Can you wear red lipstick after 50?

by Sylvia

can women over 40 wear red lipstick?

The ever ongoing discussion on what you can and cannot do after 40 has popped up agan. This time in an article at Yahoo Shine, that was based on research done among 40+ women on age appropriate dressing.  That article  attracted more than 7700 comments already! Many from women that were outraged by some of the article’s statements.

Let’s have a look at the outcomes of the research first. It was carried out by Nurture Replenish Skincare among 2000 45+ women who were asked their opinion on what’s ‘age appropriate’ or not. Here are some of the results:

  • 59 seems to be the age that these women felt you should dress more ‘age-appropriately’.
  • At that age, many felt you should ditch: high heels, red lipstick, tight clothes, false nails, baseball caps, fake tan, miniskirts, leather pants, knee high boots, heavy eyeliner, tight tops, tattoos and go for a more natural look.
  • Many felt that as early as the early 40s a lot of things need to be toned down.

Nothing too new really, but it was really the reaction of Yahoo Shine that got a lot of women really worked up, like this sentence:

“And we’ve all seen the stereotype of the too-youthful older woman, in leather pants, animal prints, a mask of heavy makeup, giant jewelry and—this is the worst violation in our opinion—wrinkled cleavage”.

It’s always a difficult and hotly argued topic, and one that I have already tried to tackle a number of times here at 40+ Style. Should we opt for “age appropriate” dressing or go wilder as we age?

What becomes increasingly clear though is that these generalised articles on what we can and cannot do don’t really work. We are all so different as women over 40. Our personalities determine in large part how we dress and how we want to express ourselves. If we would follow ‘the rules’ we would all look the same, a bit invisible really, and wouldn’t have much fun in the process. Certainly the many women featured at Advanced Style (featured above) have shown us that red lipstick over 40 looks very good indeed.

Bella says it well in this article on the same topic where she showcases many fabulous women over 40 and even features me (thank you Bella!).

I loved this comment from Deja Pseu: “I used to think there was such a thing as “age appropriate” but I outgrew it. ;-)”

However, I’m not going to say that it is all a lot of rubbish either. Many women do like some guidelines and I also offer some on this site. I have guidelines for myself and also feel that SOME women do look better when their skirts are a bit longer or the quality of the fabric is a bit better as they get older. It’s all about balance really. The guidelines are different for every woman though, depending on that person’s personality and style. What does not work for me, is still fabulous for somebody else.

I do not believe in dressing like a 15 year old when you are over 40 (if your purpose is to look stylish), but all of the ‘forbidden’ items above could look fabulous on many women over 40, although I would personally not wear them all in the same outfit! I’m definitely not going to give up the red lipstick, the large jewelry, would definitely wear leather pants in a colder climate (but balanced with more classic items) and will sport my high heels for as long as I can manage it.

And if you like to show your wrinkled cleavage, then go for that too! Nothing is more beautiful than a woman who proudly shows off her own body, wrinkles and all.

I think what is most important is to find out who you are and how you would like to present yourself to the world. It is my belief that you can all look incredibly stylish with a young and hip look for as long as you are on this planet. It’s about finding out what works for you and what makes you happy, about having fun and being confident with your own style.

In fact, finding out about style is what this site is all about!

Have a look at my experiment in testing out 6 lip colors, including red! Let me know which color you like best.

If you like to discover more about who you are in terms of style, be sure to check out my unique style course: 21 Steps to a More Stylish You!

Photos by Advanced Style

{ 44 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Suzanne

I feel that every person should try to dress “appropriately” based on the their personal style and the occasion (there is a time and a place for everything) but I have never thought age had that much to do with it. It seems silly to ban certain colors (red) or certain shoes (4″ heels) or even fabrics (leather) based on the number of birthdays you have celebrated. I do not get that. I understand guidelines and even rules (some country clubs are pretty strict) but that is a matter of being properly dressed for the environment you are in. I guess there are always going to be “experts” trying to make women feel bad about themselves but we can hope that they become less relevant as more Blogs like 40+Style give women the okay to be happy and free to wear what they please. Be brave ladies! We can set the example for the girls coming up behind us. 🙂


2 Rita

I was mulling over this one, and you said it perfectly Suzanne…totally agree!


3 Sylvia

Thanks Suzanne. You always have the perfect words to express how I feel about this subject.


4 Seeker

Absolutely agree with you Suzanne……. you put it so well!!! Thanks dear for that!


5 Maureen

You’ve said it very well Suzanne. I agree wholeheartedly with you.


