Monthly Archives: November 2013

Looking for answers: origins of the taboo of red lips and dark skin


Lately, I’ve been more aware of the warnings and the subsequent push back about black women – specifically dark black women should avoid/can’t wear red lipstick.  I’ve heard this or a variation of this warning for several years now, but it was only just now how oddly specific I found it.

No doubt there is colorism with its preferences and positive associations with lighter skin at work and well, even the origin for this “advice,” but I’ve been wondering why exactly are darker women warned to stay away from red lips specifically?

Was it just that in mainstream American culture when it became respectable for women to wear obvious lipstick, red lips were/and remain associated as looking only appropriate on paler skinned women?

Or is it – this warning, that continues to be passed down to many men and women of color – an aesthetic choice? As in darker skinned should not be placed next to a color so vivid, so bright.  But if that was the case, then why isn’t there a general rule – say an advisement to stay away from all bright colors including pink lips, orange lips, purple lips – or heck, don’t bother putting on any colored make up/up to and beyond lipstick?

No, there is something about the color red itself I think. Will check it out and see.

This video isn’t totally on topic, but I love her story of growing into self acceptance, plus all the new (to me) lip colors I want to try.