Actress beauty tip #9: Red, red lips

This is the ninth installment of my monthly classic actress beauty tips that I have tested.  This month I’m actually on time!

Rita Hayworth wore Max Factor Rose Red. Lana Turner wore Elizabeth Arden’s Victory Red.

Rita Hayworth in Max Factor lipstick ad

The 1940s and 1950s was a time of minimal eye make-up and concentration on the lips.  Popular lip colors during the 1940s were pink red, bright red, cherry red or deep red, according to a 20s-to-40s make-up guide.

Rita Hayworth in particular was known for her red lipstick, along with her long red finger nails. The lipstick was a style constant from the 1930s to the 1960s for Hayworth. She was also involved in a 1949 Max Factor lipstick advertising campaign. Hayworth’s lips were even voted the best in the world by the Artist’s League of America.

Bright red lipstick looks beautiful on many other actresses including Betty Grable, Linda Darnell and Gene Tierney.

However, I think the bright reds are a hard look to pull off today. I’m not sure why people of the 1940s and 1950s look naturally better with bright red lipstick than people today. Maybe it’s their complexion. Maybe its because we emphasize eyes more with liner, mascara and shadow now.

But red lipstick is so enticing. It makes you feel powerful, feminine and glamorous. I bought two Maybelline lipstick shades on a whim: Are You Red-dy and Peachy Scene.

Though I’ve worn red lipstick out, I look horrible. I don’t really know anyone who looks good with red lipstick. It either doesn’t go with their skin tone or they put on gobs of lipstick without bothering to blot it.

To review: Red lipstick may look great on Lana Turner and Rita Hayworth in the 1940s, but its hard to recreate this pin-up look while looking fabulous at the same time. I personally look better in peach and pink shades. Approach bright shades of red lipstick with caution.

Check out the Comet Over Hollywood Facebook page and Radio Waves Over Hollywood Facebook page.

9 thoughts on “Actress beauty tip #9: Red, red lips

  1. I think part of why girls these days have a hard time with red lipstick is, as you say, all of the other make up. The end result is just too much make up.

    Also think that we associate the red lips with the 40’s so seeing it on someone today appears “costumey” or dated. Perhaps people “look bad” in red lipstick today simply because of a cultural idea that red lips are something relegated to actresses from 60 years ago?

    I sure don’t know the answer, but you’ve written another winner of a post.

    Keep up the good work 🙂


  2. I agree that red lipstick is hard to pull off today. I think it depends a lot on your hair, skintone, outfit, and competing makeup. I also generally think that certain shades suit some people better and many people just pick the wrong shade. For example, orange-y red looks awful with a pale complexion. I have seen some photos were I think that the red lipstick still works. But I agree that it’s a tricky trend.


  3. I’m glad to find an article that actually speaks the truth instead of just going with the trend.
    Having tried wearing red lips myself during the day, I have to agree with you. I don’t know how the hollywood stars of 40’s and 50’s were able to pull it off, but yes, you are right on red lips looking weird today. I have yet to see a person who looks fabulous with red lips during the day.
    The media is trying to promote/brainwash that anyone looks great with red lips all you’ve got to do is pick a right shade. Well, no. The whole outfit from head to toe should work. To me, it looks horrible when a lady has red lip on and wears plain clothes. The red lips don’t make her look glamorous but instead make it more apparent that she is wearing plain clothes. To me it’s almost like wearing 5″ Louboutins with sweatpants.
    Red lips also draw attention to bad skin, any redness on the face, or a load of powder/foundation.
    Women in the 40’s and 50’s were always dressed up and took a much better care of themselves than women of today. That’s my grandma’s opinion.


    • I agree with your Grandma. My own grandmother, who was smashingly beautiful, wore bright red lipstick, and was *never* seen in public without looking her very best. I believe this tendency of the women of the era was born out of the Great Depression, when appearances were everything.

      The hippies killed it in the 60s.

      On a related note, I believe that the red lipstick looked better then in part due to the elaborate hairstyles worn. Big hair, bright lips, big impact. Red lipstick would have overwhelmed the flat Indian hairstyles of the 60s and 70s.


  4. I’m wondering if maybe they sold simpler shades of red in that time. Possibly there was less filler and glittery shades, and it really is just harder to find the right shade in today’s market. I’m not really sure though. It seems weird to me that my grandma looked amazing in red lipstick and I just can’t, so I keep trying. I tried today and although it looked very red in the tube, once I bought it and got the tube cap off, I could see some glitter in it but since it looked very red I tried it on and it looked like an orange red. It just didn’t match my skin and looked unflattering and costume-y. I have a brassy red brown hair color and red undertones to my pale skin but I still hold out hope. If I can find a super matte bright red lipstick that looks just like a red crayola color crayon I just know it would go with my skin and hair.


  5. In my opinion I think it partly has to do with the fact that no one wears red lipstick anymore, and if you aren’t used to it on yourself or anyone else, it seems a little strong and shocking to the eyes. I felt that way when I first wore red lipstick, I thought I looked awful, but then realized I just had to get used to wearing it. The more I did, the less shocking and more natural it seemed. Plus, other ducks have to be in place too – I make sure I am wearing foundation so there isn’t any red in my complexion, and it is for nights out only not hitting the supermarket…lol the other makeup you are wearing with it and the time and the place makes all the difference.


  6. I look radiant in red lip color. I guess you need to have quite neutral skin color, (not very warm, not too cold) and vibrant hair, black, red or reeeaally blond.. Just smooth out red patches on skin, lot of mascara, some blush (natural pink) and then lipliner and lipstick (not on dry lips). Also you NEED to balance your eyebrows with lips.


  7. I wear the blue-red and I have two friends that have copied me. I have the kind of face and hair that looks like I belong In WWII. I have had friends tell me that all my life. I have neutral skin and I don’t put color there..maybe that helps…


    • Hi Hayley,
      Thanks for reading!
      You know, since I wrote this post- I actually have started wearing red lipstick regularly! Looking back- I think I was actually not wearing it because a boyfriend said it looked bad. How dumb!


Comments are closed.