The legend is true. There is nothing quite as classic, timeless, or versatile, as a red lip.
It’s my most loved and go-to make-up item and I’ll probably reach for a red lipstick 9 times out of 10, before leaving the house, despite having a whole drawer full of other shades. It just goes with everything, and makes you feel like nothing else.
Once you and the red are friends, you’ll never look back.
However the thing I hear the most, time and time again, from those wanting to branch out into the wonderful world of the red lip, and trying it for the first time is “I FEEL SILLY”, “IT’S TOO MUCH” or I LOOK LIKE A CLOWN”.
Here’s a secret no one tell you: We all felt like clowns the first time we put the red on.
Why wouldn’t we? It’s bold, so unnatural and 100% in-your-face attention grabbing. It makes you lips stand out a million miles and there’s no hiding whatsoever when you have it on.
But the way of looking at it is as a power-trip: a red lip means confidence, assertiveness, and strength.
You have to ride these initial wobbles out. Like any form of bold fashion – the only person questioning the choice is YOU. If you go out into the world, head held high, strutting like you own the street, and you wear-the-fuck out of that item – be it lipstick, pink hair, tutu, or a menagerie of taxidermy birds on tied to your head – if you don’t question it, and act like it’s the most natural thing in the world, then I guarantee that no one else will.
So this is what you must do with the lipstick. Don’t apologise for it being too much. Don’t hide. Don’t purse, or cover, your lips. You just own the look. Wear it proud like all of the legends have before you – Marilyn Monroe, Elizabeth Taylor, Liza Minelli, Tim Curry, Debbie Harry, the list goes on and on and on – you are now alongside them all, united, for you are now standing in the realm of legends.
By the second or third wear the red lips will become part of your style repertoire and you’ll get to the point where you’ll feel naked without it, like something is missing.
The thing I love most about the red lip is its ability to make you feel polished and well put-together with just the tiniest amount of effort. It’s really the easiest thing you can do to make you look all together more sophisticated. Some weekends, if I can’t be bothered putting on anything fancy and don’t want to do much with my hair or make up, I apply a slick of red and suddenly feel oh-so-chic and all Parisian-like. Even whilst wearing a ratty old tee and baggy cardigan.
I keep a tube on my person at all times, as you never know when you need to be able to step things up a notch.
Having said all of that, I acknowledge that the red lip isn’t the most low-maintenance of make-up items, but with a few tricks I’ve acquired from my more than a decade of wearing it – they should make life a little easier, whilst you adjust:
The lipstick will go on smoother, more even, and last longer if your lips are rid of any hint of dead, flaky skin. Yes you can buy those little chap-stick type things that have exfoliant mixed into them, that will buff your lips. But you know what’s even better, and totally free? Your toothbrush.
Every morning, before applying lipstick, gently circle your toothbrush over your lips for around 10 seconds and it will leave them smooth, clean, and nicely plumped.
2. LINE IT
I am a child of the 90’s so when I used to think of lip liner, I’d thing awful outlined lips, two shades darker than the lipstick itself. But little did I know, back then, that lip liner has an actual practical use for when it comes to darker, bold, lip colours. Feathering and bleeding into the fine lines around your lips is inevitable with these shades, however a simple outline of liner (in a matching shade!!) before applying your lipstick, will put a complete stop to this, keep your lip shape perfect and make your application last a hell of a lot longer. This is especially critical for liquid lipsticks like the Colourpop ones.
3. KNOW YOUR HUES
There are typically two kinds of reds: warm and cool / orange and blue based.
Orange reds are warm-toned, and generally brighter, more ‘fashion’. They have that orange undertone. And whilst they can be visually grabbing, they don’t always suit everyone’s colouring.
Blue reds are what we refer to as cool-toned. These are your iconic reds. Almost every ‘must-have’ red lipstick out there is a blue-red. It’s that timeless, versatile, shade. It also makes your teeth look whiter! It’s my hue of choice and what I’ll generally go for on a day-to-day basis.
Get to know whether your prefer (and suit) cool, or warm, reds and learn to identify them with your eyes, as well as the words that are used to describe them. This will help you no-end when browsing new brands and ranges, especially for online-only brands and stores.
4. CHECK YOURSELF OUT
Your front facing phone camera is your best friend. It’s the new compact mirror. Use it after application to check there’s no red on your teeth, and after eating to make sure none has slipped around your face. When in doubt, just check yourself out.
