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There’s nothing that pulls your look together quite like red lipstick. But its power is not just superficial. Makeup, and specifically lipstick, has been scientifically shown to improve your mood (no wonder lipstick sales soared during the pandemic) and make you feel more assertive (in fact, a crimson pout has been synonymous with empowerment since the Suffragettes movement). But before you swipe on one of the best red lipsticks, you’ll want to find your perfect shade and learn the most foolproof way to apply it.
The different shades of red lipstick
Red lipstick shades can technically include thousands of variations, but are often placed in three main categories:
- Warm: Warm red lipsticks tend to be orangey-red hues, and traditionally looks gorgeous on those with golden and warm skin tones.
- Cool: Blue-toned red lipsticks naturally flatter those with cool skin tones (which usually have pink or red undertones).
- Neutral: Also called “universal reds,” neutral red lipsticks tend to wear well across many skin tones, says Terri Bryant, celebrity makeup artist and founder of Guide Beauty.
What to consider to find your perfect red lipstick
You can choose your perfect red lipstick based on your skin’s undertones, says Los Angeles-based makeup artist Nikki DeRoest. Not sure of your undertones? Consider your closet then. “You typically know what tones of clothing you feel your best in,” DeRoest says. Whether that’s warm or cool colors, consider which shades flatter you most.
Or, forget about undertones altogether, Bryant says. “While we often hear to select reds based on your skin’s undertone, there are so many exceptions to this rule. It’s well worth playing to see what colors you like and how you like your reds to wear against your skin. Sometimes, contrast allows a color to really pop off the skin in a beautiful way.”
And same goes for lipstick finishes. According to both DeRoest and Bryant, choosing a matte, satin or glossy look is usually up to personal preference. DeRoest tends to lean towards satin finishes, since “they have a little moisture to them,” she mentions, but notes that glossy ’90s-inspired lips are making a comeback. Meanwhile, Bryant almost always opts for a matte lipstick. “To me, a rich hue in this velvety finish looks so chic and is a luxe way to wear red,” she says.
When in doubt, experiment. “The good news about lipstick is that you can try it on and remove it quickly, so I always suggest going in person to test red lipsticks before you buy,” DeRoest adds.
The best way to apply red lipstick
Choosing the perfect red lipstick shade is only half the battle; applying it is perhaps the most difficult part. While there’s no one right way to create an effortless red lip, Bryant prefers to start by buffing away dry skin with a lip scrub and then applying a lip balm, allowing it to sink in for a handful of minutes before applying lipstick. (If the lip balm hasn’t thoroughly absorbed by then, she blots away the excess with a tissue.) Then, she likes to start with a light application of lipstick using a lip brush to really work the pigment into the lips. With the lips are filled in, she uses a corresponding lip liner to shape the lips around the edges, following up by lightly blotting the lips with a tissue, adding one more layer of lipstick with a makeup brush and then blotting once more. “This way, when your lip color starts to inevitably fade, it will do so evenly, and you’ll always have at least a color stain coating the lips evenly at the end of the day,” Bryant says.
DeRoest starts her red lipstick application with a nude lip liner. “I use that as a map for my red lipstick, as it helps to blur the edges slightly between your red lipstick and natural skin tone, which makes the lips look fuller but more natural,” she says. She also prefers applying lipstick directly from the tube, starting in the center of the upper and lower lips and working her way to the edges. Then, she cleans up the edges with a small concealer brush.
From arguably the most famous red lipsticks to newcomers worth knowing about, these are the 20 best red lipsticks to add to your beauty lineup now. They’re backed by rave customer reviews, and we even included a few expert-approved options.
Stila Stay All Day Liquid Lipstick in Beso
Best Liquid Lipstick
U.S. Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez shared her love of red lipstick in her “Beauty Secrets” video for Vogue back in 2020. “When you’re always running around, sometimes the best way to really look put together is a bold lip,” she said in the series. “I will wear a red lip when I need a boost of confidence.” And according to the politician, her go-to rouge pout is courtesy of Stila’s Stay All Day liquid lipstick in Beso. If you plan to use this AOC-approved formula, which she goes so far to describe as “indestructible,” then you might as well utilize her application method, too. In that same video, she suggests painting the “low-risk zone” of the center of the lips with the applicator brush, then working your way out until your lips are perfectly coated. “Even I feel a little more oomph with the red on,” she said.
