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7 Ways To Tone Down Red Lipstick For A Subtle Look

From application tips to shade recommendations.

It’s been said that swiping on a bold red lipstick is the ultimate confidence boost. And for some, this is absolutely true. Red is representative of power, passion and courage 一 so it makes sense why applying rich red lipstick can be thought of as a form of armor. But for others who tend to favor more minimal makeup or perhaps put the focus on other parts of their face, wearing red lipstick can feel too outside of the box. Luckily, there are ways to dip your toes into the sea of red lipsticks while keeping it subtle and within your comfort zone. Check out these seven tips on how to tone down red lipstick for a lip tint that stays true to your mellow style. 

1. Consider Your Red Lipstick Shade 

Red lipsticks fall under one of three categories: warm-toned, cool-toned or neutral. If you’re looking to rock red lipstick in an understated way, you’ll want to opt for a shade that matches the undertones in your skin

If you have a warm skin tone, a shade like the L’Oréal Paris Colour Riche Creamy Matte Lipstick, Rich Hydration in Matte-Rful Red will suit you beautifully. For cool-toned skin, opt for a shade like the L’Oréal Paris Colour Riche Reds Of Worth Satin Lipstick With Saturated Color in Hopeful Red. If your skin is more neutral in tone, you’ll be able to make most red hues look subdued with the tips below. 

It’s also important to consider the depth of your skin. If you have dark skin, a deep red lipstick will be most subtle on you. Light skin tones should opt for more muted reds, and medium skin tones can go in either direction. 

2. Blot Your Lipstick 

Like many makeup products, most lipsticks are buildable, meaning the more you apply, the more coverage and color payoff you’ll get. To take away some of the richness of  your red shade, grab a blotting paper (tissue can leave lint on your lips), put it between your lips and lightly press down. This will take away any excess product or shine that will make the lipstick appear more vivid.

3. Consider Your Application Method

The best way to get full pigment from a lipstick is to apply it straight from the bullet. But to sport a more toned down red lip, tap your finger onto the top of the lipstick bullet to pick up a hint of the color, then pat it onto your lips. This will help to diffuse the red tint and make it appear more like your natural lips as opposed to wearing a more intentional, perfected red lip color. 

4. Give Ombré Lips A Try 

A great way to experiment with red lipstick without fully committing is by opting for an ombré lips look. Rather than applying the red all over your lips, you’ll apply the lipstick or a red lip liner like the L’Oréal Paris Colour Riche Matte Lip Liner in In-Matte-Uated-With-You to the outer edges of your lips. Then with a lip brush, blend the color towards the center of your lips for a feathered, diffused look. You can tone down the color even more by blending a nude lipstick at the center of the lips to lighten or neutralize the red tones. 

5. Opt For A Stained Look 

If you’ve eaten a cherry popsicle, then you’re probably familiar with the red remnants left at the center of your lips. But the truth is 一 it can be a chic look when created with lipstick. To recreate popsicle stained lips, apply your red lipstick at the center of your lips and very lightly diffuse the color outwards. It’s an ultra-simple way to try out a red shade without wearing a full red lip. You can also achieve the look with a lip stain like the L’Oréal Paris Rouge Signature Matte Lip Stain which provides intense pigment with a weightless texture. 

6. Consider The Rest Of Your Makeup 

While there are no rules when it comes to makeup, a key way to avoid looking overdone is to keep the main focus on either your eyes, lips or cheeks. Red lips are often paired with a heavy or glam makeup look, but they certainly don’t have to be. If you prefer to stay out of the bold territory while sporting a red lip, keep it simple on your eyes and cheeks. Perhaps skip the eyeshadow and just apply mascara 一 and keep your blush minimal and neutral. Then use one of the previously mentioned techniques to sport your red hue in a more subtle fashion. This will create an overall softer makeup look than if you went in with vibrant hues in other areas of your face in addition to your lips. 

7. Opt For A Monochromatic Makeup Look

If you feel like red lipstick can look too harsh, lightly applying your red of choice to  your cheeks too. This probably sounds counterintuitive so let me explain. By applying the red tone to your cheeks as well as your lips, you’re spreading out the color rather than concentrating the focus on the lips only. It creates a beautiful balance and makes for a gorgeous monochromatic makeup look

Next: 13 Lipstick Shades To Channel Your Inner Vamp

Written by: Alyssa Kaplan, Photography: Chaunte Vaughn, Associate Creative Director: Melissa San Vicente-Landestoy, Art Director: Hannah Packer, Associate Creative Producer: Becca Solovay, Associate Content Director: Shalwah Evans, Makeup Artist: Jonet Williamson, Hair Stylist: Akihisa Yamaguchi, Wardrobe Stylist: Alexis Badiyi, Digital Tech: Erik Dalzen, Photo Assistant: Sam Kang, Model: London Knight

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