I think this quandary exists for a few reasons. First, red is undoubtedly bold and many people feel they can't pull it off. "I'll draw too much attention to myself", they might say, or "I'm going to look like a hooker". To those folks (after a brief lol), I would say that it's all about confidence and finding the shade and formula that works best for you. Second, many people may hold the belief that "red just doesn't look good on me!" To this I would retort, you just haven't tried the right red! And third, I think a lot of people get overwhelmed by the undeniably extensive amount of options out there. "There were, like, 200 shades of red lipstick at Sephora. How the heck to I choose?" I would certainly agree with this sentiment, but luckily I've tried more lipsticks than most beauty editors out there, so I can offer a suggestion or two ;)
|Me sporting a red lip for my Adele Oscars makeup tutorial|
So, regardless of the reason you find rocking a red lip a daunting, confusing, or frightening task, this post will hopefully clarify the ins and outs of red lipstick and help you choose a shade and formula that works with your skin tone and desired effect. And if you're already a red lipstick junkie, hopefully this will further feed your obsession!
I've broken things down into three categories: Undertone, Opacity, and Finish. Really hope you find the breakdown helpful!
|My red lipstick collection, standing tall and proud|
1) Undertone (Warm vs. Cool Reds)
The first factor to consider when choosing a red lipstick is the undertone. Specifically, is the shade warm or cool?
Warm reds have more yellow in them than blue, so will have slight to strong orange undertones. Examples of warm red shades are brick, scarlet, carmine, terracotta, persimmon, and fire-engine red. Warm reds tend to have a 1940s or 1970s feel and look best on people with warm golden tones in their skin.
Cool reds have more blue in them than yellow, so will have slight to strong purple undertones. Examples of cool red shades are cherry, burgundy, magenta, berry, and ruby. Think 1950s movie stars or Snow White. Cool reds tend to look best on people with cool, pinky tones to their skin.
|Swatches of my red lipstick collection (warm shades on left, cool shades on right)|
In the swatches above, I've arranged my lipsticks so that the warmer tones are on the left-hand side and the cooler tones are on the right. As you can see, the shades on the left (warmer shades) have a brighter, more orange-toned appearance and the shades on the right (cooler shades) have a more pinky-purple look to them.
And here are some shots of me wearing both warm- and cool-toned reds, to give another visual example.
So overall, as pretty as you think a certain shade of red lipstick might be, if it clashes with the natural undertones of your skin it is less likely to be flattering. So stick with what works!
Here are some recommendations for great red lipsticks from both colour families:
Warm Reds: NARS Semi-Matte Lipstick in Heat Wave, MAC Lustre Lipstick in Ladybug, Lush Emotional Brilliance Liquid Lipstick in Ambition and Power
Cool Reds: NARS Velvet Matte Lip Pencil in Cruella, Hourglass Opaque Rouge in Icon, MAC Matte Lipstick in Russian Red, Lush Emotional Brilliance Liquid Lipstick in Decisive, Chanel Rouge Allure in Lover
The second factor to consider is how sheer or opaque the formula is. I think many people view all red lipsticks as extremely bold and bright, but there are plenty of red shades out there with sheerer, more subtle finishes.
Sheer lipsticks are the best way to go if you want to wear red lipstick but are feeling timid. They allow you to play with the colour family without fully committing to a bold, full-bodied red. Since they are more subtle and soft, they can be extremely wearable and forgiving. They're also great for those who love red lipstick but want something a bit less conspicuous during the day or at the office.
Opaque reds are highly pigmented, bold, and do not let any of your natural lip colour show through. They're for when you want your lips to make a clear statement! I'd say they're good for any occasion (but then again, I'm highly partial to a bold lip), but opaque red lipsticks are especially lovely for special events or a night on the town.
Here are some shots of me (and some other lovely ladies) wearing both sheer and opaque red lipsticks.
So the lesson with this factor is: if you're scared of red lipstick, start sheer! Once you're comfortable with a sheer formula, work up to something bolder and more opaque when you feel more confident or have a big event! Here are some recommendations:
Sheer Reds: Revlon Kissable Balm Stain in Romantic, MAC Glaze Lipstick in Hot Tahiti, Yves Saint Laurent Rouge Volupte Sheer Candy in Luscious Cherry, MAC Lustre Lipstick in Ladybug, Chantecaille Lip Chic in Amaryllis
Opaque Reds: NARS Semi-Matte Lipstick in Heat Wave, Lush Emotional Brilliance Liquid Lipsticks in Power, Ambition, or Decisive, Hourglass Opaque Rouge in Icon or Raven
3) Finish (Glossy vs. Matte)
The final factor to keep in mind (or at least the final one I'm going to mention here) is the finish of the lipstick. Finishes can range from highly shiny and glossy to completely matte. Here are some things to keep in mind:
Glossy lipsticks tend to be more forgiving and youthful looking. Like sheer lipsticks, glossy (or semi-glossy) is the way to go if you've been afraid to wear a red lip! The downside is that glossy formulas tend to be more moist and less adherent, making them generally more prone to smudging and transferring.
Matte lipsticks have a flat, shine-free finish and tend to be more sophisticated looking and retro-inspired. Matte lipsticks are often more bold and strong than glossy ones (as they also tend to be more pigmented and opaque) and are great for when you want to make a statement. They tend to be longer-wearing and more transfer-resistant, but the trade-off is that they are more likely to dry out the lips.
Here are some shots of me (and others) wearing semi-glossy, glossy, and matte red lips.
Overall, if a full-on matte lip seems daunting and impractical, opt for something with a shinier, more forgiving finish (as long as you don't mind it showing up on your coffee cup or significant other's face)! Here are some recommendations:
Glossy to Semi-Glossy: Revlon Just Bitten Kissable Balm Stain in Romantic, Yves Saint Laurent Rouge Volupte Sheer Candy in Luscious Cherry, NARS Satin Lip Pencil in Majella, MAC Tinted Lip Glass in Russian Red (not technically a lipstick, but hey, it's shiny!)
Matte (or almost matte): Hourglass Opaque Rouge in Icon or Raven, MAC Matte Lipstick in Russian Red, NARS Velvet Matte Lip Pencil in Cruella, NARS Semi-Matte Lipstick in Heat Wave, Chanel Rouge Allure in Lover
So overall, if you keep in mind a lipstick's undertone (and how it relates to your skin tone), opacity, and finish (given the look you're going for and how confident you're feeling), it should be a lot easier to find a shade and formula that works for you! I hope you found all of the tips and recommendations to be helpful- please let me know below!
Part 2 of the Red Lip series will talk about what to do once you've selected the right shade of red, namely how to apply the lipstick and keep it looking good throughout the day. So look out for that one soon!
Thanks for reading! xo