Mac Cosmetics Retro Matte Lipstick in Ruby Woo
Best Red Matte Lipstick
You can’t talk about red lipsticks without including the creator of cult-status lipsticks: Mac and its iconic Ruby Woo shade. The all-time bestselling lipstick features an intense, opaque color and a completely matte finish. It’s so popular that Mac says it sell four Ruby Woo lipsticks per minute worldwide. The iconic, blue-red shade was created in 1999 after an artist tweaked the tone of the brand’s Russian red formula to make it more universally flattering. The iconic shade is always in Bryant’s kit. “I have relied on it countless times to always deliver a gorgeous, elevated red lip,” she says.
Chanel Rouge Coco Flash in Ultime
Best High-Shine Red Lipstick
If you’re partial to a high shine, Chanel’s Coco Flash lipstick is for you. The highly-pigmented formula delivers intense color, shine and hydration in just a few swipes. The red shades are all hypnotically bold and shiny, but Ultime is classically candy apple red and flattering. This high-shine lipstick offers the perfect show-stopping pop of color that makes you instantly look pulled together, even if it’s the only makeup on your face.
Fenty Stunna Lip Paint in Uncensored
Best Budge-Proof Red Lipstick
This universally flattering rich red was hand-picked by Rihanna herself and obsessively tested to ensure it looks incredible on everyone. The soft matte pigment has 12 hours of hold, drying down to a weightless stain. “I wanted a lipstick that wouldn’t budge, even as you eat, even as you make out,” Rihanna said in a press release. The doe-foot applicator makes lining and filling in lips super precise and simple.
Revlon Super Lustrous Lipstick in Fire and Ice
Best Drugstore Red Lipstick
Revlon’s Super Lustrous lipstick in Fire and Ice is one of the most iconic lip colors that has stood the test of time (since 1952 to be precise). According to the brand, the shade is so popular that it’s currently the bestselling drugstore lipstick in America. And for good reason — with over 50 shades and five finishes including matte, crème, pearl, sheer and gloss, the lipstick flies off shelves because it offers high color payoff and wears comfortably. Fire and Ice has warm, orange tones, making it an especially great option on those with warmer undertones and fair skin.
Lancôme L’Absolu Rouge Cream Lipstick in Caprice De Rouge
Best Bright Red Lipstick
Originally created in 1990, L’Absolu Rouge has been updated with a major dose of hydration and antioxidants, via hyaluronic acid and a proprietary mix of rose extracts and oils. The new result is a lipstick that glides on satisfyingly seamlessly and gives opaque, creamy coverage that’s designed to be hydrating and smudge-resistant. Lancôme Global Makeup Creative Director Lisa Eldridge has perfected a series of new shades that are created to be impeccably modern, yet timeless — including Caprice De Rouge, which is a fiery red shade with cool tones.
Nars Iconic Lipstick in Bad Reputation
Best Red Satin Lipstick
Nars‘ Iconic lipsticks have recently been updated to be more conditioning and lip-healing, but the range of shades are still just as bold and vibrant as ever. The lipsticks now feature a blend of moringa and passion fruit seed oils for an impossibly silky, lightweight feel that hydrates lips. The bright strawberry red shade of Bad Reputation has a satin finish that glides on effortlessly.
Rare Beauty Lip Soufflé Matte Cream Lipstick in Inspire
Best Red Lipstick for Olive Skin
This Selena Gomez-created liquid lipstick is an anomaly. The Lip Souffle has a whipped, weightless formula that stays on all day, yet is hydrating and softening. The velvet matte, bright red Inspire hue is Gomez’s favorite and flatters not only her gorgeous olive skin tone, but also an impressively wide array of tones. It applies softly, giving a blurred lip effect, and dries quickly for a lightweight feel. Still, lips stay nourished thanks to Vitamin E and botanical oils.
Charlotte Tilbury Limitless Lucky Lipstick in Red Wishes
Best Vintage-Inspired Red Lipstick
Channel your inner Jean Harlow with this poppy red, super-matte shade from cult-favorite brand Charlotte Tilbury. It’s pretty much everything you could ask for in a glamorous lipstick — weightless, ultra-matte, transfer-proof, impossibly bold and super pigmented. Thanks to a handful of clever ingredients like grape extract, carnauba wax and emollient ester, the Limitless Lucky Lips lipstick is a delight to wear. And the shade Red Wishes feels particularly vintage and starlet-inspired, with its powder matte and poppy red hue.
