Beauty Q&A: The Most Beautiful Bright Lipstick in the Land

1. I love how lipstick/stain looks on other ladies. I always have. The unfortunate fact of the matter is that I can’t seem to find one that looks right on me. Makeup has always been a bit of a struggle. My mother was raised a Mennonite (she is 60 and has never worn a stitch of make up), and my father was a Baptist preacher. Make up was verboten at our house. I never had anyone to show me how to choose shades or apply or contour or blend. I am a natural redhead with pale skin and lots of freckles. Reds and berries seem to add years to my age, and also make me look like those ladies who are screaming outside trailers on Cops. I tried a sort of peachy color once, but it looked downright orange on me. Ugh. I am clueless.

You should write a memoir. Who cares if nothing has “happened” yet? All you do is write a chapter about what you’re doing right now, then steal tell your mom’s story, then tell your dad’s story, then tell the story of them meeting, then tell a bunch of stories about being the daughter of a Mennonite and a Baptist preacher, then jump back to what you’re doing right now. It’s going to be a great book.

Now, thank you for giving me an excuse to talk about my new favorite lipstick. In the past I would’ve encouraged you to play around with Dior Addict Extreme lipsticks. They come in super fun, bright colors, but are kind of sheer and go on smooth and aren’t too intimidating in actual practice, despite their aggressive name. You can try them on at Sephora, and I still think you should, after you try — and ugh, again, I hate the names of makeup sometimes! — Lancome’s “Color Design Sensational Effects Lip Color” in Corset. It’s right here. It is the most perfect, universally flattering, non-red but still a bright color lipstick I’ve ever come across. I even checked the reviews on Sephora just now to be sure I’m not overselling it. Missmichelle88 says “Corset is Ah-mazing!”:

“A make-up artist suggested this color to me (corset) and I fell in love! It’s the perfect pop of color for me and what’s great about it is that it looks good on every skin tone. I turned my girlfriend on [to] this color and she has a very dewy complexion with fair skin while my skin is very olive with golden undertones but it looks fantastic on us both! I think it’s very versatile and can be worn both day and night. I just simply layer it a bit more for a dramatic look in the evening and then I’m ready to go!”

Movin’ units.

And don’t forget that bold lipstick is difficult to pull off if you don’t have any other makeup on. It can look really cool as long as you have flawless skin and are a supermodel or that girl from La Roux, but otherwise you’ll want to keep this in mind:

2. I am a regular shaped lady looking for a button down shirt/blouse. Shouldn’t be difficult, right? WRONG. I have been trying on button up shirts for nearly six months and CANNOT find one that doesn’t pull at the breast button! I am faaaaaar from bosomy, but even when I’m trying on shirts that are a size larger than usual, they still pull! I would like to wear a nice blouse with buttons, but I am worried that I will soon have to resort to doing the half buttoned with cami underneath look, which I don’t mind but is not ideal. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated! Maybe I’ve just been looking in all the wrong places? Or do clothing companies forget that women have boobs?

Hm. I’m just going to start by saying that I don’t think we have the same definition for “faaaaaar from bosomy.” It sounds like you’ve got boobs! Sorry, but it does. I think you should do two things: first, go get fitted for a bra that lifts those theoretically not-huge suckers up. When they’re a smidge higher (or lower, but I don’t know how you would achieve that?) they might not pull on the shirts in the same place and that could solve your problem. I’ve suggested this to a few friends who’ve had the same issue — one of them is always popping the same button off of her blouses! — and it was a simple fix.

Also try going up a few more sizes. Hey, did you guys want to know something? SIZES AREN’T FACTS. Fit is. So, maybe you’ve always been a size M at Banana Republic, except suddenly you can’t find a blouse that fits because some executive at Banana Republic read a consumer survey about size Ms feeling a certain way about their boobs, or whatever, so they changed the way their Ms fit. You don’t know! Neither do I. Go buy a shirt that doesn’t tug across the boob area and get it tailored if the rest of it is too roomy. What you’ll lose in terms of dollars to the tailor you’ll gain in terms of a shirt you can actually wear and time spent not shopping for six months all over town.

3. So I’m not sure if this is your turf , but I have this great room in a house that I share with two other people. There are two walk in closets, my own full bathroom, and a living room area to myself. I love so many things about the place. The downside (because there always is one when apartments are this awesome) is that it is in the basement and the ceilings are made up of those ugly foam drop ceiling tiles. These tiles are so thin that I can hear every phone conversation my room mate has in her room on the floor above mine. Thus my fantasies of having complete privacy for my bedroom romps are shattered and I am forever relegated to my boyfriend’s one bedroom apartment for sexy times. I just… HE DOESN’T EVEN KNOW HOW OLD HIS PILLOWS ARE, UGH!

To get to the point, I need a suggestion for something to disguise my ugly ceiling tiles in my bedroom and hopefully sound proof it as well. I realize that may be a tall order but I would settle for making my ceiling less cringeworthy.

