The First Impression

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The Power of RED (Lipstick)

A little Mac can go a long way

Those of you who watched my TV debut on What Not to Wear know that I am not one to wear a lot of makeup. I will begrudgingly use eyeliner and the occasional eye shadow for work, mainly to combat my apparent youthful appearance that leaves me mistaken for a student on campus. For those women who have a similar resistance to all-out face paint, I have a secret to share with you: all you need is red lipstick.

I can't recall with certainty what compelled a makeup-averse gal like me to give red a chance. Having a makeover performed by the renowned makeup artist Carmindy on the show was not enough to change my makeup-averse ways, even when they sent me home with a bag full of her Sally Hansen Natural Beauty products. And yet, one day I willingly approached the makeup counter at Mac, ready to contemplate various shades of red.

What was even more striking than my openness to go red was the response I got from my family who encountered me with my new colorful lips. The first time my brother saw me wearing red lipstick he asked me why my lips were so bright; my sister mockingly referred to me as a slut; my cousin declared that when her boyfriend saw me from afar he asked her what was wrong with my lips.

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These are the same people, mind you, who insisted that my style needed enough of an upgrade to nominate me for a reality TV makeover show. Apparently the makeover that I was in dire need of didn't include reddening my once chaste lips. But alas, I withstood their playful mocking, because, truth be told, I think red lipstick is hot. It enables a low maintenance woman to feel put together for work or a night out without the discomfort of a full face of makeup. At the same time, as a woman who in many ways resists traditional gender norms, a sweep of red on the lips is a quick way for me to reassert my femininity.

And here's an added bonus I hadn't considered when I went red: research has reasserted a strong link between males' perceptions of female attractiveness and red lipstick. Specifically, men are not only most drawn to a woman's lips, but, they spend the most time (7.3 seconds) fixated on a woman's lips when she is wearing red lipstick (as reported by the Daily Mail). Other research has similarly asserted perception of power is related to lipstick, again with red in particular. So if you can withstand the added attention: Go red and wear it well.

And by the way: I recommend Mac's Ruby Woo. It rarely needs to be reapplied, perfect for the low maintenance woman.

Daily Mail Reporter (No author) (November 2010). The lips have it: research shows men are drawn to a woman's pout more than any other facial features. MailOnline, Retrieved on January 17, 2012 from dailymail.co.uk.

Copyright Azadeh Aalai 2012

Azadeh Aalai, Ph.D., is a professor of psychology at Montgomery College in Maryland and an adjunct at George Washington University. She is the author of Understanding Aggression. more...

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