Your guide to make-up and more by Lesley Thomas. This week: Devilishly red lips
It's easy to get into a make-up rut, and when it comes to lips we can be especially lazy. The women I know – if they wear lipstick at all – have been using some kind of pinkish beige fool-proof colour for years. It's time we all lived a little more dangerously.
Scarlet mouths are here for winter and, if you've been paying attention to the spring/summer 2008 catwalk collections, you'll have noticed that they'll be in vogue well into next year.
I don't like to follow trends, girls, but I think we should all consider rouge lips.
Like most women, I'm a bit scared of red lipstick because it has too many messages, too many connotations. We don't all want to go to the supermarket looking like Dita Von Teese. But then again, why play it safe?
I've had a dalliance with devilishness in recent weeks and am wearing red lips for the first time since the 1980s (Doris Karloff from Miss Selfridge was my matte, uncompromising choice in those days), when it was in to look like Sade or that girl from Swing Out Sister.
Red lipsticks, I've learnt, are the stilettos of your make-up wardrobe. Though they are relentlessly female, sex is not the only message on flaming lips; they also speak of confidence and power. It is difficult to acquiesce in crimson lipstick (see Lady Thatcher, rarely without rosy lips).
Apply a red gob and you are suddenly dressed up and grown up, no matter what else you are wearing. All of us should find one that suits us – even if we are too chicken to wear it for work.
Val Garland – she's done everyone's face, including Keira Knightley's red turbo pout on this month's Vogue cover – gives the best advice for going red.
"Make sure lips are well-prepared with moisturiser or lip balm so they aren't flaky or dry," she says. "Don't even think of outlining your mouth and filling it in – just stain your lips from the centre, working outwards. It's about working the colour into the lips, rather than painting it on."
Though in the tube they can look gaudy, it's the brighter hues that suit most skin tones. "Orange and yellow reds are actually easier for most people to wear," says Garland.
"They suit many more complexions than a blueish tone." I followed her advice, using You Say Tomato, a matte but creamy lip colour from MAC (£11.50; MACcosmetics.co.uk), which was surprisingly easy to wear. I cheated at first, toning it down by adding lip balm and working up to full colour.
James Kaliardos, who trots all over the world making up models and celebrities for L'Oréal Paris, says my instincts were right: "If you are afraid of red, start with a red gloss or a sheerer red."
Organic Glam (the excellent make-up wing of the Organic Pharmacy) has a Creamy Lipstick in Red (£16.95; 020 7351 2232), which can be applied lightly. A lip stain is another good halfway house. I am addicted to Laura Mercier's little pot in Scarlet (£16; spacenk.co.uk).
The rewards of going all the way with proper, grown-up lipstick are rich, so do try. Daniel Sandler, another top artist, has some cautionary advice, though.
"One important factor to consider is that red lips highlight unevenness in skin tone, so you will need to use foundation or, if you already do so, a little more than usual." He also suggests a light dusting of powder at the corners of the mouth to stop the lipstick bleeding out and making you look like the Joker.
L'Oréal's Penelope Red (£7.99; at Boots and Superdrug) is a dark, determined sort of colour that is suitable for olive complexions, while Urban Decay's best-selling Lip Envy in Envious (£10; Boots) has a touch of pink that works well on blondes.
For extra-curricular use, Daniel Sandler's True Rouge (£11.50; 01923 845370, danielsandler.com) has a hint of shimmer. Estée Lauder's Signature Hydra Lustre Lipstick in Rich Red (£15) is a new, intense pillar-box colour that is destined for cult status.
Wear it when you're asking for a pay rise, or telling him to take a running jump. And slam the door behind you.