Skip to main content

making faces :: choose your lips

i think we've established that i'm a lipstick hound. it's not bragging, it's kind of like standing up and admitting i'm an addict. sure, at one point, i was solely interested in dark colours and ones that looked plain weird (i still am), but then my tastes expanded. once that happened... ooh baby...

there are no colours that i automatically write off [although browns are generally very difficult for me], which means that i end up with a lot of colours in every range. i will say that one of my natural "advantages" (if you consider being able to spend money on lipsticks an advantage) is that my complexion runs a bit cool, but is pretty close to completely neutral. so there aren't a lot of colours that look "wrong" with my skin tone. one of the results of this is that i've been able to spend quality time figuring out who does what best. so here's a post with my opinions on where you can turn for whatever colour wants you have. and, of course, if there's anything i don't cover, you can feel free to ask. i have deliberately skipped the area of bronze/ brown/ earth tones, because i just haven't sampled enough of them to make a choice. mac probably has the broadest range in that category, but nars seems to have some really rich shades.


a quick word about the photos :: i took these in a real hurry and you can even see in some of them that i scratched my upper lip while doing so. because i was working quickly, there are some annoying shadows, for which i apologise. i wanted to get this post on line more than i wanted to wait until i had perfect daylight in which to shoot the lip photos.

so here's where to turn if you want...

dior :: chic pink
pinks :: [note :: i have a separate category for hot pinks, since they're a different animal.]
best choice :: dior. i don't know what it is about dior in particular, but pink is their bitch. whether it's their full coverage "rouge dior" line or their newly launched semi-sheer "dior addict" line, no one does pinks like them. in fact, virtually all of their colour line is pink of varying shades. choose your pink poison. whatever shade you need to bring out nature's beauty, they have it for you.
runner up :: chanel. while their range might be narrower, it's hard to beat the subtle elegance of chanel.

reds :: 
chanel :: rouge allure lacque dragon
best choice :: chanel. think of it as the classic of classics. no one does profound, statement reds like chanel. they have brilliant scarlet hues to stop traffic [cambon], deep and elegant plum-reds [rivoli], autumnal and rusty shades [vendome], lightweight and fun reds [flamboyante]... basically, anything you want and more than you dreamed. plus, they have the shade "dragon", in my opinion the most perfect red lipstick ever devised.
runner up :: yves st. laurent. the intensity of their reds is remarkable and they have a nice range of warm and cool shades- they have really paid attention to the different hues you can get within the red spectrum.
honourable mention :: mac. i personally find their range of permanent reds a bit lacking, but when one takes into consideration some of the excellent limited edition reds they've included, they're an absolute winner.

purples ::
mac :: violetta
best choice :: mac. this isn't even a contest. despite my frustration that mac's purples so often run pink on my lips, there is no company that comes close to mac's offering. not only do they have a strong collection of regular purple shades, but they are consistently coming out with new and limited ones.
runner up :: none. this is the only category where i did this, but mac's dominance in the field is so complete, it's like comparing pet ponies to secretariat. makeup forever would probably be my second choice, but their offering is limited in range and in finish. inglot have more purples than anyone except mac, but their shades seem somehow bland. everyone else is limited to an occasional "special" colour.

vampy shades  ::
mac :: hang up
best choice :: mac. unlike most companies, who have one or maybe two deep, dark alluring shades, mac has options in virtually every range. pinks? check. purples? check. browns? check. reds? you better believe that's a check. oranges? well, we'll get there soon, but they come closer than anyone else, that's for damn sure ["so chaud" is a fairly deep russet-orange colour]. even better, you can get intense mattes, as per usual, but you can also get richer, creamier formulas and even sheer colours like "desire" that can be built up. quite simply put: if you're looking for a dark, sexy lipstick and it's not a week before halloween [or you want one that isn't made from melted-down crayons], mac is where you should be heading. my one quibble: they don't have a black shade in their permanent line-up.
runner up :: bobbi brown. what??? the queen of quiet conservatism? no foolin. mixed in among the subtle nudes, rosy browns and lady-like pinks are some incredible, unsung deep reds and browns. check for shades that start with the word "black"- black raspberry, black cherry, black mahogany, black maple... these are gorgeous, rich shades that would seem at home on the lips of those classical heroines of gothic fiction that are so admired.
honourable mention :: makeup forever. aside from the usual bloody reds and purples, they have a permanent satin black in their range.

neutrals ::
mac :: blankety
best choice :: mac. don't kid yourself. a good neutral is hard to do. a bad one can look like concealer or poop, neither of which is a look anyone should aim for. mac came to prominence in part by offering gorgeous neutral tones for everyone and their permanent range still reflects that. i'm always saddened that they've culled their edgier colours, but i understand that the sales numbers on a wide range of their neutral shades- light, dark and everything in between- speak volumes.
runner up :: cle de peau. i would have selected them as the winner, but for two things: 1. their range is limited;  and 2. their lipsticks are $65cad each. wtf??? still, their neutrals are really, really hard to beat. the quality is there [at that price, it had better be] and their shades are wonderfully nuanced. find one that's perfect for you, spoil yourself that single time and then try to forget that you ever heard about them.

