Help me wear red lipstick like a screen siren
August 30, 2016 3:50 PM   Subscribe

I've always wanted to wear red lipstick. However, as a redhead with very pale, golden tone skin (see profile pic), I have yet to find one that doesn't make me look like a corpse made up by a third-rate mortician. Redheads of MeFi, have you managed to rock a particular shade of red lipstick, and if so, what is it? Someone told me to try Max Factor's Ruby Woo because it's supposed to be universally flattering... does anyone have any other suggestions?
posted by orange swan to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (33 answers total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
You can absolutely rock a red lip! It's hard to just suggest a shade, though I think a darker brick red might look nice on you. That said, the best way to find your shade is to just try a ton until you find one you're comfortable wearing. I would suggest heading to your friendly Sephora and trying a bunch out. (Pro tip: Dab it on your wrist first - you might find that what looks like a true scarlet in the tube is actually a hot pink or coral.) Happy hunting!
posted by chestnut-haired-sunfish at 3:59 PM on August 30, 2016 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I asked a red lipstick question a while back, and while my coloring isn't the same as yours I think the best advice I got was to go to Sephora and try on a bunch of colors.
posted by BlahLaLa at 4:09 PM on August 30, 2016 [4 favorites]

FYI, I don't know if that was an autocorrect error, but Ruby Woo is by MAC Cosmetics. Not sold in Sephora, but you can find it in their own retail stores and at Nordstrom. In Canada they have it at the Bay.
posted by matildaben at 4:16 PM on August 30, 2016 [3 favorites]

Smashbox's Always On Liquid Lipstick in the "Bawse" shade might be worth trying. Here's an article showing how it looks on women with 10 different skin tones. (I haven't tried that shade, but I really like the shade of Always On that I have.)

One of those articles says it's a limited edition, but Sephora is showing it as still being available.

Also, you might check out the Temptalia swatch gallery to compare reds.
posted by Lexica at 4:23 PM on August 30, 2016 [7 favorites]

Yeah, you definitely want to try a bunch of colors. But to narrow it down some you can decide on some different aspects of the lip color you want.

Matte vs glossy - finish will make a difference to the perceived color of any makeup, but lips in particular can be intense about this. A soft matte red can suddenly look completely different if topped with a gloss. But a glossy lipstick can be good for dry skin, or add the right amount of fun zing to a look that's otherwise simple and straightforward. Matte lipsticks tend to be longer wearing, and there's flexibility because you can put clear or tinted gloss on top. I also find that with red lipstick, matte is better because it feathers and bleeds less and red lips usually call for neat edges. But it's really up to you.

Warm vs cool undertone - this can be hard to tell which is which and of course the base that a color is placed on will make it look completely different. Since your skin is such a warm tone and you've doubled down on that with your (gorgeous) hair, it will reinforce the warmth of a warm red, but also really push a cool red towards the purple/pink spectrum, much more than it might look on a natural brunette or olive skinned blonde. This might be where you're getting the "third-rate mortician" look - a slightly cool toned red is going to look way more cool toned than one might expect on you. This can be awesome, though! You appear to have blue eyes, so a *really* cool toned red, like almost a violet, or even a burgundy, could make your eyes look more blue, and provide important contrast on your face. For warm reds, try something like a brick red or a straight up scarlet kind of red - you want to try not to match your hair or just pick a darker shade of your skintone, but instead go far enough away from those colors to stand on its own.

Sheer vs opaque - Sheer lip colors can be very flexible, you can build them up in layers to be more opaque, they are often more moisturizing, and can work from casual to fancy. But opaque lip colors are more likely to stay put, get you the right color every time, and a red lip is a day to night look these days. You might find that a sheer red looks like almost nothing is on you, whereas an opaque red might look like you got into the finger paints. You'll find one that works for you.
posted by Mizu at 4:25 PM on August 30, 2016 [4 favorites]

Ha, I came here to recommend Smashbox's Always On Liquid Lipstick, but not in Bawse. I bought the shade "Driver's Seat" and it's a "dark pink" that wears like a nice, soft red on pale girls like you and me. I would try it out! It's kind of an unusual color and it makes me really happy; a very wearable "light" red.
posted by stoneandstar at 4:29 PM on August 30, 2016 [2 favorites]

Agree there are reds out there that will look great on you. What they are depends more on your undertones than the color of your hair, and it really is trial and error to find them.

