In the Red
Don't shun scarlet as a shade for more exciting souls, says Sarah Caden, as there's a red for every romantic
Before you turn the page in the belief that red is not for you, linger a little longer. We accept that injecting the va-va-voom of the golden age of Hollywood - or whatever you want to call it - might not fit with a real-world life of a Valentine's outing to your local restaurant or pub, but that doesn't mean you should rule out red. No one's asking you to go to fit-for-the-Oscars extremes, just to put a bit of the passionate pigment into your look. The man in your life won't necessarily notice, but half the battle of bringing the romance is feeling it yourself.
The general rule with red lips is to keep the rest of your face fairly neutral. Tone down the smoky eyes, use your most low-key blusher - for fear of looking consumptive - and focus on making your base a blank-canvas counterpoint to the red drama. If your teeth aren't Simon Cowell-quality white, you'll need a bit of blue in the red mix. Further, if a full-on lip colour is too try-hard, use a lip pencil to fill in your lips and then put a clear gloss over it for a less emphatic look. And if the face can't take it, put it on your nails. They'll flash about fabulously as you gesture flirtatiously, without making you feel that you're playing drag-queen dress-up.
Chanel Le Vernis in Phenix, €23, Chanel counters nationwide
This is a classic red, and would carry you through the year, as it will go as beautifully with a summer tan as it does with sun-starved, winter-porcelain complexions. The red has plenty of orange and pink in it, and these make it bright and vivacious, while the finish is classically creamy. Two coats give a very glamorous and glossily opaque polish. "Red nails are gorgeous and always alluring, but I can sometimes feel like I'm faking being fabulous when I wear it," said a panellist. "This is glam without going too far."
Best Hot Lips
Bobbi Brown Lip Colour in Sultry Red, €29, Brown Thomas; Arnotts; House of Fraser, Dundrum Town Centre, D16
A rich colour with some shimmer, which is the friend of thin lips and of older wearers, who need a somewhat softer red. Which is not to say that you pass the point of being able to wear it at all. Our complexions grow paler with age, so the right shade can look very pretty in contrast to that paleness. There's a hint of wine and a bit of brick to this shade, and it is easy to apply as a light lick of colour as well as a totally perfect pout. "A sexy red," said a panellist. "Vibrant, and velvety to wear."
Best Scarlet Shaper
Smashbox Always Sharp Lip Liner in Ruby, €19, Arnotts; selected pharmacies nationwide
A top tip for older fans of a scarlet pout is to use a lip liner. Do not, not, not draw on a bigger, poutier mouth for yourself. Just line the mouth you have and, thus, create a boundary for your lip colour -this will help to stop it feathering out into your wrinkles. Yes, those lines no one else but you notices, until they're defined by migrating lipstick. "I love the built-in sharpener as you get a fine point every time, and the pencil itself is a perfect balance of non-dragging and hard-soft," a panellist said.
Best Pillarbox Pout
Bourjois Rouge Edition Lipstick in Cherry Ma Cherie, €10.49, Boots; selected pharmacies nationwide
This is a long-lasting lipstick - which promises up to 12 hours of wear - but its semi-matte finish means that it doesn't have that overly matte, dried-out look on the lips. There's a pleasing glossiness to it, though the 12-hour promise probably excludes any eating, drinking or licking of lips. Not to mention Valentine's kissing. The colour is great for paler skins, as it's not too deep, and has a little bit of pink-neutralising blue. "A fresh way to wear a hot red," said a panellist. "A good hybrid of long-wear, lipstick and glossiness."
Best Bloody Nails
Rimmel Salon Pro By Kate Nail Polish in Venus, €6.49, available nationwide
If scarlet simply isn't for you, go deep into wine country with this shade from the Kate Moss-inspired nail colours. This is a rich and sexy red, and the polish itself incorporates Lycra, which promises to allow up to 10 days of chip-free wear. We're big fans of the one-stroke, wide-brush applicator, which is near foolproof. "I like reds but I wear them as the exception, for an occasion, and not as a rule," one panellist said. "This is a good-value way to wear some red without investing in something you'll only wear very occasionally."