WHAT TO BUY
There’s approx a billion internet listicles out there, and YouTube videos, telling you the most iconic and important reds to buy. Everyone has a favourite and an opinion. But really, it’s a super personal thing, and you just have to try things our for yourself. Get out there, buy a few and figure out what works for you.
There’s so many kinds out there – traditional lipsticks, crayon, glosses, mattes, super matte, liquid – and they all have their pros and cons. And expensive does not always mean best. Some of my favourite lipstick brands are Colourpop, Rimmel (Kate Moss range) and NYX – all budget brands. I’d recommend experimenting with these cheaper brands to establish the shades and tones that work for you, before investing anything over $20 for a tube, to ensure you get maximum use and wear for your money.
Personally I’m a huge fan of the liquid matte formulas – because of their intense pigment and longevity. But some can be super drying (exfoliating helps with this).
I know that 80% of red-lip-must-have blogs will say that Mac’s Ruby Woo if THE RED. You know what? I disagree. I find Mac lipsticks drying, uncomfortable and overpriced. So there we go – it really all is personal opinion.
However to get you started, here’s my personal favourites – these are all blue / cool reds.
I do want to point out that I have not yet been able to acquire, and try, Fenty Stunna, which is the new ULTIMATE RED that everyone is talking about. I’m pretty certain I’ll love it, when I finally do get around to trying it. But to be honest, I’m so happy with the ones I already use right now that I’m in no dire need to rush out and spend the money on another right now.
1. COLOUR POP – ULTRA MATTE – ARRIBA!
This is my ride-or-die red. If I can only have one red, for eternity, it’s this baby. The perfect blue-red that will suit almost everyone. Unlike a lot of the Colourpop super-mattes, this formula isn’t too dry or flaky, and it will last most of the day. At around NZ$10 a tube, you can’t beat it price wise, and I wear it almost exclusively. The pigment and brightness is unparalleled and I simply don’t have words for how good it is. I really hope they never discontinue this…but if they do, I have two spare tubes stashed away just incase. And remember, get a lip pencil! Colourpop is online only, however if you spend US$50 you get free shipping, which is a great excuse to grab some other reds and formulas, so you can really get experimenting with what works for you.
Check it out HERE.
2. NARS – VELVET LIP PENCIL – CRUELLA
I have a confession to make. I have recently lost my own Cruella lip pencil. It’s currently MIA. Which I’m pretty devastated about. I’m sure it’ll show up in about 6 months, in a jacket pocket, or evening bag. I’m really into this shade and formula. The product comes like a crayon which is super easy, and clean, to apply and is then most low-key of all of these lip products. Having said that, it’s really buildable, and I can get a very bold look out it with a few coats. It’s a great beginners red, in a lovely raspberry-like scarlet.
Check it out HERE.
3. TOO FACED – MELTED LATEX – I’M BOSSY
I’m typically a devout matte fan. Glosses are sticky, generally less-pigmented, and my hair gets stuck on it. I simply prefer the timeless look and impact of the bold, matte lip. But having said that, I did end up purchasing a tube of I’m Bossy, last week, from Mecca. The pigment and hi-shine level is really impressive, and I figured it’s always good to mix things up and leave my comfort zone. Though, really, the deciding factor was that it was only $15 which is a really great price for a full-sized Too Faced product. Give it a whirl if you’re wanting to shake things up a bit without spending a fortune.
Check it out HERE.
4. YSL – ROUGE PUR COUTURE – LE ROUGE 01
If you’re after a traditional tube of lipstick, and have a little extra cash to throw around, I’d recommend this one. Yeah it’s a really extravagant purchase at NZ$66 but glides on like a utter dream, smells of roses, and you feel like a movie star every time you pull out the heavy, gold, tube in public. Personally I’d rather spend a bit more and get a nicer product that makes me feel super luxurious. As mentioned earlier, Mac lipsticks I find so underwhelming and drying – and besides, a tube lasts a really long time. Go on, you deserve it.
Check it out HERE.
So there you have it – all you need to know to get started on the journey to evoking scarlet envy from all of those that you encounter. Just get out there, pick yourself a hue, and commit. Those feelings of awkwardness and being self-conscious will vanish into oblivion just as soon as you get your first compliment on the colour. Which I anticipate will be in approximately six minutes!
Like everything that is wonderful, eye-catching, and bold, in fashion – just have fun, enjoy the journey, always be yourself, and you can’t go wrong.