“Heels and red lipstick will put the fear of God into people” – Dita Von Teese
“There is a shade of red for every woman” – Audrey Hepburn
Red lipstick is very iconic. Somehow it’s become so iconic that now it’s borderline intimidating to many women though. Some think that their lips are too thin for red lipstick or that the classic Old Hollywood style red lips just live a life of their own, separate from their face. Today I’ve decided to debunk all of these myths and give you solid ideas on how you can find your own shade and style of red lips. Let’s start!
I wear red lipstick all the time. My collection of red lipsticks is extensive and I get new ones from time to time and several times got them as gifts. Before trying red lipstick for the first time, I actually believed that red shades don’t look good on small lips – what a load of bull! Now red lip is my signature, so getting the lips size question out of the way immediately – it’s a myth and who knows why we keep believing it! Audrey Hepburn herself had quite thin lips and I don’t think anyone would argue that red lipstick looked bomb on her, so I rest my case 😊
My collection includes all kinds of red lipsticks (and someday I’ll definitely dedicate a whole post to it), both drugstore and high end, all kinds of formulas, both liquid and regular bullet lipsticks.
Trying the right shade of red lipstick on for the first time was my ‘eureka’ moment. I’m convinced that there’s a red for everyone – it’s just a question of a little bit of experimenting and here’s how:
1.Try different undertones. This is an obvious one, but still worth mentioning. Very often determining the undertone is a tricky task and believe me when I say that I jumped between cool and warm for literally years before I found truly insightful sources and started understanding my own coloring (I’m planning to make a separate post on how I did it – it’s actually quite simple, so stay tuned!). I have a warm (golden) undertone, so my best picks are warmer shades of red. If you aren’t sure about your undertone, it can be very useful to try different undertones of red to figure out what suits you best.
To see the undertone of a lipstick, you can smear a tiny bit of it on your arm or napkin and wipe it off/smear it. If the stain is pink, then it’s a cool-toned red, if it’s orange-y – it’s a warm shade. Besides, even if you know your colors very well, delving into the opposite temperature shade range can result in amazing finds! With my warm undertone, I’m loving my saturated pink-based reds, such as L’Oreal Color Riche Shine Lipstick in the shade #350 (cherry shade) and Clinique ‘Cherry Pop’ lipstick.
Even a tiny bit of blue or yellow makes a red lipstick different undertone:
As you can see, it takes quite a lot of blue or yellow added to the true red to make a lipstick visibly pink or orange. What if even 1 or 2% of blue or yellow undertone is all you need for your perfect red?
2. Try true reds aka reds with neutral undertone. True red isn’t warm or cool – it’s a primary color that is suitable in one way or another for anyone. This is quite a rare breed of lipsticks though (at least in my experience). After swiping them on the arm or napkin you’ll see that their base pigment isn’t pink or orange – it’s the same pure red.
I’ve mentioned two such lipsticks in my ‘Makeup I’ll Repurchase Forever‘ post – Bourjois liquid lipstick and Maybelline bullet lipstick.
Another good example is the Fenty Beauty Unsencored Stunna Lip Paint.
Note that if you Google ‘true red’ you’ll probably get an extremely bright primary color red examples. However, true red can have different intensity like any color:
For example, the Fenty Beauty Stunna Lip Paint in the shade ‘Uncensored’ represents the deepest 5th shade of true red in this spectrum. The aforementioned Bourjois liquid lipstick in the shade ‘Personne Ne rouge!’ is the 4th shade in this spectrum. Maybelline Color Sensational lipstick in the shade #527 Lady Red is also close to a true red that’s marked 4 on the spectrum. At the same time, these lipsticks can be used to create a sheer layer of color on the lips, which will tone the intensity to the level of almost transparent true red (1 or 2 on the spectrum).
3.Experiment with intensity. Sometimes intensity of the color is the main reason why red lipstick gets ruled out. For instance, on the picture below (source) I can really pull off only medium shades, while deep shades like jam, mahogany, and merlot are too dark for me:
This is perfectly illustrated by Scarlett Johansson:
As we can see, muted rose color looks pretty good on her (although black is a bit too harsh for her gentle coloring), then true red with a bit of a sheen in the middle looks refreshing and gorgeous, while burgundy on the right is already overpowering just by being too instense for her.
4.Try blotted lip look. Red lipstick application techniques won’t work same well for everyone. Some of us have sharper features and some – more rounded, softer features. Blotted lip look is one of my absolute favorites because it gives the lips a certain definition, but at the same time doesn’t ask for too much attention in the overall makeup look. Besides, the lipstick can even be applied with finger with this technique – very easy and effortless. I’d categorize the Korean gradient lip (bottom right) as a type of blotted lip as well, since it doesn’t give that defined shape either:
My 2 favorite ways to achieve the blotted lip look:
- dab cream lipstick lightly all over the inner half of my lips, then rub my lips together, then add more if needed
- apply one coat of lipstick as usual, then press one ply of a paper napkin to my lips and apply translent power on my lips through it. The napkin absorbs the excess of the lipstick and lets only a tiny bit of powder through, which results in a longer lasting thin and matte lip look.
5.Experiment with the sheen & lip outline sharpness. In a video about applying red lipstick Dita Von Teese says that it has to be perfect. I’d say that very sharp outline of the lipstick can look a bit harsh on some and great on others, so here it’s important to find that balance. Take a look how on the picture of the right the precise and angular red lipstick application suits so well on Faye Dunaway. Light sheen can also soften the look of red lip, like in case of Marilyn Monroe’s iconic red lip look:
Marilyn’s features are soft and rounded – soft feathery eyebrows, large hooded eyes, rounded cheekbones, soft jawline, which is why this multidimensional red lip with a sheen looks so awesome on her. Faye Dunaway’s sharply outlined red lips accentuate her regal features – prominent cheekbones, thin arched eyebrows, beautiful face shape. This right here is an example of how there’s a red for everyone!
That’s it for today from me!
Do you wear red lipstick? What’s your favorite lipstick shade in general? I’d love to know!
See you in my next post ❤️