6 Bella Q

I’m so glad you weighed in, Sylvia. However I don’t see your posts about what NOT to wear, but rather some rather sound advice/encouraged dialogue about what works. Somehow I see people dressing better when it works rather than follow arbitrary dictates. Then again, I never was one to blend in a crowd. Thanks for the shout out! -Bella Q


7 Sylvia

Thanks Bella. That’s good to know. That is indeed what I’m trying to do here. I don’t think I will ever go really wild with my style, but I certainly want to be creative and fun (probably in a minimalist way, knowing me) and encourage others to do the same!


8 Jeannie@gracefully50

Great post, Sylvia!
I’ve probably broken a lot of rules, but at my age…I think I’ve earned the right! 🙂
I just thought of the song “I am woman, hear me roar” ….how appropriate!

Happy New Year!


9 Sylvia

And you are breaking the ‘rules’ so nicely too Jeannie. We certainly have earned the right to do that! A very happy new year to you too!


10 Nanne

Great post! I agree that you shouldn’t dress like a 15-year-old, but as for the statements in the article? That’s just stupid. Every woman should dress to feel her best at any age! And why not have some fun with our clothing now that we have the confidence to not care what people say:)


11 Sylvia

Exactly let’s have FUN!


12 Marla

I think some women over 50 can wear red lipstick and look beautiful. I personally don’t like it on myself, but never really have. I never wore deep shades of lipstick when I was younger. For some reason I just feel like it ages me, makes my lips look thinner, and makes me look a little clownish -but I think I always felt this way. Some people look amazing in reds, at any age, and some people just can’t pull it off. I’m one of the latter.


13 Sylvia

I never really used to wear red lipstick or high heels. I’m actually doing more of that now that I’m older! But you’re right you should only do the things that suit you and your personality.


14 Barbara

I think people can dress as they want. However, the older women you pictured in this article look like clowns and very eccentric. If that’s what you”re going for, go for it!!!! I wear red lipstick all the time and I’m 63. But I don’t load myself down with garish clothing, big glasses, and tons of jewelry. But, to each it’s own. Just saying, to look good as an older woman, follow the understated European model. I don’t want to be thought of as an eccentric, flashy, garish dresser in my old age.


15 Sylvia

Eccentric yes, clowns no, in my opinion. What I love about the women above is that they exude personality! They celebrate life with their clothing. But as you say to each its own.


16 The Style Crone

Sylvia, you always inspire me with your thoughtful posts and the topics that you address. Thank you so much for the mention. I see style as a way to express ourselves at any age, and having fun, exploring options, experimenting and taking risks are life affirming!

Happy 2013. Looking forward to following you throughout the year!


17 Sylvia

Thank Judith. And you are such a perfect example of a woman who does that with so much style and panache!


18 denton

How exactly do you ditch the tattoos? lol.

I’m a guy that always appreciates a more natural look at any age, so the fake tan and heavy cosmetics and fake nails were never a great thing in my book. Ditto for baseball caps.

As to leather pants and tight blouses, imo it’s more about keeping yourself in reasonable shape than your actual age. If you stay in reasonable condition (like Sylvia) age is hardly a limitation.

Cleavage? Always appreciated at any age 🙂


19 Sylvia

haha Denton. Great you still enjoy the cleavage!
Yes, it’s all a matter of preference. But if you’ve always been into heavy makeup etc, then you should not be forced to give that up either. I think you have to stay true to your personality throughout your whole life.


20 Greetje

I wear my red lipstick at 58 (soon to be 59) and am happy with it. In my opinion, it looks good on me and always has. And I am quite conscious of not dressing too young. My cleavage is wrinkled and preferably hidden. But that is because I want to do that. Not because I follow a rule. Of course Suzanne has already perfectly said it.


21 Sylvia

Yes Greetje. I can confirm that you look fabulous with your red lipstick!


22 Chicatanyage

I think a lot of choices we make when choosing what to wear is about personality, figure shape, lifestyle and just plain common sense. I have just rediscovered soft red lipstick and I think it gives my face a lift.


23 Sylvia

yes agreed, which is what my upcoming style challenge will be all about. Finding out what works for you and what style is yours!



Wonderful post, Silvia.
I am so eempower by it.


25 Sylvia

Glad you like it!


26 Les

Chicatanyage put her finger right on the button with her comment about liking herself in soft red lipstick. Not all reds are created equal. I think there’s probably a shade of red to suit most of us, whatever our age.


27 Sylvia

I agree Les. I’m on the lookout for a softer red!


