Red is a timeless color. When it comes to lipstick, the shade epitomizes glitz and glamour. With a single swipe, you can instantly take your makeup from basic to daring. Add in the effect of a pigmented matte formula or a shiny gloss, and you’re sure to channel a few beauty icons. In short, it can be transformative if you nail the application. But mastering a red lipstick makeup look that delivers the likes of Marilyn Monroe or Sade isn’t always easy. Though empowering, the hue can also become the focus for all the wrong reasons. Feathering, bleeding, and overlining are just a few of the issues that can turn an audacious lip into a hot mess.
While the type of lipstick is certainly important, how you apply it is essential to create a flawless finish. But finding the perfect shade is only the beginning. “Red can be a stressful color to apply due to its unforgiving pigmentation,” says Sam Kyle, creative development, design, and makeup artist at Mirabella. The secret to perfecting your lip, be it crimson, cherry, or scarlet, lies in the technique. “Going red should make you feel like a total diva, period,” says Kyle.
Below, makeup artists share tips for applying red lipstick, tricks to prevent common issues, plus the best way to get a precise look.
Finding The Right Shade Of Red
Choosing a lipstick shade always comes down to undertones. While there are no actual rules that keep you from trying various colors, finding a hue that enhances the nuances of your complexion is ideal. According to Kyle, there is no one perfect red but, instead, a range of shades that fit well with your skin tone. “Warm pigments, like brick or tomato, always match well with gold or darker complexions, while reds with blue or cool undertones work best for fairer skin,” she says.
Of course, there are some outlier factors to consider when searching for a good red bullet. Given the fact that the color is naturally highly pigmented, it can create a nice contrast for a fresh look. “The right red can instantly brighten your smile,” says Kyle. To counterbalance yellow, she suggests opting for a purple or bluish hue that will help teeth appear whiter.
How To Apply Red Lipstick For A Precise Look
Precision is key for creating a classic red lipstick look. “When it comes to red, it’s always best to start with a smooth canvas to keep the color from cracking and seeping into fine lines,” says Victor Anaya, director of education and artistry for Bobbi Brown. In that vein, he recommends exfoliating and conditioning your lips regularly. “Once you’ve moisturized them, be sure to blot off any excess product with a tissue,” he says. The surface should be smooth and not too slick to prevent the product from sliding while you’re applying.
According to Anaya, the steps that follow are all about creating depth. “A red lip needs structure and definition,” he says. The pro tells TZR that a lip liner in a deep neutral shade is an essential tool that no look should go without. “Choose a pencil that’s close to your natural lip color,” he says. It’s OK if it doesn’t match the lipstick you’re applying, as this step just creates the foundation for the final look. Clear liners are also commonly used when creating a highly pigmented lip. “By tracing a thin line just outside the edges of your lips, you’ll create a barrier that prevents the color from bleeding, feathering, or fading,” says Kyle.
After you’ve created a border, begin applying the lipstick starting with the top lip and finishing on the bottom. While you can swipe it on straight from the tube, Kyle recommends investing in a lip brush to give you more control. “Using careful strokes, brush the color onto the outer areas of the lip before filling them in with your chosen shade,” she says. Now it’s time to blot. “Take a folded tissue and blot between your lips to remove any excess product,” he says.
How To Apply Red Lipstick For A Lived-In Look
A pop of cherry is just as striking during the daytime — especially when it has a naturally lived-in feel. Though effortless is the goal, there are a few steps involved to achieve the look. “Start by priming your lips with a colorless balm,” says Kyle. Not only will this hydrate them, but it will ensure blending is easy. Next, she recommends focusing the application on the line where your lips meet when your mouth is closed. “Using your finger or a lip brush, work the color from the center outward to the edges,” she adds.
Remember, this look is supposed to appear a little undone, so you don’t have to worry if the product’s distributed evenly. Instead, lean into the imperfections. Once you’ve created a subtle wash of color, you can choose to build it up for a more intense appearance. “Adding light layers at a time straight from the bullet and lightly tapping the product in can deepen the hue,” says Anaya.
How To Prevent Common Application Mistakes
Longevity is the ultimate goal for a bold lip. However, thanks to daily tasks like eating and drinking, it’s a lot easier said than done. Luckily, there are some quick tips you can use to ensure it stays put. “It’s always a good idea to build the color in layers to prevent feathering,” says Anaya. In addition to applying the lipstick correctly, he recommends cleaning up any harsh lines with a long-wearing concealer before setting the lip in place.
Loose powders are often used to lock in a full-coverage makeup look, but they work well for securing lipsticks too. “If you’re using a matte formula, dust a light layer of translucent powder on top to absorb moisture and seal the pigment in place,” says Kyle. Contrarily, a quick spritz of setting spray can help keep a glossy lip from smudging or transferring.
The key to wearing any red lipstick is confidence. Whether you’re going full glam for a special occasion or are swiping on the shade for a quick pick-me-up, these tips can help you reach your full potential.