I’ve always been a collector. As a child I collected gold stars (the red flag of a perfectionist) and puffy stickers with equal aplomb so it makes sense that when I finally retired my sticker album and answered the keening siren call of the cosmetics counters that I’d develop a healthy hoarding habit.
Cut to today and my current abiding fixation with orange-y red lipsticks. They are my go-to answer for everything. If I’m feeling run-down a swipe of that technicolor gold across my lips leaves me feeling younger, prettier, cooler, more awake, and suddenly able to fit into that impossibly small pair of jeans I keep around just in case.
The color works all year round: it shines in the summer with a tan and it pops in the winter against pale skin. It makes me feel like the best version of myself, which for a little $25 tube is really something else. I might not have the funds to buy a ticket somewhere hot and beachy in the middle of February but I can definitely swing a tube of something pretty. The dangerous thing is that the instant gratification and low(er) price point always leaves me wanting more. I’m always wondering if there’s a better one out there—maybe a richer color or an impossibly matte formula that’s also creamy as all get out. Maybe the next one will make me feel really, really good about myself in a way that I never knew I could feel good about myself.
And then there’s this thing called the lipstick effect. A 2008 article in the New York Times talks about the fact that “after the terrorist attacks of 2001 deflated the economy, Mr. Lauder (as in Estée Lauder) noticed that his company was selling more lipstick than usual. He hypothesized that lipstick purchases are a way to gauge the economy. When it’s shaky, he said, sales increase as women boost their mood with inexpensive lipstick purchases instead of $500 slingbacks.” The only thing that makes more sense is sweatpants and Netflix.
Let me reiterate: I love makeup but I do not wear much of it. I’m the most unassuming lipstick junkie you’ll ever meet. I don’t love lipstick but I do love that wonderful orange-y red hue. I love it worn full-on, I love it blotted to nonexistence so it looks like I just ate the most glorious blood orange you’ve ever seen.
I can recall all of my favorites as quickly as a millenial can say “woke”. There’s the MAC one—that vanilla smell, that bullet-shaped casing (Lady Danger if you must know). There’s the one that got away, a Stila shade they discontinued, which I continued to keep scraping out with a bobby pin in a quiet, desperate frenzy until I hit rock bottom. I even saved some of the precious formula, taking it to a spot in Soho that caters to desperate people like me with promises of recreating your lost shade (two words: fake news).
My newest purchase was the happy byproduct of my long standing battle with winter— a shortcut through the Anthropologie in Chelsea Market found me fondling a tube of Pinch Cosmetics Matte Velvet Waterless Lipcolour in Poppy. That fondling led to the checkout line and it now serves as the keystone to my confidence (well, that and some mezcal).
Art Direction by Jenny Wichman