28 Renae

I wear it. I think there are shades that work well for every woman, you just have to find them. I also think there are some rules that apply to everyone regardless of age but some people are just better at breaking the rules. I am not a fan of red lips and heavy make up but even that works for some women. Style is one of those areas where we shouldn’t have rules, guidelines work better and never and always just don’t seem to apply.


29 Sylvia

Yes, I agree. I still want to find a softer red for myself…


30 Heidi/The Closet Coach

“It’s about finding out what works for you and what makes you happy, about having fun and being confident with your own style. ”

Could not agree more!

The point I tried to make when I wrote about the topic ( was that fit–in many senses of the word–has nothing to do with age and everything to do with who you are today. Your style will change over time, less because you’re aging than because you’re evolving.


31 Sylvia

Yes, I agree style is constantly evolving. The most important thing is to stay true to yurself!


32 une femme

Great post, Sylvia! I’ve come to believe that one of the perqs of age is knowing who we are, and dressing to please ourselves. Maybe it’s red lipstick or no lipstick, or jeans or heels or whatever. But it’s always wonderful to see women with confidence in their own style and presence regardless of age.


33 Sylvia

Thanks! I totally agree.


34 Petra

All of the “opinions” have some merit to them I think. I think that a woman will dress for her personality at the time (some times we feel bolder than others). Certainly consideration needs to be taken with regards our skin colour changing on our faces, and hair thinning or getting grey as we get older. I saw two elderly women today at the shopping centre who looked like they were wearing nighties because they were trying to wear super long summer dresses like the “young ones”, (with orthotic shoes) and it didn’t suit them, so perhaps modifying designs, make-up etc etc as we change is the way to go?


35 Sylvia

Yes, and that is why I provide guidelines. I think there are definitely some modifications to make when your get older, but they tend to be different for every woman.


36 Kate

Give up my heels? Perish the thought! It is hard to find that sweet spot between fashionable and ridiculous sometimes, I am sad to say, but the women who seem to carry off many of these fashion “faux pas” are women with a lot of self-confidence–perhaps the most critical item in our fashion wardrobe.


37 Sylvia

I totally agree Kate!


38 Old_Warhorse

Right on Sylvia and Suzanne! I couldn’t agree with you more. 🙂 As far as I’m concerned, if you feel good wearing it and you can pull off the look, go for it! Mind you, I’m not advocating wearing a sparkly red dress to a funeral or such like, but these ‘rules’ that some stylists have touted are just outright nonsense.


39 Madame Hall

There is a lady I always look forward to seeing when I visit Sydney….she doesn’t drive, so is often seen out walking to her various beauty appointments
She’s well in to her 80’s and is quite stooped now, but this doesn’t stop her ALWAYS wearing high heels! She dresses in head to toe glamour everyday, with big hair, long red nails and red lipstick; with care and attention given to every detail of her ensemble.
I find it so refreshing to see someone who clearly gets such delight from her style, albeit one I’m sure she found long ago! It’s an expression of her personality and charactor, and it’s gorgeous to see an older woman who refuses to fade in to the background!


40 Sylvia

I could not agree with you more!


41 stelz

There are some absolutely wacko articles out there on this subject. Even the lipstick. One actually said that we should stop at a certain age because it could get into what the article called “demon lines” (those little vertical lines) around the lips. HELLO, we learned decades ago that makeup needs to be checked periodically to make sure it’s not sliding around, even if you’re in junior high school! And there are plenty of good feather-proof lipsticks out there (I like Besame – now THEY have some great reds!)

The REAL definition of “age appropriate”, for me, is “If you can rock something, wear it. If it’s not working for you anymore, find something else you can rock.” But don’t listen to those people who try to convince you that you need to wear pantsuits, tiny unnoticeable jewelry and invisible makeup. People who try to make us fade into oblivion don’t have our well-being in mind and aren’t deserving of our attention.

Both my grandmothers wore red lipstick continuously from the 1920’s until they left this world. And they always looked nice, even when they were lounging around or doing housework, they had a little on. Much classier than the way *some* folks would have us looking, I think!


42 Sylvia

Agreed! I’m wearing my red lipstick more as I get older!


43 Greetje

I am so agreeing with you all. I adore my red lipstick. And I will wear it till I die.


44 Linda Chevrier

In my opinion some women over forty, can look good in a plunging neckline if they have a pretty decollete. If it looks good and you feel good in a piece of clothing, wear it.
I was a stylist for many years and their are guidelines not rules.
It has to do with confidence, body shape , and what you want to convey about yourself.
Clothes and make up should be fun. They should make a person feel good and gain confidence. It is simply a way to express yourself.


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