Red lipstick has earned its place in the makeup ‘haul’ of fame, and rightfully so. With roots dating back to Ancient Egypt — Cleopatra herself was known to flaunt a red lip — the crimson shade has literally withstood the test of time. And while other lipstick shades have managed to capture our fleeting interest — nude, purple, pink — red will always have our hearts.
But let’s be honest, red lipstick has many faces. Blue undertones, brown undertones, classic red, coral, mulberry, and cherry — the color options are endless. And finishes? Between the glosses, mattes, satins, creams and stains our heads are literally spinning with a merry-go-round of gorgeous red lippies. Can we get an ‘amen’ to that? However, for the sake of keeping your makeup arsenal in check, we decided to break it down for you. First, check out our tips for how to properly prep your lips for the red-lipstick life. Then, check out our picks for the best red lipsticks, ever.
Lip Care 101
The key to successfully pulling off this bold look is in the prep and technique. Here, four easy steps to rockin’ a red lip.
Step #1: Exfoliate
Dry, dehydrated lips are a no bueno for a bold lip. Dryness can lead to flaking, bleeding and uneven color. Keep your lips healthy and flake-free by using a lip exfoliant or scrub daily to slough away dead skin and ensure the surface is smooth and supple. Try The Body Shop Lip Scuff or a homemade scrub of brown sugar and coconut oil. Warning: Make sure you exfoliate gently. Don’t overdo it or you could cause some serious irritation that will put your lips in a worse condition than they were at the start. Using your finger or the stick, make small gentle circle motions over your lips (moving from one side to the other) for about half a minute then rinse off with a warm washcloth and water. Do this once a day and you’ll be in good shape.
Step #2: Moisturize
After you’ve exfoliated, immediately pump your lips with moisture to keep them soft. Keep a lip balm in your purse, desk and car so you can reapply throughout your day (in between application sessions of your red lippie). Try a potent formula like Kiehl’s Lip Balm #1 or Maybelline Baby Lips Moisturizing Lip Balm. If you’re prone to dryness and/or get dehydrated quickly, go for the big guns and slather on some coconut oil or almond oil on the lips after scrubbing them. Similar to the technique you used for exfoliating, use a soft, massaging motion (in a circular pattern) to stimulate circulation in the lips and allow for better absorption of the oil. Do this for a minute and then remove excess oil by dabbing the lips with a tissue.
Step #3: Prime and Line
Just like your face and eyes, lips require adequate prep to ensure color doesn’t bleed or fade. Start with a solid primer that will allow your color to last longer and truly pop. You can use a lip-priming formula like NYX Lip Primer or, in a pinch, a concealer will work fine, too. Put a few dots along your top and bottom lip, then blend them in with your finger, going overtop of your lips and along your outer lip line.
Lip liner is always a non-negotiable with red lips, as it serves as an invisible fence for your color. It helps keep your red shade on your lips and not on the rest of your mouth area. So line the lips well with a shade that complements your lip color, then smudge the color across your lips as well— this helps prime them even more. After applying your lipstick, retrace the edge of your lips once more to cover your tracks.
Step #4: Pick the RIGHT Red
While we fully encourage you to wear whatever red shade makes you feel the fiercest, there are certain shades that are proven to flatter specific skin tones. Educate yourself by, first, finding your right skin tone and, second, figuring the right red to flatter your tone. Use this guide to find out which lipstick shades work best for you.
A quick and dirty guide to picking the right red lippie goes as follows:
Fair skin tones: Complement your cooler-toned skin with a red that has a blue or purple undertone. A cherry or classic red are a good way to go.
Medium/olive skin tones: This skin tone is ideal since you can wear a wide range of shades. We say go bold by opting for an oxblood shade or reddish-coral.
Warm/deeper skin tones: Work with the warm, red tones of your face by opting for an equally deep red shade. A brick-red or deep crimson will pop against your dark skin tone.
Check out our slideshow to see which red lipsticks made it into our Beauty Haul of Fame.
Containing a subtle brown undertone, this brick red shade is about as cool as they come. Despite its matte finish, the lip color is surprisingly non-drying and long-lasting. So you can sip, snack and smooch to your heart’s content without worrying about your fabulous red lips!
Feelin’ moody? Channel that sass with this dark crimson hue. In addition to its great color payoff, the lipstick’s shiny finish will help put your pout on full display, while the vitamin E-infused formula will keep it hydrated and soft.
Like a little black dress, a classic red lipstick is a non-negotiable for beauty fanatics. This primary red hue works magic on any outfit, whether it be a professional black pant suit or a basic jeans-and-tee combo. Take your basic red in matte form with this liquid-matte formula that glides on smoother than butter.
Sometimes you gotta turn up the heat, and red lipstick is the perfect way to warm things up. This classic red shade comes in a sleek new shape with beveled edges for more precise lining and filling. Yes, please!
This might be the closest thing to a permanently red lip. Designed to drench your pout in color, this cherry-red shade will stick with you through the coffee sips, smooch sessions and even the most elaborate of dinner parties. The super-saturated, matte finish looks great on its own or layered under a gloss to give it an extra pop.
This pinkish-red hue screams Miami vacay — and we love it. The clay-like base of the lipstick gives off a highly pigmented color that will not go ANYWHERE. And the honey-infused formula makes for a smooth, creamy finish that leaves the pout looking and feeling hydrated.
You know that classic red lip rocked by Old Hollywood starlets? That’s what you’ll get with this liquid lippie. Inspired by retro glam, the formula offers a bright red pout with one swipe. ONE swipe. Keep it on hand for those days you wanna channel Marilyn Monroe or Grace Kelly.
We’re matte for this high-octane red shade — and you will be, too. True to the brand’s bold approach to all things makeup, this bright crimson may not have a shiny finish, but it stands out like nothing you’ve seen. Swipe it on and your lips are sure to be the first thing everyone notices.
Which red will you try first? Spill in the comments below!