More than any other make-up product, most women will tell you that they’re intimated by red lipstick. Even my girlfriends with an adventurous streak will tell me that they feel uncomfortable, even a bit poseur, when wearing red in public. While I’ll admit that a red lip requires a little more confidence – and a little more experimentation – I think it can still be modern, casual and easy.
Let’s chat, shall we?
The key to the perfect red lip is two-fold: color and formulation.
Though there are innumerable different shades of red, finding the right depth and tone is a matter of trial and error. It’s also a matter of preference. If you have a warm-toned complexion, a cool, blue-toned red will have more visual pop than something that matches your natural undertone. It can still look phenomenal, but it will catch the eye in a different way and draw more attention to the lips, more so than a color of the same undertone.
Formulation dictates intensity of color and ease of wear. If your comfort level is low, a sheer red or light gloss will be an easy segue into darker hues. For the low-maintenance set among us, a matte formulation will stay exactly where you put it and require minimal touch-ups. On the contrary, a glossy lipstick will require a precise application and, more than likely, frequent visits to the ladies’.
In all cases, the key to a modern look is in the application. While a sharp lip with liner and lipstick and gloss looks gorgeous in editorials, it looks fussy in real life. Light, diffused application will give even the deepest, darkest red a casual feel. With red lips, the Q-tip can be your best friend. Try softening the edges of your lipstick with a cotton bud and see how much more wearable your look becomes.
While I am by no means an expert, I enjoy experimentation. I have a small collection of reds that I love, which represent a range of colors, tones and textures. My favorites are listed below:
1. NARS Lip Gloss in Wonder is a sheered, orange-red gloss that looks gorgeous on its own or slicked over an orange lipstick.
2. Giorgio Armani Rouge d’Armani Sheer in 302 is a sheer red lipstick with warm to neutral undertones. I’ve noticed that, of photos I really like of myself, I am wearing this color in them. Always.
3. MAC Cosmetics Lipstick in Lady Danger is a highly pigmented, semi-matte, orange-red lipstick. This color is a strong statement on my cool-toned skin and is perfect for the holidays with a little pink gloss on top.
4. MAC Cosmetics Lipstick in MAC Red is a cool-toned, satin, berry red that adds mega-drama.
5. MAC Cosmetics Lipstick in Ruby Woo is a retro pigment that’s a true neutral red. It’s easy for most people to wear, since it looks good on most skin tones.
6. Chanel Rouge Allure in Pirate is the quintessential Chanel lip. It’s a blue-based red lipstick with a semi-glossy finish, but it has wonderful staying power. I wore this on my first, post-baby date with my husband and felt like a million dollars. (Psst, there’s a matching Chanel nail lacquer which is equally gorgeous).
7. Guerlain Rouge Automatique in Nuit d’Amour is a sheer, blackened red that looks great with a casual t-shirt and jeans during the winter months. It was a limited holiday release, but Guerlain formulations are pigment packed and worth looking into. Take a look at some of these dupes.
8. NARS Velvet Matte Lip Pencil in Dragon Girl is an amazing, matte red-pink. The matte formulation is so easy to apply and can be sheered more than you’d expect. It gives a beautiful flush to the lips.
9. NARS Velvet Matte Lip Pencil in Cruella is the perfect winter red in the same, long-wearing matte formulation. I get absolutely tons of questions about this color when I wear it out, it is always such a hit.
Swatched on Chanel B10, Nars Mont Blanc skin
To learn more about choosing and applying a red lip, Lisa Eldridge does a wonderful primer.