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  • Writer's picturemolly ofgeography

how to: choose a lipstick

it's more simple than you might think, and it has nothing to do how your face actually looks.


so i get a lot of asks about lipstick, because i wear it a lot and talk about it a lot and tend to speak in declarative sentences. but since i usually end up saying basically the same thing, i figured i’d just put it all in one place.

first of all let me say: i fucking love lipstick. if i had been consulted at the beginning of the world, my top contribution would have been, “make sure society is real chill about everyone wearing lipstick who wants to, regardless of gender. make that a priority. right after that we can address why you felt the need to create cockroaches.”

here are just a few reasons why lipstick is the bomb-dot-com:

  • you can just change!!!! the whole color palette!!! of your face!!!

  • the second you put lipstick on, you are instantly the star of a music video. what’s your jam right now? turn that shit on. look at yourself in the mirror. you’re now in a hella artsy one-shot music video where it’s just you in the mirror looking FRESH. TO. DEATH.

  • remember when you were four-ish and your school or your parents or your one friend with all the nice shit brought out that 64-shade box of crayola crayons and your WHOLE BODY started vibrating because you were SO PUMPED about crayons?

  • lipstick is like that, except you get to put those crayons on your face.

  • don’t act like you didn’t want to rub those crayons all over your face when you were four.

  • don’t you lie to me. i’m your FIBS. we’re family.

anyway, the point is, wearing lipstick is the best. you should wear whatever color you want, whenever you want, but if you’re feeling ambivalent about it, here’s how i, personally, decide when to wear what.


  • NOTE 1>: just because this is how i do it does not mean it is the right or only way to do it. i’ll bet this is not how rosario dawson does it, and lbr, if we could all be more like rosario dawson and less like me, we would be.

  • NOTE 2: if you are of a gender that society likes 2 be a jerk to about wearing lipstick, and someone is a jerk to you about wearing lipstick, listen. i will spit in their mouths. okay? you look amazing. you look way better than those jerks.



there are two reasons to wear red lipstick. the first is that you want to be and feel so smokin hot that there is not a single person in the world who doesn’t look at you and go, “WHO THE SWEET APPLESAUCE IS THAT?”

the second is if you wake up and think to yourself, “i would like today to be that gif of obama kicking open a door. just the whole day. fuck you, doors.”


pink is to red what a TV episode is to a whole season. pink is mr. darcy saying, “i love you, most ardently,” where red is that scene in brokeback mountain where they do it for the first time.

red hits you over the noggin. pink probably winks at you across the room from the party. you’re like, “WHAT DOES THAT WINK MEAN?”

pink shrugs. “idk,” says pink. “figure it out.”

  • pink probably runs an Aesthetic Blog.

  • you probably follow it, even though as a general rule you hate Aesthetic Blogs.

my point here is that pink can have a hundred thousand different uses and applications, dependent on the shade. nicki minaj wears lots of different pinks. do you feel like you want to be gently pushed on a swing in a meadow by your doting lover, who calls you my sweet? that’s a desperately light pink. do you want to make a point about femininity not being a synonym for weakness? that’s a probably magenta. maybe pastel, but aggressive neon. probably, but not necessarily, matte.

pink is complicated. so are you. embrace pink.


wear purple when you want someone riding a bicycle to crash into a flower stand because they are distracted by your striking beauty while you walk down the street. for this particular feeling, the darker the purple, the better. like the dark purple skin of a perfect plum. nothing says “bored luxury” like plum lipstick.

lighter purples are trickier. lighter purples are great for Nighttime Parties, particularly Nighttime Parties Where You’re Going Out To A Space Designed For Copious Public Drinking. i personally only wear neon purples in clubs--which is to say, i never wear neon purples--but i have a friend who wears them to brunch, and to be honest she brings the hotness of the whole group up an entire level. if you’re wearing neon purple, you are immediately the most important person at the table, so wear it on days when you want to wield that power for good, not evil.


maroon is a Business Lipstick. a Workplace Lipstick. maroon says, “i’m hot as shit, but i’m also incredibly competent.” maroon lipstick says, “i’m not here to talk shit about nancy at the water cooler, todd. i’m here to do my job, and do it better than both of you.”

maroon lipstick says, “yes, you should promote me.”


  • or, you know. whatever.

  • that’s just an example.

maroon lipstick also goes with pretty much everything. i always keep a tube of maroon lipstick in my purse in case of emergency.


“nude” is a complicated question, because it covers such a wide range of skin tones. like, lupita nyong’o and i have wildly different ideas of what color makes our lips “nude.” so this section isn’t really about a color, but more of whatever-color-nude-is-YOUR-color-nude. it’s a category, not a shade.

nudes are good for a lot of occasions. nudes are good for looking like a Hot Young Parent Whose Partner Took The Kids For The Day. nudes are good for “I Just Woke Up Like This.” nudes are good for Sunday Meal With Your Parents. nudes are good for that scene at climax of a romance movie where for some reason you, as the protagonist, are standing in the rain, and you are crying because you’re in love with somebody but something with a capital S has come between you. they’re also good for a montage about you getting shit done in your life, like cleaning your apartment or studying for an exam or packing to leave for a long trip abroad.

i recommend gentle music when you’re wearing nudes. really poetic, emotional shit. joni mitchell. the avett brothers. tracy chapman.

you know what? scratch that. just put on “fast car.” listen to “fast car” on repeat the whole time you’re wearing nudes.


look, i’ll be honest. i don’t know. i don’t trust orange. i’ve seen people look beautiful in orange lipstick but it makes me think they’re hiding something.

are you hiding something? wear orange.


there is no right time to wear these colors. there is also no wrong time.* a few examples:

  • it’s the weekend.

  • you just got back from “woofstock,” a dog festival.

  • you genuinely love dubstep (for some reason).

  • you genuinely love the new ryn weaver album (for obvious reasons).

  • fucking todd at work brought in VEGETABLES WITH HUMMUS instead of a cake for his birthday. i mean, it’s your birthday, todd, but like, VEGETABLES WITH HUMMUS???? for your BIRTHDAY??? god, who even raised you.

*a small correction: maybe don’t wear these at funerals. i’d stick with neutrals or maroons at funerals.


when it comes to applying lipstick in public (rather than, idk, excusing yourself to the bathroom or whatever), i’m of two minds. on the one hand, it pleases me to imagine that people just think that my mouth is always this color, even when there is no conceivable blend of genetics that could render me with a sparkly purple mouth.

on the other hand, like, fuck it, you know? whenever i catch someone watching me apply lipstick in public i kind of feel like that part in the “feeling myself” music video where beyoncé is wearing a chicago bulls one-piece and goes, “i stop the world! world, stop.”

carry on.


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