She paints her lips. Slowly, carefully, with a small brush. Following the arch of the bow, down to the corner of the mouth where it tickles; pouting slightly, she looks at the shiny line she painted. Parting her lips, smiling, white teeth just showing.

She paints her lips red. Within the line she just made, she applies the rich red, taking pleasure in every stroke. Pausing, pulling the brush slowly across the lower lip... They shine, her lips, wet and slick. The line is darker, frames the lips. Accentuates them.

She paints her lips bright. And she knows he is looking at her, as she applies the final gloss. She knows he follows her every stroke, only waiting. He will be tasting her lips soon, smearing the lipstick she so carefully put on. He is part of the reason for the shiny, red lips.

She paints her lips shiny, and the strokes of the brush makes her close her eyes. The brush travels down her chin, leaving a shiny trail. Soon strong hands on her shoulders turn her around; his breath on her face makes her catch her own. His lips touch hers, softly at first, rapidly wanting more, craving all. All she has to give him, she gives him, leaving lipstick traces where no one will see.

She paints her lips once more. Each stroke reminds her of his touch, of his kiss, of his warm breath on her skin. His hands through her hair. Following her slow, contented smile, the brush paints this trail that he will follow.

For all that the marketing branches of the big cosmetics companies would have you think otherwise, really dramatic lips take a bit of work, and involve more than just smoothing a lipstick over your mouth (however expensive that lipstick might be). All darker colours can be applied using the below technique, but its especially important to not stint on the effort when going for a bright red look. Badly applied makeup is always worse than no make up at all, but hardly anything can bump you up the age scale and down the social scale as quickly and effectively as faded, smeared, seeping or flaking red lip colour. It's up there with the VPL on the list of ultimate crimes of fashion - and every crime of fashion is committed first and foremost against the self, so don't do it!

A How-To Guide to Luscious Red Lips:

  1. Condition: Just like an artist prepping their canvas, use a non-fatty cream to moisturise your lip and mouth area; this will plump up the lips, smooth out wrinkles and make the colour go on easier. Lip balm or Vaseline are no good because they are not properly absorbed through the skin and so your lip colour will just slide off the base. In the absence of a good lip cream or aqueous cream, your normal face cream or even body lotion will do.

  2. Outline: Lip liners go in and out of fashion. At the moment they are rather out of favour because the prevailing "look" is a liquid, barely-there one, with semi-sheer glosses preferred to block colours. However if you are trying to create a striking effect with a non-transparent lip colour then the liner is still very much your friend. A good way around liner prejudice is to use one that is half a tone to a tone lighter than the lipstick you're using (it's usually best to buy the two from the same manufacturer as the better ones do match their lip pencil colours to their lipsticks). Make sure it is well sharpened and clean, with no clumps or flakes of wood sticking to the tip, then apply it gently around your whole mouth - don't forget the corners! Remember that it will not be seen, so it doesn't matter if the line is not perfect; in any case do not under any circumstances stretch your mouth wide in the familiar lipstick-putting-on-grimace, because when you relax your mouth hundreds of tiny creases in your lips will close up and trap unsightly little clumps of liner in them.

  3. Apply colour: Use a brush! I know it’s a pain, but trust me – you just cannot achieve the same results without it. Most people have lips which are either narrower or wider than the tip of the lipstick, leading to smears and misses all over the place. You can also control the amount of colour going on much better with a brush, and distribute it more evenly around the whole lip area. Make sure the brush is clean and free of frizz though, or you could give yourself an accidental moustache.

  4. Blot: Important to get rid of any excess colour, which will otherwise make itself into unattractive clumps in the corners and creases of your mouth. Place a clean tissue on your relaxed lower lip, then bring your lips together and squeeze them lightly with a rolling outside-in motion. Just pressing the tissue to your lips also works, but if your hand slips you’ll end up with a smear, so be careful.

So far so good – this will do for work or any normal occasion. However for special dates, parties or when you just want that extra bit of movie star glamour, add the following. super secret, professional-makeup-artist-tip steps:

  1. For durability: Use the same powder you are using on the rest of you face to lightly brush over your freshly painted lips. If the powder you use is very pale or very dark, the best thing to use as an alternative is so called transparent loose face powder (in an absolute emergency, talcum powder will do). Once covered in a thin film of powder, press and roll your lips again as you would while blotting. Next, apply another layer of colour with the brush, and blot with a tissue again. This is guaranteed to help your lip colour stay on for the entire night – really and truly, it will last through talking, drinking, eating… Even moderate kissing! As long as you’re not a compulsive lip biter or licker, in which case you’ll have eaten most of your lipstick anyway, this is the fail-safe way of making sure you don’t end up looking all washed out within a couple of hours.

  2. For shine: Again, shine is somewhat susceptible to fads and trends. In the ‘90s, when women of my generation acquired their sartorial habits, matte was the only respectable way to go, whereas these days drippingly liquid gloss is de rigueur. Still, while matte is perhaps the more chic, powdery dry lips are not really luscious, so I do recommend a modicum of good quality (read: thick, not watery) colourless lip gloss in a thin layer to be applied over the base colour (this can be done whether you’ve smear-proofed it or no). Alternatively, you can do what Marilyn Monroe did, and apply a thin coat of Vaseline to your lips with a clean lip brush. The deep yet subtle lustre this gave her lips was a huge contributing factor to her legendary glamour.
That’s it – you’re done. It will probably take you 10-15 minutes the first time you go through this rigmarole, but as you discover the awesome power of the method and become an addict to it, you technique will improve, and soon you should be able to go from blank canvas to vamp, retro goddess, soap villainess or fashion icon in no time.

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