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The Perfect Red Lip Is Possible (Even After 40): Here’s How To Remedy Feathering and Smudges

Look romantic in red.


Going out for Valentine’s Day? Whether dining with your partner or grabbing drinks with your gal-pals, feeling and looking great is key. On Valentine’s day, that means a classic red lip. When done right, red lipstick is sultry and feminine. When done wrong, it can look more circus than sexy. (And, unfortunately, “done right” is harder to achieve as we age, when fine lines cause lipstick to feather and smudge, doing bold red lipstick no favors.) See these tips from fashion and beauty influencer Lydia Rose for setting the perfect red lips. 

How To Achieve the Perfect Red Lip

Check out Lydia Rose’s (@fashioninflux) video from Instagram below.

Before Application 

Prepare your canvas. Though Rose (@fashioninflux on Instagram) doesn’t include this in her video, it’s an important step to remember. Dry, cracked lips don’t look great with color on them. Allure recommends exfoliating with a sugar scrub once a week and regularly moisturizing lips with lip balm. (Be sure to blot lip balm before applying color, otherwise it may not stick to your lips.)

Powder-set to avoid feathering. Speaking of lip texture, bold colors might seem extra daunting if upper lip wrinkles, an unfortunate but unavoidable part of aging caused by natural loss of collagen in the skin over time, are an issue. Rose recommends applying a light layer of translucent powder to your lips before putting on color. According to Allure, the powder absorbs excess moisture, giving the lipstick extra grip and helping it to stay in place (instead of feathering into fine lines).

Choose the right color. “Go for a cool-toned red to make teeth look whiter,” says Rose. Technically, red is a warm color. But shades have different undertones, and these undertones affect the human eye’s perception of the color itself. Warm undertones — think orange, pink, and yellow — accentuate yellow tones in teeth; Conversely, cool undertones — green, purple, and blue, for example — make teeth appear whiter. As we age, the enamel on our teeth thins, which makes the yellow material underneath more prominent. Thus, where warm undertones accentuate and highlight that yellow, highly contrasting cool undertones offset it, making it appear whiter.

Red lipstick with cool undertones includes shades like crimson, maroon, and berry. Check the affordable and highly rated Super Stay Matte Ink Liquid Lipstick from Maybelline, and stick to cool-toned shades like “Ruler” (Buy from Amazon, $8.98). 

When Applying 

Stay (way) inside the lines. Don’t apply color to your entire lip right away. This could result in messy application and smudging. Instead, start in the middle of your lip, and then use a brush to define your lip line, recommends Rose. Not confident in your lip-lining skills? Don’t forego it completely — lining lips prevents lip color from smudging and feathering, which is less important when wearing neutral tones, but vital when sporting a bold red lip. Allure recommends this beauty hack: Use your lip-liner brush to trace around your lip line with cream-based concealer, getting as close to the lip as possible. This will create a barrier between your skin and your lip color, and keep the latter from bleeding.  

After Application

Set it and forget it. Rose didn’t mention this in her video, but it’s a good idea to apply powder to your lips after you’ve applied color to set it. Allure recommends placing a tissue on your lips and lightly applying powder to the tissue: “The powder will absorb the excess moisture of the lipstick and keep it in place.” (Again, this helps to prevent feathering.) Try this powder from L’Oréal (Buy from Amazon, $9.48).  

Don’t forget the finger trick. Wash your hands and put your index finger in your mouth. Wrap your lips around your finger and slowly pull it out. This will remove excess lip color from the interior of your lips, which will keep tooth stains and color transfer at bay.

Ready to say “Be Mine” to these flawless red lip tips? Now that you’ve achieved the perfect pout, go out and (or stay in) and have a love-filled Valentine’s Day.

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