Memoirs Of A Makeup Artist

Lip Service

Closeup of Ashlee Rice winking at the camera while pouting her lips.
Ashlee Rice - Friday, February 10, 2017

Perfect your pout. Read my lips. My lips are sealed. Sealed with a kiss. Pucker up. Kissy lips. Lips like sugar. Don't gimme no lip. Stiff upper lip. Kiss of death. These are all fun phrases that flirt and play with an otherwise timeless infatuation; through out history and modern day pop culture, with the most sensual feature of the female physiognomy, the lips. William Shakespeare, himself, wanted to consume them, figuratively not literally.

"Your lips are like wine, and I want to get drunk." - William Shakespeare

The lips convey how we feel with a simple smile or frown. We use our lips for powerful words, prayer, and song. Lips have the ability to hurt or uplift one another. They can keep secrets or they can tell lies. They can flirt, entice, and give pleasure. The Bible even contains 87 beautiful verses about the lips and their importance.

An honest answer is like a kiss on the lips.- Proverbs 24:26

The first known lip cosmetics were introduced around 5,000 years ago by the ancient Mesopotamians. The exotic women of that day would grind up rare gemstones into fine sparkle dust and adorn their lips and faces with the ancient cosmetic. This was used to depict great power and wealth. I happen to be a glitter-obsessed, fantasy makeup crazed lip junkie. I cannot even imagine living in a time where there was the luxury of applying fine ground particles of sparkling rubies, gold, diamonds or even dazzling opals to the lips and face.

Then there is the historically famous beauty and ruler of Egypt, Cleopatra, who was known for wearing her lips in a deep red hue. The scandalous Queen of the Nile actually acheived this look by crushing up carmine beetles and ant shells into an "organic" lip balm, if you will. Yes, folks .... yes, I know, strange but true. I cannot even begin to imagine applying any kind of mashed up insect to my lips for a boost of color. I guess a queen had to do what a queen had to do.

In ancient Rome, men and women alike, wore lip paint to symbolize rituals and the elite society. Their primitive lip creams were made from substances like toxic mercury and even appeared blue or purple in color. They even had people called "Cosmetae" apply the product to their mouths. Could these have been the original makeup artists?

During the Dark Ages, wearing lipstick was associated with being a prostitute. In the early 1900's, the women Suffragettes wore bright lipstick as a symbol of their protests and emancipation. It wasn't until the film industry of the turn of the century, and into the old Hollywood era, that lipsticks sporting screen sirens such as: Marilyn Monroe, Greta Garbo and Elizabeth Taylor, helped to launch the modern day lipstick crazed culture we now know.

"Pour yourself a drink, put on some lipstick, and pull yourself together." - Elizabeth Taylor

The first lipgloss was introduced in 1930 by Max Factor. This is the makeup brand I fell in love with in the early 90's. It was an old Hollywood line, but not so expensive that my mom would not buy it for me. I loved its sleek navy with gold packaging and edgy eyeshadow colors. I wore a deep creamy burgundy `ala 1993.

Whether it be the act of professing love or keeping a sworn secret, to laughter, or kissing a loved one, the lips are a powerful force to be reckoned with. The human obsession with it's power and beautification has moved through the centuries. It has transformed with fashion over the decades and generated billions in cosmetic sales.

It is a proven fact that if a woman wears red lipstick, a man is more likely to look at her three times as long than he would a woman sporting sheer lips. Lip products are so essential to the modern day woman, that a whopping 900 million lipsticks are sold worldwide each year and 80% of American women own lip products. Did you also know that the shiny, metallic hue in 1000's of lipstick formulas are made from fish scales? Eeek! Move over Cleopatra. The world's most expensive lipstick is made by Guerlain and is $62,000. Yes, and at over 60 G's, this luxury 18k gold tube of lip decadence is adorned with 199 diamonds. In her lifetime, the average woman ingests upwards of 4 pounds of lipstick. That's right, she eats her lipstick. Lipstick sales boost on rainy days, perhaps because treating oneself to new makeup actually defeats feelings of gloom. I believe it. Heck, there is even a day dedicated to celebrating actual lipstick. National Lipstick Day, honoring the fabulous cosmetic item, occurs every year on July 29. Lips and the love of beautifying them is literally a modern day phenomenon.

