How Guys Responded to 3 Very Different Lipstick Colors On Tinder

by Zara Barrie

"Girl, put ON this lipstick! It's called 'Sin' by MAC! It will make your gorgeous eyes POP!" I exclaimed to my best friend Sia* as I dramatically placed the gorgeous vampy color beneath her warm hazel eyes.

It was her first night out on the town since her f*ckboy ex-boyfriend dumped her a few months back. I was doing her makeup whilst simultaneously feeding her champagne, like real best friends do for each other.

"That lip color rocks, Z, but you know I can't wear it if I want to meet dudes," Sia darkly murmured, as she waved my hand (and my beloved lipstick) out of her face.

"Why the hell not?" I pressed, feeling defensive. I'd been painting her face since childhood, and this was the first time she had ever challenged me on my cosmetic prowess.

"Because men are terrified of lipstick," she retorted, her cigarette voice irritated.

"That's not true. COOL guys love lipstick. It's stylish. It's sexy and it's affirming to a woman's identity!" I cried, a little too passionately, as I began to contour her cheekbones with a matte bronzer.

"You will never understand, Z. Because you're a lesbian. Lesbians can rock whatever lip color they want because other women appreciate style. Men don't," she lamented, guzzling down her (third glass of) champagne.

Weeks later, I found myself in a typical animated Monday morning brainstorming session with my Elite Daily co-workers.

"Do men really hate bold lipsticks?" I asked, hoping it would spark debate.

"MEN are SO not into lipstick. I wear lipstick for other women, not for men," the leader of the straight-girl pack stated, as if it she were reciting the official heterosexual woman's mission statement. The rest of the team nodded their heads in silent solidarity.

Cut to 2 am, and I'm lying in bed staring at the cracks in the ceiling.

"Are men really so f*cking terrified of lipstick?" I pondered

"I mean the classic, TIMELESS women -- Marilyn Monroe, Bettie Page, Liz freaking Taylor -- all rocked intense lipsticks, and they are the great sex icons of the universe!" None of it was adding up.

Right then and there, I decided that I, Zara Barrie, was going to embark on a lil' ~Tinder~ experiment.

I decided that for the next three days, I was going to go on Tinder, change my settings to "men only" and experiment with three different lipsticks (nude, purple, red) in my profile picture to see what you girls are really up against:

Day one: nude lip

So word on the straight girl street is that ~boys~ want a chick in a nude lip.

"It's not intimidating," the breeders tell me.

So I had my BFF, celebrity hair stylist and photographer, Owen Gould, snap a cute "straight girl" picture of me. I felt subversive and dirty inside as I changed my profile settings from "women only" to "men only."

"You signed up for this life of social experiments, bitch," my inner voice reminded me.

She was right. I took a deep breath and deleted "Totally gay, seeking the same" from my profile, feeling like my seventh-grade self who used to pretend to like boys to fit in.

Within minutes, my profile looked like this:

With the nude lip, I matched with 20 men over the course of 20 hours, which was a whole new Tinder experience. With girls, I'm lucky if I get 5 matches in a week.

It was a diverse mix; there were preppy guys with popped collars sitting on yachts. There were alternative boys in dirty Converse who claimed to play in bands. There were young, smug-looking finance boys. The entire rainbow was there for me to taste. (Too bad I didn't want to, oops.)

However, I did notice a definitive pattern with the nude lip. The pick-up lines were super corny or super basic. If it wasn't the lame "Hey cutie" or "Hi," it was sh*t like this:

OK, I may have walked into that one by putting "I'm a sea of useless information" in my profile, but come on, dude -- what kind of basic pick-up line is that? Should we blame the basic lip for the basic words?

Again, basic lips beget basic lines. I had a high success rate, but found every single message to be b-o-r-i-n-g or insulting to my intelligence. I was impressed with the quantity but not with the quality.

Day two: purple lip

I was sure no one would swipe for me today when I did my vamp-y purple lip, Heroine by MAC. I'd been told violet lips would even scare the lesbians.

