Making it my business: lip gloss and cell phone etiquette

More than you ever wanted to know about skin tone AND a brief glimpse into how obnoxious some people can be (especially me).

And now, cried Max, let the wild rumpus start!

Dear Valerie,

How do I go about picking a lip gloss color? Sephora is just too overwhelming…

Forever in your debt,
Cautious Cosmetics Consumer

First, I’m so glad you’re looking for lip gloss and not lipstick. If you were asking me about lipstick, I would just blink at you a few times and offer you a cold beverage.

Lip gloss is a wonderful thing. – it adds just enough color and shine to give you that Natalie Portmanesque dewy glow. And luckily, it’s incredibly easy to find the right shade, if you pay attention to two things:

1. The natural shade of your lips
2. The undertones of your skin

1. Any lip color (if you’re going for the natural look any you should be because this is not 1992 and no one has matte, burgundy lips, ladies) should be one or two shades deeper than the natural color of your lips. Don’t go lighter. Corpses just aren’t cute.

The best way to determine this is to test the color out on just one of your lips. If you’re at a highish end place (like Sephora or a department store) they will provide testers for you. Just apply the gloss to your upper lip and compare it to the natural color of your bottom lip. If it’s too much of a difference, put it down, back away, and try something else. If you buy lip gloss from drugstores and the like, the color on the tube or display is usually a pretty good indicator. Just hold it up to you lips while looking in a mirror and you should get a decent idea of how it compares to your natural lip color.

2. Figuring out your skin undertones is a bit trickier, but just as important. Undertones are typically deemed “warm” or “cool.” If your skin has a golden, yellow, green, or bronze tint, and you look smokin’ in earthy tones like orange and yellow, you’d be classified as warm. If you lean more towards the pink or even bluish realm and look best in rich blues, purples, and greens, you’ve got cool undertones.

Here’s an example involving yours truly (with absolutely no makeup – that’s love, Internets):


Here I am in beige, a warmer color. Notice the more-sallow-than-normal complexion and the sad, sad face.


Here I am in a rich, berry red. Do you see how much I’m glowing? As this a cooler color and it makes me look like I was just kissed upon the cheeks by faeries, you can classify me as a “cool.”

Take the same approach to choosing lip gloss as you would a top, scarf, or hat, anything that would normally be close to you face (but do remember the 1-2 shades rules). Those with warm undertones will be able to pull off glosses with a golden or bronzy feel, while those of us with cool undertones should go for the more berry end of the spectrum. (Also, little known fact, cooler ladies: lip color with a bluish tint makes your teeth look whiter!)

Something to remember, though. The natural color of your lips is probably the color that will suit you best. When in doubt, a quick swipe of Burt’s Bees will give your lips just enough hydration to look luscious, and you won’t look like you’ve playing in your mother’s makeup bag.

Dear Valerie,

I think it’s rude to talk on the phone while in the car with others. It’s like being crammed in a phone booth together. What do you think?

Piqued Passenger

The only reason to talk on the phone while in the social presence of other people is to give the person on the other end of the line details about a hang out or directions to where you’re all going. Otherwise, it’s just plain rude. To me, it is exactly the same as being on the phone with someone and choosing to carry on a conversation with someone who’s actually in the room with you. Then person on the phone has to just sit and listen to you chatting up while precious cell phone minutes are ticking away. I don’t care how funny the IRL conversation might be, splitting your attention sends a poor message.

The question is, what do you do about it? I have a tendency to get super obnoxious in the situation you’re describing and say things like “Oh, I’m so-and-so, I’m soooooooooooo important. I’m on the phone all the time” all in a very high-pitched voice. Don’t do that.


Instead, you might need to invest some time into setting an example. If you happen to be in a car (or at dinner or just hanging out) with people and you get a phone call, send it to voice mail and say, “I’m just going to send this to voice mail. I don’t want to make you all listen to my conversation.” If others hear it enough, it will wear away at their poor cell phone habits like drips of water on a stone…but probably faster.

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Valerie Catrow

Valerie Catrow is editor of RVAFamily, mother to a mop-topped first grader, and always really excited to go to bed.

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