"You are not born glamorous. Glamour is created." - Max Factor

The pursuit of the beauty of lips, and the need to alter their look is almost like a cult craze. Women will inject them and they will also tattoo them. Heck, even reality t.v. stars have influenced people to suction them into a fuller shape using strange objects. Celebrities and runways sport lips in all shades, while magazine ads are saturated with the latest greatest staying power lip wear technologies.

So, I guess it's no surprise to me that over the years as a makeup artist, I have come to believe the lips to serve as the true finishing touch of the face, almost like the shoes are to the outfit. Your collection of lip products are like the shoes of the face, finishing off the overall look. They are like the cherry on top. The grand finale. The icing on the cake. The perky bow you choose for the beautifully wrapped present. The ta-dah moment in your makeup routine.

Let's Face It, everyone sees your outfit, but they will always eventually look down at your feet to see what shoes you are wearing. Shoes are the deciding factor in an outfit.

They make or break the whole look, just like the lip look can change the whole overall look of your makeup. Do you want bold and sassy, or do you want light and casual? If your mouth does not look put together, then it really doesn't matter how great the rest of your makeup is. I can do my whole face perfectly, and then spend 20 minutes trying to get the right lip. Wipe that off and then try something else until I get it right.

I was never more alarmed, and yet proud, than when one of my clients informed me that the job she worked at wrote her up, because her 'lipgloss was too shiny". Yes, true story. I had never heard of such a thing actually happening and find it a bit ridiculous. I always have a good laugh about it now. It is true that the makeup you wear can affect how people see you. So, dress to impress, and select your lips to compliment the time of day, occasions, and seasonal factors.

Choosing the right lip product is an art, a task, a challenge, right down to the perfect shade, undertone, intensity, hue, texture, and finish. Liner or no liner? I always say liner so the lips stand out. Is it going to be like sporting stilettos and wearing a bold red for a holiday party or date night? Do you want cream, matte, metallic, sheer, a stain, glossy, a balm, or a lip crayon? The mass selection available to modern day women can be overwhelming. There is literally so much to choose from.

So, how does one pick that one perfect shade? Well, most likely one doesn't pick just one color. The average woman actually owns over 20 tubes of lipstick. Once a woman finds the perfect shade of said lipstick for her skintone and style, you can be assured that almost inevitably it will be discontinued. When that happens I want to run for the hills from the makeup tantrum that ensues. Can any of you ladies relate to this? I am sure, that atleast one time, your absolute favorite color has been cancelled, obliterated, wiped off the face of earth. It's hard to recover and to find another perfect fit. I know. I have been listening to the madness for two decades.

"The best color in the whole world is the one that looks good, on you!" - Coco Chanel

I always iterate that makeup is very much dressing your face, and lips are very much a personal choice. If a woman isn't comfortable in a lip product I select for her, she will NOT wear it. It doesn't matter how many times you try to tell her it looks amazing. They will fight the urge to lick or wipe it off. This is because everyone looks at your mouth, and women are more self conscious of their lips than you would think.

I, however, absolutely can't stand it when a woman won't wear anything on her lips ... not even a little something. I have even heard a million times, "Oh, I just wear chap stick." I mean really, do you walk around everywhere you go barefoot? To each his own but a little color never hurt anyone.

"A mouth without lipstick is like a cake without frosting."

Oh, and my absolute favorite client; the bride who "doesn't want to wear anything on her lips" (said with sarcasm). #1 You are wearing white. I repeat all white. You need to wear color on your mouth so as not to look like a corpse. Unless the Corpse Bride look is what you actually aim for, and even she wore something. #2 What is the point in hiring a professional makeup artist for your wedding day, if you actually expect her to not put something on your lips? This is death to a makeup artist. I would rather choke on lipstick, than watch one of my brides walk the aisle in a pale mouth you cannot see two feet away. I adore and delight in it when a bride trusts me, and steps out in the most amazing set of rose pink, peachy hued lips, or even red lips if she is daring, and dazzle everyone with that lovely smile that you can see across the room. This is very important for professional photography.

When you talk, people look at your mouth. Keep it pretty and use products that nourish them. Exfoliate them regularly. Sultry nudes have been all the craze in recent years, making lips look voluptuous and sexy while paired with a smokey eye. Peachy colors are a universal hue and youthful looking for all skin tones. The options are endless.

I will admit that when I first met my husband he told me he preferred me au natural, but even that requires makeup. I was floored and yet flattered. How could that be? Could it be that it seems that the makeup is more for ourselves, than the men we seek love and attention from? I read that if women apply lipstick and wear it each day, that we are prone to have better posture. I so believe it. Makeup is totally mental.