oranges, peaches & corals ::
ysl :: blood orange
best choice :: yves st. laurent. if orange and coral are this year's "it" shades, then ysl is the only company that has a leg up. i frankly think that there's tons of space to explore new shades within the range of america's most detested colour and i salute ysl for having established a beachhead on the orange shore. i choose them because their offerings can be bright, soft and much in between. everyone else has some serious catch-up to do.
runner up :: dior. it makes a sort of sense that the rulers of popular pinks would also have an offering of easy-to-wear shades in this range. they lack the intense shades of ysl, but chances are there's still a little something for almost everybody.
hornourable mention :: mac. while the "peaches" and "corals" offering in their permanent collection might be a little lacking, there is no denying that mac was one of the first companies to offer a real variety of orange tones to the discerning consumer.
[addendum :: it has been pointed out to me that, in fact, this post ignores the fact that givenchy's "candide tangerine" is the most beautiful orange shade ever created. it's true. i haven't seen givenchy's other orange offerings, but this is one case where one shade makes an entire company worth watching.]

hot pinks, fuchsias & magentas ::
mac :: fusion pink
best choice :: mac. this is another category where mac is well ahead of the competition. they have eye-searing hot pinks, luscious, deep fuchsias and daring magentas in various intensity- fully opaque to sheer and summery. plus, they keep launch new and limited ones that become cult favourites. this is possibly the only company where i think you can buy a whole selection of colours in this range and not risk repeating.
runner up :: makeup forever. i honestly think they may best mac in terms of the permanent offering of shades, but they don't compete in terms of the variety of formulas.
honourable mention :: yves st. laurent. it's surprising to see some daring bright pinks and fuchsias popping up with increasing frequency in their range. even more surprising is that their colours may be the most daring shades of all.

ideally, i wanted to include an "oddball" category in this piece, a category defined by shades like blue and green, or by strong metallic shades, or just takes on usual colours that defy description. unfortunately, there just isn't enough competition. shu uemura has both a pure white [the most difficult shade to find!] and an intense blue as part of their regular line, but nothing more. mac, in this case, almost deserves a "hall of shame" mention, for having discontinued the shades that added an exclamation point to their entry into the competitive cosmetics market, as does urban decay. makeup forever has shown some inclination towards eccentricity, but has thus far held back. illamasqua, the cult favourite british company, shows some promise, but since i can't get their products without paying usurious british prices, i can't comment. the fact is that there are a lot of women who want to push the boundaries of colour,  and who have the innate confidence to carry it off [which is really all it takes] but who can't simply because there aren't options available. *wags finger* bad cosmetic industry! bad!

that said, this is my perspective on which company is the best option for which shades. i would, as an addendum, like to note that these aren't necessarily my choices for highest quality. i think that you'd be hard pressed to beat guerlain's rouge g line for that, but their colour offering [perhaps because they've priced themselves out of reach for many consumers] is frustratingly tame. also stellar in terms of quality is armani and they seem capable of almost unbelievably rich and intricate shades of deep red and purple, but the bulk of their range seems stuck in the usual hues of pink and plum we all grew tired of in the eighties and nineties.

feel free to disagree. in fact, feel free to leave comments telling me how strongly you disagree. that's your prerogative and the nice thing about colours is that they truly do rest in the eye of the beholder.


as long as you're here, why not read more?


i keep seeing this ad for tictac candies:

am i the only one who finds the suicide bomber clown at the end a little unnerving? all the nice natural things like the bunny and the [extinct] woolly mammoth and the fruit get devoured by a trying-to-appear-nonthreatening-but-obviously-psychotic clown who then blows himself up. congratulations, tictac, i think this ad has landed you on about a dozen watch lists.

oh and by the way, showing me that your product will somehow cause my stomach to explode in a rainbow of wtf makes me believe that doing consuming tictacs would be a worse dietary decision than the time i ate two raw eggs and a half a bottle of hot sauce on a dare.

making faces :: chanel's velvet realm

who doesn't love velvet? i know when i was younger, i used to, as george costanza longed to, "drape myself in velvet" and although that phase passed with time, i still think that the plush fabric has to be one of the high points of human achievement, up there with interior heating, advanced medicine and vodka. so to me, it's no surprise that one of the most hotly anticipated launches in the cosmetic world is chanel's new "rouge allure velvet" lipstick line, because even the name immediately makes me want to put it on my lips.

on a more concrete level, chanel describes these lipsticks as "luminous matte", which is sort of like the holy grail for lipstick lovers. we all want those intense, come-hither film noir lips, the sort where young men and sunlight are lost and never heard from again, but historically [including during the making of those films], applying a matte lipstick felt sort of like colouring in your lips with an old crayon that had…

eat the pain away?

nearly twenty years ago, an emergency room doctor took a look at the crushing muscle tension i was experiencing [they were clenched enough that a doctor at my regular clinic couldn't get a reflex reaction on my left side and thought i might be having a stroke] and told me she believed that i had fibromyalgia. a couple of weeks later, i went to see a family doctor that a coworker had recommended to me. when i told him what the other doctor had said, he snapped that i was being ridiculous, because, if i'd had fibromyalgia, "i wouldn't be able to move". after i moved to toronto, i got a new family doctor and told her what the other doctors had said. she said that she couldn't be sure, but it was better just to deal with any symptoms i had one at a time. then i came back to montreal and got a new family doctor, who didn't really buy into the whole idea of fibromyalgia and said there was no way to do any definitive test anyway. that doctor passed away, and my …