You Asked It

Damn Girl Ya Look Good

Advice about high-waisted skirts, going blonde, acne medication, and makeup for redheads.

I’m a proud redhead, but I haven’t figured out redhead makeup. Because of my pale skin, eyelashes, and eyebrows, it’s easy for me to look washed-out, and I look pretty strange any time I try to do interesting things with my face. The craziest I ever get is plum lipstick or a very basic cat-eye. Clearly, I’m a little lost. Can you suggest any styles, colors, or techniques that will look good with my coloring? —Elena, 18, New Mexico

Hello, my fellow Red-Headed Woman! I’m so glad to hear that you feel good about your red hair—you damn well should! Did you know that only 1–2% of humans are redheads? My coloring is similar to yours—very fair, and prone to looking washed-out—and it took me a long time to figure out how to complement it with makeup. The key, I’ve learned, is picking one statement feature—lips, eyes, or cheeks—to play up at a time. You’ll look polished without being all “HELLO, MY NAME IS MAKEUP, DID YOU NOTICE MY MAKEUP?” which sometimes happens when pale-o’s like you and me wear a bunch of products at once. While that can be cool, it sounds like you’re looking for something a little less dramatic, so I’ll share my two favorite daily looks with you!

Before we get started, a bit of general advice: Wear some form of sunscreen every day, no matter what you’re doing! Even if it’s not sunny, UV rays can damage your skin. I wear a lightweight moisturizer with SPF under all of my makeup, all the time. I like using a tinted one like this because it also evens out my skin tone and serves as a primer.

A still from 1989's Dead Calm.

Is this a still from Dead Calm, 1989, or a duplicate of your next Facebook profile picture?

Now then! Our first all-purpose look is reminiscent of Nicole Kidman in Dead Calm (above). It focuses on your eyes and brows, and uses only a few products. Lightly dab some concealer on any dark circles or blemishes, apply a powder that matches your skin tone to your whole face (I like this one), and put a subtle dusty-pink blush (like this) on your cheekbones and the apples of your cheeks. For your eyes, try using a brown mascara (of which there are plenty) instead of a black one—black can be a little intense-looking against fair skin and could be contributing to that washed-out look. Nothing defines your face more powerfully than a pair of solid, well-shaped brows, so fill in your brows with pencil or powder. Since yours are probably extra-light like mine, make sure the product you’re using isn’t too dark—I use this golden-brown pencil. Finish the look with a pink-toned lip gloss (like this one). To jazz up this look, you could add a shimmery gold eyeshadow (such as this).

An inspirational photo of Lucy looking amazing, via Pinterest.

An inspirational photo of Lucy looking amazing in a red lip, via Pinterest.

This next look winks at the stereotype of the smoldering-hot redhead, about which people have likely been making annoying jokes to you your whole life long. It’s time to reclaim it once and for all! This means SERIOUS red lipstick—like Rita Hayworth or Lucille Ball wore. First, apply a liquid foundation. I use this one from Revlon in Buff, which perfectly matches my paleness. Repeat the steps from our first look for the rest of your makeup minus your lips, and add a light sweep of brown eyeshadow (e.g., this one) if you want to look extra-vampy while maintaining the focus on your mouth.

After much consideration, I’ve made a very serious decision about my red-lip advice for you guys today. In the interest of serving redheads everywhere, I have chosen to selflessly share my top-secret red lipstick recipe, which is as follows: Apply Revlon Just Bitten lip stain in Gothic. Follow the stain with the balm on the other side of the wand. Then layer MAC lipstick in Russian Red on top. Blot your color with a tissue, piece of toilet paper, or random tax receipt you’ve just happened to come across, and you’ll be good to go pretty much for the whole day (unless you eat a massive hamburger or something). For some variety, swap out the red lipstick for a vibrant pink (this one is a goodie).

The options are endless, so have fun! And remember that most of the time, the key to pulling off a look is just believing you can ;). —Minna

I love high-waisted skirts, but I never wear them because I feel like they make my breasts look too big. Can a big-boobed lady pull off a high-waisted skirt, or should I just give up on them? —Iliana

Clockwise from top left: High-waisted skirt in plaid taffeta, $108, Pinup Girl Clothing; pencil skirt in leopard, $48, Pinup Girl Clothing; skirt in green plaid, $65, Modcloth; A-line skirt, $63, Modcloth.

Clockwise from top left: Gathered skirt in plaid taffeta, $108, Pinup Girl Clothing; pencil skirt in leopard, $48, Pinup Girl Clothing; suspender skirt in green plaid, $65, Modcloth; A-line skirt, $63, Modcloth.

