I love a challenge. When I challenged myself to be more visible and vulnerable, I found myself listening to a Visibility Coach asking women everywhere why we save our red lipstick for special occasions and big nights out. Why don’t we wear it any day, any time, for any reason, or even for no reason? This got me thinking. I remembered loving red lipstick but it was always saved for nights out. As I thought back I was aware that I hadn’t worn it since my twenties and I’m now in my forties. I didn’t even own a red lipstick and I wondered WHY? It didn’t take me long to work out that it was an age thing. I had a belief that I couldn’t wear red lipstick at my age. Not about to let myself get away with being too old for anything, I knew I had to challenge that belief. I would prove myself wrong and so I challenged myself to wear red lipstick all day, every day for 7 days. One week. How hard could it be?
When I was single and in my twenties I often wore red lipstick on a night out. I loved the ritual of dressing up and getting ready. Red lips were a favourite accessory, it was the last thing I did before leaving the house, lipstick carefully applied with absolute precision. I clearly remember the final look in the mirror, seeing my face smiling back at me, lippy on and good to go. Back then I was young and confident and single. Now I’m older, married with children, and these past few years I’ve had to work on my confidence. Choosing red as my everyday lip colour was definitely an adjustment, and I learned a few things about make-up and about myself in the process.
1. 50 Shades of Red
There are SO many different shades of red. Luckily, there was help at the make-up counter; it was fun trying different ones, choosing the perfect shade. I usually wear lipstick but for years I have been sticking to neutral shades; I’d become one of those people who reapplied lipstick without even looking in the mirror. That was not going to work with red and during the seven days of the experiment I spent a lot of time looking in the mirror, applying and reapplying lipstick throughout the day. The mirror and lipstick went everywhere with me. I left a trail of red everywhere I went: coffee cups, glasses, cutlery, toothbrush, bathroom towels. My husband complained. It was all too much for the dishwasher.
2. I was out of my comfort zone
The first day was fun; I was excited and I felt like a rebel, fighting back against the ageing process. Red lipstick is bold, my lips looked different, more noticeable; it changed my whole face. I laughed and smiled a lot. I was definitely visible; everywhere I went people noticed and commented. Even though I had lots of compliments, I wasn’t used to having so many comments on my appearance. It felt unfamiliar. I was out of my comfort zone and that challenged me more than I expected. I remembered a manager I had many years ago, who gave me some advice I’ve never forgotten. She told me to always have a gorgeous lipstick, the best I could afford. It would be my trusted friend because no matter what was going on in my life, once I applied that lipstick, I would look and feel confident, ready to face the world, and it would fool anyone. She’d learned over the years that no-one really looks beyond the lipstick. It’s a trick I’d used many times. It works. So on day two the lipstick went on again and sure enough, my confidence returned.
3. My friends love red lipstick
I asked my female friends what they thought when they saw a woman wearing red lipstick. They came up with strong, powerful words: iconic, glamorous, sophisticated, attractive, confident. To some, red lips suggested passion and seduction. This got me wondering if it was ok for me to be wearing red lipstick? Would it be seen as seductive and therefore inappropriate? As friends laughed, and pointed out that being seductive is a behaviour choice, I was reassured that seduction is not a shade of lipstick! Inspired to try the experiment themselves, some friends decided to join in. I started to get selfies from them wearing red lipstick. It was a talking point and created a space for conversations around age, ageing, appearance, confidence and self worth. I was surprised to find that my age matters a lot more to me than to anyone else. Friends don’t think about my age, and many of the people in my life don’t even know how old I am.
4. It was all in my head
The only person who thought I was too old for red lipstick was ME. I had a belief that Society would allow or not allow me to do certain things as I got older. I was expecting disapproval and criticism for wearing red lipstick at my age. There was none. It was all in my head. This experience proved me wrong. There was no judgement, no criticism, no age limit. In the end, I didn’t need to rebel against anything other than the thoughts in my head. The inner critic telling me that I’m too old to do something, causing me to doubt myself, undermining my self-worth. Years of working on my confidence, my self-esteem and yet, so easily challenged by a lipstick! We all have moments of self-doubt, when our confidence dips, we all have that inner critical voice. It will always be there. If it tells you you’re too old to do something, challenge it.
5. I loved it
Now I know I am not too old to wear red lipstick. I’ve even been told that the red makes me look younger. I set out to challenge myself and along the way inspired my friends to join in. Sales of red lipstick went up in Cardiff that week! I’m lucky to have some amazing women in my life; when we get together and talk openly and honestly there is a magical connection. We realise that we all have the same doubts and fears about our appearance, our age. How we look affects how we feel, and how we feel affects how we look. I do feel confident when I wear red lipstick, but I know it’s not the lipstick that gives me confidence. The confidence is always there, always part of me, whether I can feel it or not.
After just one week red lipstick already felt comfortable and familiar. I loved it so much, I kept it; those red lips are here to stay.
If you are inspired to wear red lipstick, remember: there are no rules, just find a shade you love. You’ll know when you find it because it will look and feel just right.