend in. When I was 17-years-old, I set off to New York City where a premium was placed on being different. I blended in by standing out.

After graduating college, I moved to South Carolina and got the culture shock of a lifetime. Instead of a Culture of Different, South Carolinians placed a high premium on blending into their culture. I learned quick that unless I adopted a slight Southern accent accompanied by a polite attitude, I would be eaten alive by the natives.

Then came Boston.

Boston taught me to be myself again.It wasn’t easy living here at first, and I struggled. A lot. But as time went on, I found myself becoming more confident in who I was, and I started to speak my mind again. I stopped worrying and started to be myself. And, yes, I started wearing tons of red lipstick.

When I set out on this Red Lipstick Challenge, I wanted to push myself to deliberately be uncomfortable. I’m always a bit taken aback at how much one little change can teach us so much.

Has there ever been a time where you’ve been comfortable with being uncomfortable? How do you put yourself out there? 

Spring Classic: Red Lipstick and Sunglasses

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I didn’t understand the depths of winter until I moved to New England after three years in South Carolina where “winter” temperatures rarely dropped below 60 degrees. All I can say is that I’m ready for spring. Did you hear me, Mother Nature? In preparation for spring (and summer), I wanted to share one of my favorite classic looks: Red lipstick with sunglasses. This beauty and fashion pairing is timeless. Even on days when you’re not wearing much makeup or your best dress, just throw on some red lipstick, grab your favorite sunglasses and when you head out the door, you’re bound to feel glamorous. Almost entirely guaranteed!

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Persol PO3017S || MAC Russian Red Lipstick ; Carrera Collette || NYX Pure Red Lipstick ; Ray Ban Original Wayfarer || Nars Velvet Lip Pencil in Cruella

Whats your favorite spring look? Will you be rocking red lipstick and sunglasses once the weather gets warmer?

Image sources for first image: 1, 2

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