"The best thing is to look natural, but it takes makeup to look natural." - Calvin Klein

The hubs also gets so annoyed with me if I leave lipstick residue on his straws, cups or even his mouth from a quick kiss. Can you ladies relate? I never advise a bride to wear lip gloss at a wedding, so as not to leave a gloppy mark on said groom's face. A good chemical free lipstain, such as Jane Iredale's lip fixations, is amazing for staying power.

Now here is a good funny!

I once had this lovely client who shopped in a high end store, that I was the makeup artist at in West Texas. She was this dainty, yet striking lady with the largest, reddest styled hair do' you have ever seen. She glided around in designer stilettos only most rock stars can wear. She reminded me of a walking flower. Miniature and poised with hair like perky petals. She would come in wearing those three inch heels, studded jeans, and a fur jacket or vest of some kind. In her southern drawl she would rattle off her makeup list to one of us to bag up and have ready for her, and head to the shoe department. She wore smokey eye makeup, and fleshy nude lipstick hues all the time. She was married to a very famous Texas Ranger, as in the law enforcement kind. He stood towering above her in his big cream colored gallon hat. Her shoes did no good to size up to his tall frame.

This one day she comes to the makeup counter and says, "Today, I want to try a red lip." I seriously thought I had heard her incorrectly. I was shocked because she only ever wanted natural lip colors. Always, stoked to see someone try something new I jumped up, eager to do her bidding. I can still hear the way she said it. It was like listening to an actress in a southern themed movie. I pulled a few crimson and brick hued Lancôme lipstick shades to show her, so as not to be too red, scare her off, and fight her already red tresses.

This particular day her husband was with her. He comes over to the counter after I had applied the deep rusty red shade she had selected to her lips, and she says in her little birdlike voice looking up at him, "Honey, what d'ya think of my red lips?" I held my breath as if I was waiting for the moment of truth. He replied in his deep rusty Texas drawl (wait for it) "........ Looks like your lips are bleedin'."

Well, that was that, as I handed her a tissue to remove the pop of rouge on her mouth. You can laugh, because I still do. I think of that often and it just makes me giggle on the worst of days. Atleast he answered honestly. This is NOT to say all men will react that way, but I have always given her kudos for wanting to step out of her box and for giving me a memory of a lifetime.

I always try to take time in asking a woman her lip preference. Sometimes I get a blank stare and other times a very direct answer. Some women have never given it much thought or even been asked. Alot of times they are sold and told what to wear by cosmetic sales people pushing a seasonal color trend, and wind up with a drawer full of lip colors they will never wear.... like a closet of shoes that just don't fit.

"On a bad day, there is always lipstick."

If I am working at my makeup studio on an "I don't care as much day", sporting my ball cap and jeans, I will probably be in a gloss or tinted balm, but sometimes I might be wearing a red and that is if I dress up a little more. As I have gotten older, I will usually be in a red or brighter color for dressier ocassions, with less on the eye so as to balance the look and not look harsh. Sometimes, women wear so much makeup that they leave the spectator not sure what to even look at. Especially with the Youtube driven makeup trends of recent years. So, instead try to pick a feature to enhance.

Back to the topic of red, I don't understand women's fear of red lips. The horrified looks on the faces of some women when I mention wearing red lipstick is hysterical. You would think I suggested they plunge from a cliff to their imminent death. It wipes right off. It's okay to try. There are all shades of red. There are hues in cherry, berry, crimson, rusty, wine, bright or deep, metallic bronzey, sheer, brick, orange based, flaming, and pinkish. You name it, there is a red in a unique shade for every woman. Those who try it, mostly find they actually love it. They feel the power. They can command a room.

I once had a client in my chair. She had a festering brown recluse spider bite on her foot, and had been hospitalized the days before having to see me for makeup. I suggested a red lip for her evening event, and as I came towards her to apply it, she literally leans back in the chair in horror and squeals. I stopped and said, "You have a freaking brown recluse spider bite on your foot and you are more terrified of this lipstick ....really, you could have died from that!!!!" as I pointed down to her foot. After laughing at the sheer ridiculousness of it, she allowed me to apply the color, and wound up loving the glam look and basking in her own glory. She would not quit looking at herself.

