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Image / Style / Beauty

Scared of red lipstick? Here’s how to work your way up to the perfect red pout


By Hannah Hillyer
14th Feb 2022
Scared of red lipstick? Here’s how to work your way up to the perfect red pout

Let's look at how you can work your way up if you're dipping your toe into the world of rouge lips for the first time.

I adore red lipstick. When I hear fashion lovers talk about clothes as their armour I completely understand: red lippy is my armour. Although I don’t wear it half as much as I used to (I wore it every day to college for three years – it was my signature look) it’s still on heavy rotation.

It can make you feel powerful, confident (when you’re not), sexy, glamorous, rebellious, cool, or all of the above. So often people compliment my bold choice of lip, immediately followed with “I can’t wear red”. The reasons why? Endless.

  • It doesn’t suit me—red is universally flattering on all skin tones. You just need to get your base right first
  • My lips are too thin—this is what lip pencils are for…cheat! (just don’t go too crazy)
  • My teeth aren’t white enough—this is when you need a blue-toned rednothing orangey
  • I’m too old—this phrase needs to get in the bin, immediatelyAbsolutely nobody is too old for a red lip, it looks fabulous at every age.

Now that we have the excuses out of the way, let’s look at how you can work your way up if you’re dipping your toe into the world of rouge lips for the first time.

Balms and stains

Start slowly with a tinted lip balm that will only leave the sheerest amount of pigment on the lips. This one from By Terry is a cult classic and is amazing at rescuing dry, chapped lips. Bonus points that it comes in such gorgeous colours too.

You can use almost any lipstick for this, even if it’s one in a daunting shade. Pat into the centre of the lips directly from the bullet. You can use your fingers here (or a small lip brush) to work the colour into the lips. Focus the majority of the pigment in the centre, letting it diffuse out to the edges. No harsh lines, no bold colour, instead you’ll be left with a pretty stain on the lips to build on, as you feel comfortable.

Mattes and Gloss

When it comes to a natural-looking matte, Glossier is leading the pack. Super sheer and glossy textures are what they’re known for, but they do have a lovely range of sheer matte lipsticks. These are so easy to wear and the shade ‘Zip’ is a great entry-level red. You can put on a light layer, or add more as you feel more confident for a darker lip.

Feeling a little braver? Let’s try something glossy, sometimes the sheeny texture of a gloss can feel like less of a statement than a perfectly drawn on velvet mouth. These glosses from Nars pack a serious pigment punch and are a great way to try your first bold red.

Well, you’ve made it this far?

Now you’re ready for the power players. Here’s my top three and they can’t be dialled down, they demand attention…

MAC’s Ruby Woo is a classic. This could never be discontinued or there would be riots in the streets. The ultimate pigmented, matte, blue-toned red. Not for the faint-hearted or for chapped lips.

Or try this is Chanel on, it makes you feel like a Bond girl or a 1950’s film star when you take it out and reapply – and that is exactly how the right shade of red should make you feel. Take out on the bus and reapply at will.  I adore the name of this lipstick too, as it hones in on that rebellious feeling of wearing red lipstick. This has a more satiny finish than the others so more comfortable to wear if you’re not a fan of a matte finish.

Have to give a special shout-out to Sephora’s Matt Lip Cream too. Unfortunately, it’s not available here but I couldn’t not mention it in a piece about the best red lipsticks. The formula is gorgeous, it goes on as a creamy, liquid lipstick and dries to a matte finish. Comfortable to wear all day and the most killer shade of red. Friends and family are not allowed to come back from holidays without at least two of these for my stash.

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