There are infinite possible shades of red lipsticks, with different undertones and darkness level. Your hair color, skin tone, and general style should all come into play when you choose a red lipstick. In this complete guide, I’ll cover all the factors that go into choosing a perfect red lipstick, from your skin tone to hair color.
That lipstick that might look perfect on your friend will not necessarily suit your coloring or style, so be careful when taking recommendations from others. Read on to learn exactly how to choose that perfect red lipstick based on your unique coloring.
In this article:
- Best Red Lipstick for Your Skin Tone
- Best Red Lipstick for Your Hair Color
- Choosing the Perfect Lip Liner for Red Lipsticks
Best Red Lipstick for Your Skin Tone
There are two factors to consider about your own skin tone before you can choose red lipsticks (or any other colored makeup item, for that matter). The obvious one is how dark your skin is, but just as important is whether you have warm, neutral, or cool undertones to your skin.
Red Lipstick Colors for Cool Skin Tones
If your skin has a bit of a pink tint to it (check at the neck or forearm – the face is always more red than the rest of our body), that means you are cool toned. It can be tough to figure out one skin tone, although holding a white sheet of paper against your skin (chest or neck are best) will usually help make it clearer.
For cool toned skin, the best red lipsticks would lean more towards blue or they would be perfectly neutral (which is hard to find, to be fair). This means that if they were sheered out, they would look more purple or pink, rather than orange. Against your skin, the cool undertone will seem more understated, and your lipstick will look like a true red.
While orange-toned red lipsticks are not completely off-limits for you, you want to make sure that the rest of your makeup is also warmer, and that the orange is not bringing out too much pinkness in your skin. On your skin, the orange-reds will look less red and more orange.
Red Lipstick Colors for Warm Skin Tones
Many people have light skin that leans towards yellow or olive. You might notice that gold jewelry looks nicer on you, or that overly cool foundations tend to turn orange or make you look gray.
Those orange-reds and brick red lipsticks were basically made for your warm skin tone!
Brick reds look like true reds on you, while orange-red lipsticks have a bright, summery feel. You can still rock the cool toned reds, but remember that they might look more berry or pink toned when paired with the yellow tones in your skin. For fall, darker, matte oranges are especially seasonal and flattering.
If your warm skin has an olive undertone, rust and brick red lipsticks are your best bets, just like berry shades of red, like fuchsia and raspberry ones.
Red Lipstick Colors for Neutral Skin Tones
If your skin has equal amounts of yellow and red, or simply seems beige without much color, you are actually in luck. You can get away with wearing colors that lean both towards warm (i.e. oranges) and cool (i.e. purples and berries).
Red Lipstick Colors for Fair and Light Skin
Those with extremely pale skin are often also cool toned or neutral, but there are plenty of people with light skin that is warm. When your skin is fair, red lipsticks will draw a lot of attention so you want to keep the rest of your makeup soft. Brighter takes on red lipsticks will really stand out with your skin, and can be a perfect choice for a brighter summertime look.
Darker reds, burgundies, and maroons are not totally off-limit, especially now that a grunge look is really fashionable. However, you want to make sure that your face is well contoured, and that everything else is understated, in order for everything to look balanced.
Red Lipstick Colors for Medium Skin
Medium skin tones tend to lean towards warm, but if you are one of those exceptions, don’t worry, there are a ton of red lipsticks that will look phenomenal on you. Your classic choice is true reds that lean a little towards darker, whereas a brighter red won’t look like a red on you.
You definitely have the most options, because deep, dark red lipsticks will look vampy on you rather than Gothy, while bright shades will look fun and airy. Try things out, and don’t be afraid to experiment with the rest of your makeup, since red lipsticks won’t overwhelm your face the way they do for those with fair skin.
Red Lipstick Colors for Dark Skin
For those with darker skin, a true red lipstick is less likely to look like a red. That doesn’t mean it won’t look beautiful, but it’ll look lighter and super appropriate for daytime.
Softer red lipstick colors as well as matte reds will even look like a natural color choice. For that bombshell red lipstick look, burgundies are a perfect choice, as well as coppery-red lipsticks with a metallic finish.
Skin tones matter much more than hair colors when it comes to choosing a red lipstick, but you should still take your hair color into account. Think of it like this: your skin, hair, clothes, eye makeup, and lip color all come together to create one color palette. You want to make sure that this palette is cohesive altogether.
Consider the following a loose guideline, rather that strict rules, when it comes to your hair color.
Red Lipstick for Platinum/ Cool Light Blonde Hair
The general rule for blondes is going for muted red lipsticks, like ones with pink, coral or peach undertones. If violet toner is your best friend (after bleach, of course!), you need to be careful with warmer orangey-red lipsticks.
True reds with a slight cool tint will not clash with your hair, but they will still truly stand out, especially in contrast with your overall fair, ethereal look. Think berry red lipsticks and ones with wine undertones!
Red Lipstick for Dirty Blonde/ Light Brown Hair
Light brown hair is likely the most versatile hair color for red lipsticks. Your skin’s undertone should figure much more heavily in your choice than your hair color, because the red lipstick that will clash with your hair simply does not exist.
Red Lipstick for Red/ Ginger/ Strawberry Blonde Hair
When your hair already has reddish tones in it, choosing a red lipstick can be harder. It is better to choose a red with similar orange-y undertones to your hair, or to fully commit to a purple-berry red that will contrast nicely against your hair rather than clash.
Red Lipstick for Dark Brown/ Black Hair
For brunettes, much like with those with dirty blonde hair, almost any red lipstick color can work. However, once your hair is darker, different red lipsticks will have a larger effect on your whole look. A darker red lipstick will inevitably look Gothy, while a bright red will soften your overall look and really brighten your face. Play around, and go first by your skin’s undertone.
A lip liner will make or break your red lipstick look. Choosing the wrong colored lip liner will throw off your whole red lipstick game, so it is important to choose wisely.
On the other side, there are a lot of lip liner options that can be totally right. The most important point is that your lip liner will have the same undertones as your red lipstick: a cool toned lip liner to go with a blue red, and a warm toned lip liner to go with a warm red lipstick color.
You can choose a lip liner that matches your red lipstick exactly, or you can opt for something that is a few shades darker (especially if you like an ombre lip).
Nude lip liner shades and ones in the exact shade of your natural lip color are perfect for creating natural-looking red lips, so pick one based on your skin tone and lips.
Photos via @iamcharityleigh, Instagram