High waists accentuate big boobs and short torsos, and I know it can be hard to get used to seeing your proportions exaggerated like that, but I assure you that what you think looks too dramatic probably looks amazing in actuality—after all, I’m one of those big-boobed, tiny-torsoed ladies, but that never stopped me from wearing my waistlines high and proud. I love the vintage look of a high waist, so I simply say fuck it and let my natural assets shine! But there are a few tricks you might try to rock this cut in a subtler way:

  • Go for form-fitting tops (but nothing SKIN-TIGHT), and avoid shirts with high necklines. Though your impulse might be to completely cover up your cleavage, a V-neck or any other lower-cut neckline will draw attention to your collarbones rather than your boobs. The higher the neckline, the bigger your chest will look, paradoxically.

  • A skirt with an interesting shape or unusual details (buttons, etc.) will draw attention away from your knockers, too. This jumper is a great example of this.
  • A simple tie-neck blouse would probably work for your purposes, but stay away from mega-embellished or ruffled tops if you don’t want people to pay too much attention to your upper half.
  • A wide belt can make a high waist look a teeny bit lower.
  • Wear darker colors on the top and lighter ones on the bottom—this helps with the whole balancing-focus thing, too.

Of course, you could always choose to join my chorus of fuck it and just wear whatever your heart desires—your boobs are gonna be big no matter what you cover them with, so why not be proud of what you’ve got? —Marie


1 2


  • January 7th, 2014 11:51 PM

    For anyone who is looking to tune up her/his skills in makeup, do checkout /r/MakeupAddiction on Reddit. I have learned so much through the support of various women around the world. We embrace everyone! It is quite the loving community.

    As I redhead, I will throw in my two cents and see if I can provide some insight:

    1. You may have alabaster skin but that doesn’t eliminate you from the wonders of an appropriate bronzer. Try Too Face’s Milk Chocolate Soleil. It contains no orange mess and was made for pale skin. Smells like chocolate, too!

    2. Filling in eyebrows is hard when you have lovely red locks to match with. I have had good luck with an angled eyebrush, warm chocolate brown eyeshadow, and Nyx’s eye pencil in Hazel. I fill in my brows with the angled brush and powder then go over the bottom with the Nyx pencil for a sharper look. Use a highlight (any pretty shimmery white/champagne shadow) right under the bottom where your brow bone is.

    3. The perks of red hair is that we can play around with some fun colors. Purple and blue eyeshadows look stunning when paired to red hair. Some of my favorites are from Nyx’s Smokey eyeshadow collection and Urban Decay’s Vice 2 palette. For the ‘no-makeup’ look, go with a nice brown eyeliner and mascara in a brown-black.

    But, let’s get serious. There are no rules. Whatever makes you feel confident and funky is what will work for you. Makeup is a wonderful thing to explore.

    • llamalina January 8th, 2014 12:07 AM

      I totally agree, /r/MakeupAddiction is where I learned how to do my brows. And the insight from women of all different backgrounds with different experiences in makeup is really fun and useful to have!

    • Redheadscanwearanything January 8th, 2014 3:47 AM

      I love your post, and agree! I have worn urban decay’s vibrant green shadows and I felt like Poison Ivy or something. <3

  • sophiethewitch January 7th, 2014 11:56 PM

    I also want to lighten my hair (not to be blond, but so I can dye it green/blue/purple/rainbow). I have very dark brown hair. I honestly don’t care that much about damaging my hair, because whatever, I can always shave it off, and hair’s not that important. BUT I’ve heard that inhaling bleach kills brain cells, which terrifies me and has stopped me for years from getting the technicolor hair I want. Is there any way around this? Would wearing a surgical mask during the process help?

    • Magdalena January 8th, 2014 12:30 AM

      I’ve been wondering the same thing!

    • MaggietheCat January 10th, 2014 2:02 AM

      Using a low volume of developer in your bleach will lessen the fumes.

      Work in a well ventilated area. A surgical mask is designed for germs, not fumes, I don’t think it would make a difference. Just keep the windows open if you’re concerned.


      a haircolor specialist

  • e1znekcaM January 8th, 2014 12:10 AM

    To the high-waisted skirts thing: I had this same issue at first. I’ve discovered that it sometimes just depends on the top you wear with the high-waisted skirt. Some will make your boobs look larger, and others smaller (or in this case just normal because really when you have large breasts it seems that there is no smaller). Like for me, if I wear a looser top tucked in it’ll be a little more subtle. Overall, I don’t think it should even matter. Flaunt what you’ve got. Boobs are awesome, and some people are probably super jealous of your breast size!