It's slightly better to test lipsticks on your fingertips than wrist because your fingertips have a little more bloodflow than your wrist, so they're a little closer to the color of your lips.

Unfortunately your lips will also have some amount of blue undertone which is going to mix with the red to make a shade that looks slightly different on your mouth than it does anywhere else. There's really no substitute for actually testing on your mouth to see how a lipstick looks. And know that it'll look completely different in different lights -- dim vs bright, sunlight vs. incandescent, fluroescent, led...

So yeah: go try a bunch of reds. Conventional wisdom is that when you wear a strong color on your lips any competing makeup will make you look like a clown, but actually with red lipstick a little bit of pink/peach blush (again depending on your undertones) and a coat of mascara or light liner will actually balance the red and make it look less stark.
posted by pocketfullofrye at 4:31 PM on August 30, 2016 [2 favorites]

Depending on how much you want to dress up, you could try some very cool makeup base and darkening your eyebrows (also line your eyes and/or use mascara), which should make a super red lip look more harmonious and make the overall look more dramatic.
posted by amtho at 4:33 PM on August 30, 2016

Ruby Woo is universally flattering but it's a really hard lipstick to apply and I don't think it's a great choice for a beginner red lipstick. I really like Urban Decay's Bad Blood and the Bite Beauty line at Sephora has a bunch of great red lipsticks (I like Gazpacho, Sour Cherry and Cayenne). They're not as matte as Ruby Woo and I think that makes them easier to apply.

Oh, also Tarte makes a bunch of red lip stains which may be better for a bold lipstick newbie, as they aren't as dramatic as a matte red lipstick and don't require a lip liner.
posted by armadillo1224 at 4:34 PM on August 30, 2016

Response by poster: I have done the wrist test with every shade of red they have at Shopper's Drug Mart without any success, but perhaps I need to go to a place with a wider, more nuanced selection of reds.

Thanks for the correction, matildaben. That wasn't an autocorrect mistake -- I think the person who recommended Ruby Woo got the product line wrong, because I made a note in my planner immediately.

I do wear lipstick (and have taken a makeup course), but not red lipstick. I have coral, plum/berry, and copper lipsticks and just want a red so that I'll have a lipstick to go with every outfit in my wardrobe. I have a red trench coat that just cries out for a lipstick to match it.:)
posted by orange swan at 4:41 PM on August 30, 2016 [1 favorite]

I'm also very pale and I think the solution is to wear lipstick that's almost red, tbh. "True" reds look horrible on me, but certain shades of pink that are almost red or basically read as red on me work great.

With bolder colors on a pale complexion, I think a sheer lipstick is more wearable. Urban Decay has a new line of lipsticks out with some sheers and I've heard good things about the BITE line.

I've also read that lining outside your lips with a "nude" pencil can help keep the lipstick in place and define your lips in a way that reads more sophisticated than campy.

When I have found red lipstick--it's on the blue end of red if you know what I mean. The Tarte lip stains linked above have a color that is basically red that works on me because it's very buildable (again the sheer thing) though these are matte. I think Tarte is revamping this line so I can't find the right shade.
posted by purple_bird at 5:05 PM on August 30, 2016 [2 favorites]

Another way to test lipstick: put it on the pad of your finger like this, and hold the finger up near your lips while looking in the mirror. It's easy to clean your hands, and you get to see what the color looks like near your face. I'm not a redhead but I'm fair and my skin tone has equal parts yellow and pink in different areas.

I had terrible luck finding a red lipstick for me. Someone at a MAC store suggested that I first try "almost reds," which read as red especially in evening lighting, where moderate, medium colors tend to look dull. The first one that worked for me was MAC Hot Tahiti. In the daytime it looks like a deep pink; at night it's nearly red and bright enough to liven up your smile instead of subduing it.

