Skip over navigation

How to Choose the Perfect Red Lipstick

How to Choose the Perfect Red Lipstick

By Allison Emm

“OH EM GEE, Allison! Why do I look so AWFUL in red lipstick?”

“I am so __________, so obviously I can’t wear red or the world will end in fire and awkward makeups!”

“It looks gorgeous on other people, but if I ever wore red lipstick I’d look like a circus clown in a bar fight with shellfish allergies!”

Every single time I do a tutorial featuring some red lips, someone inevitably laments the difficulties surrounding the perfect crimson pout. Fear not, my geeky girls, I hear you.

Red is just one of those things. The outcome is stunning when it’s done right, but done wrong, it can make you swear to never go near the makeup counter again. Let’s give red another go with a few of the following tips in mind.

Find out if you’re cool-toned or warm-toned.

Before you even think about heading to the mall, you must do this first. If you’ve ever tried a brilliant, scarlet lip product and thought it was the worst thing ever to come out of a tube, it might just be that if wasn’t the right kind of red.

Take a good look at your skin in natural light. Most of us have either cool or warm undertones in our skin.  Hold some different pieces of construction paper up to your face, and see which colors seem to fit more naturally with your own skin.

Icy blues, greens, silvers, and grays? You’re cool.

Yellows, oranges, reds, and golds? You’re warm.

Here’s the trick, though. Some colors may look great on you because of the contrast, so be wary of that. Plenty of warm-toned copper redheads look lovely in green, but that’s because opposites compliment each other. Try to tune into what shades coordinate with your skin naturally, not just what makes your eyes or hair pop.

Those with cool-toned skin may find that blue-based reds are easiest to wear. Look for cherry, raspberry red, or wine red.

On the flipside, those with warm-toned skin may find that yellow-based reds are easiest to wear. Look for burnt orange, coral red, or vermillion.

Maybe you’re neither warm nor cool.

If you’ve gone through that first step and still find yourself frustrated, don’t punch the computer. Don’t seem to fit into either category? You’re like me!

It’s true that most people are either cool or warm, but not everyone. Some of us are neutral. The truth is, forcing people into warm or cool categories is a little misleading because lots of people actually have several undertones. But hey, it’s a good starting point.

For those of us with neutral skin, we may have a hard time choosing foundation shades that don’t turn us orange or ashy (that’s another post altogether!), but you will find it’s a bit easier to wear various shades of red lipstick.

Now that you’ve found your color family happy place, figure out what kind of look you want:

Bold and Precise

For those who want to make a statement, this the best way to showcase that trendy Spring shade you’ve been dying to try. Bold colors look killer when your lips are defined. This is one of my absolute favorite styles, so if you want a step by step tutorial, check out this post. You know me. If I want to do a red lip, I’m going to commit to it.

Dark and Daring

Dark red lips are classic, mysterious, and dramatic. These shades also tend to look best when applied with precision, so I recommend using a lip brush. It will last longer too!

Sheer Pop of Color

If you’re a newbie to the ways of red, this is a great place to start. Sheer lip colors, such as balms, stains, or glosses, let you rock the red look in a sweet and subtle way. They also let you test drive those crazy colors you secretly lust after in a nonthreatening way.  Get your feet wet with a strawberry lip gloss (not literally, please) and who knows? Maybe by next spring you’ll be sporting brilliantly bold lips like a pro!

Some Extra Tips

  • Brighter colors will make your lips appear fuller, so if you have small lips, this might be the option for you. Extremely full pouts, be warned: Bright shades will make your lips look even bigger.
  • Thinner lipped ladies will have to be careful with dark colors, as they tend to make your lips look even thinner.
  • Blue-based reds can make your teeth look whiter. Unfortunately, orange-based reds can sometimes make them look yellower, so ditch the coffee and tea. HA! Yeah right. I’d rather just stop smiling, laughing, eating, and talking.

What's your go-to shade of lipstick?

Topics: Uncategorized, Beauty
Tags: shopping, makeup, beauty, life, tutorials, lipstick, geeky girl glam

Write your own comment!


Write your own comment!


About the Author
Allison Emm

Allison Emm is a writer, illustrator, and handmade soap enthusiast hailing from Boulder, CO. She is fond of bookish and ruggedly handsome mountain men, blue spruce trees, birds of prey, starships, and yarn. See more of her high jinks at www.AllisonEmm.com, and follow her on Twitter @Allison_Emm.

Wanna contact a writer or editor? Email contribute@sparknotes.com.

From Our Partners