Bold or natural: what kind of lipstick lockdown are you having?

— by Alexia Economou

Friend of TNMA Jan Carrington has been loyally using Rouge Christian Dior lipstick in shade 999 Satin for years


In a recent New York Times article, women were interviewed about how they are relaxing their make-up and grooming regimes during lockdown. Many were relieved to get off this hamster-wheel and coined the term JOLGO (The Joy of Letting Go). But one woman refused to give up her lipstick saying, ‘That’s who I am.’

So it got me thinking about the one – or two – make-up items that we don’t feel comfortable without – that have become a part of our identity. My friend Annie confessed that dab of perfume gives her a boost for Zoom meetings, even though she knows no-one will smell it though the monitor. Another friend refuses to appear without her eyebrows. In the unforgiving wash-out of my laptop camera, I find I feel more confident video-conferencing with some lipstick on. It is a mini-shield that helps me (psychologically) take on the world.

Some women are using this period at home to go make-up free but I’ve noticed a definite ‘Lipstick Effect’ during lockdown. In the early 2000s recession, Leonard Lauder (Chairman of the Board of Estee Lauder), coined the phrase ‘Lipstick Index’ as an inverse economic indicator, meaning that as the economy gets worse, women stop spending on expensive clothing purchases and instead lipstick sales increase. It makes sense that we are choosing to invest in these affordable luxuries right now, as we’re facing one of the greatest economic uncertainties since the Great Depression.



Laura Dern using Burt’s Bees lip balm. Credit: Vogue


Face-to-face contact requires – and will probably continue to socially require – the wearing of masks. Wide-spread masking will put emphasis on the eye and eyebrows (not to mention the current Botox crisis as some high-maintenance faces take risks to have a top-up). But for those of you whose lipstick has become their identity and refuse to let it go, now is the time to make the best of your lips… while they are still on show. To help, here are some of 2020’s hottest lip colours re-imagined for the digital screen:


Your lips will look well-moisturised and the shine will give them a different dimension from your face on the flat screen, win-win.

Burt’s Bees Lip Shine tubes with sunflower and apricot kernel oil for hydration

Autograph Colour Shine Lip Lacquer in Nude is great over a lip liner

Glossier Clear Gloss with vitamin E for healthy lips



Pick a natural shade that works with your colouring but with an undertone of pink. This will enliven your lip, instead of it blending into the pale.

MAC’s Twig – a warm-toned shade seems to work well on almost everyone which is why it has been copied endlessly since it became Kate Moss’ fave in the 90s

Bite’s Nude Lip Crayon Duo 

Chanel’s Rouge Coco Ultra-Hydrating Lip Colour in 434-Mademoiselle 

Tracey Ellis Ross is wearing MAC’s Ruby Woo. Credit: Vogue


I’ve noticed a lot of celebrities using a vibrant red lip against a no-make-up look. The red says, I am not superficially wasting my time getting made up when there are more important things going on, but I have made an effort for you.

Maybelline Colour Sensational Crème Lipstick in 311 Crimson Race – a true red 

Rouge Christian Dior lipstick in shade 999 Satin – Jan Carrington’s lifelong favourite (top picture) – a classic opaque red with a matt, smooth and long-lasting finish

Lancome L’Absolu Rouge Lipstick in 151 Absolute Rougea richer red

Chantecaille’s Lip Cristal in Carnelian is as close as I could find to the shade Julia Louis Dreyfus used in her Social Distancing PSA, plus this vegan lipstick contains no parabens, fragrance or phthalates and is gluten- and animal-cruelty free

Mac’s Ruby Woo – a matt red which is a staple in hair and make-up artist’s kit bags


Not since the punk era have dark lips appeared so relevant. Similar to a red lip, ‘noirs’ register a presence, but their sombreness is a better reflection of the grief, fear and general malaise of social isolation.

NYX Matte Lipstick in Goal Digger – a deep violet

Huda Beauty Power Bullet Lipstick in Masqueradea deep aubergine

Becca Ultimate Lipstick Love in Maroon 

Fenty Mattemoiselle Plush Lipstick in Griselda – a deep burgundy



It’s a good idea to prepare and soften the lips before applying lipstick, recommends hair and make-up artist Louise Heywood. If lips are rough then gently exfoliate them with an old toothbrush or flannel (or you can buy lip scrubs). Moisturising the lips should be a regular thing, put some Elizabeth Arden 8 hour Cream Skin Protectant The Original on while you’re doing the rest of your makeup and then by the time you get round to lips it should have soaked in. Blot off any excess.

Use a lip brush when applying a strong lip colour advises Louise, as the line you get with a brush is clean but never harsh as it can be with a liner. Put one layer on and then blot and add another, to help it last longer. If you like a liner, Louise suggests using Lipstick Queen lipliners – ‘they do a clear liner which is great as you can obviously use it for any shade it just helps to stop any ‘bleeding’.’


Alexia Economou is a design and culture journalist, and regular TNMA contributor @thedesignfeedTW


Please note affiliate links in this post may generate a small commission


Pre-lockdown photography (top picture): Claire Pepper Hair & makeup for Jan: Louise Heywood.


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