Oh, the mouth. We do so much with our mouths. Even when we’re not consuming food or smooching or speaking, we signal each other with these facial "micro-expressions" that are basically involuntary, most of which are centered around the mouth. So, if you can wrap your mind around that, try to imagine how often people are looking at your mouth. Don’t you want them to have positive feelings about it? I want people to have positive feelings about your mouth. The good news is it's not necessary for either of us to spend a lot of time and energy worrying about it. Plan of attack: invest in a good lipstick (or, why not a really great one), and take good care of those teeth. Let’s dive in.
When it comes to lip color, there are a few important elements to keep in mind:
2) staying power
Not in that order—and there’s probably more—but those are the criteria that popped up into my head with the most immediacy. The concept of “strength” is important, too. A lip color (and I’m talking color, not a nude) needs to stay on, and stay put. There is very little worse than navigating a party or dinner or whatever it is, convinced that the carefully sculpted shape of your mouth has become wonkily uneven, or that a smear of your chosen hue is currently crossing your front teeth like you’ve been snacking on Ruby Woo. Serge Lutens has got you covered: the admittedly very pricey lipsticks—$75 a tube; $55 for refills is yes, a lot for a lipstick (maybe the most?) but hear me out—come in 10 shades, all featuring delicate prism-shaped tips. And friends, call me Goldilocks, but Lutens' reds are just right: #1, called Mise à Mort, is a bold, classic, 'uptown-girl' Grace Kelly crimson; #7 Votre Sienne is a perfect, grown-up, daytime coral-meets-red-meets-beige that makes me feel like I have a business meeting to get to and you’re going to listen to me; and my favorite, #9 Couvre Fou, looks like an almost gothy black-brown in the tube but glides on the exact shade of dark plum/wine that I've been looking for all fall. It's got just enough gloss to go on in a flash, but with a creamy, mostly matte, and sophisticated result. How do I justify a $75 lipstick? It’s the only one even close to this shade that I want to wear, and I’ll wear it to the bitter end (the nub); no more mucking around buying handfuls of different dark reds and plums to experiment with or layer. So get thee to Barneys (and .com), if you're willing and able (and if it's not your thing, well, judge not lest ye be judged?).
Now, inside your mouth are your teeth. Your teeth are one of those things (or 32 of those things, if you're counting each one individually, including wisdom) that are simultaneously a wonder of design and a pain in the ass. They’re bestowed upon you beautiful, useful, and pearly-white—before life (coffee, wine, tea, sweets, sauces, nicotine, etc) wreaks its unique brand of havoc. And there is no lipstick perfect enough to make stained teeth look good. Bluish-tinted reds might help them appear a tad whiter, but most lipsticks, even $75 ones, will just make any yellowing or discoloration stand out. That’s a fact. And if your options are keeping your mouth shut or taking a big ol' bite outta life? I say, LET'S WHITEN THOSE SUCKERS.
I’ve done dentist-level whitening treatments, with molded trays and those little syringes of potion you squirt in and sleep with. They're not sexy, and my dog ate one of my molded trays (really, my dog ate it), but they work. They’re also expensive, and you can only use them every so often because they gradually strip your enamel and can cause extreme sensitivity, even to a cold breeze. More dash than cash? $40 Crest Whitestrips Professional Effects (with Advanced Seal technology, which matters, because they're drier than the previous Crest strips and virtually immovable in your mouth, whereas before you couldn't speak without them sliding around and you couldn't really talk, period). They may technically take longer than the dentist version—20 days for full results—but the wait means you can whiten at your own pace, and take a break if you start feeling the burn. You’ll see a difference starting three days after applying the tape-like strips to your grill (top and bottom), once a day, for 30 minutes. The best part? You can buy them at your local drugstore. Which, by the way, you might have to walk to, because you spent all your taxi money on lipstick.
Illustration by Karleigh Sherman.