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KISS LIPSTICK SMUDGES GOODBYE? MAYBE NOT YET

IDON'T KNOW if it's possible to make a lipstick that doesn't "smudge, fade or leave a lip print," but executives at Shiseido Cosmetics think so. Yuji Kishida, Shiseido CEO, says their new "Staying Power" lipstick "takes women from day to evening in elegant style."

Well, maybe. To push the product, Shiseido conducted a nationwide survey of 500 women and men, ages 12 to 65, to determine whether "a kiss is still just a kiss."I think I know the answer to that one.

Some of the stats from the survey are intriguing. Nearly 87 percent of American women say their lipstick leaves trace marks on cups, glasses, clothing and skin. Some of the more embarrassing "kiss and tell" moments include a woman who left a vivid lip print on the back of a man's white shirt - the result of jostling on an overcrowded subway.

In another case, a bride's sister accidentally imprinted the sleeve of her sister's wedding gown, making the bride so angry that she wouldn't talk to her sister for weeks.

A niece accidentally stained her aunt's white fur coat with a bright lip print. A girl kissed her boyfriend on the cheek just before his performance in a Ukrainian dance extravaganza. He was on stage in front of 500 people before she noticed the mark.

According to the survey, lip prints have ended up on airplane tickets and on the face of a friend's watch by someone who was checking the time too closely.

White represents a magnet for lipstick stains, with respondents reporting stains on nurse's uniforms, lampshades, couches, term papers, bills, playing cards and even a white dog.

If women leave a lip print, what do they do about it? The survey says more than 35 percent apologize and try to remove the mark, but nearly 30 percent simply laugh or ignore it.

Although several women reported accidentally leaving a print on an article of clothing they had tried on while shopping - only 8.5 percent actually purchased the stained article. Others told the clerk or simply left the store without saying anything.

Women between the ages of 20 and 49 suffer the most embarrassment over a lip print, while teens and women over 60 are the least concerned. Some men don't mind being the recipient of numerous lip prints, but most men are less accepting, even though 65.5 percent of all lip prints end up on the facesof husbands and boyfriends.

Men in their 50s and 60s like lip prints the most, while men in their 40s tend to be the least forgiving. One male respondent in his 20s had a lighthearted statement: "Women should choose a lipstick color that matches the man's shirt." Another had a more practical approach - he regularly carries a compact with a mirror so he can check for lipstick marks on his face.

There are some women, apparently, who leave lip prints on purpose.

One woman reported purposely staining her husband's favorite jacket because she hated it. An actress claimed the kisses she left on her 8-by-10 glossies won her several auditions, and a teenager said she purposely left lipstick marks on her father's cheek during his many weddings just to tease him.

Lip prints can even be nostalgic. A sales person in her 40s said when they were kids, she and her girlfriend used to pratice kissing on white ceramic plates. Even now, the sight of white plates sends her into gales of laughter.

Shiseido Cosmetics executives think all this means our society needs a smudge-proof lipstick, but I'm not so sure. Lip prints obviously have a lighthearted, anecdotal history. Since they are such a pervasive part of our culture, we should stick with them.

Dennis Lythgoe's column is published on Tuesdays and Thursdays.