The best red lipstick can elevate any look into one full of glamour and sophistication.
But, as anyone who has ever attempted to buy and wear red lipstick, there’s much more to it than meets the eye (or lips). Firstly, you need to get the best red lipstick for your skin tone, then you need to find one that will last and finally, you need to apply with precision to avoid looking like the Joker.
Choosing the best red for your tone is tricky. We explain a little more about this in our colour theory article, but as a general rule:
Ruby Woo from MAC Cosmetics is a red lipstick that suits almost all skin tones. Lipsticks, like the rest of the range from Fenty Beauty, have also been designed to be more universal and inclusive by nature, so that may be a good place to start as well. Plus, in Boots stores, you can speak to a No 7 consultant who can recommend lipsticks based on your foundation match.
In terms of application, choosing from our list of best lip liners will help. It’s also worthwhile exfoliating your lips as a general rule, and we highly recommend MAC’s Prep & Prime lip primer for helping create a smooth base that the colour sticks to for hours.
We’ve also detailed our favourite red lipsticks below that typically come in different shades if the one we’ve picked doesn’t quite do it for you.
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£35 | Buy now from Selfridges
Why we love it: Created by the artist to the stars who everyone calls “mother”, Pat McGrath sure knows what she’s doing. Elson 2 is a timeless, deep red shade and in McGrath’s matte formula, it’s creamy, long-lasting (some of us wear it almost every day) and the packaging is beautiful. Honourable mention goes to Elson 2’s predecessor Elson, which is a more berry red.
£6.50 | Buy now from Superdrug
Why we love it: From one price extreme to the other, Maybelline’s Superstay liquid red lipstick stays put for hours. It’s also why it has a tendency to stain. The applicator is up there with the best liquid lipstick applicators on the market and the red shade is gorgeous, complementing all manor of skin tones and undertones.
£90 | Buy now from Selfridges
Why we love it: This is Paris’s best-selling red lipstick for a reason. It is absolutely stunning – and can be worn as a necklace, so you always know where it is, and which is why it’s priced so high. It’s filled with nourishing oils and shea butter so your lips stay soft and subtle while also looking drop-dead gorgeous. Definitely one to treat yourself to as a celebration.
Why we love it: A classic warm red, Charlotte Tilbury is the queen of lipsticks, and the packaging on this one is just beautiful. A perfect match for a subtle smokey eye that adds pop to any look whether you’re nipping to the shops or heading out on the town.
£5.99 | Buy now from Harrods
Why we love it: If you’ve got a deeper skin tone, look to firey orange-toned reds to make everything pop. D&G’s entry in this list of best red lipsticks is smooth and nourishing, and while not the most pigmented and vibrant, gives you that amazing sheer colour that complements all looks from natural and bridal to the boldest and most dramatic eyes.
£18 | Buy now from Debehhams
Why we love it: This orange-red lipstick is as orange as you can get, but we just love the colour! The Everlasting Liquid Lipsticks are among our favourite formulas, and it’s vegan and cruelty-free! What more could you want?
£17.55 | Buy now from Harvey Nichols
Why we love it: Curated by Rihanna, Fenty’s lip paints are built to last but with the least amount of maintenance. Trust us, this one needs so few touchups and it’s so comfy that it doesn’t even feel like you’re wearing anything. Uncensored is a “universal red”, meaning it suits all undertones and skin colours. Extra mention goes for the applicator, which can fit perfectly in the curves of your lips as well as run in between with ease to catch any missed spots.
£19.50 | Buy now from MAC
Why we love it: If this isn’t the most timeless and classic red lipstick on the market, we don’t know what is. Since its release in 1999, Ruby Woo has consistently appeared on lists of best-selling lipsticks. At one point, the company claimed to be selling four Ruby Woos a minute! And we love it too, it’s a timeless classic. Its only downside for us is that it can be a little drying which is where the company’s Prep & Prime lip base comes in handy.
Elly is a production journalist and sub-editor for a number of national newspapers and magazines including The Daily and Sunday Telegraph, and Woman and Woman’s Own magazine. A beauty-enthusiast, she loves travelling – especially to the States – reading and calligraphy