Paris has been the city of so many firsts … the first café, restaurant, boudoir, sofa, carousel, department store, shopping arcade, bikini, little black dress, to name but a few … And on this Lipstick Day, we must thank Paris on behalf of our lips, too. Sure, the art of lip color can be traced back thousands of years, but actual lipstick was first launched in Paris, which is the world’s beauty capital, after all.
It was in 1870 that Parisian perfume brand Guerlain released a pink lip wax in a stick form. But it wasn’t until the 1920s that lipstick became a must-have Parisienne accessory. This was in large part due to that ultimate trend-starter Coco Chanel who, in 1924, brought out a makeup line featuring lip colour encased in bullet tubes. Her favourite shade, a classic crimson, was such a hit that we still associate Parisian beauty with red lips to this day.
In fact, a red lip is so beloved by French women that their word for lipstick is literally ‘lip red’: rouge à lèvres.
Whether you love a bold red or an elegant neutral, you can rely on French beauty brands for a high-quality lip colour. And it’s a chic souvenir to bring back from the City of Light, one that will remind you of your time there with every swipe.
Here’s where to go for a classic Parisian lipstick the next time you’re in town …
As previously covered, the Avenue des Champs-Élysées is having a moment when it comes to fashion, but also beauty.
The exquisite Guerlain boutique has been at no.68 since 1914 (check out the Rouge G line of lipsticks with their customisable shades, finishes and cases), while the flagship Sephora next door (where Yves Saint Laurent lippies sell like hot gâteaux) is so popular it welcomes six million visitors annually — as many as the Centre Pompidou! Newer beauty brands on the block are Chanel at no.52 (if you don’t already own Rouge Allure in Pirate, a beautiful blue-red, buy it here), and 86Champs, a co-creation of L’Occitane and Pierre Hermé, where you can buy pretty lip tints that will make you look like you’ve been nibbling on berry macarons.
The Beauty Boutiques
If you’re over the other end of town, you’ll find a great selection of beauty brands in the Marais, particularly along Rue des Francs-Bourgeois. Along with the high-street fashion stores (Petit Bateau, Pablo, Bensimon …) there’s a clutch of beauty boutiques (Caudalie for skincare, Diptyque for candles, Frédéric Malle for fragrance …). For lipstick, go no further than Make Up For Ever at no.5; founded in Paris as a professional brand in 1984, it’s now available to all, and everyone should own its Rose Wood lipstick, a suit-all neutral.
Another must-visit boutique for all beauty lovers is By Terry in Galérie Véro-Dodat. Situated in this gorgeous passage since 1998, it’s a luxurious space that sells equally luxe lipsticks, which are creamy and packed with pigment.
(Arcade neighbour Christian Louboutin no longer sells his beauty here, so head to Printemps if you’re after one of glamorous lip colours; see below.)
The Department Stores
Seeing as the department store was invented in Paris, any lover of the city as much as shopping should make time for a whirl around these retail meccas. Beauty lovers, too, will revel in these spaces, that showcase perfume, skincare and makeup so glamorously.
In Galeries Lafayette, the beauty department sits beneath a glittering atrium topped with a stained-glass dome; find tried-and-true French makeup brands like Lancôme, which sells some lovely rose-inspired shades of lipstick.
As for Printemps, it now houses its beauty over three stylish floors (head to 61, Rue Caumartin, just behind the Boulevard Haussmann stores). One of its star brands is shoe brand Christian Louboutin, which sells red lipsticks that are as glam as its scarlet-soled heels.
(While you’re up that way, pop up to Bourjois at 12, Rue du Havre; the historic Parisian theatrical makeup brand has its first boutique here, and sells a great selection of lipsticks in varying shades and textures, at reasonable prices.)
Over on the Left Bank, the department store Le Bon Marché offers one of the most enjoyable beauty shopping experiences around. It’s not just about the impressively edited selection of brands (check out La Bouche Rouge’s leather-cased lipsticks for a serious splurge), but also the natural, glowing light that filters through the skylight to the glamorous atrium below, making your time here feel relaxed and breezy — not to mention making it more likely that you’ll find your right makeup-colour match.
If you don’t mind a more frenetic type of retail therapy, especially if you’re after bargain prices, run-don’t-walk to City Pharma (26, Rue du Four, 75006). As with all French pharmacies, it mostly sells skincare, but you’ll find several tinted balms that make for a more subtle coloured lip. Recommended: Caudlaie French Kiss and Nuxe Bio Beauté Tinted Repairing Lip Balm.