Byredo Lipstick in Mad Red
Best Raspberry Red Lipstick
Although just over a year old, Byredo is already cementing its unique hold within the beauty industry — particularly for being a label that’s so wonderfully unique and unexpected. The brand’s lipstick in Mad Red is already a go-to among beauty editors for its vibrant raspberry red hue and universally flattering tone. The matte, full coverage lipstick is vegan (as are all Byredo cosmetics) and glides on satisfyingly easy. Plus, the bi-color metal packaging is an objet d’art all of its own.
Bobbi Brown Luxe Defining Lipstick in Redefined
Best for Beginners
“My favorite reds are from Bobbi Brown, as they have great color payoff and shades,” DeRoest says. Lately, she’s been loving the brand’s Luxe Defining lipstick in Redefined, mentioning it’s great for beginners and professionals alike. “The shape is more like a large pencil with a pointed tip, so it’s much easier to get precision, which is so important for red lipstick application,” she says. DeRoest describes this hue as a “true red” and flattering on many skin tones.
Gucci Rouge à Lèvres Voile Sheer Lipstick in Goldie Red
Best for Beginners, Runner-Up
If a bold red lip feels too much for a particular occasion or you’re just not in the mood for constant and careful reapplication, this is your lipstick. The sheer, buildable, plumping, foolproof lipstick from Gucci applies more like a lip balm (and feels like one, too) for easy, mirrorless application. Just swipe it on for a stain-like look, or add a few additional swipes for a deeper, more concentrated color. One Sephora reviewer said it best: “The sheer aspect of this particular lipstick is perfect — pigmented enough to give me a great pop of color and sheer and smooth enough that if I eat or have drinks, it wears evenly and doesn’t leave that telltale lip liner look.” And the universally flattering shade Goldie Red was crafted by Alessandro Michele himself due to his admiration for the specific color.
Armani Beauty Lip Power in Sultan
Best Brick Red Lipstick
Designed to be more comfortable for long wear than standard lipsticks, Armani’s Lip Power formula has a handful of oils that make it glide on smoothly and feel hydrating for hours. The slim, drop-shaped bullet also makes applying the lipstick much more precise and foolproof, and the satin-finish formula delivers opaque coverage in just a swipe or two. Lip Power comes in over 20 shades, with the red tones, like Sultan, being especially vibrant. It’s not as long-lasting as other lipsticks on this list, but all the more reason to take the sleek packaging out and reapply the formula during your coffee break.
Hourglass Confession Lipstick Red 0
Best Vegan Red Lipstick
Carmine is the industry’s standard red pigment, produced from crushed female insects. (Gross.) In fact, there are about 70,000 insects in one pound of carmine, resulting in as many as 1,000 insects in a single traditional lipstick. (Extremely gross.) Hourglass is proudly vegan and has perfected a pigment alternative that can flawlessly mimic the saturated, true red hue associated with carmine. The patent-pending Red 0 delivers a creamy red color payoff that looks and feels even better than the old standard lipsticks.
Victoria Beckham Beauty Posh Lipstick in Fire
Best Red-Orange Lipstick
No wonder Victoria Beckham loves this lipstick, calling it the most “personal product she’s launched yet.” It features deeply pigmented color, a complex blend of ultra-nourishing superfood ingredients that care for lips and a clean, vegan formula. Plus, its horned packaging is über chic. This blazing red-orange shade is a game-changer, instantly adding a bold pop of color.
Pound Cake Cake Batter in Red Velvet
Best Red Lipstick for Dark Skin
Some brands say their shades of red lipsticks are universally flattering, but Pound Cake rejects that idea, instead believing that “everyone is owed a product that was made for their unique skin and lip tone,” according to the label’s website. Each incredibly opaque shade is designed to celebrate a specific skin tone. The semi-matte liquid lipsticks dry down for lasting coverage (the label says you can expect each application to last between 7 to 8 hours), but the formula is also infused with nourishing Vitamin E and avocado oil, so it doesn’t leave lips dried out. Additionally, the vegan lipsticks are infused with a “vanilla icing” scent and flavor, making the brand name oh-so appropriate.
