This weeks question–which I have totally misplaced, by the way–is from Farrah, who wants to know about red lipstick. Her question was, if memory serves, about a few things:
- How can I pull off red lipstick?
- Can I wear it during the day?
- Is lipliner still a thing? Do I need it all the time?
- I want to do a dramatic Old Hollywood look, but I don’t know how.
I am the right person to ask about this stuff, because I have always and forever been a red lipstick kind of girl. For example, yours truly at 20, having nothing on her agenda except going to class:
My look at the time could not be described as has low maintenance. I probably spent forty minutes putting my face on, only to spend all day sitting in a lecture hall, taking notes. I could have used that time for sleeping. College students, take note!
Anyway. What I’m trying to say is that I’ve been around the red lipstick block.
Red is easier to pull off that a lot of people realise. Before I talk about gloss vs matte, I’m going to talk about finding the right shade of red for you. This is also a lot easier than most people realise.
First things first: When figuring out what colour ANYTHING looks best on you, wear the right stuff. Wear a light or neutral coloured shirt and minimal, basic makeup. This is your prepared, blank canvas that will give you the best idea of how the product will look in your real life.
And I’m not saying you HAVE to wear a gigantic Mongolian lamb vest…but it doesn’t hurt.
You may also notice that I’ve cut my hair and dyed it a bit darker. I feel like a new woman!
For me, basic makeup is concealer (MAC Mineralise, YSL Touche Eclat for under my eyes), blush (NARS Desire), eyeshadow to fill in my eyebrows (Sable, by Studio Graphics I think?), grey eyeliner under my eyes and mascara (both discussed here). Your mileage may vary. DO YOU.
Obviously, red is never just RED the way black is black or white is white. Though red is a primary colour, other colours go into making the different shades–which is how you get this, this, this and this–and they’re all still red. When it comes to choosing a lipstick, the dimensions you’re going to want to consider are warm vs cool and dark vs bright. These may have technical names, but I have no idea what they are, so whatever.
Warm reds are red lipsticks that have a lot of yellow or orange in them. If you go to a makeup counter, you’ll probably hear them described as “true red,” “tomato red” or “brick red.” Cool reds–these are my jam–have more blue or purple in them. These might be described as “natural red” or “raspberry red” but I always call them the pinky-reds, ’cause that’s what they are.
I don’t think there are particular skintones or hair colours that look best in warm vs cool reds, because there are too many variables for that. So no shortcuts: you just have to try both and see which one you like the best.
How dark or bright is another factor to consider. Do your want your red deeper, like a crimson, or brighter, like a poppy?
That’s MAC Red on the left and So Scarlet (discontinued) on the right–two cool toned reds, one bright and one dark. Totally different.
So now you know what colour red you like. Now let’s talk about attitude.
The trick to pulling off red lips is confidence. It’s a bold look, and you have to be bold YOURSELF to carry it off. Luckily, confidence isn’t hard to fake–just tell yourself how fantastic you look and go about your business like nothing is different on your face. A lot of people tell me they think other people will think they look stupid with a bright lip. In general, people don’t really spend much time thinking about others because they’re too busy thinking about themselves, so don’t worry. Nobody will throw rotten fruit at you on the street because you did something different.
That said, there are a lot of ways to ease your way into a red lip. The first is with a red gloss.
My favourite red gloss is Starlit by Smashbox. You get really great colour without having to go as heavy as lipstick, and you get some shimmer but not like you ate a mouthful of glitter. This particular red is warmer (more yellow) than I usually wear, but it looks so good that I don’t even care.
Because this is a gloss, it’s going to come off pretty quickly. That’s the price you pay for shine. Though you’ll need a mirror to reapply, it’s got a wand applicator and is basically unfuckupable. This particular gloss really earned a place in my heart for not being too sticky or having a gross smell or taste. CRUCIAL.
If you’re nervous about looking “too much” for daytime but still want to look like you’re wearing makeup, I’d recommend a red gloss like this one. It’s light, reapplication is easy, it doesn’t get on your teeth, you don’t have to think about it too much.
And now let’s talk about the big guns.
My favourite red lipsticks–and now I’m talking actual lipstick, the kind of things you think about when someone says the word–are two from Mac and one from Dior. They all have pretty decent wear and decent shine, but because they are high pigment they come off on literally everything. Don’t kiss anyone unless you want to leave evidence behind, is all I’m saying, and check your teeth frequently.
MAC red has been my go-to for years. So Scarlet was discontinued a few years ago, which is a mega bummer, so look for any deep reds described as having a burgundy base to copy it. Fireworks (sorry, there’s an ‘s’ on the end there) is a replacement for my deeply beloved Flamenco Red, which Dior also discontinued and was my ultimate forever favourite. Fireworks is lightweight, shiny and lasts well–it feels almost like a gloss, but looks like a lipstick. Plus it doesn’t smell, which is AMAZING in my book. (Still, RIP Flamenco Red)
Now a word about lipliner: Don’t wear it with a gloss. You don’t have to. If you’re wearing a thicker, more colour-heavy lipstick like the three above, you will need it. Putting on lipstick straight from the tube is not really an exact science and it can look really messy if you aren’t careful. I know a lot of people tell you to do the liner FIRST, but I always apply the lipstick first, THEN neaten up the borders with my liner. You don’t need a seperate liner for each shade of stick, either. I only have four colours of lipliner, all of them from the drugstore, and that’s basically all I need: A bright red, a dark red/burgundy, a bright coral/pink and a colour pretty close to my natural lipcolour. If you get a selection similar, they will serve you well.
If you don’t want to mess around with liner and lipstick, and you want something that is going to stay on your mouth for ages, why not combine the two into one? And why not make it the closest thing possible to a universally flattering red? Ladies and gentlemen, let me introduce you to NARS Dragon Girl.
It has the best name in history. It comes in a chubby pencil and it’s really easy to use. It stays on forever and doesn’t dry out your lips (even though it’s a very matte finish and sometimes that’s the price you have to pay). This colour looks good on so many skin tones and hair colours, it’s insane. It also doesn’t kiss off all that easily, which my boyfriend appreciates. And it is my absolute favourite ever ever EVER.
Because it’s so bright and so matte, I usually save this for nighttime outings. But it also looks spectacular on the beach, with a plain white tshirt, while walking your dog, etc. The sky is the limit when you’re a Dragon Girl.
I also wanted to write about lip stains and how there’s only one awesome kind, but the one I wanted to write about got stolen a few weeks ago and I haven’t gotten around to replacing it yet. ANOTHER TIME.
As for a glamourous Old Hollywood Look, I’d pair a bright red lip (Dragon Girl or MAC red) with some cateye liner (review the technique here), and either loosely wave my hair, Veronica Lake style, or pull it back and tease it into a big ol’ beehive. If I was feeling more Silent Movie Vixen, I’d use the deep red (So Scarlet) on my lips, then do a super smoky eye by smudging some black eyeshadow into my lashline (top and bottom). I’d straighen my hair and wear lots of long, ropelike necklaces.
And it would be fabulous.
Do you guys do the red lips thing on the regular? What are your favourite reds? Should I bring back the spiky black bob? Tell me everything in the comments or on Twitter.