Welcome to the season of deep, dark, provocative lip color. There's little that's more glamorous and seductive than lusciously red lips - or this season's high-impact, ultra-romantic (yet surprisingly wearable) plummy pout. Even if you've shied away from vivid hues in the past, this season you can pull them off with ease. New formulations that go on smooth and sheer instead of cakey and opaque -- a modern, uncluttered way of wearing color -- are good reasons to give high-voltage lips another go.
"The winter months are a great time to wear color on the lips," says makeup artist Bobbi Brown of the eponymous cosmetics and skin-care line. "The trick is to wear shades that are bright, not muddy," she advises. And to keep the look from being campy, make the color on eyes and the rest of the face minimal and soft. (Note: If you do opt for this season's smoky eyes, go lighter on the lips.)
Another trick is to apply lip color with your finger. "Sometimes you can get too much color with a brush or straight from a tube," says Guy Lento, national director of makeup for Chanel. "You'll have more control over the level of coverage when you use your fingertip to apply it." Lento adds that you can also ease the transition to a more-intense hue by blotting off any excess color from your lips, then adding a gloss to tone it down. (Taking the plum plunge: Aveda Lip Gloss Minus Lanolin in Purple Harmony, a swirl of purple, soft pink and glazed white that combine to form a violet shimmer; and M.A.C Smoove, a gold-flecked futuristic purple. Beguilingly wearable reds: Bobbi Brown Lip Color in Scarlet; Clarins Lip Glaze in Garnet, a wet wash of deep red; and BeneFit gloss in Groovy, a vivid red shade rendered surprisingly wearable because of its sheerness.)
Making It Last
No lipstick is meant to stay on forever, but you can increase its longevity, according to Lento, by "staining" your lips: Gently rub pigment in with your finger to create a base, blot, then add another layer of color. Priming your pout with lip pencil also gives lipstick a base to cling to. (Try Lorac eggplant-colored Lip Pencil #14 or M.A.C Spice Lip Liner.) New York City makeup artist Liz Michael advocates freshening up fading lipstick (and simultaneously countering dryness and buildup) by smoothing lip balm over your wilting lip color instead of touching up from the tube. (For high-tech help, Remede Hydralock Lip Balm contains ingredients that "lock on" lipstick; Softlips Undercover Lipstick Primer increases lipstick's moisture content to prevent cracking and fading, which is especially helpful under long-wearing formulas that tend to be more drying.)
Gloss Grows Up
A far cry from the gooey concoctions of yesteryear, today's lip glosses are chic, multidimensional, and add an instant sexy glow to the face (think candlelight on demand). But the age-old trick still holds: A concentrated dab of gloss in the center of your lower lip is a foolproof path to a sexy, fuller-looking pout. (Glam gleamers: Origins Lip Gloss in Sheer Fig, a go-anywhere gold-spiked nude; L'Oreal Rouge Pulp Liquid Lipcolour in Icy, a pale metallic shimmer; and the ultimate Valentine's Day must-have - Bobbe Joy Shimmer to Sheer Custom Lip Gloss Kits, delectable palettes of 6 chocolate-scented toasty pinks, mauves and mochas.)
No lipstick looks good on chapped, dried-out lips -- an increasing problem as the mercury and humidity drop -- so use of moisture-preserving lip balms are a plus in winter. And don't forget the sun protection.
"Every lipstick provides some sort of physical barrier against UV rays, which is probably why cancers of the lip are so much rarer in women than they are in men," says Mary Lupo, M.D., clinical associate professor of dermatology at Tulane University in New Orleans. "Still, it's a good idea to wear a lipstick with an SPF -- or wear an SPF-containing lip balm as a topcoat over your regular lipstick."
Remember, licking your lips is taboo: "It's the worst thing to do when your lips are dry, since it causes evaporation of fluids. Use a hydrating lipstick or lip balm instead," says Lupo, who recommends nonmedicated balms since they're more emollient than those which contain potentially drying phenol and menthol. (Balmy weather busters: Blistex Herbal Answer SPF 15, Almay Stay Smooth Medicated Lipcolor SPF 25, and Nuxe Honey Lip Balm.)
The best way to avoid flaking, wrinkly lips is to go cold turkey on such habits as lip pursing, lip chewing, unprotected sun exposure, and - of course - smoking. Exfoliating creams for the lips containing sloughing agents like AHAs are another way to both decrease flakiness and minimize tiny crinkles and wrinkles, especially around the mouth. "Just don't expect miracles," says Lupo. And proceed with caution. "These products can be irritating and drying if you have sensitive skin," Lupo says. Make sure you test on a tiny area first. (Try these flake fighters: Clinique All About Lips with salicylic acid; Laura Mercier Lip Silk with four types of AHAs; or Diane Young Coneflower Lipline Firmer.)