How to Pick the Best Red Lipstick for Your Skin Tone

of 07

How to Choose the Right Red Lipstick

Actress Gabrielle Union
Actress Gabrielle Union in classic red lipstick. David Livingston/Contributor/Getty Images Entertainment

Red lipstick is like the little black dress or perfect strand of pearls, bringing sophistication or sultriness to an evening look. It’s definitely one of the sexiest, if not the sexiest lipstick shade.

The Psychology of Red Lips

Red lipstick has been known to make a woman feel more confident. According to color psychology, the color red is a warm and positive color. It is an energizing color, giving confidence, especially to those who are shy or need a boost of boldness. It also stimulates intimacy and passion. It is a color of sexuality, desire, and lust (which explains the male attraction to the lip color.)

Is Red the Sexiest Lip Color?

Red is also the shade of lipstick that men find the most attractive. A 2010 study conducted by scientists at Manchester University tracked the eye movements of 50 men and showed that men fixated on a woman’s lips longer when she is wearing lipstick. Their eyes lingered even longer on women with full lips, wearing red lipstick.

The Right Shade of Red

The right shade of lipstick can brighten a face, while the wrong red could overpower a makeup look or make one look tawdry.

With so many variations in skin tone and undertones in women of color, the right shade of red can depend on a slew of factors, even the color of clothing. Don't be afraid to experiment to find the shade of red that you love.

In general, these shades tend to work:

Pale/fair and light olive skin tends to look better in cool reds, berry reds like cranberry, with blue undertones.

Medium skin tones look great in brownish-reds.

Olive skin looks best in yellow or orange-based reds.

Dark skin can handle more intense color, like deep reds and reds with blue undertones. Fabulous wines, berries, and brick reds look great.

of 07

The Best Red Lipsticks for All Skin Tones

Zoe Saldana wears Ruby Woo by MAC.
Zoe Saldana wears Ruby Woo by MAC. Mike Marsland/ WireImage/ Getty Images

For specifics, we talked to Brooklyn-based celebrity makeup artist Latisha Nicole Rankin. Latisha is the makeup artist behind some of the looks of singer/actress Jordin Sparks. She has also worked with Extra's Tracey Edmonds, fashion designer Angela Simmons, musician Swizz Beatz and former American Idol judge Paula Abdul.

"My absolute favorite red lipstick is Ruby Woo from MAC Cosmetics. It truly looks great on every complexion as the blue undertones in this lipstick are just right," says Latisha. "Often, other cosmetic companies add too much yellow or orange into their red lipsticks causing the lipstick color to appear very bright on some skin tones. MAC's Ruby Woo lipstick is a perfect, universal red that all women can proudly wear, regardless of skin tone! Another great universal lipstick color that beautifully matches every skin tone is Tom Ford's Cherry Lush."

of 07

Red Lipsticks for Women With Darker Skin Tones

Makeup For Ever Rouge Artist Intense/Intense Color Lipstick in M8 Matte Bright Red
Make Up For Ever Rouge Artist Intense/Intense Color Lipstick in M8 Matte Bright Red. Courtesy of Makeup For Ever

Here are a few lipsticks Latisha recommends and that look beautiful on a wide range of women with darker skin tones (dark medium, olive, brown, and dark brown).  

The LipBar Bawse Lady ($11.90) is a great matte lacquer which looks fantastic on women with brown and dark brown skin tones.

Make Up For Ever Rouge Artist Intense/Intense Color Lipstick in M8 Matte Bright Red ($20) is a pretty color for women with brown and dark brown skin tones.

Bobbi Brown Creamy Lip Color in Hot Red ($27) or the Creamy Matte Lip Color in Red Carpet ($27) are both beautiful red lipsticks for women with dark medium, olive, brown or darker skin tones.

of 07

Red Lipsticks for Women With Lighter Skin Tones

Rouge Allure Matte Intense Long-Wear Lip Colour in Coromandel Satin
Rouge Allure Matte Intense Long-Wear Lip Colour in Coromandel Satin. Courtesy of Chanel

These two Chanel lipsticks each provide different textures offering red options for women who like a shimmery and satin finish or those who prefer a velvet-like finish. These shades work for women with lighter skin tones (light, pale, fair, medium). 

Chanel Rouge Allure Velvet Intense Long-Wear Lip Colour in La Fascinate ($37)
Rouge Allure Matte Intense Long-Wear Lip Colour in Coromandel Satin ($35)

of 07

More Tips for Finding the Perfect Red

Rihanna red lip 55th Grammy Awards
Rihanna wore MAC's Ruby Woo and Lady Danger to the Grammy Awards. Steve Granitz/ WireImage/ Getty Images

Finding the perfect red lipstick can be tricky, but with a little perseverance (and a lot of swatching) you will find the best shade for you. Keep these tips in mind as you shop:

  • You might need to experiment to find your perfect red shade.
  • You don’t have to toss a red that is too bright or too dark. A too light red can be deepened with a brown or wine-colored shade. You can give a dull or too dark red a little pizzazz with a pop of gold gloss or lighten dark red with pink or beige.
  • Know that a lipstick’s texture, cream, matte or gloss, could have an effect on the way the shade looks on your lips.
  • If you aren't ready to commit to lipstick, you can ease into red with a sheer lip gloss or try a lip stain to gradually add color.

"From my professional experience, I prefer matte colors because they tend to last longer with fewer touch-ups needed," says Latisha. "The satin lipsticks have a sheen to them with a moisturizing feel. The velvet lipsticks are also a middle-ground option that provides a less shiny and semi-matte color and maintains a plentiful amount of moisture on the lips without being completely matte or satin."

Going from a nude lip color to a bold red option can be overwhelming. To get used to seeing yourself in a more dramatic color, consider using a lip gloss or stain. "Lancôme Juice Shakers ($21) lipgloss is perfect for adding a sheer or sheen hint of red on the lips. The Juice Shakers can be worn alone for a subtle look, or over a red lipstick to add shine. This 'must-have in your makeup bag' product is also wonderful for women of all ages and skin complexions."

of 07

What Makeup to Pair With Red Lips

Beyonce Grammy Awards 2013 red lip
Steve Granitz/ WireImage/ Getty Images

Red lips make a BIG statement, so you should plan the rest of your makeup look to complement your lip color. 

  • Pair minimal eye makeup with a bold red lip. Keep the eye shadow soft or neutral. Opt for groomed eyebrows, precisely lined eyes and mascara.
  • A bold lip color needs smooth lips. Be sure to regularly exfoliate the lips to prevent flaking and to keep the lips moisturized.
  • Use a lip primer before applying color.
  • Apply red lipstick with a lip brush for more precision and less of a chance that lip color will seep into fine lines.

See this article for more tips for perfect lips.

of 07

Secrets to Wearing Red Lipstick

Lupita Nyong'o at the Accenture Gala.
Ben A. Pruchnie/Stringer/ Getty Images

While we believe there is the perfect red lip color for everybody, there are some common pitfalls you can avoid. Keep these tips in mind: 

  • If your lips are thin, avoid very deep reds.
  • Beware of reds with too much of a brown base if you have a yellowish tint to your teeth. Brown can bring out yellow in teeth. If this is the case, you might want to try a red with a blue undertone.
  • For inspiration, look at images of celebrities wearing red lipstick, which will give you an idea how red lipstick looks on different skin tones.