My love affair with a bold, red lip began in the winter of 2010. I was down. General winter blahs. Feeling sorry for myself and just not in the best head space. I knew something had to change, but I wasn’t sure where to start. One day, I put a red lip on. I can’t even remember the occasion, probably a meeting for work. But the response was immediate. I carried myself differently. People complimented me. I heard “I wish I could pull off a red lip” multiple times and I’d answer back “but you can!” Because apparently, I was pulling it off even though I didn’t feel particularly confident or interested in drawing any attention.
And so wearing red lipstick became a thing for me. I decided to wear it every day that winter—my interpretation of the old “fake it ‘til you make it” advice. And you know what? It worked. I actually started feeling better. It became my shield against the negative thoughts I was having in my head. It made me feel like in some small way, I was trying. And something about that red lip seemed to brighten people’s day, too. It created a reaction—both in me and in others—I felt better to have it on.
Over the years, I’ve tried—and have acquired a lot of reds. Let’s be honest—I have a lot of lipsticks—period. But honestly, for as often as I wear red, I have fewer reds than other colors. I think it’s because I do have favorites that I reach for pretty consistently and have stayed loyal to throughout the years.
What makes the perfect red for me? It needs to wear well—if not hydrating, at least not drying—it needs to stay in place and not transfer all over my face or teeth, and it needs to have strong color payoff. When I wear red, I like to really wear red.
With these requirements, here are my favorites:
Tarte LipSurgence™ matte lip tint in Fiery: this is my holy grail red lipstick. It was the first matte lipstick I owned and I’ve always found the finish and color to be perfection. It’s a crayon application, but the texture is soft and it lasts a long time. I love how it feels and its slight peppermint scent. It is a real red. Not too bright or pink. Not too dark or brown. It’s just right. I have several of these stashed everywhere in my life. I had a huge scare over the summer that Tarte was going to discontinue this line—and maybe that’s still the plan?—but they are still available on their website and I cannot recommend this formula and color strongly enough. Totally worth the $24 price tag.
Urban Decay, Mrs. Mia Wallace: Thank you, UD for putting this fantastic red into your Vice permanent collection! Launched as a limited edition for Pulp Fiction’s 10th anniversary, this deep red cream lipstick quickly became a favorite. It is not matte, but not overly shiny. It also wears for a long time and creates a perfect stain. I can’t remember our history with this lipstick, but Jess and I have been obsessed since it came out. I still have my old school tube, but now I can restock it for only $17. (PS: Urban Decay knows what they are doing with a red lipstick—F-Bomb, Spiderweb, Rock Steady, Zealot are all in my collection and in heavy rotation. It really just depends on the finish and color you’re going for that day.)
Jeffree Star Velour Liquid Lipstick, REDRUM: So I’m slow—Jess had to explain the name to me—but there is nothing scary about this lipstick except for how great it is! Seriously—how did I live without Jeffree Star liquid lips?! It’s the best $18 plus shipping you’ll spend on lip products. This one is a matte finish, cool toned red and it will last and last. It doesn’t dry your lips, applies evenly and dries quickly. You can really just put it on and forget about it. This red is my favorite, but I’m also totally smitten with Rich Blood—it makes your teeth look ridiculously white!— Designer Blood (a plummy red) and Unicorn Blood (a brown red). The only thing I don’t like about them is their names…
Rimmel Lasting Finish by Kate Matte in Kiss of Life, 111: Yes—I totally bought this one because of Kate Moss. But I repurchased it because it’s awesome. It only $4.99 but it’s better than most lip products 5x the price. This one is definitely matte and definitely red. But it feels good and it lasts.
Colourpop Lippie Stix in Bichette: We really don’t give enough love to Colourpop or their incredible Lippie Stix. They are $5 and come in a huge range of colors—or should I say colours? I got this one from Pamela and it’s my favorite when I’m looking for a darker red with a smooth finish. If you are in the market for a red lip pencil, the Bichette Pencil is much better than anything you’ll get at the MAC counter and way cheaper.
Giorgio Armani Beauty Lip Maestro, 400: Okay–this one is stupid expensive–but I’m including it because you can sometimes get it as a 100 point sample or a free sample with purchase on Sephora which is how I happened upon it. I’ll tell you, it’s totally worth the crazy price tag. It feels like velvet. For real. And the color is so fancy. You will feel like a million bucks when you wear it–probably because you’ve spent close to that much to get one!
I understand why people can get a little nervous about wearing a red lip. You do have to sell it. You have to stand a little straighter to make a bold lip work. But that’s the magic. A red lip makes you believe in yourself. And makes others take notice.
I promise there is a red lipstick out there for you. Perhaps you already found it—please share in the comments if you have! But it exists. I hope these suggestions helps you find it. I have a sneaky suspicion we might all be feeling like we need a little extra something, something this winter…
All photos were obtained from the product websites and all products were purchased by me. Boy, were they ever!