The Beauty Spy: On lipstick

You won't see her, but she's there, in the salons, spas and shops, and she's happy to share her secrets on the glamour of lipstick.

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My first encounter with lipstick happened in Paris. I was a teenager and had a rendezvous with my father. I arrived at the Hotel George V on the designated day of our meeting. The concierge had a message for me from him: "Have been delayed. Call Sophie. Stay with her until I get there."

I asked the concierge to call the number on the note and spoke to Sophie. When I got to her apartment on the Rue du Bac, she was waiting outside. Sophie must have been in her early twenties and was tall and thin, with her dark hair cut in a classic Parisian-style bob. She was wearing red lipstick, jeans and a black polo neck jumper.

She was elegant and glamorous. Exactly how I'd imagined a Frenchwoman should be. As the young heroine Cécile says of Anne Larsen in the book Bonjour Tristesse: "To her I owed my first glimpse of elegance."

I stayed with Sophie for three days while waiting for my father. I loved her look: she was always perfectly turned out. I looked up to her in the way a little girl idolises a fairy princess. Even when Sophie first woke up, she would look impossibly elegant in her cashmere dressing gown and loosely tied-up hair.

I was astounded by the amount of time she spent covering herself with lotions. I had never seen a bathroom with so many magical-looking bottles. I must have driven her mad asking what every single one was.

"You don't really need all this," she admitted. "All you really need to be a Frenchwoman are two lipsticks." I asked her why and she looked at me askance. "One for the day and the other for the evening, of course." I have followed her advice ever since.

My lipstick for the day is subtle. Depending on the season, I will go for a light pink or a bronze colour. The evening is a different story. There is only one choice: red. It symbolises power, it is sexy, bold, a classic. When you're wearing red lipstick you are invincible. As far back as the 16th century women knew this. Queen Elizabeth I wore red lippy and was one of England's greatest monarchs.

Men have also long known the power of a lipstick. In 1770, the UK Parliament passed a law that said a woman wearing lipstick could be tried for witchcraft.

Nowadays, they would have to arrest almost everyone. Apparently 92 million American women do not leave home without putting on their lipstick - most often in the colour red, favoured by Hollywood stars old and new.

"I'm all about fashion, cheeseburgers and red lipstick," says the stunning Scarlett Johansson, and who could argue with that?

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