Vicki Notaro puckers up for… the great A/W lippie test
When it comes to celebrities, I'm never really pushed on stealing their style. While it's nice to know which designer they're wearing on the red carpet, it's of little use to me - I don't have the body or the budget to emulate them.
Unlike couture dresses and dazzling diamonds, however, celebrity make-up looks are easily attainable for the woman on the street. It's very likely that I can walk in to Brown Thomas or Boots and pick up the exact lipstick that the A-listers wear to recreate the look. It's lipstick that illuminates our faces and makes a statement more than any other cosmetic - and lipstick that I absolutely loathe shopping for.
Some women have found the perfect shade and stick to it, never veering from pillar-box red or just a slick of nude gloss. I'm not one of those women. I want to keep up with new trends, textures and colours, but absolutely hate buying lipstick. In the chemist, everything is sealed shut and testers are often horribly unhygienic, while in department stores I often get caught up in sales patter and buy whatever is recommended for me; sometimes not at all what I'm looking for. I believe you have to truly wear a lippie - eat, drink, kiss - before deciding if it's worthy of a spot on your dressing table.
So, with that in mind, I decided to try out the new season's hottest shades in a quest to find the best of the bunch. From bargain to blow-out, candy pink to darkest plum, I tested countless products in order to find the winners for autumn - so you don't have to. Read on to find out the results…
● Be kind to teeth. No shades that make the teeth look yellow would make the cut.
● Be comfortable to wear. I would only select those that didn't smell odd, dry out your pout or crumble after a few hours.
● Not transfer easily. A little bit on a white cup or wine glass could be forgiven, but smudges on someone's cheek after a kiss hello, or naked lips after eating? Nope.
● Look pretty. Hey, that's why we wear make-up. The lipsticks must be flattering regardless of whether they're trendy or not.
When it comes to a timeless red pout, there are some insider tricks to keep in mind. I want my reds to be long-wearing and kind to teeth, so I always choose a lipstick with blue undertones as opposed to orange or pink, as they create an optical illusion that makes your gnashers look whiter.
In this trial, I discovered that reds are really strong right now across the price spectrum, probably because a full scarlet pout is bang-on trend for autumn. You don't have to spend a fortune to look great, but should choose your lippie according to the kind of texture you like on your lips.
If you want a matte look, try MAC's Ruby Woo, €19.50. It doesn't transfer easily and doesn't crumble, but some find it a little drying on the lips.
A cheaper alternative is Wet'n'Wild's Spotlight Red, which is very similar but that little bit more creamy - and a fraction of the price at €2.99.
But my overall winner was L'Oréal Paris Color Riche Privée Exclusive Reds in Blake's Pure Red, €11.99. It didn't transfer very much considering the amount of pigment, and the finish was matte without being too dry. For that price, it's a definite beauty bag must-have.
I normally keep maroon tones for deepest winter, but now the 1990s are massively back in fashion, I'm going to crack out some dark shades for this transitional autumn phase.
I'd recommend going for matte textures in this category, as a lot of brown or purplish tones on the market come with a bit of shimmer - and we're not actually back in the 1990s, you know.
I liked L'Oreal's Colour Riche in Oud Obsession, €11.99, a deep brown colour that you can build with several layers for a very intense look. Armani's Rouge D'Armani is a fabulous luxury option in Plum 603 - a deep berry shade that looks like you've been munching on blackberries, but won't budge from your lips - but pricey at €31.50.
Charlotte Tilbury won here. Her Matte Revolution in Glastonberry, €30, is a suit-all blackcurrant with full coverage pigment. Comfortable to wear, it was the shade I kept coming back to.
In the nude
Finding the perfect nude lippie is like the make-up Holy Grail for me. As a brunette with fair-to-medium skin, it's really tricky to find a shade that doesn't make me look like a corpse, and many nudes I come across have an odd pinkish-grey tinge and shiny texture.
Thanks to my trial, I discovered it pays to spend money on a nude shade, as the high-end brands were definitely more flattering. My favourite colour was NARS Brigitte (inspired by Bardot), a strong, peachy nude priced at €26. However, it didn't stay put for as long as I would have liked.
I was disappointed in most budget brands, but the low-cost option I favoured was Wet'n'Wild's Bare It All, €2.99, a strong matte neutral that made my lips look bigger than they were. However, it didn't last too long either.
The clear winner was YSL's Rouge Pur Couture The Mats in 210. It lasted throughout a messy pizza dinner, had no off-putting scent (as some matte products can), and the packaging was slick. It's an investment at €33, but worth every penny.
Pretty in pink
Wearing bright colours can be tough, because it's difficult to know which shade of pink, orange or mauve is going to suit your complexion - but luckily there are some shades on the market that suit just about everyone.
My advice would be to steer clear of sheer pastel colours unless you have bountiful lips and snow white teeth, and go instead for strong, highly pigmented shades that will make your mouth pop.
Charlotte Tilbury's Matte Revolution in Lost Cherry, €30, is a shade that suits just about anyone. It gives the lips a nice stain, has a light texture, and it doesn't dry your pout out at all. It's not incredibly long-lasting, but you won't end up with it around your face either, and it definitely draws the eye.
Honourable mention goes to Rimmel for their Lasting Finish by Kate Moss in 110, €6.99, a gorgeous bright coral that stays on. I used it on several guinea pigs with varying skin tones and hair colour, and it looked great on everyone.
MAC is well known for having a wide colour palette and different finishes, so in this category it wins hands-down for me. Girl About Town is a blue-tinged pink that's kind to teeth, brightens up your entire face and won't wipe off easily, while Lady Danger is a bright, bold orange-red that miraculously suits absolutely everybody. Both €19.50.
Wear lip liner. This is the golden rule. It's so important to add volume, define and enhance your lip line and to stop colour bleeding on to the skin around the mouth. It might add to the cost, but it will improve your lippie experience ten-fold and means you won't be reapplying over and over.
Moisturise at night. The best time to apply lip balm is when you're sleeping, as it gives the formula time to sink in and do its business. Lash on some Carmex, €3.79, before bed when you put on your facial night cream and wake up with soft, smooth lips.
Blot. The only way to make sure lipstick really lasts is to apply it in thin layers, blotting to remove excess pigment in between each application. Yes, it's finnicky, but it will be worth it.
Exfoliate. Gently rub an old toothbrush over your lips every couple of weeks to remove dead skin, and put balm on afterwards. Dry, cracked lips won't look good with any lipstick!