The Professional War Against Red Lipstick

Over the weekend, my parents and I had a small argument about red lipstick and its place in the workplace. I had taken a picture that I thought looked very professional because I was going to make a linked in. When my dad saw it, he told me I could not put that as my profile picture. I was hurt and angry, but I could not for the life of me figure out why. I ended up taking an equally good picture (I did end up wearing red lipstick, but only a light layer on my lips) and put that up instead

red lipstick
Look! This is professional! I’m wearing the chuncky necklace and even smiling!

After I finished taking care of my profile, I started to work through why I was upset. I didn’t even have to talk it out, the answer was so obvious. AP Psychology told me I was caught in a classic case of cognitive dissonance; I was being told one thing when I believed the complete opposite was true. I see commercials and movies of successful women wearing red lipstick effortlessly and Taylor Swift, the sitting queen of pop culture, has probably twenty shades of the stuff in her purse at all times.

I’m seeing all these women get ahead while wearing red lipstick, only to be told that I am wrong, that red lipstick is to be saved for going out with friends or on a date. This upsets me, because red lipstick has always been a sign of a confident woman. A woman who can be bold, who can be herself. It is one thing to say no jeans in the office and whole other thing to say no red lipstick. For generations, all the way back to the world wars, red lipstick has been a symbol of pride in country, in work, and, most importantly, female empowerment.

Ah. Hopefully you see where I am going with this. Red lipstick is a symbol of female power. Red lipstick has no place in a professional environment. Knowing what I know about the work place and women working in general, it isn’t too great of a leap to say that female power has no place in a professional environment. A sad yet unsurprising conclusion. Coco Chanel, it seems, can popularize it, Taylor Swift can endorse it, yet I still cannot wear it.

Can we do it if I let people police something as basic as lip color?

When I conceded against my parents, I felt like I had betrayed the values I had held myself to my whole life. If I let that one small argument be won, what else would I allow myself to concede to? I want to say it was just this once, that my parents know best. But still I worry that when I sat for the picture with muted lips not only did I have a softer shade on my lips but also a meeker spirit in my heart.

5 thoughts on “The Professional War Against Red Lipstick

  1. No way!!! Red lipstick is acceptable anywhere and everywhere! You just want to make sure you have the right red for your skin tone which you totally do! I think you looked great in that pic!!

  2. I can see both sides of this issue (you seem to be doing a fine job of rockin’ the red lipstick by the way, I’m not sure all faces can pull it off the same).

    Speaking professionally, I think the acceptable wear of bold red lipstick has more to do with the specific industry/environment you’re trying to make headway into. In an artsy field it’s probably more acceptable. In more conservative environments (banking, insurance, and most other office type jobs) being more conservative will probably go a lot further. My guess is this is where your dad was coming from.

    Please take this with a grain of salt; I’ve never read your blog before, and I don’t know your major or have any idea what your professional ambitions are.

    1. I agree that it would be frowned upon in more conservative environments, but I still think that is senseless and sexist. So what if I am bold in my lip color? It is one way to stand out against the crowd, to add a little confidence in the way I speak.

      Thanks for commenting! I read your review of before we go and the language used was absolutely beautiful.

      1. Thanks for the compliment Jenni (or is it Jenny, or Jennifer? Let me know which you prefer); and thanks for reading.

        To your point, I agree that it may be senseless; in the sense that having an unspoken (or spoken) dress code doesn’t actually contribute to the value of a person in the workplace. However, I’m not sure there isn’t some wiggle room around the word sexist; although it could be depending on the culture of a specific industry or even company.

        Consider for a moment a different situation. It most business situations it would be considered unprofessional for me (as a man) to wear either a pink, purple, or baby blue suit (or in a much more extreme situation red or black lipstick lol). To do so wouldn’t effect my ability to perform my job, but it would effect my ability to be taken seriously; but it’s not likely many people would consider it sexist.

        For what it’s worth though I think a lot of these types of social norms will start to change as the older generation leaves the workplace, and the younger generation takes over :-).

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