What I learned fro Hot Tahiti was that I need a red that's not blue or orange, but which has a little brown in it. If the skin on your face and neck is yellowish or peachy, you might do better with a red that leans orange. There are pictures of Christina Hendricks wearing red lips -- or they look like pure red, but if you compare to pictures of women with varying skin tones, Hendrick's best shade are often orange-red, tomato red. I do agree with the above comment that red usually looks best when the rest of the face is made up more strongly.
posted by wryly at 5:15 PM on August 30, 2016 [3 favorites]

I'm not a redhead, but based on your pic, maybe try reds in the coral family. (Just checked my bag and would say maybe try Revlon's Ultra HD in Marigold. It doesn't have amazing staying power, but I know it's at Shopper's.) NYX has a lip liner called "Summer Tease" that matches it pretty well, and does stay on for ages, could do that with a lip balm over it.
posted by cotton dress sock at 5:19 PM on August 30, 2016 [1 favorite]

I'm very pale and started wearing red lipstick a few years ago. I can't believe it took me till my 30s because it's so much fun and gets attention in a positive way! (Mostly it's women complimenting me for making a bold lip color choice!) I felt a bit weird wearing bright red lipstick at work at first but now feel totally comfortable -- it's even become my signature in a way!

There are definitely reds that will work for you so I'd start trying them out. I exclusively wear higher end lipsticks: Lancome (so creamy and smooth but not long lasting), Smashbox (matte but longer lasting), and Tarte (I wish they still made the type I liked so much, RIP!) I got started at Ulta and asked a salesperson for help: they provided honest feedback and I didn't feel pressured at all. I'd recommend going there or Sephora for starters.
posted by smorgasbord at 5:19 PM on August 30, 2016

I'm not a redhead and am not necessarily good at figuring out what looks good on anyone but me. However, here are some thoughts:

1. Use the seasonal color palette to find your season and then look at the lipstick colors suggested.

2. Mentally break up the colors of bright red lipsticks into categories - those that lean towards purple on the color wheel, those that lean towards orange, and those that seem smack dab in the middle of red. Try a couple from each category. See if any one of them seems better for you that the others, and then try more shades in that family.

3. Go to Sephora, tell them what you want and let them do the work.

4. More on skin tone

5. Think of a celebrity with similar coloring, and google image them to see if you can find a pic of them in bright lipstick that gives you some ideas.

6. Oh! If there's a color of red that you think is flattering worn close to your face, that also could be a hint.

Good luck!
posted by bunderful at 6:18 PM on August 30, 2016 [3 favorites]

Another vote that if you really want a red (and yes, red can be so much fun!) it's worth booking time at a makeup counter somewhere and investing in buying an expensive one that works well at least once so then you learn what tones work well for you. I've a really weird florid-yet-orange-when-I-burn-into-a-tan complexion but have successfully found multiple reds that look great--but it took a lot of trial and error (and money)---I would have been much better served walking in somewhere with $20 and 30 minutes to burn because now I can spot drug store colors that work for even my weird ass coloring.
posted by smirkette at 6:25 PM on August 30, 2016 [2 favorites]

Check out!

I am a fair warm-toned blonde with colorless lashes. Usual brown mascaras are too dark, but they have great choices. My next purchase will be their lip color palette.
posted by jgirl at 6:32 PM on August 30, 2016

I'm going to guess that with your coloring, you really want a tomato/veering towards coral/orange-y red.

This takes a LOT of trial and error. I have similar coloring, and even lipsticks that looked orange-red in the tube have looked like cool magenta on me. I've found that a lot of drugstore reds are much cooler than they appear. The reds that look like a true red look nearly neon orange in the tube, it's bizarre.
posted by sonmi at 7:10 PM on August 30, 2016 [8 favorites]

I have very golden-yellow undertones but blue-tinted lips, and look awful in most reds, but Burt's Bees Lip Shimmer in Raisin registers as a deep red on me, and is very flattering. It's relatively opaque, and not noticeably shimmery, and the pigment outlasts the moisturizing effect (so it tends to last until wiped off). I have the coloring to pull off red hair, and wore this shade during the time I went Titian. Plus it's inexpensive, and the slim tube hides in a bra without the contents melting.
posted by notquitemaryann at 7:24 PM on August 30, 2016

I know it's a bit dated, but I find that sometimes a seasonal color analysis sort of approach can provide helpful families of colors and tones. Redheads are typically springs or autumns, and you look more like a "warm spring" to me (generally lighter/brighter coloring than autumns, paler rather than tan, blue eyes rather than hazel, hair more towards strawberry than auburn). Like you, I also have golden undertones and I'm also a spring, especially when my hair is red. I have found most success with coral and warm-pink shades of red, and I think you will too. The closest thing to "true red" for you will probably be a tomato sort of shade. Anything with cool/blue tones isn't going to work for you, I don't think (that works well for summers and winters, who have cool undertones). And things that are too heavy/warm/autumnal - like very orangey shades - aren't going to flatter you as a spring, as they work better on the darker and less delicate coloring of autumns. For more warm spring color palettes, see here, here, here, here, and here.