"She has a way with words, red lipstick and making an entrance." - Kate Spade

I get a lot of questions about how to wear red for those who are curious and willing. Don't wear red lipsticks with skin drying ingredients containing FD&C red dyes, because it makes your lips peel. Do your research. Databases such as are a great start. If you are going to wear red, then make sure it looks perfect. If it is not perfect, it will show. I know, even I have had my mishaps, uneven lines when applied with haste and even lipstick on the teeth. Mortifying!!!! Liner helps it to look perfect so the lip line is smooth and sharp. Matte is classic, while glossy is sexy for summer. Crimson is safe for anyone who doesn't want to go too bold in a red. Jane Iredale' s cherry red lip fixation lip stain in Passion is my absolute must have. It's undertone makes your teeth appear whiter, and because no chemicals are in it to dry your lips, you can wear it matte or with gloss.

In closing, here is another true account about said magic red lip stain and a West Texas bride. I had just finished perfecting this gorgeous raven haired beauty. She truly reminded me of Snow White. She wanted cat eyes and classic red to compliment her wedding day colors and theme. When I work on a bride, especially for bridal portraits, it can sometimes take over an hour to perfectly complete my three dimensional canvas. When it comes to applying red lips, I will literally spend 10 minutes just doing a mouth to get it right. Lining then layering the stain with a brush. Applying that solid second layer, then the relining to perfect the lines. Smoothing and finishing off the skin around the mouth.

I had just finished her perfect pout and approved of the finished look, pleased with the results, and then she nonchalantly says...."I am starving." I reply "Oh my goodness, you haven't eaten???? There is a great smoothie shop up the street." (Thinking to myself how most brides starve themselves anyway, especially before squeezing into their custom altered wedding gowns, and how a smoothie would be perfect, and eating through a straw would keep those lips from being smudged.) She looks at me as if I had lost my flipping mind and says, "Oh honey, hell no..... I am going to go eat a steak." Almost, not really believing what I am hearing, I exclaimed, "You are going to do what?!!! You're kidding me right!!??", and she says "Girl, I gotta have my red meat."

The term "only in Texas" would apply here.

Yes, another wacky true story. The hair dresser and I almost fell over. She left in her sculpted dark haired glossy up-do, perfect mouth and face, tiny as a mouse, and would you believe it, she ate a ribeye steak before her bridal portraits. The kicker to this story is that her lips stayed the entire time, not one smudge, and they are some of the most beautiful bridal portraits in my portfolio. Now that is a lip stain made in heaven. Again, this is just another one of those unique stories that makes me have that inner chuckle at the sheer humor of situations that occur when you are a career makeup artist.

"Confidence, wear it like makeup."

If you are confident in your skin, you will look confident in what you are wearing. Use your lips to compliment your overall look. Try something new and embrace your god given face and its most unique and powerful feature, the lips. Definitely keep your mouth protected from the sun and super nourished for smooth lip product wear.

Either way, whatever you find works for you, love yourself, embrace who you are and find your own makeup style. Below are some of my favorite lip tips!

Mirror Kisses XOXO

#1 Moisturize your lips prior to using lip liner. It prevents the liner pencil from catching and dragging, allowing it to glide more easily across the lips.

#2 When using lip products, avoid FD&C dyes and petroleum based balms. It causes the lips to peel and dry up. Also, the liver cannot process absorbed petroleum.

#3 Carmex is for drying cold sores. I repeat, Carmex is for drying cold sores...period. This should not be your lip balm. I love coconut oil, Lip drink, EOS, vitamin E. Just not Carmex.

#4 Use a retractable lip brush to apply your lipstick to go on with more coverage.

#5 Choose blue undertone pinks or reds to make your teeth appear whiter.

#6 If you have trouble with lip colors turning blue or too dark on you, it's probably because your own natural lip tone is dark itself. Try a color that looks more bright or peachy than you would normally select. Your natural lips own deep color will tone it down. You can also wear concealer or iridescent eyeshadow base to cover lip color prior to lip application.

#7 Brush your lips with a wet toothbrush to plump them. It increases blood flow.

#8 If you have small lips, apply lipstick first, then line the edges to shape. Dab light beiges gloss in the middle to make lip look fuller.

#9 Seasonalize your lip shades like your shoes. For instance, I love wine and berry hues in the fall and winter to compliment my plum, grey, black wardrobes.

#10 Store lipsticks in the refrigerator to make them last longer.

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