A life in lipstick: From Snob to Black Cherry and beyond…

What was your first lipstick?

Not one you got in a babydoll palette for your seventh birthday; not one you snatched from a dressing table and smeared across your mouth; not even one applied to you before a ballet recital, too red, too sticky, too adult, still.

If you’re a lipstick lover then you’re bound to remember, because it’s caught up in so much more than purchase and progression: it’s growing up, it’s experimenting. It’s taking your look into your own hands, and it’s also trying something for you.

MAC Snob

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My first lipstick was Snob, because I loved the look that a chalky pout gave: coupled with bleached hair and black brows and eyeliner so thick it crowded out your eyes. Nevermind that I was a brunette with sparse brown brows and an investment in people not looking.

The first time I wore Snob I was walking up the stairs at lawschool. A girl I knew from years back stopped me, pointed at my mouth and loudly said “SNOB”. I thought she was insulting me. But she knew. Lipstick sisterhood, colour memory: it’s a real thing.

Revlon Fire And Ice

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I didn’t get bored of pink, exactly, but it didn’t show up in my smeary drunk snaps the way I wished it would, and so I looked for something a little more dazzling. Still a student, I couldn’t afford the MAC spectrum, and so I went hunting at the pharmacy.

I stole the idea of Fire And Ice from the Lovely Bones: it’s the lipstick that the rebellious grandmother puts on the granddaughter left behind before she goes to her sister’s funeral. I liked that it was in literary. I also liked that it was cheap. I still have that exact same tube (probably unsanitary). Lipstick goes a long way.

MAC Ruby Woo

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My end-of-year ball was masked, so my eye makeup couldn’t be the focus it usually was. I wanted a red that would glow beneath the gorgeous gold mask the girl I worked with at the coffee shop made me. My friend recommended Ruby Woo. “It works on everyone”.

I wasn’t sure that it worked on me, staring into the bright lights at the MAC counter, all chubby cheeks and cheap jacket. I bought it, though. Learned to love it. It’s still my favourite, and it’s still the one I trust to stay put through everything.

Revlon Black Cherry

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I was too old for a rebellious phase but I had one anyway, drawn out of me by men who told me I “didn’t need so much makeup”.

F*ck you, I thought, as I selected the darkest, vampiest shade and bought it without even trying it on. Men don’t approach me when I wear this shade, still. I wear it all the time.

LA Splash in Sirius

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This isn’t a lipstick you mess around with. A thick gloopy dark blue, gifted to me by a best friend who loves Harry Potter the same way I do. I’ve worn it out of the house once.

It gets on my teeth. I love it. I just wish I were braver.

Clinique in Sweet Pop

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It’s not a colour I would ever have chosen, but it was an expensive brand and it came free in a goody bag at a party where I was surrounded by the kind of people I wanted to be, so I wore it anyway.

Melon is not my colour. It makes me look very pink and pale and mottled. I gave it away, not that long ago, barely worn, at my little sister’s 22nd birthday party. All her friends are beautiful.

Limecrime in Cashmere

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This lipstick makes me look like I was murdered by my boyfriend and pushed off a pier, and floated up on the banks of the Thames two days later. Don’t be fooled by the pinky filter: it’s a grey-beige, a dead colour. It makes me feel like I might disappear.

There have been other lipsticks, obviously – a thousand MAC ones, a million Rimmel, others that have jumped out and stuck through colour or name or model or scent.

But that’s my timeline in lipstick. May it grow ever longer. What’s yours?

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