How to wear red lipstick

Nikki Parkinson Beauty 26 Comments

If in doubt pop a lippy, I always say.

It’s part of the Styling You manifesto and something that I embrace on any given day.

Mostly, I’ll reach for a nude/neutral shade to suit my lip colour but lately I’ve been powerless to stop the call of the red lip.

It’s a makeup look I’ve revisited often over the years but one I tend to either trot out for an evening out or as a way to add a pop to an otherwise neutral outfit.

I’ve been embracing the neutral side of my wardrobe this autumn. I love wearing black and white and find that the whole outfit can be lifted up a notch with a red lipstick as the finishing touch.

In this post, I’m sharing my favourite red lip colours as well as my tips on how to wear red lipstick without it wearing you.

Favourite reds

I mostly err on the side of a red lip colour with a hint of berry in it. Not too much but just enough to complement my skin and eye’s cooler tones.

If you have a warmer skin tone, then experiment with reds with a stronger yellow or orange undertone to them.

Not sure about your skin tone? Look at the veins on the inside of your wrist. If they look blue, you have a cool skin tone. More greenish? Warm skin tone.

What also plays a big part is the actual colour of your lips. The darker the lips, the more you’ll have to play with different shades of red to have one that still looks like a red on your lips.

Paler lips won’t have this issue so much as the lighter colour provides an easier canvas for the lipstick colour.

Do try as many samples of red lip colour as you can in your quest for the perfect red – and when you find THE ONE buy at least two.

I got caught out a few years ago when Napoleon Perdis stopped producing my then all-time fave, Lady in Red, hybrid lip gloss/stain.

I have moved on (just) and love the five I’ve included below. My current fave for a matte finish is the Elizabeth Arden bold red (as worn by me in the montage below).

Maybe you’d prefer your red in a gloss or stain instead of a matte lipstick colour? Try #2 and #4 below. The Yves Saint Laurent glossy stain has a gloss finish but with the staying power of a stain.

5 red lip colours to love

1. Elizabeth Arden Beautiful Color Moisturzing Lipstick in Bold Red $45 | 2. Lanolips SPF15 Lip Ointment with colour in Apples $13.95 | 3. MAC Cosmetics Matte Lipstick in Ruby Woo $36 | 4. Yves Saint Laurent Rouge Pur Couture Glossy Stain in Rouge Gouach $52 | 5. Maybelline New York Color Drama pencil lipstick $9.95

9 tips for how to wear a red lipstick

1. Create a flawless foundation complexion. For the red lip to really pop, you need to even out your complexion with a foundation designed to achieve that. It doesn’t mean you don’t add on cheek colour but it does mean that the underlying skin tone is an even canvas.

2. Keep brows well shaped. Red lips will “frame” the bottom of your face, so make sure your brows are taking care of that job at the top of your face.

3. Keep eye makeup to a neutral minimum. The idea of a red lip is that you are making a statement, much like you would with a statement accessory piece. If your eye makeup is too heavy or a statement in itself, the whole effect will be lost. Use nude/beige colours to naturally contour the eye colour and define with a fine eyeliner application, finishing with mascara.

4. Add a lip primer beforehand. While the eye makeup application is happening, pop on a lip primer to give it a chance to settle on your lips and be ready to “grip” the lip colour when applied. Try Elizabeth Arden Advanced Lip Cream.

5. Use a nude lip liner to line the lips. I know a lot of people use a red liner but I find this a “safer” option. Make sure the liner is freshly sharpened and apply in soft, feather strokes along the lip line. This works as an outline for your colour and, if like me you have fine lines around your lips, creates a “dam” across those lines to prevent the red lip colour from bleeding out from the lips.

6. Use a makeup brush to apply the lip colour. A lip brush will give you a much more precise application – particularly if you have thin lips like me.

7. Blot lips lightly with a separated tissue. The aim here is not to blot away significant amounts of colour but to help set the colour for longevity.

8. Avoid the potential of lip colour on the teeth. I get caught out with this ALL THE TIME. Lipstick on teeth is not a good look. To help avoid, stick your pointer finger in your mouth and wrap your lips around it. Remove finger, bringing any excess colour on the inside of your lips with you.

