Wednesday, July 22, 2015


While Jean is away on business, Valerie paints the town - er - her lips - red.

Way back in the early '90s I worked for two weeks as an interpreter for Takashimaya department store when they hosted a number of Japanese craftsmen.  The now late lamented flagship store, serving an ambassador-like role, flew the craftsmen here to demonstrate much loved traditional crafts.  Each artisan had his own interpreter.  I was assigned the bamboo craftsman.  At the end of the exhibition, the craftsmen decided to give the female interpreters a tube of Chanel lipstick as a token of thanks.  The Japanese are world-renowned for the importance attached to gift giving, and the Chanel lipsticks were the perfect choice: they have worldwide brand recognition, they are a small but expensive luxury, and the recipient is familiar with their value.  I was brought to the Chanel counter, and told to pick the color I wanted.  I no longer remember the color I chose, but I remember my astonishment when I saw the price.  "Who would ever pay that much for lipstick?", I wondered.  I used that lipstick for months, till it was down to the nub,  and when I couldn't squeeze another dab out of it, I knew the answer: I would.

I wore that lipstick for many tubes, so to speak, and was gobsmacked when I went to buy a new one one day, only to be told they were temporarily out of stock.  "But", said the absolutely gorgeous sales assistant, "can I recommend the Red Coromandel instead?"  This was the brightest, reddest lipstick I had ever seen, and I turned it down instantly as too much for me.  "No, you could wear this", the sales assistant insisted, ever so persuasively.  "Look - I've got it on now."  This put a different spin on things.  She did look great in it.  I walked away, but I couldn't get it out of my mind, and a day or so later I was back.  I found the same sales assistant, told her she had convinced me, and bought it from her.

I wore Red Coromandel for years, and the only reason I no longer wear it is that the last time I went to purchase it they told me it had been discontinued.  The horror!  The horror!, to quote Colonel Kurtz.  It has now been discontinued for so long that I can't find any good links to it on line.  If you look out of curiosity and find Coromandel, it's not the same as Red Coromandel.

Anyone who thinks it ridiculous that a woman could go apoplectic at the discontinuation of a lipstick color can be excused.  It sounds ridiculous to me, too.  But anyone who has spent hours or even days comparing lip colors knows what a crap shoot the lipstick hunt can be.  You can wind up with a pinky red or a raspberry red or a blue red when what you really want is pure red, or slightly yellow red.  You can't judge lipstick color from a paper sticker on the bottom of the tube; you can't judge it by a plastic replica; you can't judge it in a transparent tube.  And you can't judge it on your hand.  Your hand is not the same color as your face.  It's not.  So you wind up buying lots of lipsticks that you use once.   Not too long ago, my lipstick basket failed to close because there were so many in it.  Here's what I have after weeding out the space-eating losers:

Did you spot the Red Coromandel?  Yes, it's still in there.  I keep it for reference.  (Good luck with that.  I must have carried that tube around for months, comparison shopping. )  You know how colors differ from screen to screen, so this is not so much to show you the color as to show you the nub I'm holding on to.

All was not entirely lost when I ran out of Red Coromandel, however.  More than ten years ago, when I found myself in an international airport with hours to kill, I went to the duty free shop, thinking I'd buy Red Coromandel for less than the usual absurd price.  That airport did not stock Chanel lipstick, but it stocked others, so I frittered away some time looking for similar colors, and found Lancome Rouge Essentiel #50.  A good back-up, I thought, and bought a tube of that.  So when Red Coromandel disappeared from the face of the earth (for a while, you could buy it on Ebay for the price of a pony), I was not caught with my lipstick down.

Interspersed with others (see hodge podge above), I've happily used the Lancome for quite a while too, and just the other day I realized I was down to a nub (the nub below) again.

Off I went to the Lancome counter of a large department store, only to be told not only that this color too has been discontinued, but that all the lipsticks now come in a completely different kind of case - and have for some time.  This is what happens when you buy more than one tube of lipstick at a time: you lose touch with reality.

Now I'm back to apoplexy.

Several months ago I saw a glorious red on a friend of mine.  She was gracious enough to tell me the name and where to find it, but it turned out that it came with a lip brush, and is meant as a filler inside lip pencil lines.  Sorry, I just can't be bothered with that.  And even if I could have, the price on it put Chanel to shame.  "Who would ever pay that much for lipstick?", I wondered, and I know the answer: Not me.

And so the search begins again.   Just when you think your life is structured, one of the foundations gives way.


  1. I know exactly what you are talking about...I have the same problem with hair products. My beloved "Mud" by Sebastian cannot be found except for a small ransom on Amazon...I refused.
    I would love to wear red/reddish in my California beach town, where everyone looks the same, I would certainly stand out!!
    I just love your blog.....look out for it every Sunday and Wednesday.

  2. Ooooh, I so get you on this. I have been searching for the perfect red lipstick for my entire adult life, and while I haven't tried Chanel, I have a Dior one I kind of like, but none that I love. Cosmetic companies have no idea of the havoc they wreak by discontinuing shades.

  3. Did you know there is at least another half-inch of lipstick in the tube after you've used it down to the brim? I scoop that out and put it in a little pot and use a lipstick brush to apply it.

  4. In typical Valerie style, I was enthralled by every word. I too have been dismayed by discontinued products. Hope you find the perfect red soon! And the last photo - divine!

  5. I feel your pain. But some good news! There is a, and possibly more than one, custom lipstick maker in the USA. Many years ago there was a custom lipstick counter in either Bergdorf Goodman or Bonwit Teller. Perhaps they still exist in the stores.
    After encountering the same disappointment as you, I Googled custom "lipstick maker" and found one that requires you to send them a sample of the lipstick and also the brand name and colour name. They may have formulae for the really popular colours like yours.
    The lipsticks were not inexpensive but not out of the ballpark for a high-end lipstick.
    Good luck and let us know how you get on.
    Vancouver Barbara

  6. Cherries in the Snow, Revlon....if they ever dare discontinue that one, I'll be lost and alone.

  7. Yes, I loved that Chanel red too...wore it for ages.

    But now....head straight for the Guerlain counter....and buy their gorgeous silver bullet lippy thingy (with built in mirror in the lid)....Garconne! It's a glorious, rich, creamy red....simply beautiful....and you'll use that little mirror for reapplication. Totally fab!

    Fab post by the way!



  8. I was seriously thinking that by the end of this post I'd finally learn what lipstick to buy!! Oh, the disappointment!! My search for the Holy Grail continues!! Please let us know when you find it; I'm sure we're all tired and ready to commit once again.

  9. What a great post! I feel the same about red lipstick as did my Mom!

    Tracy Kay

  10. Fab, entertaining post—thanks! I find that what you drink/eat can change your most precious, perfect red lipstick to a fuschia, which can *sometimes* be a happy accident. SUGGESTIONS for the perfect, blue-undertone red: NYX's moist 'Chloe' ($6!) or 'Perfect Red', a matte version. Wet n Wild's $3 "Stoplight Red" glides on with a waxy finish, but stays on long and doesn't change color, even when drinking lemonade. Absolute New York's waterproof gel lipliner in Red Hot is phenomenal too, as all over lip color.