  • Redheadscanwearanything January 8th, 2014 3:44 AM

    As a natural redhead I feel the need to comment on the makeup advice. I have always had pale red hair / coppery/ strawberry blonde . It’s red. I’ve struggled with my hair identity for years. It wasn’t blonde enough, it wasn’t red enough. I finally went full throttle and embraced the red side. I went full carrot red and never looked back. Natural red hair and flaming Redken red hair, I looked fabulous in ALL makeup. Please don’t think you’re any different from your brunette and blonde peers. You’re a brilliant rare jewel and you should wear whatever makes you feel prettiest. You have freckles? So do I! I still wear foundation and you can still see my frecks. Sometimes I go without makeup, and that’s awesome too. But just know there are no special rules for redheads. I wear cat eyes, red lips and pale makeup and I turn heads. Don’t hold yourself back or ever feel inferior. <3

  • Minna January 8th, 2014 4:56 AM

    Hey guys! I just want to stress that I too agree that redheads can wear/do whatever they want with their makeup :) I know I do! Elena asked for specific advice for her paler skin to avoid it looking washed out, so I suggested some simple, tried and true methods and looks that I have used over the years :) I’m glad to read all your tips too, so thank you! :D

  • createyourowndreams January 8th, 2014 10:52 AM

    omg I am from Glasgow too!

  • Fueled_By_Marley January 8th, 2014 12:51 PM

    For Liz with hella dry skin, I’ve been taking acne medicine since fourth grade and took accutane last year and I totally feel you about the dry skin. It took me ages to find a lotion that made my skin “not dry” anymore. Heres the link:

    Hope it works for you!

  • Libby January 8th, 2014 2:03 PM

    Oh, I’m on isotretinoin too and definitely didn’t believe that the dryness would be this bad! I’ve had a super helpful nurse though, who basically told me that it didn’t really matter what lipbalm I used, but I should be applying and reapplying every hour or so. I have Nivea ones, and I have them in my coat pocket, my school bag, my bedside table, and then one really intense one that I slather on whenever I’m home alone. I’ve found that using an oil-based cleanser is really good because it’s very gentle but still manages to moisturise my skin well. I use an origins one; you can make your own too I think?
    My moisturiser is a shea butter based one, and it’s so good – it’s a 24 hour type, so my skin actually does feel soft and not too dried up throughout the day. I bought it at the hospital chemist’s when I was picking up my prescription, so even if you can’t get a prescription moisturiser (I don’t think that’s so common here in the UK?) you can generally get a really good one at the hospital chemist!
    Anyway, good luck to everyone else on it at the moment – we can do it!

  • Pauletta January 8th, 2014 4:20 PM

    I was also on Roaccutane like five years ago and I had no probs with my skin. I am sure this was largely because my dermathologist prescribed a plethora of creams that nourished my skin. Had it not been for the ten month ban on alcohol, it was as if the whole Roaccutane thing had never happened (except, of course, that I no longer had acne…)!!! O.K. so the things my doctor prescribed are the following, I hope they help you too:

    1.- Hyalix (or anything with hyaluronic acid)
    2.- Ureadin (I strongly suggest you get this one. I have tried other creams with the active ingredient in this (urea) and they are just not the same)
    3.- Exomega
    4.- ISDIN Extreme (a sunscreen gel)
    5.- Endocare for your lips. This is not a product especially to be used as a lip balm, but you can use it as such. I used to apply it only once every morning and it was almost miraculous!!
    6.- At night, my doctor told me not to use soap to wash my face, not even a mild clenaser. Just water and after that, I used Sébium, a blue tonic to remove anything that remained on my face after I washed it.

    Good luck, girl!!! And don’t forget to check if you are sensitive to any of the ingredients in the products you will use.

  • elliecp January 8th, 2014 4:42 PM

    I feel you Elena! redhead makeup can be hard, but it’s also really fun. Coral and orange lipsticks look fabulous with pale skin and freckles…I learnt that from watching Charmed! :)

  • Shayd January 8th, 2014 6:05 PM

    Also, for all of you redheads out there, the site Just For Redheads carries mascara, specifically for us beauties!! My best friend got me brown/red mascara, as I always look washed out when I wear black mascara(pure ginger!), and it is AMAZING. It looks so natural and still accentuates my eyes phenomenally! I love it. It is fantastic. Love you Redheaded Rookies!!

