Ruby Red Lips: an experiment in voice

Inspired by Amy Palkos Red Lipstick Revolution, I decided to wear my bright “Ruby Red” lipstick on every outing for a week. There were two aspects to this experiment:

[box type=”shadow”]

  1. How would the lipstick-wearing influence my behaviour and my perception of myslef,
  2. and how would peoples reactions to me change with the brightness of my lipstick.


To give a little background; as a teen I wore a ton of makeup due to bad skin from hell and pretty much stuck with the practice until I moved to Australia. Even though I diligently wore sunscreen with SPF 50 every day, I turned rather tan and my long established makeup routine didn’t match anymore. All that sun had the fortunate effect of killing the last remnants of bad skin from hell, so that today I am only left with the scars and an occasional pimple. Today many people know me only without makeup on and if only with pale “neutral” colors. Wearing bright red lips is quite the deviation from normal for me today.

I expected people to notice and comment, especially my colleagues and some friends. I also expected to feel much more self-concious, and to constantly smear it everywhere. Red lips to me signal confidence in self and voice, a woman wearing signal red lipstick is confident in herself, what she has to say and her ability to say it. I expected to feel like I was wearing a mask.

It turns out that the experience was much more positive than I expected. After checking in a mirror about every 30min the first day, I had convinced myself that I could wear lipstick without dramatic smearing incidents and henceforth wore it with confidence. That confidence was surprising, because I expected to be totally self-conscious, but then confidence is the other side of that medal. Some people commented on my unusual behaviour, but generally agreed that it suited me. I thanked them graciously and agreed.

Surprisingly I was louder about asking for things I wanted. I didn’t whisper and qualify and minify my needs, but instead nicely asked for those things in a direct way. And here also the response was great. It seems people are just waiting to hear me tell them what to do and how to help.

As the testing week wore on, the lipstick became more and more a part of me. It wasn’t a foreign mask and I wasn’t startled by my appearance in the mirror anymore. It was still a mask, insofar as a mask that signals to us and others that we take care of ourselves, that we put thought into our presentation, that we feel we have important things to say.

In the end I am not converted to an everyday lipstick wearer, but in my mind, when I have something to say that I care about, I put on my invisible bright red lippy and then graciously, but strongly say what I have to say.

How about you? How do you feel about lipstick? Do you have invisible rituals that help you be clear about your needs and ideas to others?

4 responses to “Ruby Red Lips: an experiment in voice”

  1. I love this experiment!

    As a day-to-day non-makeup-wearer, I too notice a distinct change in how I feel when I *do* wear makeup. I “diva up” when I perform (I’m a singer), and occasionally for a night on the town, and it definitely brings out a more… “diva” side of me.

    (I mean that in the best sense of the term: not the temper-tantrum-throwing diva, but the confident, knows-she-totally-rocks-and-loves-the-limelight diva. Just fyi.)

    In college and just after, during my Radical Feminist Awakening, there were about three years there where I absolutely *refused* to wear makeup (or to shave). Before that I had considered myself ugly without it, and I needed to own and embrace my natural, unadorned beauty.

    That exercise was useful, but later I came to a more balanced comfort zone, where I could adorn myself by conscious choice, for specific effects, and *for fun*. No longer because I feel it’s required of me.

    When it’s worn by choice, red lipstick totally rocks!

    Thanks for sharing your experiences!

  2. Amy Palko says:

    Oh wow – I’m so glad that you chose to give the red lippy experiment a go *and* that it made a positive difference to your confidence. And I love that you’re wearing it in your avatar – gorgeous!

    Also, I love what you say about masks. Make-up is absolutely a mask; but as long as it’s a mask that is worn consciously then it performs a role in the celebration of our femininity, rather than something to hide behind, or something to help us conform to an artificial construct of beauty.

    Thank you so much for giving it a go, writing how you got on with it & for sharing the revolution with others – you’re a star!

    Much love

  3. […] post on facebook x times a week I will increase my sales by y%” or in a more personal context “If I paint my lips red each day, my behaviour will be more guarded.” Then of course you have to track what you do and what happens. This gives you numbers and data and […]

Leave a Reply