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The Case of the ‘Bleeding Lip’



khadijah-102Something has been bugging me for a while now. In fact not just me, it’s been on the mind of another really good friend of mine who is also a make-up artist. Together, we feel this issue, which I agree some may find a bit controversial, is a big crime and one that the make-up police really should address.

This crime, and I write this I feel a weight is lifted off my shoulders, is that of the dreaded faded lip colour! Yes, I said it! This lip colour is the rampant technique of applying reddish or burgundy lip liner and lip stick on the outer corner of the lip line and then filling in the middle with a more pinkish or rosy tinted lipstick. Basically fading out the lip colour from the outer to the inner lip.

Now, when this technique came out a few years ago, it was new and fresh and everyone wanted to do it. But frankly, we’ve had our fill and I’ve now been to one too many ‘bag and shoe’ parties and everywhere I turn there is a madam with this lip, that I have quite fondly termed ‘the bleeding lip’.

Everyone from Joke to Sade’s mum has this lip and it is one request as a make-up artist that I have started turning down. The next person that says to me, can you do my lipstick like so and so, may just get a bleeding lip. Literally!

But all jokes aside, it’s like we’re stuck in some sort of time warp and finely made up faces are being spoilt with this technique. It’s no longer special and why is it so prevalent with Nigerian make-up artists? Everyone from the bride to bridesmaid to Big Mummy is having the same thing, whether or not they have a lip shape to suit it or skin tone to match. I have come across whole groups of random aunties, all with a different hues – caramel, coffee, dark chocolate – but all sharing the same binding feature – their lipstick style! And there is always one that looks scarier than the others as a result.

Make-up is about being an individual and if we’re all managing to look the same, then how really are we being our own person? Whether or not it suits the lip shape or skin tone, I see make-up artists plastering their clients with these bleeding lips.

What a lot of clients and make-up artist don’t realise is that this technique actually emphasises the size of your lip. A make-up artist mantra since time in memoriam is that light colours bring features to the forefront, whereas dark colour makes features recede. Therefore being of proud African origin, God has blessed us with well endowed lips, some of us I dare say, more than others! So extra emphasis is not always required.

The job of the make-up artist is to recognise and appreciate this fact and then apply make-up in such a way that our best features are enhanced and the ones we don’t like so much are concealed. The very fact that the bleeding lip is applied so indiscriminately regardless of the lip in focus means attention is drawn to the lip, sometimes not for the best reasons! For a client with larger lips, the lighter colour in the middle of the lip only serves to enhance the size of the lip, rather than discreetly disguise it.

As a make-up artist, I have made it my crusade to draw attention to this practice and encourage fellow artists to educate their clients as to what would suit them, rather than just blanketly applying make-up. Don’t get me wrong, I sometimes apply lipstick like this as well to my clients, IF it suits them and that is the style we are going for. A lot of clients always point to other people’s make-up to give the artist and idea of what they would like. But what is sometimes forgotten is that it’s just a starting point, it doesn’t mean that they want the exact same look. But too many times, have I come across the attitude, ‘shebi she’s paying the money and that what she asked for so that’s what she’ll get!’ But as a make-up artist you are a creative force, you are doing this job for the love of creating and enhancing individual beauty. Not for the crisp notes the client hands over. Correct me if I’m wrong……..

And clients, since you are the ones parting with your hard earned cash, it is your right to also question and make sure you receive a consultation or trial with the make-up, so you can see whether the bleeding lip style is really right for you. You are paying for the skill, experience and creativity of the make-up artist. You are also paying for their ability to set you apart from the crowd and make you feel that little bit more special, so the last thing you want is to attend the latest and hottest bash and realise that you and every other woman has the same style of lip stick application!

More ‘Bleeding Lips’

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Til’ next time!

Bella Queen

Go on…put your crown back on!©


  1. GamGam

    May 12, 2009 at 12:16 am

    I have never understood this nonsense.

    Its always crazy seeing it, i cant even have friends who do this eeewy thing, its so ugly,chei!

  2. chini

    May 12, 2009 at 10:44 am

    I think the “bleeding lip” compliments dark skinned women and it’s a keeper considering that there are not to many options for us . If it looks good on you rock it. If you look fab with weaves i won’t knock your style just cause every other girl has one on. It’s your swag that makes you stand out.
    By the way, the “alternative lips” look like “bleeding lips”.

  3. Kpakpando Nwanyi

    May 12, 2009 at 4:49 pm

    It doesn’t complement all dark-skinned women biko, and women of color have countless options when it comes to make up (products, colors and applications) that suits their skin tone, there’s no reason to wear the same makeup trends from 7 years ago.

  4. Seun Adebayo

    May 12, 2009 at 10:13 pm

    A lot of make- up artists are still guilty of this in naija, even the celebrated ones.

    I hate that white stuff they apply in the middle of the lips….eeew!

    What about lopsided and thin brows?

    They need to stop using blade for the brows. it’s really dangerous…

  5. mary

    May 13, 2009 at 10:08 am

    Nice article! I feel that with all fashion trends this too would pass and for the alternative colours I see no difference however I feel earth tones using the same lipliner are back

  6. Dami Ashafa

    May 13, 2009 at 1:25 pm

    please not just this bleeding lip, the white lipstick too. just use brown lip liner if it is necessary… it really isnt all the time,… u can do without lip liner… just lipstick and lip gloss (if u want the shine)

  7. Beautiful Iris

    May 13, 2009 at 11:45 pm

    Truthfully the “bleeding lips”complements most women of color and even the Americans are guilty of this trend.Its hard to let go of a “lip” that works anyday.It pays to experiment with other colors and textures afterall makeup should be fun.But i’ll always go back to the bleeding lips o.Alternatives aint eyecatching or well blended.

