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Here’s the Best Red Lipstick for Your Skin Tone + The Makeup Artist Trick to a Plumper Pout

Learn how to determine which shade works best for you

From silver screen sirens like Marilyn Monroe to modern-day icons like Taylor Swift who regularly sports a crimson pout, red lips have stood the test of time and the bold hue isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. The reason? It’s a natural anti-ager with a plumping effect (no injections needed). “As we age, our lips lose volume. Red helps the lips appear fuller and more youthful and creates a focal point, drawing attention away from other signs of aging, such as fine lines or wrinkles,” explains Dyana Aives, celebrity makeup artist for beauty on-demand service Ring My Belle, who has worked with Melissa Etheridge and Amy Schumer. “It can also be a powerful tool to enhance self-esteem and showcase a strong and vibrant presence. Red lipstick is a timeless and classic choice transcending age.” And wearing a red lip will transform the most casual style into a sophisticated and luxe look — as long as you find the best red lipstick for your skin tone.

How to determine your skin tone

 red lipsticks lined up
Iana Kunitsa/Getty Images

There are hundreds of crimson hues to choose from — some can be more pinkish, while some have purplish blue undertones. Still others can border on coral, and of course, there’s the most vibrant, fire-engine red, that not everyone can pull off. But how do you select the right one for you? Determining your skin tone is the foundation for choosing the right shade of red. Aives says there are five primary skin tones to consider. 

1. Fair skin tone: This refers to individuals with lighter skin who tend to burn or freckle in the sun. Fair skin tones often have pink or peach undertones.  (Click here for more on determining your skin undertones.)

2. Light skin tone: This is slightly darker than fair skin but still falls on the lighter end of the spectrum. Light skin tones can have a range of undertones, including pink, peach or olive (if you’re bordering on medium or tend to be more medium after being out in the sun). 

3. Medium skin tone: They usually have a balance of warm and cool undertones and a mix of yellow and pink undertones. 

4. Tan skin tone: Tan skin tones are characterized by a warm, golden or olive undertone. They typically have a deeper complexion with a sun-kissed glow. 

5. Deep skin tone: Deep skin tones have rich, dark complexions with deeper undertones. These undertones, such as deep brown, ebony or even mahogany, can range from warm to cool.

The best red lipstick for every skin tone

Now that you know how to determine your tone, it’s time to pick some red lipsticks that’ll stand out! Simply choose the complementary shade (or shades) of red that corresponds with your skin tone.

Red lipsticks are typically made in shades with three undertones: blue, yellow/orange and pink. “Fair-skinned and light-skinned women with a neutral or cool undertone look great in cool reds with a blue base,” says makeup pro Genn Shaughnessy, who has worked with Carrie Underwood and Judy Greer 

Since medium skin tones can be a mixture of warm and cool, they should look for “warmer shades of red with gold and yellow in them which complement warm and neutral medium undertones … but if on the cooler side, find ones with a more blue base. Darker skin tones can wear warm or cool reds and look gorgeous in berry and wine colors,” she explains. 

Best red lipstick for fair & light skin tones

If you have a fair or light skin tone like Nicole Kidman, Shaughnessy advises looking for cool red with a blue base. 

Nicole Kidman
Nicole Kidman Rich Fury / Staff/Getty
Meloway Makeup’s Hi-Rise Matte Lipstick in “Sleeping Beauty”
Meloway

Meloway Makeup’s Hi-Rise Matte Lipstick in “Sleeping Beauty” (Buy from Meloway, $25)

Fair skin tones can opt for this red lipstick, which hydrates dry and chapped lips with plumping peptides. Thanks to a nourishing formula, this matte lipstick comfortably sits on the lips without bleeding or feathering for a beautiful color payoff. The slim, twist-up bullet also makes for a precise, easy application that doesn’t require a lip liner, making a red pout foolproof! 

Related: Dermatologist Weighs In On $20 TikTok Peptide Trick That Works Like Botox

Mary Kay Supreme Hydrating Lipstick in “Rockstar Red”
Mary Kay

Mary Kay Supreme Hydrating Lipstick in “Rockstar Red” (Buy from Mary Kay, $18)

This gem provides lips with a moisturizing coat of rich red color. It’s packed with tried-and-true conditioners like sunflower oil and vitamin E, which help moisturize lips so the color doesn’t settle into fine lines. 

For medium skin tones 

Julianne Moore
Julianne MooreGetty Images

If you have a medium skin tone like Julianne Moore, you can opt for most shades of red. If your medium skin is warmer, opt for rich reds with yellow and gold. If it’s on the cooler side, look for blue undertones like the recommendations for fair skin. Depending on your mood, you can go with either if you’re more neutral! 

MAC Creamsheen in “Brave Red”
MAC

MAC Creamsheen in “Brave Red” (Buy from MAC, $23)

This red shade is Aives’s choice for medium skin tones because of its bright, yellow undertones. It’s also designed to be buildable and applied in layers, so you can go as light or dark as you want. 

