The Life-Changing Red Lipsticks Our Editors Swear By

Rachel Krause
Photo: Tom Medvedich

Photo: Tom Medvedich

A good red lipstick is a necessity. But what makes one truly great isn’t the packaging, the price point, or the cult following, it’s how well it works for you and how it makes you look and feel. The individual, case-by-case approach is key, because no color is ever truly one-size-fits-all.

Given our shared fanatical approach to beauty and plenty of in-office opportunities to take countless red lipsticks for a test drive, we’ve got Opinions (yep, with a capital O) on the subject. We asked our editors to tell us a little bit about their red of choice, whether it’s a bright, showstopping matte formula or a tame, easy-to-wear reddish tint.

mac lady danger The Life Changing Red Lipsticks Our Editors Swear By“I’m not a true red-lipstick girl. I always think I am … then I end up wiping it off before I leave the house. Instead, I prefer reds that skew a bit toward orange—a nice poppy shade, if you will. One look inside my bathroom vanity, and you’ll see I’m truly dedicated (addicted?) to finding the right variation, and I’ve pretty much tested every brand, from Wet n Wild to YSL. My all-time favorite, however—the one I keep going back to over and over—is MAC Lipstick in Lady Danger ($17).

It’s the ideal blend of red and orange for my light-medium skin tone, has killer opacity, and brings excellent staying power. It’s also insanely flattering to my features, to the point where a former colleague once told me it makes my green eyes look even greener. Plus, I love the way it works with everything from jeans and an old gray sweatshirt to going-out evening looks.” –Perrie Samotin, site director

nars red lizard The Life Changing Red Lipsticks Our Editors Swear By“Growing up, I remember watching my mom swipe on bright-red lipstick whenever it was a special occasion or she had to dress up. She wore red exclusively (I don’t think she ever owned anything neutral), and I’d kiss her as soon as she applied her lipstick in the hopes that some of it would get onto my lips and I would look as beautiful as she did.

Naturally, when I started wearing lipstick, the first color I reached for was red. It took me a few tries to get the right shade (I have yellow undertones, so it’s really important that I stick to blue-based reds), but once I put on NARS Semi Matte Lipstick in Red Lizard ($27)—a deep, full red—I knew that I’d found the one. The lipsticks I’ve tried since run the gamut from shimmery nudes to vampy plums, but I always come back to the Lizard.” –Cady Lang, social media editor

tom ford flame The Life Changing Red Lipsticks Our Editors Swear By“As a former beauty editor, countless red lipsticks have passed across my desk, (many of them epic in their own right!), but my all-time favorite has to be Tom Ford Matte Lipstick in Flame ($52). The reddish-orange shade is luxurious to apply, universally flattering, and lasts even after I tear into a Cronut.” –Beth Stebner, lifestyle editor

nars pure matte mascate The Life Changing Red Lipsticks Our Editors Swear By“I’m not much of a lipstick girl—clear gloss is more my jam—but when I do feel the urge, it’s always NARS Pure Matte Lipstick in Mascate ($27). It’s ultra-pigmented, so the color is powerful, yet the matte finish keeps me from feeling overly done-up.” –Jessica Teves, editor in chief

covergirl colorlicious hot The Life Changing Red Lipsticks Our Editors Swear By“I’m all about CoverGirl Colorlicious Lipstick in Hot ($6.99). The formula goes on smooth, it’s extremely pigmented, and it’s very long-lasting—it’s actually hard (almost annoyingly so) to take it off at the end of the day. I apply it straight from the bullet without a lip liner or any primer, and it still lasts.” –Victoria Moorhouse, associate editor

nars red square The Life Changing Red Lipsticks Our Editors Swear By“Red lipsticks are to me as the Ring is to Sméagol: I crave them; I hoard them; I can’t keep my hands off them; I … don’t actually need them for any legitimate purpose. (For real: Why did he even want that ring so badly?) I own (and wear and love) many, so it’s very serious for me to say that NARS Velvet Matte Lip Pencil in Red Square ($26) is my ride or die.

It’s one of the few beauty products I’ve ever repurchased, and I love it so much I even bought a $6 sharpener for it, because I care. It looks stark and bloody against my dark hair, dark eyes, and fair skin, which is exactly how I want it to look. How’s that for a testimonial?” –Rachel Krause, beauty editor

clinique long last merlot The Life Changing Red Lipsticks Our Editors Swear By“I use Clinique Long Last Lipstick in Merlot ($17) constantly. My skin tone is tricky, and I really have to stay away from anything too “berry” to avoid getting super washed-out. This shade is perfect for me—just dark enough to vamp up even the simplest of looks but not so dark that I look like a lost member of KISS. It never leaves my purse—I wear it on casual coffee outings, I wear it to work, I wear it to concerts, and I wear it to date nights. The best part? It doesn’t dry out my lips and stays on even after five cups of coffee.” –Emily McBride, producer

burts bees pomegranate lip balm The Life Changing Red Lipsticks Our Editors Swear By“At my core, I’m just not a lipstick girl. Sometimes I try to be, and I go through occasional bouts of enthusiastically wearing red lipstick every day for a week, but in the end I always, always return to Burt’s Bees Pomegranate Lip Balm ($3.30). Sure, it’s not technically a lipstick, but hear me out—I’ve got a case. For non-lipstick wearers, this is the next best thing. It leaves a natural, soft-red tint that makes you feel a little more done-up than just a clear balm does. And the finish is more glow-y than glossy; it’s quite subtle, which I love. For someone who spends 99 percent of any day that I’m wearing a bright lipstick wondering if said lipstick is on my teeth or cracking, this is the obvious alternative.” –Jasmine Garnsworthy, editor

tom ford ruby rush The Life Changing Red Lipsticks Our Editors Swear By“My favorite red lipstick is Tom Ford Matte Lipstick in Ruby Rush ($52). It’s the perfect slightly warm-toned red, which isn’t something I’m usually drawn to, but it looks incredible. The matte texture is smooth and comfortable, and it never dries out my lips. And the wear? Amazing. The color lasts all day, even through pizza—I just apply it in the morning, and I’m done. My ultimate red forever.” –Alle Connell, senior beauty editor

MORE: The New Cult Red Lipsticks