While mascara is the one make-up item most of us won't do without, there's no doubt that a lip colour can lift a complexion made wan by winter like nothing else.
And, as winter starts to turn to spring, the hottest lip colours are arriving in the brightest of hues. This trend goes beyond red lips, which remain a constant favourite, and into shades that seem almost too vivid in the tube, but breathe life into an overall look, and are far more wearable than you might first imagine.
The pink end of the spectrum did well in our testing of the new brights, and the best of them have a slightly blue, bordering on fluorescent, hue that makes teeth appear whiter. Be warned that many of them will, on initial inspection, remind you of colours worn by your mother or grandmother, but modern sheer textures render them anything but old-fashioned once applied.
To pull off a bright pout, avoid any clash with your blush and keep lips chap-free to provide a smooth finish. The look you're striving for is confidently colourful, not one that suggests you've never graduated past playing with your mother's make-up bag.
Tom Ford Lip Color in Pure Pink, €45, Brown Thomas Dublin
The lipsticks from the man in pursuit of design-world domination are undeniably expensive, but they are also a serious cut above the average in terms of colour, comfort and their amazing, cocoa butter-like fragrance. This is a stand-out shade and a wonderfully wearable one. "Sheeny but not glittery, I loved the tinge of blue that made it almost metallic-looking and made my teeth gleamy," said a panellist. "The colour lasted, but it has a surprisingly light feel on the lips."
Best Racy Red
Yves Saint Laurent Rouge Pur Couture in 13, €31, Yves Saint Laurent counters nationwide
If you are wedded to red but want a fresh take on it, this is a pink-orange shade, which is modishly bright but still classic. The gold, oblong tube is just gorgeous, and the colour itself is vivid and fresh. "A pretty, spring-like lipstick," a panellist said. "It has all the old-Hollywood glamour of a good red, but is pink enough for someone like me, who loves, but shies away from, true scarlet."
Best Kind Coral
Estee Lauder Double Wear Stay in Place Lipstick in Stay Apricot, €23, Estee Lauder counters nationwide
Corals feature prominently in the new brights, but they can render winter-wan skin a little sickly-looking. This peachy colour is vivid and warm, though it's not for those whose teeth are far from white. "It's important to prime and moisturise lips, because this can be drying," one panellist said, "but the colour is nicely unlike anything I usually wear and it lifted my look out of winter drabness."
Best Pretty Pink
Giorgio Armani Rouge d'Armani Lipstick in 4, €26, Brown Thomas Dublin and Cork
A properly pretty pink, verging on the Barbie end of things. A very soft finish, with the colour going on true and appearing very creamy on the lips. A great sheen with absolutely no sparkle. "At first this reminded me of pink lipsticks from the Seventies, but this is a much more forgiving shade," said one panellist. "It's colourful without being scary or too girlie."
Best Vivid Gloss
Estee Lauder Pure Color Gelee in Electric Cherry, €21, Estee Lauder counters nationwide
There are four shades, all "electric" and all capable of providing a translucent gleam on their own, or adding a high-shine, extra-bright topcoat over any lipstick. A very wet-looking gloss, this shade was the most universally wearable of them. "It reminded me of those strawberry-flavoured, roller-ball lip glosses that my babysitter had, about 30 years ago," a panellist said, "but not so sickly, and with a glossy slick that lasts impressively well."
Pictured, from left: Yves Saint Laurent Rouge Pur Couture in 13; Estee Lauder Pure Color Gelee in Electric Cherry; Giorgio Armani Rouge d'Armani Lipstick in 4; Estee Lauder Double Wear Stay in Place Lipstick in Stay Apricot; Tom Ford Lip Color in Pure Pink
Sunday Indo Life Magazine