When the holidays come around each year and we think about makeup for a Christmas party or New Year’s Eve, red lipstick is an obvious choice. Obvious, maybe, but never boring. Red lipstick isn’t for the faint of heart, but we at Best Coast Beauty have come to realize that it really can be for everyone. We’ve done an edit of our red lipsticks, some tried and true, some shiny and new, to share what we’ve learned about the color and the products that help us achieve our red lipstick dreams.
When Lea and I first decided to do a Best Coast Edit on red lipstick, there were a few favorites that immediately came to mind. I have a ridiculous amount of makeup, which includes, as I discovered when I pulled all of them out, more than twenty red lipsticks. I went through and swatched all of them to compare shades and formulas, broke them down into groups (i.e. classic reds, dark reds) and narrowed it down to the five in my collection that I think are the very best.
Before I get into each of my favorite reds, I do have to stand on my soap box for a second and talk to you about something I have heard time and time again from many women of all ages in my life: “I don’t look good in red lipstick” or “I can’t wear red”. This statement is FALSE. False, false, false, and we should all stop saying this. There is a red for every skin tone, every undertone, every formula preference, and every price point. Yes, some are better than others and you may have to kiss a few frogs to find your perfect red, but if it’s something that you’re curious to explore, try it!
“…because red is so present, wearing it is really about mustering up a bit of confidence, about being willing to walk into a room knowing people will notice you and being fine with that.”
When people tell me they can’t wear red lipstick, what I really hear is either “I don’t feel comfortable in it” or “I’m worried about what other people will think if I show up in this”. I know I’ve been in that second category before. Red lipstick is very present, and when I say that I mean that it will be noticed. People will see it. On my own journey with makeup, I came to realize that because red is so present, wearing it is really about mustering up a bit of confidence, about being willing to walk into a room knowing people will notice you and being fine with that.
Think about what goes through your mind when you see someone in a red lip; what is your first thought? If it’s something like “Wow, that’s striking/pretty/daring/cool/fun”, you probably just thought what most other people would think if they saw you wearing it. Even if you thought, “That’s a bit much”, you likely moved on to something else half-a-second later. So should we really be dwelling so much on other people’s half-a-second thoughts? For me, when I took the risk and put on the red lip, even if I wasn’t 100% convinced, just doing it helped me break through my doubts enough to try it again another day, and get to a point where red lipstick actually makes me feel confident and beautiful and brave. My advice: wear the lipstick. Maybe even try one of the shades below, which are my top five red lipstick favorites.
Best Dark Red: ColourPop Crème Lux Lipstick in Tiana, $9
This budget friendly lippie is part of ColourPop’s Disney Designer collection and is described as a deep oxblood. The packaging of this lipstick has Tiana on the front of the box looking gorgeous, and a gold lipstick bullet that feels more lux than the $9 price tag. I especially love wearing black with this deep red and feel like the shade adds a bit of sophisticated drama. The cream formula doesn’t last forever, but holds up surprisingly well for a few hours and it’s a great shade for the winter months.
Best Orange Red: Yves Saint Laurent Tatouage Couture Liquid Matte Lip Stain in 1 Rouge Tatouage, $37
I have the mini version of this stain, which claims to be a “non-drying, ultra thin formula that won’t feather or fade.” I love the bright orangey-ness of the shade and feel like it’s the most fun of my reds. The first time I used this, however, I thought it was awful, so I do need to share a few tips. When you first apply YSL’s Liquid Matte Lip Stain, the formula is almost like a gloss, light but very wet. It can look patchy if you try to just swipe it on in one go, and it will gather at the lip lines. I recommend using the tip of the applicator to lightly line the lips and then apply one layer, wait about thirty seconds, and go in with another layer. It’s light and sheer, so it won’t seem like you’re piling it on, but you absolutely need to build this so that the coverage is even. After a few minutes, the glossy texture settles into a beautiful matte that feels like nothing on the lips. If I take my time with this and make sure the edges are crisp and that the color is built in layers, it looks great ALL DAY.
Best Classic Red: Ciaté London Liquid Velvet Moisturizing Matte Liquid Lipstick in Diva, $19
I have a few different shades of this Liquid Velvet formula and it’s probably my very favorite liquid lipstick. I wore Diva to my work Christmas party and it lasted through butternut squash ravioli and didn’t leave any embarrassing lip marks on my glass as I sat around a table with my coworkers! After over five hours, I did touch it up to bring back a little vibrancy, and it builds really easily. I can even pop some Chapstick on top if I’m feeling a little dry. I think this is a great red for someone who doesn’t really know what shade to try first because it would look good on a lot of skin tones. I prefer a matte red, and this delivers the finish I like with full one-swipe coverage on the lips. A real winner in my book.
Best Berry Red: Bésame Cosmetics Classic Color Lipstick in American Beauty, $22
This is one of my top ten lipsticks of any shade. A true replica of an actual color from 1945, American Beauty has a hint of pink and a slight berry tone. The formula of this lipstick is, in my opinion, pretty perfect. It’s smooth, highly pigmented, creamy and moisturizing. It also leaves a pretty stain on the lips, which really helps the color stay true for long periods of time.
