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How to choose the best red lipstick?

By now you’ve probably heard it a thousand times: There’s a red lipstick for everyone. Literally anyone can buy their perfect shade of bright red lipstick that will make their face glow and their heart sing. It’s just a question of finding it.

Right. As if it was that easy.

Because as you might have already noticed, it’s the finding part that usually proves the trickiest.

So let me break it down for you. Let us take a look at the different red lipstick shades and textures you can opt for, and see how you can determine whether you would suit more a matte lipstick or a creamy one, and whether you are more crimson or poppy.

Looking for the best lipstick is a lot like looking for the perfect pair of jeans. You know they’re out there, but who has the time to go through every model in every shop? It’s much better to actually have a set of rules to determine which ones are not even worth trying on.

The true red lipstick… and the dreaded orange

red lipstickSo, question number one: Are you warm, or cold? Yes, I’m asking about your skin tone here. Do you find that silver jewellery flatters you more than gold, or the other way around? Does your face brighten up next to a snow-white fabric? If your skin is darker, is it more cappucino, or more caramel? This is important, because if your undertones are more neutral to yellow, you know that a blue red lipstick (like the Ruby Tuesday by Max Factor) probably won’t be the best option for you, because it could give your skin an unhealthy shade.


It sounds simple enough, you might say, but what about teeth? Yes, you’re absolutely right, the shade of your lip product should not only flatter your skin tone, but also your teeth. What you want is pretty straightforward, really: your lipstick should not make your teeth look yellow.

You’ll probably find that to achieve this, a true red lipstick (for instance the theBalm Girls lipstick in Mia Moore), blue-based reds and reddish pinks are best, but if some of them don’t suit your skin tone, you’ll just have to make sure you’re starting out with really white teeth - or don’t obsess over their colour enough to be that fussed.

The darker your skin, the deeper shade of red you can pull off without looking goth. However, even deep red lipstick will look different on different skin tones. Women of colour often decide to go for more vibrant shades which achieve similar effect to a woman with pale skin wearing light shades of lipstick. 

The cream vs. matte red lipstick dilemma


In most cases, deciding between a matte or creamy lip product is not that difficult. It’s more about your feeling than anything else - does the shinier texture make you feel lovely and young, or does it make you think of just finishing a bucket of chicken wings? Does the matte red lipstick, for instance MAC’s famous Ruby Woo, look all fabulous and editorial, or is it just making your lips look chapped and thin? Remember, general rules of matte finishes for bigger lips and vice versa do apply, but truly, if you feel confident wearing it, you can pull it off. True matte reds are also a little hard to find - why not try for example the L’Oréal Pure Red lipstick?

With the question of finish comes also the matter of “what type of product do I actually go for”? There are endless variations of classic tube lipsticks, lipstick creams, lip lacquers, lip stains, lip glosses, tinted lip balms and other products currently on the market. Magazines usually tell you to maybe start out with a red lip gloss first and see how you like that, but the texture could actually make too much of a difference for you to be able to decide whether you want to go for a red lipstick or not.

A better method would be to buy a cheaper red lipstick (like the Rimmel Lasting Finish Matte in 106) of your desired shade first. If you like it, you can simply keep it. If the colour is right, but the product itself doesn’t work the way you want it to, save up for a more high-end one.

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How to apply red lipstick?


Just like any bright or intense colour, red requires special attention when you’re applying it. Rare is the product that does not need any special prep or the use of a lip liner. First of all, especially with dark red lipstick like Nars’ Charlotte, your lips should be in a very good condition - not dry, not flaky, just generally moisturised. If you’re using a creamier red lip product, you’re probably good without any lip balm underneath it, however there is a risk of it bleeding out past the contours of your lips. That’s why it’s a good idea to go in with a lip liner that’s either the same shade or one shade lighter first.

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With matte deep red lipstick, the situation might be somewhat more complicated. While you do need to hydrate your lips first, a greasy base will just ruin the matte effect and the lipstick won’t last as long. Try putting on a moisturising lip balm at the beginning of your makeup routine, and gently wipe the excess off just before you put on your matte red lipstick. To make it work even better, apply it with a lip brush, leave out the contours and put on a lip liner after you’ve applied your lipstick.

Our tip: Blotting your lipstick on a paper tissue and then applying another layer is a good way to make the colour last. However, we have a better method: Blot your lips on the back of your hand instead (and then use the tissue to wipe the red imprint off). By doing this, you’re achieving the same effect while not stripping your lips of too much moisture.