Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Lipstick Etiquette

Hello Polite Readers!

Today I am answering a letter about lipstick etiquette, which is slightly outside of the original concept of this blog, but there's a couple opportunities for polite wording, and besides, it's nice to get a letter! So let's get to it:
What is "lipstick etiquette"? I'm trying to wear lipstick more, but now I don't know what to do when it needs touch ups. Do I always excuse myself and find a ladies room or just pull out a compact? Do I wipe it off before eating or let it get on the silverware? Can I touch it up at the table? What if I try to fake-kiss a cheek but end up making contact and leaving a big lip-mark? Etc.
So. The truth is that I really hate lipstick and if I hadn't become a dancer I probably never would have started to wear it. Early in my career, if I wasn't specifically told that I had to wear red lipstick, I would wear a sparkly gloss instead and even then I wouldn't put it on until right before I went on-stage, and in fact some times I would forget to put it on at all and go out with bare lips. Oh, the shame.

The more I have to do my makeup nicely to dance, the more I've explored my options and I've discovered that not all lipsticks are created equal. So the first step to avoiding a lipstick faux pas is to find one that you really like and are comfortable wearing. Look for something that isn't too sticky or goopy, doesn't tend to wander around your face, and doesn't dry your lips out. Using a conditioner or primer before you apply can help, and makeup setting spray might keep it from coming off. Of course it's expensive to buy a bunch of lipsticks to try, so I recommend going down to your favorite cosmetics store, getting some brand recommendations, and having them apply the one you like best and then you can wear it all day and see how it holds up before making a decision.

Personally I prefer to avoid actual lipstick and go with lip tar. It's my new obsession. Some people also like lip stains. Both of these products are less prone to transfering onto silverware, wine glasses and friends' cheeks. I've personally found that the one stain I've tried dries my lips out like crazy, but your mileage may very. Also, matte lipsticks can be more reliable than shiny ones. So there you go. If you go with an actual lipstick, blotting it after applying will help avoid as much transference onto the things around you.

Now to address each question:

1. Personally, I don't like to touch up my makeup at the dinner table, it feels a little gauche and unsanitary. I don't want food in my makeup or makeup in my food, and I think it sends a weird message to the people you're with, similar to playing with your phone. Do a quick compact-check and if you need a touch-up, excuse yourself.

2. Don't wipe it off before eating, it's so hard to just remove your lipstick without messing up the rest of your face, and if you're anything like me, you'll end up with weird bits of color stuck in little creases in your lip. If you're wearing a good product and you've blotted, you shouldn't have too much trouble with it coming off on silverware.

3. You probably won't leave marks on someone's face, but if you do, simply have a tissue or handkerchief (clean of course!) to dab it off with. Brush it off with a simple "So sorry, I left a mark!"

And a little Politely Worded tip? Watch out for your fellow ladies, especially dancers. If you see that someone has a smudge, or needs a touch-up, or has lipstick on her teeth, please take her aside and let her know! No one wants to go on stage with messy lipstick, or walk around a party with red teeth. It doesn't have to be a big deal, just a quiet "Oh, you might want to touch up your lips real quick." Saves everyone a lot of embarrassment!

If you have your own etiquette questions, please e-mail me at and you could be featured in a future column!

1 comment:

  1. Ohhh nice! I also think its a little rude to.put make up touchups on at the table. but chapstick im fine with. , but what is this lip tar you speak of. DO TELL