I can’t say it enough, if you haven’t heard of Bésame Cosmetics, do yourself a favor and try one of their Classic Color Lipsticks. The Bésame brand is kind of the queen of red lips and there are so many gorgeous red shades to choose from in their line.
Best I Just Had to Include It Somewhere Red: Pat McGrath Labs LuxeTrance Lipstick in Major Red, $40
This is a spendy luxury lipstick, but it is too good not to make the Best Coast Edit. The black and gold packaging is artsy and glam, and the Major Red shade is a true, cool red. It’s a real cream formula so it tugs a little at the lips on application because it’s a high quality pigment without a lot of slip. I recommend slowly applying this straight from the tube from the inner corner of the lip to the cupid’s bow, following the lip line and then filling in any extra space. This shade is reminiscent of classic glamour to me and a little extra glamour is always welcome in my world.
I love lipstick, on other people. Applying a flawless, classic, red lip gives me serious gratification…and also anxiety. I worry both about what people might be thinking as well as whether it still looks flawless. I know what you’re going to say, “try a stain or a liquid lip…something that won’t budge.” Trust me, I have and they do. I never drink water so my lips are embarrassingly dry, too dry for a liquid lip (red or not) and lip stains seem to just emphasize texture. MY problem is sometimes I do dress up and in those instances I want to look polished, festive even. For such occasions I own 3 red lipsticks and for the purpose of this review I pulled them all out to test. The results surprised me.
Wander Beauty Love Lock Hydrating Lip Gel in Parisian Red, $28.99*
Going from lightest to darkest, I started with my first ever lip gel, also my first Wander Beauty product (created by model Lindsay Ellingson), as well as the only item I purchased for this post. I’m a fan!. After trying this I expected it to be my favorite, mostly because it’s the safe choice, but also because it’s infused with rose extract and moisturizing prickly pear. The gel formula doesn’t stick to dry patches or stain unevenly. It doesn’t have much lasting power but that makes it effortless. I could apply Parisian Red without a mirror and still look presentable, adult and feminine. My husband complimented me on it when he got home and my lips didn’t feel any worse for wear. I see why this tops many lists as a “best red” though I’d use the categorization of “red” loosely. Liz called it “candy apple” and I feel like that’s accurate.
*Editor’s note: since this article was written Wander Beauty has discontinued the Love Lock Hydrating Gel. As of 12/14/19 this product can still be found on Amazon but will undoubtedly sell out as it is no longer being produced.
MAC Cosmetics Matte Lipstick in Russian Red, $18.50
This has been my go-to but it clearly isn’t something I “go to” very often because I’ve had it way longer than one should keep a lipstick. Do as I say, not as a I do…throw your lipstick out after a year. As a result of age/use, the bullet is pretty rounded and the matte formula, though creamy, is a little difficult to apply. My advice: use a brush and take your time. Russian Red is, in my opinion, a classic red that tends toward blue (making your teeth look whiter).
MAC’s thick formula doesn’t feather and while the packaging says matte, it isn’t drying and with the right pre-application (exfoliation and balm) the results are smooth and lasting. It leaves a light red (albeit even) tinge to the lips as it wears off. If this lipstick smears it can mostly be wiped clean, so isn’t a huge disaster. You’ll get noticed in this lip but in a good way. I will say, in the grey and rainy Seattle burbs I did have several people ask me what special event I had just come from.
Bite Beauty Amuse Bouche Lipstick in Tannin, $26
My third pick was a bit of a surprise. I’d been given a set of Bite Beauty’s Amuse Bouche lipsticks as a gift but previously never had the courage to try them. I pulled the tin out and used shade Tannin for a holiday party look (and for the sake of this article). Then I used it for a boost of confidence at lunch with my mother in law and again to add some pep in my step for a Friday mommy-group meet up. I didn’t use liner so I was careful to line with the sharp bullet (going forward, as the shape rounds out with use, I think this would benefit from being paired with a liner. My all-time favorite formula is Urban Decay’s 24/7 Glide-On Lip Pencil ).
The Amuse Bouche formula didn’t feather but at the same time was really moisturizing, as in my lips were better after it than before. I didn’t blot but was also careful not to over-apply (I could see that happening if you aren’t careful). The result was an even, opaque, downright juicy red lip. I felt put together but in a much more natural and sexy way than with the matte formula from MAC. As this lipstick wore away it left an even and almost berry tinted stain which was just as flattering as the original lipstick.
“…recent studies show women ingest about 350 grams of lipstick in their lifetime- that’s an entire soup can!”
It’s worth mentioning that recent studies show women ingest about 350 grams of lipstick in their lifetime- that’s an entire soup can! With this in mind, I’m even more excited to learn that Bite Beauty products are classified as edible by the FDA- they’re so natural, they’re literally safe to eat; “the perfect bite”, the company touts. Their Amuse Bouche line includes 40 shades, each one including 12 edible vegetable oils (they smell like oranges).
Bonus points to Bite for producing a beautiful product made of safe and natural ingredients. I want to own more of the 40 shades! All this from a non-lipstick wearer. This wear test, of the boldest red I own, has made me a convert.