  • Moonshoes January 8th, 2014 6:24 PM

    as always, such helpful advice!

  • NotACommenter January 9th, 2014 8:07 AM

    Just wanted to note that when I was on Accutane (twice! ugh.) the best thing for the dry/cracked lips and skin was Aquaphor, which my derm recommended. In the cold months, I still alternate it with this at night:

    Also, since my skin is still pretty dry from taking it a decade ago, I’ve found that this stuff works wonders for day-to-day:

    Hope this helps!

  • Mimi7 January 9th, 2014 11:23 AM

    I have medium, on the lighter side brown hair and I just went blonde. I love it! It can be kind of expensive but I think it makes it a lot easier to get it done first in the salon. Then you can see how your hair responds and how the hairdresser does it if you want to do it at home again. And if you get bored, when you’re platinum it’s easy to dye it pretty colors!

    And here is my recommendation for platinum blonds, lavender shampoo! I didn’t think that it was a big deal until I tried it but takes away the orangey tones and just makes it lighter and shine again. I leave it in for a while and notice that it works better that way.

  • Hayley January 9th, 2014 4:20 PM

    Oh man. Someone else mentioned Cetaphil up there and I totally second that. I never took Accutane, but I *did* take antibiotics for a long time to clear up my skin, and an arsenal of other creams and products…my skin was always super dry and sensitive and it seemed like every extra lotion or cleanser I used would just make it hurt and break out more. Cetaphil is honestly the only thing that has ever worked for me. I still use both the cleanser and the face lotion and it’s sooo gentle and lovely.

  • mangointhesky January 10th, 2014 6:28 PM

    This sums up every question of the past month- thank you rookie!

  • champagnecoast January 11th, 2014 12:07 AM

    About the Roaccutane (as it’s called in aus) – i was on it a few years ago after having serious serious serious acne, like you would not believe the craters and blisters i had! anyway, my derm emphasised the dryness out of anything – so i thought i’d put my advice in as it did take me a while to find anything that worked with my highly sensitive/reactive skin. SLATHERS and i mean layers and layers every half hour or so of carmex was the only thing that worked for my lips, particularly at night!!! paw paw is also really good, but i found that it just sat on top of my lips and didn’t actually heal anything whereas the carmex did, i carried tubes of it everywhere. for general skin dryness, cetaphil was the only thing that worked for me, i used the washes the moisturisers anything cetaphil that i could get my hands on. drink lots and lots and lots of water, more than usual, as to avoid blood noses and headaches. any sort of morrocan oil for your hair if that’s an issue.
    ALSO i think it most def has an unfair rep – if you are worried about depression and anxiety (as i was), just be aware. if you feel yourself slipping, speak up! explain to ur doc that you are worried about it and you’ll at least have someone else being aware of any changes in you also. any good derm will look after you and manage the side affects.
    this is long BUT IF YOU TAKE ONE THING FROM THIS IS STAY OUT OF THE SUN!!!!! WEAR SUNSCREEN ERRY DAMN DAY WHILE UR ON IT! srs that will do 18432 x more permanent damage than the side affects will. it makes u crazy crazy sensitive to the sun. GOOD LUCK BB XXXX

  • Sophii January 11th, 2014 1:59 PM

    I’m going to save this as I’m planning to dye my hair blonde some time. I think I’d be too scared to get it done in a salon in case it really doesn’t suit me :S

  • radiofireworks January 11th, 2014 6:10 PM

    Some more advice from a fellow redhead who has suffered similar issues here!

    I cannot stress how much better I felt about myself and my redheadedness after I started doing two things: lining my upper waterline and filling in my brows. Lining the upper waterline with a pencil eyeliner (I use a gel/pencil eyeliner thing from L’Oreal which is awesome because it sets and lasts all day and doesn’t smudge everywhere when my eyes go watery and smear all over my contact lenses) and it means I can wear black mascara without my eyes looking washed out and weird (if I don’t do it and I put mascara on I always feel like my eyes look like little mole eyes).

    And filling in my super-pale eyebrows makes me feel like my face has more definition and isn’t just one big pale blob. I use Illamasqua’s brow cake in Peek which is perfect because you can use it dry (paler and less defined) or wet (darker and precise and ~dramatic). (Illamasqua are great in general for pale/redhead tones, their foundations are the only ones I’ve found that are pale enough for me.) I swear it makes SUCH a difference.

    Woah, sorry, essay. I am very passionate about this apparently.