MAC Heroine Lipstick, $17, Nordstrom 

I didn't have a f*cking professional photographer to snap this pic of me this time, but BABES, I did the best I could!

So anyway, after I uploaded my wicked lip as my Tinder profile picture, I began to indulge in the art of the swipe. And to much to my surprise, I matched with roughly the same amount of guys.

But I noticed that a different type of man actually put in the effort to message me when I was rocking a purple lip. Long gone were the basic 24-year-olds on yachts; I had real men in finance mixed with creative boys with creative tech jobs.

But here is the ~truly~ fascinating part of the whole charade. The messages I got were an entirely different animal.

I guess I appear "bookish" to the naked eye with a purple lip?

Confession of the day: When I first read the word "bibliophile," I thought he meant the BIBLE. However, I quickly came to find that bibliophile actually means "lover of books." OOPS, my bad.

Corny pick-up line, but another book mention.

I swear to the fierce goddess up above that I'm not, in any way, even remotely kidding.

I was grateful that I got ONE style shoutout. See? Men do (occasionally) value s-t-y-l-e. (Even if they don't know the difference between "you're" and "your.")

For the record, this couldn't be further from the truth. I think Elite Daily just threw me a bone, since my old ass is about to turn 30 (which is old as f*ck when you work in a Millennial microcosm).

Day three: red lip

When I asked my male editor, Kevin, what he thought of my red lipstick pic, he said, "Well, red lipstick is very intimidating."

Even KEVIN, who I regard as one of the coolest heterosexuals on the block wasn't feeling the RED (Mia Moore by The Balm).

theBalm Mia Moore, $17, Amazon 

"What the f*ck is wrong with men?" I once again wondered, incredulous.

I expected to swipe with no one, especially since I was rocking red and a power blazer (I can't help but sport a lesbian power blazer sometimes). But alas, I matched at about the same rate (which I continued to realize is very easy as a "straight" girl).

With a pounding heart, I opened up my first message. I was curious what a young man would say to a red lippy girl.

So apparently, I don't seem American. Maybe he thinks I'm an exotic foreigner? I'll take it; I've been called far worse things.

Maybe I have the Rimmel "London Look?" This guy specifically noticed I am in London in one of my pictures.

What is up with the LONDON obsession? I have one picture in London, and no boy responding to the other lip colors seemed to notice or care.

OK, now this whole English thing is starting to get weird. Are guys who are drawn to red lips all Anglophiles, or guys with a travel fetish?

And again:

Clearly I'm not from around these parts.

My red lipstick was winning the heart of an Irish man. Interesting.

Not one guy pressed me about where I was from when I wasn't wearing red lipstick, but suddenly, it was all anyone could focus on.

So my experiment had come to an end, with stranger results than I could have imagined. I will say that while I'm not an active Tinder user these days, I felt unsettled with "seeking men" in my profile.

By the end of the third day, I couldn't wait to embrace my gayness again. I was ready to rock a rainbow flag string bikini and strut my sexuality in the mean city streets.

I enthusiastically added "TOTALLY GAY" back into my description. All was fine and dandy until the boys from before began to catch on...

It's been several days, and I'm still getting messages like this. Oops. Sorry, boys, I'm only trying to make your lives better by doing vital research on male/female dynamics. It was an act of selflessness, really.


First of all, I'm in a state of very real shock about everything: the size of the straight dating pool; the absolute, concrete patterns I unearthed; all of it. Straight Tinder is a whole other PLANET (article coming soon, my queer kittens).

So yes, while I might have appealed to the widest audience with the nude lip, I would still choose the bold lip for my Tinder profile picture. The men I matched with were more interesting when I added a bit of color. Yes, some of the boys were weirder, but they definitely had things to say beyond ":D".

They seemed more into books and travel, less interested in corny pick-up lines and cheap hellos.

So girls, I've concluded that you were right: Boys are afraid of lipstick. Men, on the other hand f*cking loving a girl with a fierce lip.

So who do you want to attract?