They're the most sensual part of the body that's out there for all the world to see. They're vulnerable and expressive. Good lips are crucial to sexual attractiveness.
Attractive lips look kissable and approachable, while thin or tight lips seem to suggest someone is prim or stern. For most women, the bigger and softer their lips are the better -- to a limit. Lips that look fake or that don't fit the face are turnoffs, the sign of bad surgery or poorly applied makeup. For men, it's a little tougher to define great lips, but the best ones manage to say, "I'm virile, but I have my tender side."
Men may make the best of what they have, but women labor for lovely lips. Ancient Egyptian women used henna to color theirs. In "Gone with the Wind," Southern belles bit their lips to redden them. The modern lip-coloring industry got its start in the silent-movie era, when such vampish stars as Theda Bara and Clara Bow plied bright-red lipstick. Today, wanna-be movie stars and ordinary women try lip augmentation -- injections or surgery.
Some celebrity lips gain widespread but perhaps fleeting contemporary fame, setting our standards for beauty.
5. Angelina Jolie
What is it about Angelina's lips that makes them so desirable? "Full," "sexy" and "bee-stung" are the adjectives that pop up most frequently in the lip-related media frenzy.
One sign of the fame of Angelina's lips: There are Web sites on which people devote a good deal of time and energy discussing whether they're real. Some even show baby and childhood pictures of girls identified as a full-lipped young Angelina to illustrate their theories.
4. Beyonce Knowles
How to describe Beyoncé's lips? They are full and soft-looking, certainly as sexy as the rest of her. And that's part of their charm -- Beyoncé's voluptuous lips fit her image.
She may try to tone her lips down on stage, but Beyoncé's well-defined lips have won her a gig advertising L'Oreal lipstick in commercials. The Internet buzz on Beyoncé's lips tends to focus on whether she looks good in pink or mauve, or if red is more her thing.
3. Mick Jagger
The pouty mouth with the big, expressive lips -- often described as "rubbery" -- was integral to his bad-boy, rebellious, hard-rocker image. The Stones were in the second wave of the British rock invasion, and shaggy haired, rubbery lipped, scrawny, rough Mick Jagger looked daring and dangerous when compared to the early Beatles with their cute haircuts, matching suits and choirboy features.
As if anyone would ever forget them, Mick Jagger's lips are now enshrined in the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. At an auction in September 2008, the museum paid $92,500 for the Rolling Stones' lips and tongue logo original artwork. The museum said that the design, created by John Pasche in 1970, "perfectly encapsulated Mick Jagger's sensuous lips and the band's rebelliousness." And David Barrie, the director of The Art Fund, Britain's No. 1 art charity, called it "one of the most visually dynamic and innovative logos ever created".
2. Elvis Presley
Elvis' lips were as important to his romantic rebel image as were his bedroom eyes, the unruly shock of hair on his forehead or the drawl. Girls could almost feel what it would be like to kiss them, especially that full, soft-looking lower lip. Elvis' mouth was not especially large. But the way he used his lips was as important as how they looked. They quivered. They sneered. He emphasized the Cupid's bow shape of his upper lip, raising it to show his teeth at appropriate times.
Even today, more than 30 years after his death, there are Elvis categories such as "best curled lip" in Elvis look-alike contests. There are also Web sites offering to teach people to draw Elvis caricatures, with detailed instructions for his distinctive lips.
1. Marilyn Monroe
Marilyn Monroe knew how to make the most of her assets. She transformed herself from Norma Jean Baker, who grew up in foster homes and orphanages, into the world's most famous blonde movie star and unabashed sexpot. She bragged about wearing no underwear with her revealing clothes.
She used makeup to further her image of being overwhelmingly sexy but somehow innocent. Her strikingly light hair came out of a bottle. She had darkened, perfect eyebrows and a painted-on mole. And the lips -- Marilyn often made up her well-shaped lips herself, taking great care as she applied a blend of three shades of lipstick, and then covered it with Vaseline and wax. And she knew how to use those shiny, flaming lips for a dazzling smile or a provocative pout.