A Lipstick Controversy: Fierce Fashion Or Oversexualization?

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I don’t know about you, but I consider lipstick not just a beauty product, but also an accessory. Whether I want to add a pop of color to my all black ensemble or compliment my red dress, lipstick is becoming my new beauty savior. I consider it nearly as important as my hairbrush!

Many of us 20-something gals grew up watching our mothers, older sisters and friends slathering on a tube of red lipstick and watching in awe as they managed to delicately navigate their lipstick along their lip lines without smudging or going crooked. It was almost a rite of passage when a girl was finally old enough for it to be socially acceptable (aka mom wasn’t going to yell at you) for wearing some red lipstick.

But this historical beauty trend may actually be conflicting with the growing power of women, perhaps even touching on the concept of feminism. Is wearing lipstick oversexualizing women and hurting their professional image?

As much as I love my collection of MAC, Wet and Wild and Revlon lipsticks, I think it’s really important to consider what the effects of lipstick could potentially have on females everywhere around the world.


The Lipstick Controversy is a blog created by two girls, Melissa, a 30-something woman, and Kelly, a 20-something woman, that discusses each girl’s personal viewpoint on lipstick in today’s society. What makes this blog unique is Melissa and Kelly aren’t sharing their tips on how to wear lipstick or what their favorite shades are, but the impact lipstick has had on their lives, whether that be positive or negative. What their blog surprisingly revealed was that Melissa hated lipstick while Kelly grew to love it. Their differing opinions shed an important light on what this popular beauty product has on people’s values and perceptions.

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“The first time I wore lipstick without feeling like a hooker was a few months ago,” said Kelly on The Lipstick Controversy. Kelly felt that lipstick had always posed as a challenge to her; it signified a career woman that felt far from her reality. Anytime she even attempted to try a lipstick on, following her lip line “was like trying to color inside the lines while wearing a Band aid. Impossible.” Kelly had always felt lipstick was like wearing a self-adhesive scarlet letter—her lip color somehow manipulating the words she would say and falsifying her identity, like she had a visible reason to be judged.

But once she found her right shade, “I wasn’t a clown. I didn’t look like I just got caught under the mistletoe with the Kool Aid man. I felt confident. A little more sure of myself. Sassy.”

What Kelly further explains is that after college when you re-enter life at entry level, it’s like being a freshman in high school with less rules. So when you’re back at the bottom after social climbing for years, having a little something to make you feel a little more secure can’t hurt. “The rosy-lipped career woman I felt so distant from as a teen was now my stylish, confident colleague. She is now, effectively me.”

Kelly’s bottom line: “Lipstick doesn’t make you Superwoman, but hey, sometimes it feels like it does. And I say: roll with it.”

Then enters Melissa with, “I hate lipstick,” quickly pulling our beloved color genie down a few pedestals.

Melissa landed a job at a high-end fashion brand in New York City—every girl’s dream job. But at 21 years old, her female boss was quick to burst her bubble when telling her she “looked like shit and should go put on lipstick.”

melissa quote

Unlike Kelly, Melissa feels that lipstick does the opposite of empowering women at the work place. “It brings attention I don’t want. The purpose of lipstick is to draw attention to the lips—a very sexual part of the body—and a slathering of Brandy Wine before a meeting begs your audience to focus more on your mouth than the value of your words.”

Melissa’s philosophy is that women should have a personal ego-amplifier, but doesn’t believe lipstick should hold that job. “Always speak clearly, look your audience in the eye, don’t say uhm, and don’t bite your nails in a meeting would be better advice to professional women today. Mastering those tiny skills has made me feel stronger and more confident than any beauty product ever could.”

Quite a handful to think about for something as small as a tube of lipstick, but it is a thought-provoking argument that is worth considering, especially for the career-oriented college girl. We are taught how to nail the interview, write the perfect cover letter and dress to business professional perfection, but can a popular beauty trend from the times of our mothers actually be hurting us?

Whether you’re a proclaimed feminist or not, a Kelly or a Melissa, challenging the reasons why you wear lipstick and thinking about the effects it has on your life are worth considering.

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Shirin Ali

Contributor, DePaul University Major: Public Relations and Advertising Her heart belongs to: Iced coffees, chocolate frosted donuts, and palm trees You can find her: running around the city going to class or work, sporting an eternal messy bun with a tall Very Berry Hibiscus tea from Starbucks in hand

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