How To Choose (And Apply) Your Perfect Red Lipstick

Pout it out.

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In life, there are a few little luxuries that make us feel like we could take on the world. For some, it’s a killer pair of heels or a set of matching underwear. For us, it’s a swipe of red lipstick.

Whether it’s a pop of colour added to a simple white t-shirt and jeans combo (à la The Parisienne) or a statement lip on date night a red lip has the ability to say whatever you want it to. Done right, a red lip is confident, effortless and sexy, all in one.

The catch? Finding your perfect red lipstick is no easy feat. 

Between the multitude of tones, textures and finishes and the added pressure of perfecting the application, a red lip can be seriously intimidating. Here, we sit down with makeup artists Nicole Thompson (aka Pinkie) and Katrina Raftery for their advice on how to nail red lipstick.

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The Psychology Behind A Red Lip, Explained

The allure of a red lip is universal. The colour red is associated with passion, dominance and sexuality and is arguably one of the boldest colours on the wheel. What’s more? It can also make you look younger.

A study conducted by psychologists at Gettysburg College in America found that applying red lipstick increased the red-green contrast around your lips. As we age, this contrast becomes less prominent, so playing up the contrast will make you appear more spritely. 

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Choosing The Colour

Still in search of ‘the one’? Like most things in life, personal preference plays a huge role in what you perceive as the perfect shade of red. However, there are a few key takeaways. For starters, let’s break the shade down into tones. “There are generally four tones,” says Thompson. “There are blue-based reds (think: old Hollywood glamour), orange-based tomato reds, brown-toned reds, and burgundy-toned reds.” 

Makeup isn’t meant to be formulaic, it’s about having fun. Don’t worry about picking a shade for your skin tone; choose a shade that makes you feel like youIf you are feeling lost, Raftery’s personal favourites are: “Le Phyto Rouge Lipstick in Rouge Rio by Sisley Paris (it’s the perfect classic blue-toned red), Rouge D’Armani Matte in 401 Red Fire by Giorgio Armani and Revlon’s Creme Lipstick in 740 Certainly Red.”

Our advice? If you can’t go and try on in-store (cheers, Coronavirus), opt for a virtual try on tool. The program will do all the trying on for you: our favourites come via M.A.C and Maybelline.

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How To Apply

Now that you’ve found the shade of your dreams, application is the final frontier. Thompson shares her step-by-step guide to applying the perfect red lip:

Step 1: Hydrate And Smooth

“Dry lips look terrible under any lip colour,” says Thompson. “If you have dry, flaky lips, exfoliate those bad boys before you do anything else.” Exfoliating wipes are great because they are relatively gentle and mess-free. Otherwise, a face scrub or sugar polish should do the trick. Post-scrub, apply some lip balm and blot away any excess with a tissue.

Step 2: Perfect The Skin

A sharp line will make your lipstick look polished and perfected. This, surprisingly, comes down to the skin around your lips, rather than your lips themselves. To perfect and smooth the skin, Thompson likes to “apply foundation and concealer as usual, taking a small amount over the edges of the lips so you start with a blank canvas of colour.”

Step 3: Apply The Lipstick

Yes, before the lip liner. “I find popping the colour down at the initial stage helps the pencil to glide on,” she says. 

Step 4: Lip Liner

The golden ingredient, lip liner, is in the same category as an eyelash curler. Read: essential. “I rely on pencil to perfect the shape of the lips,” says Thompson. “We have so much more control with a pencil.” Application-wise, she recommends starting at the cupid’s bow and working your way outwards. 

Step 5: Lipstick, Layer Two

Pretty self explanatory, apply a second layer of your chosen red.

Step 6: Final Touch Ups

While it might be tempting to reach for more lipstick to perfect the edges, it will likely end up in a mess. Think of it like eyeliner – nothing good ever comes from adding more. Thompson advises using a small brush or cotton tip to rub the colour in and smooth the edges.

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Now That It’s On… Here’s How To Make It Stay-Put

So, it’s 30 minutes later and you finally have the lipstick perfected. The last thing you want to happen is for it to rub off the second you take a sip of your coffee or cocktail. Raftery’s recommendation? Prep, prep, prep. “Always prep and hydrate your lips first. I use Lanolips or Carmex and then apply foundation over the lips to create a tacky base for the colour to stick to.”

Also, layer it up. Similar to nail polish, the more coats you apply, the stronger the pigment of your red lip. Raftery recommends blotting between each layer to remove any excess and ensuring you reapply at every chance you get. 

Do you have a perfect red lipstick shade? Leave your favourite in the comments below!


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