The Audrey Hepburn Lipstick Mystery

Audrey Hepburn’s lipstick. I’ve watched and re-watched the films. I’ve shopped and I’ve swatched. I well and truly fell down the rabbit hole on this one…

Lipstick - Makeup

The cinematic moment of Holly Golightly applying her lipstick in the back of a New York cab is imprinted on history – and google images. The internet is awash with theories on Audrey’s Hepburn’s lipstick, and modern-day knock-offs. Lisa Eldridge may hold the answer, but she’s staying tight-lipped.

Everyone loves a good mystery, in fact my Netflix account seems to remind me daily of my preference for the true crime and detective genre, so when I first heard about this makeup mystery I was intrigued. Audrey Hepburn’s lipstick – a peachy, pinky, movie moment that caused such a stir her real-life Cartier lipstick holder was recently sold at auction for a jaw dropping price.

As style icons go, Audrey is at the top of the list for so many. Is it the little black dress, the bejewelled accessories, the famous hairstyle, the fluttery lashes, the unmistakeable voice, or, the lipstick that commands such idolisation? Without delving into an Audrey Hepburn biography, the woman had a remarkable life from childhood to her cinematic career and to the causes, especially in aid of children, that she supported. But there is a single moment in film that I’m talking about here, and it’s not Holly Golightly standing outside the window of Tiffany’s eating breakfast. It’s a scene of a woman in the back of a fabulously yellow New York cab, who, dealing with a flutter of heartbreak stops mid-conversation to apply her lipstick – “a girl can’t read that sort of thing without her lipstick”. The lipstick. But which lipstick, exactly?

There are countless theories on the brand and shade of this exact lipstick, some not even available at the time of the film’s making and some no longer available now, and then there are the modern-day dupes for obtaining the same look as Audrey, even if the formula isn’t exact. Begin your google searches, at your own peril. The list is long. 

The most talked about has to be Revlon’s 415 Pink In The Afternoon. This pinky-nude is a comfortable cream texture and a really flattering shade for so many complexions. It has the slightest shift of salmon pink when swatched on my wrist, but ultimately pays off quite rose-pink on the lips. I feel like this is a great, standard lipstick colour to have in your collection – an easy ‘pull out of your handbag’ option. But is it Audrey’s? Most sources date this lipstick shade to being produced after the film’s creation, so it seems unlikely.

Estee Lauder’s Pure Color Envy in 260 Eccentric has been suggested as a match for Holly’s famous pout. This striking bright pink is sumptuous and creamy to wear, and has more of a punch than the Revlon but I don’t see much peach or salmon to this shade. Beautiful for summer, I’m keeping this on standby for beachy days of golden skin and sunset cocktails.

Burberry’s Burberry Kisses Hydrating Lip Colour in 57 Peach Delight was surprisingly the closest I got – a true peachy pink shade which is at once sheer, and colour-rich. Certainly the most coral of the lot, but if you’re looking for a salmon pink lip this is a good option.

As many lipsticks as I swatched, slowly inching closer to replicating that famous taxicab look, I began to accept that this puzzle may never be solved. How can we really ever know for sure which lipstick Audrey was applying?

I ultimately, much to my disappointment, haven’t solved the mystery and it seems that the only person with the answer is the holder of Audrey’s Cartier lipstick case – and the lipstick inside – Lisa Eldridge. Lisa has said she won’t be revealing the brand and shade of the lipstick found inside the gold case, but she has perhaps taken us closer to experiencing Audrey’s lip colour than we have been before.

Included in her own 2019 Summer Pinks collection was a lipstick aptly named Go Lightly. Strikingly bright and coral-leaning in the bullet, this lipstick is described as a “light, vibrant salmon pink semi sheer lipstick…looks more like a bright coral but the payoff on the lips leans more towards a true salmon pink with pastel undertone.” Without overtly saying so, it is widely believed that this is Lisa’s reformulation of Audrey’s own lipstick. At any rate, surely the owner of Audrey Hepburn’s actual lipstick would bring us the closest we may ever get to the real thing. There is nothing vintage about the texture of this lipstick, a balmy and glossy formula that is sheer but also buildable. It is a chameleon of a colour that looks different on everyone who wears it. On my lips this is definitely a punchier, more vibrant coral than Holly Golightly’s look but when I swipe it on I like to think I’m one step closer to the style and glamour of such an icon.

Have you solved the mystery of Audrey Hepburn’s lipstick? Let me in on the secret on Instagram. 

, , , , , ,