The tale of a woman and her lipstick never gets old, and girls are never too young to wear it.
I’ve had an illustrious history with lipstick that dates back to when I was eight. Thanks to stage makeup, as part of a cast in a school musical, a few of us were initiated into the alluring world of soft, pink lip colour.
To my sheltered eight-year-old mind, lipstick made me look positively sophisticated, and pretty! Before that, I didn’t have an opinion about my looks (I was eight!). I didn’t notice if I had too flat a nose, or if my forehead was broad.
But lipstick changed the way I looked at myself in the sense of making me notice that I had big eyes, with symmetrical double eyelids, chubby cheeks, a prominent chin, and sharp lip peaks that made my pair look like a bird’s beak.
Even at that age, I was bowled over by the effects of this simple makeup item, and by the fact that just by adding a smidgen of colour to my lips, I could be transformed. What sorcery, even if it was just cosmetics.
For days I couldn’t stop talking about lipstick, chattering to my older girl cousins about its transformative effects, and urging them to try it if they didn’t believe me. They didn’t. They thought I was being precocious and ridiculous, vain beyond my years, and that I should stop gabbing about the marvels of wearing lipstick, which to them belonged in a woman’s world.
Which came first – lipstick or my precocious tendencies? I can’t decide if I always had the propensity to become precocious, and lipstick just happened to unlock it, or if lipstick indeed made me precocious. But by some miracle of forced resistance, I managed to abstain from it between the ages of eight and 12.
By the time I was 13, my older female cousins – the same ones who poo-pooed my lipstick epiphany – were pouting their lips for a stick of colour on a weekly basis. In fact, all the women around me were wearing it (Mum, my aunts, all older by then, but still maintaining the beauty protocol), most of all me.
I went from school-approved stage lipstick, to “borrowing” Mum’s ladylike Estee Lauders, to “sharing” Clinique’s shimmery metallic lilacs and Bourjois’ iconic bright pinks with a female cousin, to finally buying my own.
The thing about starting young (on lipstick), and then becoming the beauty editor of one of Singapore’s leading women’s magazines, is that you will always have your finger on the pulse of the next big lip colour trend, and that you will be somewhat fickle and picky. It all comes down to having so many formulations to try and only one pair of lips.
Over the years, I’ve worn a slew of from Elizabeth Arden that saw me through my creamy orange crush and persimmon red phase. I’ve had dalliances with goth and pale matt shades from M.A.C, NARS and Urban Decay, and lived through a prolonged phase with a spectrum of progressive wines and berries from Chanel and Dior (hello, Chanel Rouge Noir and Dior Rouge 999!), which was followed by a brief fling with Revlon’s transfer-proof pocket-size wands. Where there’s darkness, there’s always light – for a time, I also toyed with barely-there nudes from Bobbi Brown.
Throughout those seminal years, I kept hearing this refrain: You have lipstick on your teeth! Alas, an overbite be the fly in my ointment. The solution: braces. With braces comes a different set of challenges to the wearing of lipstick, but the gods of beauty are thoughtful and imaginative, and with a mouthful of metal, I segued smoothly into embracing lip stains and speckled glosses, yummy-looking liquid-gels on steroids. They came in various marvellous packaging – teeny-bopper rollerball tubes, practical push-pens, and finger-dipping Lilliputian tins.
Glosses, besides being easy to slip on, therefore time-saving, have the added advantage of keeping the lips moist and plump. But heaven help you on a windy day out. If I had a dollar for every time I had to peel the strands from my mouth, when I let down my hair… So it came to be: lip gloss only on hair-up days, which meant death to spontaneity.
Straightened teeth notwithstanding, little by little I became disenchanted by the thing that so charmed me at age eight, because the inconveniences began to out-weigh the benefits – never-ending touch-ups after meals, streaky lips on windy, hair-down days, stains on my coffee mug… Until one day, finally, I stopped wearing lipstick altogether. It was the dawn of my self-imposed lipstick sabbatical. Nothing. Nada. Not even for parties and galas. Not for weddings or festive occasions.
For almost 10 years, “powerliner, light blusher, no lipstick” became my signature look. It. Felt Good. My lips grew accustomed to not wearing a creamy/sticky/waxy substance. I got reacquainted with my natural lip colour and those sharp peaks that I used to round out with cheater’s lip-liner.
Lipstick is still not my go-to cosmetic item, and it would not be the one makeup item I’d take with me to a deserted island, but lately, I’ve let a little lip colour creep back into my life.
We live in an age where options for everything abound. We are if nothing, inundated by choices and plagued by the condition of hoarding too much information. It’s like standing under a waterfall – up to a point you must close your eyes, hold your breath and let the deluge wash over you, or risk drowning!
Once in a while, however, a lipstick story comes along that, instead of making you yawn, is compelling enough to force you to come up for air.
Who would have thought a little known local label called INGA by 27A would make a splash big enough to cause ripples in my still and quiet lipstick-less lake, and shake me out of my big lipstick sleep?
I love INGA’s ballsy backstory. INGA’s millennial creator, Singaporean Marie Soh, a makeup artist and founder of beauty consultancy 27A, conceptualised and produced the line of made-for-Asian-skin tones lipsticks, because she was hard pressed to find lip colour products that made her clients happy, those busy women who demand that their lipsticks be: of fine quality ingredients, long-lasting, and comfortable to wear all day long. In other words, suitable for SG’s muggy climate and their particular Asian skin tones.
INGA’s lipsticks sealed the deal for me because besides being expertly formulated and screened for the best results, they are not tested on animals and remain cruelty-free. Sadly, not enough lipsticks are.
There are currently 10 shades in the concise collection, with deeply meaningful and empowering monikers like Alina, Allyn, Anja, Elvira, IIoha, Iowa, Mika, Ora, Rowa and Tora – names you would do well to bestow on your future daughters. And what you see and read about is what you get: intense pigments in light textures that are long-lasting.
Each INGA by 27A lipstick is slender and will fit any evening purse, and $29 a piece (not including shipping/delivery) is a small price to pay for so much lip power.
If you’ve never bought lipstick online because you must try it before you buy it, here’s where INGA will change your mind. On the website, each of the 10 lipstick shades is worn by 10 different models, each with a different skin tone, so picking the one you think matches yours the closest and best is a no-brainer. Or be like me and just pick the shades you like.
INGA by 27A may be only a year old, but its concept of meeting its customers’ needs, and marrying exclusivity with affordability, is fresh. And in the face of formidable competition, it certainly punches above its weight.
And we wouldn’t be human if we didn’t expect options, so here’s my born-again-lipstick-fan shopping list of old favourites in bold colours and new formulations:
- Chanel Rouge Coco in Rouge Noir
- Rouge Dior in 999 Matte Red
- Estee Lauder Pure Color Envy Sculpting Lipstick in Brazen
- Elizabeth Arden Ceramide Ultra Lipstick in Sugar
- Clinique Chubby Stick in Chunky Cherry
- M.A.C Lipstick Nudes in Age/Sex/Location
- NARS Velvet Matte Lip Pencil in Bolero- Pink Cantaloupe
- Urban Decay Vice Lipstick in Backdoor
- Bobbi Brown Lip Color in Rich Cocoa
- Revlon Ultra HD Lip Lacquer in HD Pink Ruby
- Bourjois Rouge Edition Velvet Lipstick in #18 Its Redding Men
Images courtesy of Dior and Inga