Pucker up! What you need to know about buying (and applying) red lipstick
There is one thing French fashionistas and classic pinup models agree upon, and that’s the power of a bright red kisser.
Red lips are a classic and timeless staple among the most fashionable women in the world and in history. But red lips, when done poorly, can also be the greatest makeup offender. Think Courtney Love after a rough night.
Whether you’re in a rush and only have a few minutes to make a big makeup impact, or you’re getting fancy for your Valentine’s Day date, beautifully done red lips can transform your face and give you an instant pulled-together look.
Here are some expert tips on how to paint the perfect red lips.
Start with neutral. Dust some powder over your lips to hide any previous lipstick stains, soften the lip edges and give yourself a finished, matte base on which to start. Mac’s StudioFix powder foundation, $27 at Macy’s, is a must-have for thorough coverage, without looking unnaturally painted on.
Lip liner is the secret ingredient. Repeat after us: You cannot wear red lipstick without first lining your lips. The contrast is too high, the margin for error is even higher and then there’s the risk of your lipstick bleeding (although your powder foundation will help with this). Pick a liner that is the closest color to your lipstick as possible (this should go without saying, right?).
Celebrity stylist Jessica Licata recommends the following: Make sure your pencil is super sharp. Line your lips and then color most of your lips in with the pencil, except leave the front pucker space free. In a hurry? You can simply apply a sheer gloss on top of this and ditch the lipstick entirely.
After much practice, you also can use your liner to help shape your lips—slightly and subtly. A tiny point at your peaks can exaggerate your smooch, and very vaguely shortening the width of your mouth can make your lips appear fuller and more puckered.
Makeup artist Angel Garcia with Pin Up Pretty also notes that everyone’s lips have two bumps on the bottom. Don’t just draw the bottom line like a half-moon, or you will look silly, she recommends.
But be careful with lip liner tricks; best to get expert advice at a beauty counter or by consulting a makeup artist for techniques specific to your mouth shape, or you might end up looking like the Joker.
Fifty shades of red. All reds are not created equal, and it’s crucial to find the red tone that complements your skin and hair color. Warm skin? Go with Mac’s Russian Red, $16 at Dillard’s, which has a slight orange undertone (this is the most authentic ’50s-colored lipstick we’ve ever found, and it is almost universally flattering). For a sultry darker red, Licata recommends Viva Glam 1 lipstick, $16 at Nordstrom.
If you’re a bit older, instead of choosing bright cherry, a slightly toned down brick color may be more flattering and age-appropriate (and keep you looking sophisticated, and not like a hungry cougar).
Consider gloss instead. Jahala recommends putting sheer or tinted gloss on top of your red, like Mac’s Tinted Lipglass, $15 at Nordstrom. Lipglass also is a great refresher to quickly apply after a few hours; if you lined your lips properly from the get-go, your shape should remain with integrity and the glass will simply brighten and shine.
Need long-lasting color that’s durable? Consider a lip stain. Garcia likes Revlon’s Just Bitten lip stains, $9.49 at Ulta. Find other lip stains at Sephora, such as the Sephora Collection cream lip stain, $13, but be careful. One drop outside the lines and you’re stuck with a just-ate-a-red-popsicle look all night. Be careful and slow when applying.
Secure your color. Prevent smearing and fading with a final mist of finishing spray on top, like Urban Decay’s setting spray, $30 at Sephora. Don’t overlook the value of this step. It takes a microsecond and can extend the length of your makeup for hours, even if it’s just a matter of keeping your powder in play and your lip liner in line.