That last link notes that warm springs tend to do best with the following lip and cheek colors: "Your reds, pinks and peaches - Your lip and cheek colors are found here: tomato red, terracotta, warm apricot, pale peach, bright salmon, peach, coral, bright warm red, poppy red, ruby red, jasper red, red orange, peach pink." Basically, I'd start by test-driving warm/coral reds in a bright, saturated, but not too dark shade.
posted by ClaireBear at 7:50 PM on August 30, 2016 [2 favorites]

Try Revlon's Fire and Ice.
posted by oflinkey at 8:34 PM on August 30, 2016 [1 favorite]

Or Revlon's Really Red!
posted by stoneandstar at 9:20 PM on August 30, 2016 [2 favorites]

Of course you can rock red lipstick! But I would not waste money with going to the drugstore to buy random lippies. Get thee to a makeup counter at a department store. MAC is a great option as they have so many colors, but I would also check out Nars and Bobbi Brown. Do not feel pressured to buy one right away. If you like something, take a selfie and go to the next counter to try on some more.

Mizu's breakdown of finish is really good. This is something else you can't really tell with just going to a drugstore. If it's your first red lipstick I think going with something leaning sheer or gloss would be best as it's much easier to apply. The other positive is that these finishes don't really need lip liner and I've found that mattes and creams may benefit from a liner to prevent feathering.

(and on preview I see you've taken a makeup course so I didn't need to tell you that but I'll leave it for prosterity for future red lippie seekers)
posted by like_neon at 1:51 AM on August 31, 2016

I'm a pale-skinned redhead and so is my sister. Unfortunately, there is no universal one-colour-fits-all for redheads: what suits me, doesn't necessarily suit my sister. She wears red lipstick with orange undertones but those just make me look extra pale. Your best bet is going to a makeup counter and let them recommend you some colours. In my experience, a lot of red colours will look weird with red hair and fair skin and you need to find a lipstick that is just right. (I have quite the collection of just-not-right red drugstore lipsticks..)
posted by leopard-skin pill-box hat at 2:34 AM on August 31, 2016

I am a redhead, with yellow toned very pale skin. After a lot of trial and error I have settled on Bobbi Browns 'Red' which is also labelled with the number 10. Get a lot of compliments about it.
posted by stevedawg at 3:13 AM on August 31, 2016

Lisa Eldridge has some great videos on lipstick that might help. Here's her Ultimate Guide to Red Lips, in which she goes through many shades and talks about what works for different skin tones. That's the one that is most germane to your question, but these might also have some good info for you about how to apply it, how to get intense color that lasts, how the other makeup you wear (especially blush & foundation) might affect the appearance of the lipstick, and other tips:
- Perfect Matte Red Lipstick Tutorial
- How to Wear Dark Lipstick
- One Lipstick, Many Ways to Wear It
posted by ourobouros at 5:08 AM on August 31, 2016

I have similar coloring and find Jungle Red by Nars is a pretty easy shade to wear--it's a bright red but it's a pale bright red, so it doesn't look too dark on me. It's a semi-matte shade, you may want to line and fill in with lip pencil underneath.

For sheerer stuff I also wear Dior New Look, Clinique Chubby Stick Two Ton Tomato, or sometimes Lipstick Queen Sheer Red.
posted by Hypatia at 6:13 AM on August 31, 2016

RED LIPSTICK ROCKS! I am obsessed. I went from no lipstick ever to now every day red (or other bright shades) lipstick in the past year and holy hell I love it.

I'm not a red head but I am very pale with dark hair (dyed). naturally my hair is auburn. My sister is a proper red head. So I guess my message is that I have similar-ish colouring... maybe?

