Few things are more iconic than a red lipstick makeup look. A bold red lip can elevate your look and give you a confidence boost. But you don’t have to be an expert to pull it off. Follow the tips below for finding the perfect red color, applying it, and helping it stay put throughout the day.
The Best Red Lipstick For Your Skin Tone
The first step to pulling off the perfect red lip? Pick the right shade of red. Your decision here will largely depend on skin tones and undertones. A shade that flatters fair skin tones may look off against dark or medium complexions, and vice versa.
Not sure what type of complexion you have? Here’s a quick guide to help:
Identify Your Skin Tone
Skin tone is the surface color of your skin. Skin tones are categorized as fair, medium, or deep. Among these categories, there are limitless gradations of color. You likely already know your skin tone just by looking in the mirror.
Identify Your Skin Undertone
Skin undertones are more nuanced than skin tones. Undertones are the hue beneath the surface of your skin. Undertones can be categorized as cool, warm, or neutral.1 Here’s how to identify your undertone:
- Cool: You tend to burn easily, have blue-ish veins, and a hint of pink in your skin.
- Warm: You tend to tan easily, have greenish veins, and a hue of yellow or olive in your skin.
- Neutral: you fall somewhere between warm and cool.2
Pick Your Perfect Red Lipstick Shade
Shades of red exist on a spectrum of blue-reds to orange-reds. Reds with blue undertones are considered cool, and those with orange undertones are warm. A “true red” has a balance of blue and orange undertones. Here are some tips for picking a shade of red that works for you.
- Cool, Fair Complexion: Very light skin tends to have cool undertones. Pick a blue-based red or a pink-based red, like fuchsia or raspberry-red.
- Warm, Light Complexion: If you have a neutral or warm light complexion, reach for an orange-based red, like coral, to help brighten your complexion.
- Medium Complexion: Medium skin tones can pull off a wide range of shades. Either cool or warm tones can work. Try a lipstick in red poppy to bring out golden undertones.
- Olive Complexion: Olive-skinned people have green or yellow undertones, and they tend to tan easily. To complement bronzed skin, go for a warm, earthy tone, like brick red.
- Warm-Dark Complexion: This type of skin can play with a range of pigments. Try a true bright red for a balanced, bold look.
Cool, Deep Complexions: Darker reds look great against deep complexions. Go for an intense red with a blue undertone, like shades of wine, berry, and brick red.3,4,5
Once you find a color you’d like to try, start experimenting at home or go to a beauty counter. It can be helpful to see the color on your complexion in person.
How To Choose A Lipstick Finish
Glossy, semi-matte, and matte lipstick: what’s the difference, and which one should you choose?
Glossy: A shiny finish reflects light and gives your lips dimension. Glosses tend to look fresh and youthful.
Matte Lipstick: A matte finish will give you a more intense, sophisticated look. You tend to get more pigment with a matte finish.
Semi-Matte: If you love the look of a matte lip, but tend to have dry lips, you may want to go for a semi-matte finish. Semi-matte or satin lipsticks can be both highly pigmented and moisturizing.6,7
Red Lipstick: Tips, Tricks And Colors To Nail Your Look
Once you’ve settled on your color and finish, it’s time to apply your red lipstick. Of course, you could just swipe it on straight from the tube and be done with it. But highly pigmented shades of lipstick, like reds, often look best when they’re applied with care. Follow these steps to pull off the look.
Step 1: Exfoliate
Before you apply your lipstick, you’ll want to ensure that you’ve sloughed off any dry skin or flakes on your lips. To exfoliate, apply a lip scrub with q tips or your finger, and rub it in with a circular motion.8
Step 2: Apply Lip Balm
Smooth on lip balm to help moisturize your lips and even them out. Let the lip balm sink in, and then wipe off any residual oil or greasiness. This will help the color adhere to your lips.
Step 3: Line Your Lips
When you’re working with shades of red, you’ll want to try to prevent color bleeding and feathering. Lip liner may help with this. Using a shade that matches your lipstick, line your lips, and then color them in with the liner pencil.9
Step 4: Apply Lipstick
Carefully apply your lipstick straight from the tube, or use a lip brush for more control. For an even application, apply two coats and blot in between.10
Step 5: Add Lip Gloss (Optional)
If you like the glossy look, finish your look off by adding a dab of lip gloss to the center or your upper and lower lips. Press your lips together to blend.
How To Wear Red Lipstick During The Day Like A Pro
Love the idea of wearing red lipstick during the day, but worried that you’ll be constantly re-applying? Try these tricks for long-lasting, red-carpet-ready red lips.
1. Use A Primer
If you’re serious about making your lip color last, you’ll want to use a primer before you apply any color. Lip primer is a makeup artist secret that can help your lip color appear more saturated and last longer. You can use your regular concealer for this.11,12
2. Apply Lip Liner All Over Your Lips
While you’re lining your lips, go ahead and use that same pencil to color them in all the way. One New York City-based makeup artist swears by this trick for helping your lipstick last all day.13
3. Seal Your Lip Color With Powder
Covering your lips with a light veil of loose powder can help your color stay put. For extra help, apply loose powder before you apply lipstick, in between layers, and as a finishing touch. Yep, that’s at least three layers of powder.14
Play Around To Find Your Signature Look
Once you find a look that works for you, you may find yourself reaching for your tube of red lipstick over and over again. There are unlimited colors and formulations out there – glossy, long-wearing, you name it. Play around until you find one that you love, use these tips to apply it, and go forth and shine.