L’Oreal Color Riche Lipstick in “Volcanic”
L’Oreal Paris

L’Oreal Color Riche Lipstick in “Volcanic” (Buy from Ulta, $11.49)

This lipstick promises not to smudge, smear, migrate or feather, and it smooths lips in just one coat. The orangey-pink shade is the perfect burst of color to brighten up medium skin tones.  

Best red lipstick for tan skin tones

Tan skin tones like Sofia Vergara’s have a sun-kissed glow and are complemented by an orange or coral red. 

sofia vergara
Sofia vergara Getty Images
Beautycounter Statement Satin Lipstick in “Energized Orange Red”
Beautycounter

Beautycounter Statement Satin Lipstick in “Energized Orange Red” (Buy from Beautycounter, $35)

We love how this glides effortlessly over lips, leaving a satin finish of full-coverage color and lasting wear. The company also uses ECOCERT-certified organic vanilla from Madagascar, which gives this formula its signature sweet scent. It’s combined with a blend of açai fruit oil, shea, mango butter and conditioning waxes that leave lips feeling soft and supple.

RINNA BEAUTY Call Me Coral Kit
RINNA Beauty

RINNA BEAUTY “Call Me Coral” ICON Lip Kit (coming in January) (Buy from RINNA BEAUTY, $49)

This kit is the perfect trio of sun-kissed coral. The peachy coral with pink undertones is the ideal alternative for those not looking for a bold red. 

Related: How Lisa Rinna’s Hair Cut Changed Her Life: And How You Can Get the Look

For deep skin tones 

Shaughnessy says that shades of berry and wine are fine for darker and deeper skin tones like that of Garcelle Beauvais. 

Garcelle Beauvais
Garcelle BeauvaisGetty Images
NYX Duck Plump in “Hall of Flame”
NYX Cosmetics

NYX Duck Plump in “Hall of Flame” (Buy from NYX Cosmetics, $13)

This lipstick gives an instant plumping effect for the ultimate injection-less pout powered by spicy ginger. This berryesque “hall of flame” shade brings out the best in darker skin tones. 

Gel Semi Matte Lipstick in “Red Stiletto”
Mary Kay

Mary Kay Gel Semi Matte Lipstick in “Red Stiletto” (Buy from Mary Kay, $18)

This red lipstick is a full-coverage one that utilizes gel microsphere technology for a rich, stay-true color that delivers long-lasting wear without leaving lips looking or feeling dry.

How best to apply red lipstick

woman applying lipstick
Peter Dazeley/ Getty Images

While this can undoubtedly take practice (it’s akin to coloring between the lines as a kid), the technique is also crucial to keep your red lipstick from bleeding outside the lips. But you don’t have to be a makeup pro to get it right. We tapped Saffron Hughes, resident makeup artist for FalseEyelashes.co.uk, to share her professional application tips to ensure a flawless look. Her 5 easy steps:

Step 1: Scrub. Begin with a lip scrub to give the lipstick something to stick to. After this, use a lip primer and spread it evenly before waiting five minutes to allow it to seep into the skin.

Step 2: Line lips. This not only defines the shape of your lips but extends the longevity of your red lip and can make your lips look fuller. To line your lips, mark an X on your cupid’s bow before joining it with your natural lips in the outer corners. Next, line your bottom lip, beginning in the center, before slowly working your way out by tracing over the natural edges of your lips. 

Or watch this TikTok from user @smithadepak that shows how to line thin lips so they appear fuller:

@smithadepak

Try this simple hack by changing your lip liner to achieve bigger, jucier lips with makeup, that look natural, heart shaped!! I hope you enjoy this tutorial! ❤️deets @colourpopco Precision Eye Brow Pencil (Bangin’ Brunette) @ofracosmetics X SmithaDeepak BESTIE Long Lasting Liquid Lipstick OFRA Lip Lush in Plump #plumplips #lipsync #lipstick #lipliner #liphacks #lipstickhack #biglips #makeup #makeuptutorial

♬ original sound – Smitha Deepak

Step 3: Fill in the lip. You’ve taken the time to master your liner, and now it’s time to fill in the lips with all that fabulous color! Using a flat lip brush, apply the red lipstick carefully over the initial pencil layer before filling in the rest. 

Step 4: Spot treat. To fine-tune your lip shape or fix any lip color mishaps, finish by going around your lips with concealer. Not only will this color correct any slip-ups during application, it will make your lips appear clean and crisp throughout the day.

Step 5: Finish. A touch of translucent powder is the secret to a velvety matte look. But for those craving a hint of shine, dab of gloss on the bottom lip to deliver just the right amount of allure.

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For more lipstick tips and tricks, click through these stories:

Helen Mirren Wore This $11 Anti-Aging Lipstick to the Golden Globes

Over 50? Plastic Surgeon’s Easy Lip Plumping Hack Will Turn Back the Clock Instantly

How to Get Lipstick Stains Out of Clothes — Laundry Pros’ Genius Tips for Every Fabric

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