The Power of Red

The other day, I rolled into work and flashed a smile and at the security guard.

“What a bright smile!” he exclaimed as he waved me through. A nice moment.

And yet, it was a surprisingly profound moment for me. You see, as a child, I almost never smiled. I had nice enough teeth. Not so bad I needed braces, but not the perfectly-straight smile that my friends who had suffered through braces had. And I just felt awkward smiling. My childhood photos are shot after shot of my tight-lipped, awkwardly stretched, close-mouthed almost-smile. Combined with heavy eyebrows and straight, almost-black hair, I cut a severe figure as a child. And it didn’t get much better as I got older.

As I started getting back into theater and needing photos for auditions, I found one friend with a nice camera who was adept at catching my rare smiles, and even eliciting them with his dry, self-conscious humor. He said I had a lovely unconscious smile, and strove to catch those, as well as the occasional laughing, mouth-open smile. For a long time, my favorite shot was one of me looking down, hands clasped, smiling privately.

But it was effort to get those shots.

As soon as I started wearing red lipstick more often, I realized that I wanted to smile more. I felt like a movie star. I felt more outgoing. Poppy King once said that women who worry they don’t have the confidence to wear red lipstick are getting it backward because red lipstick will give you confidence, and she’s not wrong. Red lipstick is like armor for my face. I feel instantly brighter and more alive. It perks up my face and my spirits.

So even though I don’t wear it every day, I’m increasing every week. Whenever I feel tired or frustrated or run-down or some other form of not-best, I reach for my red. And when I do, I instantly feel lifted. I highly recommend it.

For years, I focused on black eyeliner as my makeup look of choice, thinking that I couldn’t wear red lipstick because the few times I tried it, the shade I chose looked off. Then, I went and tested different shades at a store that had lots of different shades. And I learned that my skin tone tends to make lipsticks look cooler on my face than in the tube. So I started gravitating towards orange-based reds rather than true or blue-based reds, at least for every day use. The little bit of orange warms up the look and tones down the red-ness of it just enough that it doesn’t feel like Halloween.

I highly recommend that every woman try to find that perfect red for her. Go to the drugstore or the beauty supply store or Sephora (if you’re so lucky) and try some on.