A few years ago, A$AP Rocky broke my heart. Not just because he was dating Chanel Iman, but because he made a really disparaging comment about women like me. "I feel like with the red lipstick thing, it all depends on the... complexion," he told The Coveteur in 2013. "You have to be fair skinned to get away with that." As someone who was still developing my beauty identity at the time, it was hurtful to hear. There were already unspoken rules on what dark-skinned girls with coily hair should and shouldn't do — and to hear A$AP's judgement almost felt direct. These days, I don't care what anyone has to say about what's on my face... and despite that rapper's judgement, I know that blue-based red lipsticks work for me. And I look good in them.
Now, the confidence in my red lip game didn't come easy. Just like the fabled princess had to kiss her fair share of frogs to find her prince, I've tried dozens — if not hundreds — of red lipsticks to find The One. Liquids, sheers, glosses, powders, and tinted balms, all with varying undertones. Before I knew anything about makeup, I foolishly assumed that any red lipstick works for anyone. And honestly, if you feel like going for that brick red or orange-based color, then go for it, girl. However, my friend Jaleesa Jaikaran, an editorial makeup artist, explained why blues always end up being my one true love.
"Blue-based lipsticks are usually considered cooler-toned," she says. "These tones and look incredibly flattering on darker skin that can tend to veer on the warmer or olive side. They work because they brighten the smile and help achieve a youthful look." All of that without having to sit in my esthetician's chair? How could I complain?
I'm glad that I didn't let A$AP's comments get in my head a few years ago. Aside from the free FaceTune, wearing red lipstick makes me feel powerful and confident — like I can take on the world. And that's a feeling that women of all skin tones deserve to experience. See my favorites ahead.
MatteTrance Lipstick In Elson
Pat McGrath Labs
I can admit that I'm a bit biased here, as I live and breathe for Pat McGrath — the mother of makeup. She's a living legend, and I'd do anything she says... or wear anything that she makes. Thankfully, her products are the kind that I'd wear for the rest of my life. MatteTrance is seriously one of the best matte formulas on the market. They're packaged exquisitely, feel so comfortable, and last all day long. Elson, a true blue red, finishes just like fine velvet.
Cushy Vibe High-Pigment Lip Stain
Honestly, I didn't expect to like this stain as much as I do. First off, I'm very apples or oranges when it comes to my lip products: it's either a matte, a gloss, or nothing. Cushy Vibe is somewhat of a happy medium. It goes on so, so easy, just like a gloss would... I could apply it with my eyes closed, if need be. But once dry, it settles in like a comfortable matte... and even when it fades away, it looks comfortably worn-in. I love it for busy days when I don't have enough time to reapply my makeup.
Made For All Lipstick By Color Sensational in Red-For-Me
I spotted Made For All backstage at Cushnie in Sept. 2018, where I probably got on the last nerve of Grace Lee, the key makeup artist. She insisted that every model wore the same lipstick, and I refused to believe that Alanna Arrington, Winnie Harlow, *and* Maria Borges all wore one shade. But Maybelline tested out their new Made For All range on 50 different skin tones, ensuring that the products remain true to their name. I got my hands on Red-For-Me last month, and haven't let it go since. It's comfortable, goes on almost like a balm, and doesn't require a pencil or a whole lot of blotting to work. Maybe Grace was on to something...
Retro Matte Lipstick in Ruby Woo
You can't talk about blue-based reds without paying homage to the G.O.A.T. I thought that the eternal excitement around Ruby Woo was all hype, until I actually tried it for myself. It's just SO good. It's rich, vibrant, leans towards cherry — and really does look good on everyone.
Vice Lipstick in Bad Blood
They say you never forget your first... and Bad Blood will always be in my memory. This was the first red lipstick that actually worked for me, without having to blend and blot all night long. I picked it up at a beauty sale as an intern, and got so many compliments from my friends back at school that I swore it'd be a mainstay in my makeup bag. Six years passed, and that still rings true.
Red Carpet Matte Lipstick
Mented is one of my favorite makeup lines, because they always have melanin in mind. First, they launched a line of nude lipsticks geared for consumers with dark skin — a rarity. Soon came glosses and nail polishes and an eye shadow palette... but their capsule collection of reds is probably the most exciting drop yet. The trio of reds are unique because they're pegged to undertones, which is super important for finding the right color.
Stunna Lip Paint in Uncensored
I'll admit that it took a little while for Uncensored to grow on me. Lip Paint is truly like a paint — the formula is a bit thicker than my usual selections. But I got past the consistency, I grew to appreciate the little things... like how fast the product dries, how vibrant it looks when I have on a full #FentyFace of Pro Filt'r Matte Longwear Foundation and Killawatt highlighter, and how Rihanna is just so committed to making products that work for a wide variety of women. Ugh, god bless her.
Lip Pencil In Dragon Girl
Make sure that you scrub and condition your lips really well before applying this pencil — you'll want it to glide on as smooth as possible. Which truthfully isn't a problem, as the formula is made with vitamin E and emollients.
Soft Matte Cream in Amsterdam
NYX Professional Makeup
Another college favorite that I still use to this day. The NYX Soft Matte Creams are one of the most comfortable liquid lipsticks I've ever tried, and are just as rich and pigmented as products twice the price.
F*cking Fabulous Lip Color
I'm typically not a fan of shiny lipstick finishes, but I couldn't resist trying this one. I'm basically a third grader at heart, and always giggle at the name. But this "true red," as the brand described it, is fiery without reading too orange.