Etiquette Bits – Lipstick at the Table


As much as I’ve preached the importance of etiquette and manners, I have to admit that I have made many a faux-pas in my day (the composition of that sentence is probably one in itself). A major complaint my family has is how frequently I reapply my makeup. My Mom, in particular gives me quite a hard time, reminding me that I don’t need ‘all that makeup’ (yes I absolutely do), and can’t understand why I would ever feel the need to apply powder more than once during the day (do the words oil slick mean anything to you?).

Anyway, a question that has been nagging me for quite some time is whether or not applying lipstick at the table after a meal is considered rude. Whipping out the compact and fixing my eyeliner I can understand, but what about a quick little dab of gloss? After doing a little research, I’m pleased to say I haven’t been behaving too terribly after all.

Helena Echlin writes an article called Table Manners, and I found these guidelines helpful in my quest for lipstick etiquette knowledge. She makes a few good points:

  • Generally, you should save grooming for the bathroom, but putting on lipstick is different because it isn’t unhygienic. Brushing your hair, flossing, and filing your nails — just don’t. Gross.
  • It’s important that you get the task over with quickly. A quick swipe of lipstick or gloss is acceptable, but fiddling around with a lip liner is not.
  • If you absolutely NEED a mirror, at least make sure that it’s cute and dainty (aren’t those darling?).

Emily Post would also add these tips:

It’s okay to quickly apply lipstick at the table if you’re with close friends or relatives in a non-business situation, and at a non-deluxe restaurant. In general, personal grooming should be done in private for the simple reason that it can be annoying and it’s tacky. But putting on lipstick without using a mirror and without fanfare is one grooming ritual that can sometimes be performed in front of others. Still, think first! When in doubt, don’t do it, such as when you’re at a business meal or with people you don’t know very well.

So basically, keep it quick, don’t draw too much attention to yourself, and when in doubt, make a trip to the restroom. That’s one place no one will judge you.