Chantecaille Lip Cristal in Carnelian
Best Shimmery Red Lipstick
Chantecaille’s Lip Cristal lipstick appears to be covered in multidimensional glitter, but looks can be deceiving. It actually includes luminous pearl pigments, which, upon application, wash lips in a deep shimmer, metallic tone. The shade Carnelian is a vibrant cherry red with a touch of 3D glimmer, but comes with zero grit often found in glitter-covered lipsticks that can cause irritation. Instead, lips are treated to a glossy, comfortably buildable and lightweight formula. And as with all Chantecaille products, this lipstick gives back. For every Lip Cristal sold, a tree is planted with Perfect World Foundation and Sheldrick Wildlife Trust.
Rouje Le Rouje de Paris Lipstick in Jeanne
Looking for that certain je ne sais quoi in your red lipstick? This Rouje line is created by French entrepreneur and model Jeanne Damas and inspired by her effortless put-together-but-not-overdone look. Ultra-pigmented, creamy and offering full coverage all in one, Jeanne is a classic matte red that gives bold color in a single stroke.
Uoma Beauty Badass Icon Matte Lipstick in Sade
Founded by former beauty exec Sharon Chuter, Uoma is a celebration of bold, inclusive beauty — and its Badass Icon matte lipsticks are a perfect representation of this. The deeply pigmented, matte, vegan lipsticks come in nearly 20 colors, all of which are named after badass women (hence the product title). Sade is a poppy red that applies vibrantly with just a single swipe and feels impressively soft and hydrating on lips for hours.
Make Up For Ever Rouge Artist in Untamed Fire
Best Cherry Red Lipstick
The packaging on Make Up For Ever’s Rouge Artist lipsticks is nothing short of brilliant; the lipstick cap attaches to the bottom of the tube, allowing you to hold it like a brush for better precision. But the formula inside the tube is also pretty genius, shown to moisturize lips for up to 24 hours. The nearly 50 shades are all incredibly pigmented and have a satin finish for a soft and comfortable feel. The brand’s senior manager of pro-education and artistry, Eddie Duyos, loves using the striking red shade Untamed Fire for the “ultimate bombshell pout,” he says.
How to remove red lipstick stains from clothes
Sure, you’ve found your dream red lipstick, but the point is moot if you’ve just stained your favorite sweater or jacket with the bold pigment. “Lipstick is a combination of some of the worst stains out there, aka from coloring agents of dyes, oil-based carriers and wax,” explains Zachary Pozniak, vice president of operations at luxury dry cleaner Jeeves New York. The good news is you can take the stained item to your local dry cleaner, as a lipstick-stained garment is no match for a trained professional.
But if you want a DIY remedy, Pozniak (who also has popular Instagram and TikTok accounts where he provides cleaning tips and debunks cleaning rumors) says there are few ways you can help remove the stain at home. According to Pozniak, these tips are only ideal for treating small and mild stains — anything large or deep-set is best left to an expert.
- Firstly, gather your supplies: Dish soap (Pozniak likes Dawn), 90+ percent isopropyl alcohol or a high-proof alcohol, two clean towels you don’t mind getting dirty and an old, clean toothbrush.
- Place one towel behind the stain and blot the alcohol on top of the stain with another towel. This should transfer most of the pigments and wax away from the garment. Keep in mind that it’s a good idea to wear gloves when handling high-proof alcohols, as they can be incredibly harsh and drying on skin.
- Mix one cup water with two to three drops of dish soap and dab the solution onto the stain site. Scrub lightly with the soft toothbrush, and allow it to sit for 15 minutes.
- Wash your garment as recommended or on a gentle cycle. (Keep in mind that materials like wool, leather or silk are usually dry clean only, so it’s crucial to check the item’s washing instructions before popping it in the machine.) Inspect the garment after washing and do not dry it unless the stain comes out completely. Pozniak emphasizes this is incredibly important, because heat from a dryer will set the stain permanently.
- If the stain persists, repeat the process until you’re happy with the results.
- Remove any remaining bits of color with oxygen bleaches like OxiClean or hydrogen peroxide (if the garment washing instructions allow). Test the solution on a hidden area of the garment first, like the inside of a hem or an interior seam, to ensure that it doesn’t alter the color or finish of the item.
- If the stain still remains at this point, it might be time to bring your piece to a dry cleaner.