Sex Roles

, Volume 56, Issue 9–10, pp 591–600 | Cite as

Truly Toffee and Raisin Hell: A Textual Analysis of Lipstick Names

  • Debra MerskinEmail author
Original Article


The appeal of lipsticks named Triple Chocolate Parfait or Hot Mama and what they communicate to women and, by extension, others are the subjects of this article. Based on Goffman’s concept of presentation of self and impression management as theory and Barthes’ semiotic model as method, I studied the names of 1,722 lipsticks of 52 national brands. The findings show, beyond simple color names, that most of the lipsticks are named after food, beverages, sex, and romance. The American cultural imperative of beauty prompts many women to doubt their self-worth and keeps attainment of the beauty ideal just out of reach. Understanding how meaning is constructed through lipstick naming is an important step toward apprehending the role of cosmetics in conflating femininity, self-esteem, and body image with the goals of patriarchal hegemony.


Lipstick Femininity Semiotics Names Beauty Cosmetics Branding 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Journalism & CommunicationUniversity of OregonEugeneUSA

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