How To Wear Red Lipstick (The Right Way)

The classic red lip is something every woman should try out, but there’s definitely a right way and a wrong way to do it.

By Nicole Andre3 min read
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Red lipstick is bold, and as much as it’s a classic (think Marilyn Monroe), it’s also prone to bleeding, getting on your teeth, or not looking right as it wears off. So it’s not an easy nude you can swipe on and just forget about. But before you stop reading, you just might find you love a red lip when done right and discover that, even though it’s a little high maintenance, it’s worth it. You just need to know how to apply it properly!

Start with Lip Balm

This is a step that I think a lot of people skip, but just like doing some kind of skincare even before putting on a primer, you’ll find that for many makeup artists that same philosophy applies to the lips as well. Your lips will look more hydrated, the color will go on easier, and the red lipstick won’t emphasize any dryness you have. It’s a simple step, but an important one!

Use a Lip Liner

If you want to make sure that your lipstick doesn’t bleed, you’re going to want to use a lip liner. You should apply the liner first as the outline, then fill in your entire lip with the color. This allows you to create the perfect shape with a sharp point (rather than the end of your lipstick tube) and creates a solid base under the main color.

Just make sure that the shade is pretty close to your lipstick, if not the same! A lot of lip colors are now sold with a matching liner, making it easy to find the perfect match.

Finding a Red That Works for Your Skin Tone

Skin tone plays a huge element in makeup. Use the wrong undertone of foundation, and your makeup won’t look right. The same thing applies to red lipstick. You could wind up thinking that it just doesn’t suit you when really it’s that the particular red you chose doesn’t suit your skin tone. 

The first thing you’ll need to do is figure out what your undertone is. Your undertone is different than your skin color, because it's based on the actual tone (not shade) of your skin. Art nerds will get the distinction. The easiest trick is to look at the color of your veins. Blue veins would be a cool undertone, green would be warm, and a mix of the two would be neutral.

So how does that translate into lipstick color? Girls with a cool undertone should stick to cool reds (or reds with a lot of blue in them), while girls with a warm undertone should go for warm reds (reds with more orange in them). For the neutral ladies, the world is your oyster! Most shades of red will probably work for you.

Brands That Last

Red lipstick might be a good place to splurge a bit because it’s such a bold color (whatever a splurge looks like to you). The top of the line brands like Chanel, Charlotte Tilbury, and Lancȏme are amazing and have lots of different shades to choose from. MAC is more affordable, and L’Oréal is a great drugstore option. 

And then there’s always Lipsense, which is a liquid lipstick with a special seal that makes it so it doesn’t come off. (Seriously, I’ve tried it.) The only catch is you can’t find it in stores (but can order on their website), and you may find for it to work best you have to use their product pretty loyally.

Avoiding Buyer’s Remorse with the Shade You Picked

This is where shopping in-store for makeup has its benefits. If you swatch the tester lipstick tube on your fingers it will react the same way that it would if you were putting it on your lips. So if a color has ever looked not the way you thought it would, you’re not alone or crazy, it does change when you put it on. Try using this trick to find the color you love best on. Remember, it might not be the same as the one you like best in the tube.

But I’m Scared To Wear Red

Honestly, I feel you. Red is such a statement color. It’s not the 1950s and women don’t just wear red lipstick everywhere anymore, so it can be a little scary. Luckily, there are more muted reds to choose from! I recommend swatching it and finding something you’re comfortable with. It’s also good to remember that a red lip is like a new haircut, it takes getting used to.

For a different vibe, throw a red gloss on over it. It’ll make it more relaxed and playful so that it doesn’t feel so intense.

Closing Thoughts

Red lipstick can be a girl’s best friend or lead to some embarrassing moments. But if you pick the shade wisely and apply it correctly, I’m confident it can be the former for you rather than the latter.

If you liked this article, read more here about how to keep your lips healthy.