Find Your Most Flattering Shade of Red Lipstick

Rachel Krause


A red carpet event—or any night out, for that matter—without a red lipstick sighting is practically unheard of. There are very few beauty looks that can be counted on to reappear time and time again, but red lipstick in any and all shades is one of them. Whether it’s an edgy orange-y shade or a retro, Old Hollywood-inspired true red, red lipstick never goes out of style. Anyone can wear red, so take your pick of these four main color categories. With the right lipstick and the right technique, you simply can’t go wrong.

Orange-leaning red lipsticks are a perennial trend. As daunting as the color may seem, this particular look isn’t going anywhere. For this look on fair skin, we love NARS Velvet Matte Lip Pencil ($25, in Red Square. It’s the perfect intense, velvety, borderline neon orange-red and provides great contrast on a pale complexion. Better still, the precise pencil takes the stress out of applying such a saturated hue. Urban Decay Revolution Lipstick ($22, in Bang is a bright, tomato-y hue that’s ideal for medium and olive skin tones, and Hourglass Opaque Rouge Liquid Lipstick ($28, pops on dark skin.

Blue undertones are to thank for the classic Old Hollywood red that has been a beauty stalwart pretty much since they invented lip color. This timeless shade looks gorgeous on everyone, and when applied correctly (with a lip brush!) and worn with the right makeup, it’s virtually foolproof. MAC Lipstick ($16, in Ruby Woo is the kind of versatile red that works on everybody, but it’s especially great on medium skin tones. Fair skin tones should go for a true balanced red, like Obsessive Compulsive Cosmetics Lip Tar ($18, in NSFW, while Too Faced La Creme ($22, in Stiletto Red is perfect for dark skin.

Pinkish reds are a little more casual than their bluer counterparts, which makes them a great choice for daytime and less formal events. They look especially pretty when worn with minimal eye makeup and a similar color on cheeks. On fair skin, try Yves Saint Laurent Rouge Pur Couture Vernis À Lèvres Glossy Stain ($35, in Rose Tempura, a warm watermelon red with a wet-shine finish. A slightly deeper pink-leaning shade like NARS Pure Matte Lipstick ($26, in Mascate is stunning on medium skin, and dark skin tones should go for bold pops of color like Marc Jacobs Beauty Lovemarc Lip Gel ($30, in Neo Noir.

Deep, rich reds are ubiquitous in autumn and winter, but don’t count them out in the summertime. To ease up on the drama, try dabbing dark reds on as a stain and blending it into cheeks as well. Dark colors can emphasize dryness and fine lines, so it’s important to prep lips beforehand and choose a moisturizing formula like MAKE UP FOR EVER Rouge Artist Intense ($20, in 48, a satiny blackcurrant shade that’s perfect for fair skin. On medium skin, try a rich berry red like Dior Rouge Dior ($34, in Rouge Favori. Dark complexions can get away with brick reds, like Laura Mercier Rouge Nouveau Weightless Lip Colour ($25, in Muse.

Read more: Find Your Perfect Red Lipstick