Number one suggestion is to stick to matte lipsticks. They, to me, look a lot more grown up and classic and put together. Much better suited to every day wear.

I LOVE NYX Matte lipsticks. They are absolutely incredible and dirt cheap. So cheap that you can afford to buy a few and try them out. If they don't look good, whatever! 4$!
Colours I would suggest you try in particular:
- NYX Matte Indie Flick (My latest aquisition and possibly my favourite colour ever!)
- NYX Matte Pure Red
- Mabelline ColorSensational Craving Coral
- Rimmel Call me Crazy (The Only 1 brand they have in the black tubes)

Regarding Ruby Woo, NYX Perfect Red is a pretty solid dupe for it and really inexpensive (and a lot nicer to put on a wear than the actual Ruby Woo). I own it and wear it some, but I prefer the more orange-y reds for my colouring.
posted by PuppetMcSockerson at 6:32 AM on August 31, 2016

My daughter is a natural redhead who discovered the red lip look last year. She went to Sephora and did samples many times because of their awesome return policy-return for any reason!
I can't reach her right now to ask what colors she uses (nomad life FTW) but I can memail once she's back to civilization.
posted by notaninja at 7:40 AM on August 31, 2016

I've never seen red lipstick look "bad" on someone's skin tone or with someone's hair. Not once. Never. I don't believe that it's because only the people that can "pull it off" wear red lipstick.

I wear red lipstick every day - all different shades - from cool purple-reds to brick-red to fire-engine-red to coral-red. I'm told it looks lovely every time, regardless. That "colors for your skin tone" thing is for the birds (I believe).

Buy the color of red you like, and rock it with confidence. Seriously, I've never, ever ever (thinks a long time) ever seen a woman wearing red lipstick and thought, "Ugh, wrong shade."

You do you!

What you DO want is a lipstick that feels nice. I'd look for a long-wearing liquid with NYXs wonder-pencil in light/medium to line outside my lips to keep from feathering.
posted by Dressed to Kill at 8:46 AM on August 31, 2016

If you're looking for specific shades, I would recommend the Nars lip pencils in Dragon Girl and Cruella.

If you'd like to do most of the legwork online and only try on your finalist shades at the actual store, check out Temptalia, she does great reviews with swatches, color dupes, and photos of how it looks on in various kinds of lighting.

Temptalia's Dragon Girl review
posted by and her eyes were wild. at 12:51 PM on August 31, 2016

Also wanted to add, red lipstick always looks 'omg-what-am-i-doing' the first few times you try it, similar to the 'omg-what-did-i-do' new haircut feeling.
Just go buy one that feels nice on your lips, live with it on for a few days, and voila - you're rocking red lips.
Regarding the death warmed over thing, I find that adding a touch of whatever lipstick I'm wearing to my blush and blending it in is a great way to balance out the colors on my face.
posted by and her eyes were wild. at 1:40 PM on August 31, 2016 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: I went to Sephora today. It was a learning experience. Red lipstick really is hard to wear compared to other colours. It's difficult to find the right shade, and you need to actually try it on to find out if it'll work for you or not. It's hard to put it on right (you need a good solid, even, layer of it and it needs to have sharp outlines), and it's difficult to get it off again (you need makeup remover). Red lipstick takes some getting used to, as it's a high impact look.

I also discovered that one can't wear red lipstick on its own -- as the guy who helped me told me, it's like wearing black patent pumps with track pants. I had shown up bare faced, which made the first few red lipsticks I tried on look terrible. (At Sephora you can try on lipsticks, because they'll clean the tester for you so that it's safe. ) He quickly dabbed on some foundation and blush and pencilled in my eyebrows, which provided a much better setting for red lipstick.

I did some wrist and fingertip tests, and then tried on about four shades. I went around the store in two of those shades, checking myself out in every mirror that offered itself and trying to decide between them. In the end I bought a tube of Smashbox Bing Matte, a slight orange-y true red, which was one of the cheaper brands the store offered but still cost more than twice as much as any lipstick I ever bought (I've always worn drugstore makeup). I came home in the tester makeup and found it looked great with my red trench coat and red sweaters and that I liked it so much I hated to take it off.

Mission accomplished! Thanks all!
posted by orange swan at 6:16 PM on December 2, 2016 [1 favorite]

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