9. Don’t leave home without your red lip colour for touch ups. Many of the formulations available now are long lasting … BUT … if you’re like me, it doesn’t matter how many hours they say you’ll get without the colour shifting, shifting it will. Often in a patchy way that’s a long way from the lip statement you’re trying to make. Keep your red colour and a lip brush in your handbag if you’re put on the colour to head out.

how to wear red lipstick

So tell me … do you wear a red lip colour from time to time? Have a favourite red? Share your skin tone and your favourite red lip colour below to help others with their quest for the perfect red.

Comments 26

  1. Gosh Nikki, You took me back to my corporate years with the red suit and red lipstick. I had a quite number a red shades and loads of pencils to keep the colour trapped in place. Do you have any suggestions for the neutral liner? I had never thought of this but for older lips it is a great idea and will go with any colour too. No need to match each colour with a pencil then.

  2. I am all for red lips – Mac’s Russian Red and Chanel’s Passion are my favourites. I might be unusual but I find reds (and other bright colours) much easier to wear than nudes. I like nude colours on others but not myself!

  3. I am not usually game to wear red lippy but I need to get out of my comfort zone from time to time. My bestie proudly wears it daily and she always looks amazing!

  4. How did I miss this post?
    I think I must have been in a study haze!
    I Love a Red Lip and wear it Everyday!!!

    I agree with all of the tips that you have mentioned above Nikki, but I would add that if I am going out somewhere special then I will line my lips twice – once nude and then over the top with red; so that the red liner is perfect 🙂
    I have several favourite colours, because I haven’t found THE ONE yet …
    Mac Russian Red and Kate Moss for Rimmel #10 are the two on high rotation at the moment …
    However the search continues!

  5. I can only wear red lippy with certain clothing. I don’t think its a great colour for all the time but it certainly gives a great statement.

  6. I love red lipstick. Looks great with everything – especially with very neutral face-makeup as you recommend. I find red and orange tones brighten up the face and give an element of confidence to oneself. I use either gloss or lipstick. My long time favourite before my natural days was always Chanel – both the lipstick and gloss. I am still in the process of finding my favourite natural version – let you know when I discover it.

  7. I’m petrified of red lipstick because I’ve inherited my mother’s gummy smile. Am I being paranoid? Can you rock a red lip if your smile is so big you flash a bit of gum???

    1. My daughter has the same and I’ve seen her wear a bright lip with confidence. It’s not something to push though if you don’t feel you can. It will just make you feel self conscious. x

  8. I have just discovered the Rimmel Apocalips long last lip colour. It’s life changing. I apply on the morning before work and it’s still in tact when I get home at night. Can’t recommend it enough. Currently 50% at chemist warehouse – bargain!

  9. This. Is. Brilliant! So many little gems in one post. Seriously. I never knew the vein trick (mine appear to be green) nor did I think to use a nude lip liner. I’ve become a little obsessed with Chanel lipsticks of late but I’m loving the look of that YSL Glossy Stain. I also like the sound of the Elizabeth Arden Advanced Lip Cream, as my lips get super dry super easily. Looks like I’ll be paying a visit (or 2) to the cosmetics counters very soon… x

  10. thanks nikki! … don’t worry girls I’m in my 60’s and I wouldn’t go out of the door without some colour on my lips and cheeks! … red sometimes!
    “lessons from my mother!” :X
    as natural products as possible these days! god knows how many poisons I have eaten up til now! … must try the lanolips apples! love m:)X

  11. My grandmother would never go out the door without lipstick on, and now I’m finding as I get older I really need some colour on my lips too. Must be something to do with fading as I age- eek!
    I don’t often wear full on red lipstick because it’s hard work and requires time and effort to put on and keep on. But one of the two Revlon lacquer balms in my everyday handbag is a sheer red called Tease. I wear this one a couple of times a week to work as it’s easy to quickly reapply between meetings and the sheer formula is less of a statement red.

  12. Love you in red lippy your skin tone really suits it,I actually prefer red lips on a Coll skin tone!I have a warm skin tone but still haven’t found my perfect red,I will keep looking though as it looks very elegant Xx

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