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How to choose the best red lipstick for your complexion

January 1 | 5 minute read

Best Red Lipsticks Hero 16x9

Words by Kerri Gordon and Sherine Youssef

Originally published on | May 8

“Beauty, to me, is about being comfortable in your own skin. That, or a kick-ass red lipstick." So said the inimitable Gwyneth Paltrow, and we couldn't agree more.

A red lipstick ranks among the select few items that every woman, regardless of age or skin type, needs in her makeup arsenal (alongside concealer and mascara). It's the beauty staple that looks good on everyone. Yes, everyone. But with thousands of red lipstick shades, textures and finishes to choose from, it can feel daunting finding the right red – one that compliments your unique skin tone and undertone, wears the way you need it to and has a finish that feels just right for the occasion.

Before starting your search, it’s helpful to determine your skin tone (what you see) and undertone (what's happening below the surface). The first one is easy, though to figure out the latter, you’ll need to stand in natural light and look at the colour of the veins on your inner wrist. If they’re green or green-blue, you may have a warm undertone, blue or purple may mean you’re a cool undertone, and if your veins are a mix of the two, you may just have neutral undertones.

It's also important to understand that red lipstick has undertones, too: warm reds are usually orangey and cool reds are more blue-based. Wearing lipstick that has the same undertones as your skin is slightly more understated, while swiping on a lipstick that has the opposite undertones to your skin makes a bolder statement.

You can shop based on your skin’s tone or undertone, so let's find your best red lipstick, shall we?

Finding the best red lipstick for your skin tone

If your skin tone is fair...

A blue or purple based-red, like berry or cranberry, will work beautifully with your skin's natural pink tone.

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If your skin tone is light...

A cooler red will pop against your skin tone. Think: an old Hollywood-style bright scarlet.

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If your skin tone is medium...

Swipe on a warm yellow or orangey-red to bring out your skin's olive tones.

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If your skin tone is deep...

You might want to play around with more intense reds like berry, wine, purple or brick red.

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Finding the best red lipstick for your skin undertone

If your skin has a warm undertone...

Then go warm with your red, too! Try reds with gold and peach undertones, wine or brick-reds, or terracotta shades.

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If your skin has a cool undertone...

A cool-toned, blue-based red lipstick will perfectly complement your complexion. (Bonus: these kinds of blue-reds can also make your teeth, and the whites of your eyes, appear whiter.)

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If your skin has a neutral undertone...

You can essentially try whichever red tickles your fancy: berry, pink or orangey reds, or even a true red.

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And if you're unsure about your skin's tone and undertone, or just want a red lipstick all-rounder...

There are a couple of reds that you'll be glad to have in your kit: Stila Stay All Day Liquid Lipstick in ‘Beso’ is a bold and bright red that is US politician Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s go-to, and Tom Ford Lip Color in ‘Wild Ginger’ is an orange-red that's perfect for warm summer nights. For something a little more intense, Shiseido's VisionAiry Gel Lipstick in ‘Ginza Red’ is a warm, medium-dark red, or, if vibrant colour is more your style, M.A.C’s blue-based Retro Matte Lipstick in ‘Ruby Woo’ looks great on just about every skin tone and undertone.

Still not ready to commit to red lipstick?

If you're still hesitant about red lipstick, try applying it with your finger for a diffused effect (as opposed to swiping it directly on the lips which results in an all-out opaque colour). You can also opt for a sheer formula to start off, like a lip stain, oil or tinted gloss, before graduating to a creamy lip crayon formula that will allow you to gradually build up more colour. You'll be a Taylor Swift-level red lipstick lover before you know it!

Red-y to learn more about beauty’s most iconic look? Listen to MECCA’s Head of Artistry Jen Horsley talk through red lips on the MECCA Talks podcast.

Related topics and brand tags

Red lipstickLipstickMakeupLips

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