My Favorite Teaching Lipsticks

Now that a new semester is in full swing, I thought it would be fun to do a roundup of my favorite lipsticks to wear while teaching. Here are the basic criteria I have for a Teaching Lipstick:

  • not too brightno fuchsias, flaming reds, or white-based candy pinks
  • not too darkno blackened browns or gothtastic purples, though I’m the TA for a science fiction course this semester, so a vampy or otherwise uncanny lip might be appropriate…
  • either sheer or on the satin/matte side of opaque
  • able to withstand a 50-minute discussion during which I can’t be trusted not to go on a tangent about the Kantian sublime, sorry not sorry

Like many aspects of grad school, the makeup I wear in the classroom is a low-stakes affair. Believe me, I wish the stakes were higher! It would make me feel more important! But they’re really not. I’m not forbidden to wear certain colors or finishes of makeup in the classroom, and if I rolled in one morning with sparkly teal eyeshadow and vibrant coral lipstick, the world would carry on as it always has. My lipstick rules are more about personal comfort than anything else, and everyone’s comfort levels are different. A good friend who’s getting a PhD at another university often wears red lipstick to teach, and describes her professional aesthetic as “high performance femme.” For my part, I feel a little self-conscious when my students see me with bold colors on my face. It’s all about individual taste.

At the same time, I don’t like wearing “no-makeup makeup” (or, you know, no makeup) while teaching. I’ve always looked fairly young for my age, and the less makeup I wear, the younger I look. I find that lipstick in particular helps me appear more mature, since none of my students wear it (some do wear eye makeup, however). So my favorite teaching lipsticks are not screaming fuchsias, but they’re not sheer nudes, either. Anything in the plum/rose range works, and there are a couple of clear pinks that I’ll wear in spring as well. Here’s a sampling of the lipstick shades I’m most likely to wear in class:

Left to right: Revlon Matte Balm in Sultry, NARS Semi-Matte Lipstick in 413 BLKR, NARS Sheer Lipstick in Flamenco, Revlon Lacquer Balm in Coy, Topshop Lip Bullet in Motel, Urban Decay Revolution Lipstick in Rapture, MAC Satin Lipstick in Pink Nouveau, Urban Decay Revolution Lipstick in Streak. It gives me a lot of satisfaction to see how well-loved these shades are.

Swatches, same order, in indirect natural light:

In direct sunlight:

Not all of these stay pristine through 50 minutes of conversation, but if they do fade, they fade evenly and unobtrusively. Note also that I’m a little more playful with my makeup when I’m not the one doing the instruction. If I’m attending an academic talk, I might wear a bright color like NARS Angela or a fairly vampy one like Topshop Get Me Bodied, or I might do something interesting with my eye makeup instead. There’s something I like about having mild rules and restrictions placed on the makeup I wear every day; it makes me more attuned to shading and placement and less reliant on a simple bold lip or eye. Here’s a characteristic teaching face from last semester, feat. Rapture:

Edit, 2/22: Here’s a more spring-inflected face, featuring some of my oldest favorites: NARS Lhasa eyeshadow and Mata Hari blush along with MAC Pink Nouveau. I’m also wearing a new mascara, Revlon Super Length. I’ve been using it for just a few days, but so far it seems to be a good (possibly better!) substitute for my discontinued HG, CoverGirl LashBlast Length.

By the way, sorry I haven’t been around much; the semester is already busy and we’re only three weeks in. But I am playing with some new ColourPop makeup at the moment, so expect reviews soon! Here’s my haul, arranged in a fashion that I only just realized might be a tad suggestive:

Yes, I finally own a true purple blush! Exciting.

13 thoughts on “My Favorite Teaching Lipsticks

  1. I have similar criteria for teaching lipstick, especially that it wears off in a non-ugly way. I get a very dry mouth when I'm lecturing, so I drink a lot of water and lick my lips. Red lipstick would be a disaster. Can't wait to see more of that purple blush!


  2. When I'm teaching, I tend to wear my boldest lipsticks, but as a stain : the colour still has a lot of impact but won't come off or get all over my face face when I'm drinking ! Can't wait to see that purple blush on you 🙂


  3. Is that colourpop rain? Anyway, this post is interesting. I'm trying to remember what makeup my professors wore in college and I can't seem to recall anyone wearing a bold lip color.


  4. These are my favourite kind of colours. I guess it's convenient that I naturally gravitate to more conservative lip colours.I don't teach regularly, but the hospital is a fairly conservative environment in terms of dress, and while there's nothing explicit about makeup colours, I know I'd feel uncomfortable making more playful choices with my lipstick.


  5. I've often wondered about the thought that goes into makeup when you're a TA. None of my TAs (or female instructors, even) wear very noticeable makeup, with the exception of one who sometimes wears a colour similar to Revlon Balm Stain in Romantic. I wonder how my makeup will evolve as I progress in academia… I'm currently in Cultural Studies and I'm moving into Film & TV, both of which are pretty casual, so we'll see. I don't want to give up my bright lipsticks! (Also, I took a sci fi class two years ago and it was awesome. It was more focused on film than lit, though.)


  6. Yes, it's Rain!When writing this post, I also struggled to remember what makeup my female professors wore. Either I was unobservant or they just didn't wear visible makeup. Because I didn't wear makeup myself, I wasn't in the habit of scrutinizing other people's makeup, but I think I would have noticed a bright red lip or something. At my current university, some professors will wear plum or rose lipstick, but most keep their makeup minimal.


  7. Yeah, I think wearing bold lipstick to work is unusual unless you happen to be in the fashion industry or something (and even fashion types seem to keep their makeup understated). In general, the more people I interact with in the course of a day, the more neutral I'll go with my makeup. Cowardice? Maybe, maybe not.


  8. Ah, so you're going to grad school next year? Best of luck! I've found that there's really no dress code for grad students, but it does feel weird to wear bright lipstick when no one around you is wearing so much as mascara. I've converted a couple of my friends to lipstick, though, so that's another option for you…


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