Side note: I’m six feet tall and I would guess that my ceilings are about seven feet. Something that drapes too low would result in a tangled mess when a bobby pin in my hair catches in an elegant loop of fabric.

This is sort of A Clean Person meets Handy Femme question, but I’ve actually done this before so you’ve come to the right place. It’s a messy, big project, because there’s not a chance in hell I’m going to tell you to pin some tapestries from Urban Outfitters up there and pretend you live in an opium den in your parents’ basement.

Step one: Measure your ceiling and then go to Home Depot and say to someone who works there, “Hi, my drop ceiling is seven by 11 feet and I need some rolls of insulation to throw up in there because my upstairs neighbor talks too much.” Then buy what they tell you to buy.

Step two: Take all those drop ceiling tiles out. Be sure to cover all your belonging with a sheet when you’re taking them down because things will get crumbly and gross with ceiling crap. Now, if you want, you can buy new ones or you can spray paint the ones you already have. Or you can glue beautiful paper to them. Or any number of paint/decoupage combinations you can imagine. Do that to all the tiles! Boy, is this messy.

Step three: Get a friend to help you with this one and wear gloves — insulation is made of sharp little pieces of fiberglass and they can get give you microscopic cuts all over your hands and that is not good. So, with the help of your friend, row by row, replace the now-beautified ceiling tiles and unroll that insulation up in there as you go. Here’s a little more on that from This Old House. Keep the insulation away from light fixtures if there are any. It should help with the noise and keep it cool in the summer, warm in the winter.

4. A few weeks ago, you told a reader who looked older than she was how she could appear younger. I have a similar/opposite question: how on earth do I look older? I am 29, but regularly get told that I look 19 or 20. I recently started graduate school and I teach my first class this fall. I hope to stop being mistaken for an undergrad at some point. I’d also love to seem more approachable to respectable, age-appropriate men (but god, who wouldn’t?).

I feel like I’m doing everything I can: sensible heels, a nice handbag, and makeup. I’m short with a small frame, and have olive skin, deep-set eyes, and full cheeks. I could probably do better on my hair, which I wear long and unstyled or in a loose, high bun. I also tend to laugh a lot and say “like” and “um” more than I should, which probably isn’t helping my case.

What should I try? Wear more makeup? Less? Hold back on the concealer and let some undereye circles show through? “Contouring?” What is contouring?! Can you recommend some professional but non-frumpy hairstyles? Or a finishing school that will help me appear more confident and mature in unfamiliar situations? Help!

YOU LOOK JUST LIKE WINNIE COOPER. Trust me, y’all. She wouldn’t let me post her photo, but she looks just like Winnie Cooper. I think you should grow your bangs out. (OMG I’m telling someone NOT to have bangs, whaaat!?) Super thick, straight across bangs can be — uhhh — kind of juvenile? I guess it depends on the rest of your face, but for some folks who already skew young, it can look very “first grade class photo,” you know? So grow them out into a side-swept look or just get rid of them altogether. By growing them out, not shaving them off.

You could also start doing something VERY ADULT with your looks, such as wearing a dark lipstick with very little eye makeup. Or an extreme cat eye. Or going for a crazy lady tunic/leggings/cool boots uniform. You know, adopt a statement look that screams, “I am not a teenager!” Or you could just decide you’re okay with looking younger. Literally all of the problems are worse problems to have.

Also: no backpacks.

5. I have the driest skin!!! It’s ashy and rashy-ish. Do you have any soap and/or lotion recommendations? Should I go to a spa and get my skin buffed?

Do NOT buff it! hat are you even talking about!? First, drink more water. Second, move to a humid climate. Just kidding. Second, maybe go to a dermatologist to be sure you don’t have a rash or worse? They’ll usually just say you have “contact dermatitis” which is a fancy way of saying your skin is irritated, no duh, but then sometimes you’ll come home with a prescription cream that’ll make it all better. So try that if you can.

And if you’re showering every day, stop. Truly! Aim for every-other or every third day. All that hot water and soap is working against you keeping moisture in your skin. When you get stinky pits, or other places, just cleanse with a washcloth as needed. And then on the days you do shower, try using soap from Aveeno — they specialize in products for extra dry or rashy skin. I also really love their oatmeal bath treatment. It’s helped me with swimmers itch — the price you pay for having the best day of your life swimming in a gravel pit! Also, as soon as you step out of the shower, moisturize with a simple oil like this one from Neutrogena. For some reason I always find it at Nordstrom Rack for half price? And this Calming Creme from Eucerin is the bomb for super dry skin. I know that all sounds like a million products, but I’m a sucker for beauty rituals, especially naked ones. “Now is the time I put this on my skin, and now is the time I put that on my skin, and now is the time I really wish I had bought that vintage silk robe on Etsy.”

Previously: Bitter Pills.

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Photo by OtnaYdur, via Shutterstock.