  8. plomo

    May 14, 2009 at 2:31 am

    lol…bella naija will not kill me with some articles ooooo
    to each his own jare…it looks good on some and not so nice on others….whatever

  9. rizzle

    May 14, 2009 at 11:25 pm


    Soooooo razz. I don’t know why Naija girls will not retire this crap…

  10. Uche Mba

    May 15, 2009 at 5:09 pm

    The “bleeding lip” started getting ridiculous when Nigerian women would line their lips with bright-red lipstick or lipliner, and fill in with white or pink frosty lipstick. It’s just awful, and not flattering in slightest. Stick to one color or just use lip gloss…it’s just plain UGLY.

  11. N.I. Vixen

    May 16, 2009 at 5:53 am

    i’ve always noticed that this was a trend in nigeria (nigerian movies/magazines), i live in the u.s. and thats just a make up rule #1!! “make sure your lipliner matches your lipstick or lipgloss”

    i’ve alwayssss hated the bleeding lip ughh!!

  12. vickky

    May 16, 2009 at 5:04 pm

    Really, the alternate lips look the same as the original bleeding lip.

  13. sarahte

    May 17, 2009 at 3:57 pm

    This article made me laugh so much, I felt I was the only one who felt this way about the “bleeding lip” look. 99% of Nigerian women have this look..when will this look die out??? I’m getting married this year and I’ll be begging the make up artist to refrain from using the bleeding lip look on me!

  14. Bella Queen

    May 17, 2009 at 5:16 pm

    hey all thanks for the comments! The alternative images are just different looks of a ‘bleeding lip’. They’re not intended to be alternative ways of applying lipstick. But glad to see that it has provoked some commentary…I do agree that sometimes this style works, but I think the general agreement is that it is a little dated, too everywhere and there are otherway of applying lipstick which are just as nice, if not nicer…. till next time! x

  15. Haro

    May 18, 2009 at 6:38 am

    ok, good stuff. interesting… but not that interesting. it happens to stale lip sticks, big friggin deal. arggh.. the random ish on this site.

  16. Missy

    May 18, 2009 at 6:01 pm

    The funny thing is I am sure the first lips are whats that actress’ name?

  17. Beautiful Iris

    May 18, 2009 at 7:10 pm

    Bleeding lips still??As you im obviously a fan of bleeding lips………… its well applied and well blended bleeding lips is one of the perfect lip combo for women of color*quote me*……Check out Banke Meshida or Kemi Uwaga’s clients on Facebook.
    And i thought alternatives meant………………………..=0)

  18. Princess

    May 19, 2009 at 4:58 pm

    I’m more worried about the yellow teeth than the bleeding lips.

    I have noticed that it’s the only lip color Banke Meshida uses for her brides, itis like her BMPro stamp

  19. Labake

    June 12, 2009 at 2:26 am

    It would have been nice if you had pictures of alternatives to the bleeding lips. Just about every make up artist use this method, which actually look nice on women of color.

  20. Tumi Jẹgẹdẹ

    July 9, 2009 at 10:05 pm

    The pictures used in the post are actually nice examples of bleeding lips, but generally, some Nollywood makeup artists apply it terribly.. and generally some African and African American women use it in a way that even black lip liner (and sometimes eyeliner) is used on the outside and then a much lighter – silver sometimes – colour is used on the inside. Sometimes it’s not even blended, sometimes it’s a crisp line contrasting a shiny lip colour.

    I cringe, even when it was trendy several years ago, I just idsliked it.

    Please post a post on shaving off your eyebrows and drawing them in, this is another area I think needs attention drawing to.

  21. funmi

    August 28, 2009 at 10:18 pm

    For great alternatives to the bleeding lips, go to Irantiola funmilola’s lookbook on facebook and see whats hot. About kemi imevbore, true, she’s hot as for Banke, i don’t know. If you ask me i think Abeke is the hottest thing thats happened to this industry in a long while. Look for her on her group page on facebook and be updated. out with the old in with the new, hot and fresh.What u say?

  22. taiwo

    September 12, 2009 at 5:06 pm

    Labake it might look nice on black women,but the fact is its the biggest mistakes nigerian makeup artists have embraced.Lip liners shouldnt contrast to the lip gloss/lipstick shade but compliment it.Shades of brown are the appropriate colours for lining a black woman lips.And incase of the bleeding lip where reds and wines liners are used ,lip gloss or lip stick shades to be applied should be very similar.Just a correction.

  23. barbs

    October 6, 2009 at 6:33 pm

    i totally agree with you Bella, like Tumi Jegede i have always disliked this look and i have never done it.

    but it looks nice on some people but still i think it is an inferior method of lip colour application.

  24. Jumoke

    October 11, 2009 at 10:49 am

    I really don’t like the bleeding lip look as a makeup artist and as a woman, once saw a woman use black pencil as a liner which she applied generously and used a gold, very dry, lipstick in the middle. I couldn’t take my eyes off her, it was a frightening experience.

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