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How to Choose the Best Red Lipstick for Your Skin Tone

A guide to finding your most flattering red lipstick — and how to wear it.
July 01, 2022

Red lipstick is like the little black dress of lip makeup in that every woman should own at least one that sends her confidence through the roof. Red lipstick looks are classic and timeless, and the color pairs well with just about everything. They let you dress up the most casual jeans and T-shirt, transform a no makeup, makeup look to soft glam with one swipe, and they easily add a pop of color to looks that could appear flat in a virtual setting. 

Yet, not all red lipstick shades are created equally. For instance, that dark red lipstick you got from a friend may not actually suit you — even if it looks amazing on her.  Like any lipstick color, you have to consider your skin tone, your undertones and the tones in the product. So it's understandable why finding the best one for yourself can be tricky. 

But the key to picking out your signature red is to let your skin tone be the guide and to play around with different finishes and shades until you find your perfect match. Below, we break down how to choose the best red lipstick for your skin tone.

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How to Find the Perfect Red Lipstick

If you’ve been struggling to uncover the right red lipstick match for you, we won’t leave you hanging any longer. While finding the perfect hue comes down to your skin tone, determining your undertones first is crucial. 

Your undertone is a secondary shade showing beneath your skin that never changes. There are three types of undertones you can have: warm, cool and neutral. A quick and easy way to determine your undertones is by looking at your wrists. If your veins are on the bluish side, you have cool (pink or red) undertones. If your veins have more of a green hue, you have warm (yellow or golden) undertones. If you can’t tell or are somewhere in the middle, you very well may have neutral (a mix of warm and cool) undertones.

Those with cool undertones usually gravitate to a blue-red lipstick, while people who have warmer undertones tend to look more flattering in orange-red options. But anyone with neutral undertones gets the best of both worlds, meaning both orange- and blue-based reds will look beautiful on you.

When it comes to what finish of red lipstick to choose, take your personal preference into account — whether you pick a matte formula or one that’s shimmery or shiny is totally up to you.

Our Best Red Lipsticks For Every Skin Tone

If you’re ready to add the perfect red lipstick to your makeup repertoire, you’ve come to the right place. To get you started, here are a handful of gorgeous options — from fire-engine reds to bewitching burgundies — for every skin tone.

Our Best Red Lipsticks For Fair Skin Tones

If you have pale or fair skin, you may be hesitant to reach for red lipstick from fear that you’ll look more Ronald McDonald and less Marilyn Monroe. Don’t worry, we have you covered with complementary shades for your skin.

L’Oréal Paris Colour Riche Satin Lipstick in British Red

Calling all cool-toned lipstick lovers! To rock a traditional, bright red lip like never before, reach for this blue-red lipstick. It has a creamy formula that contains nourishing ingredients like omega-3, vitamin E and argan oil that give your lips intense hydration. Not only will it look flattering against your complexion, but it will also make your teeth look whiter.

L'Oréal Paris Les Nus by Colour Riche Intense Nude Lipstick in Nu Artistique

You can still rock a bold lipstick without sticking to a true red shade. Try wearing a berry shade instead. This way you can embrace red lips while keeping it somewhat subtle. The darker color, which suits those with cool undertones, is especially perfect for slightly more formal events. Bonus: Its formula is long-lasting, smudge-proof and unbelievably comfortable to wear. 

L’Oréal Paris Colour Riche Satin Lipstick in Volcanic

Warm undertones, we’re looking at you! This bright orange-red lipstick is a must-have for those who want to spice things up but still flaunt a classic look. Just one swipe adds a wow factor you never knew you were missing.

L’Oréal Paris Colour Riche Reds Of Worth Satin Lipstick With Saturated Color in Lovely Red

For a hot color that wows, look no further than this vivid red. It has an ultra-nourishing formula that not only makes your lips the focus of any look but it also leaves your pout feeling kissably soft all day. Best of all, the lippie is incredibly long-lasting and smudge-proof, too.

Our Best Red Lipsticks For Light Skin Tones

If you have light skin, you may be wary about a red lipstick being too harsh against your complexion. Never fear — we’ve got your new favorite red lipstick right here.

L’Oréal Paris Colour Riche Satin Lipstick in Classic Wine

Intimidated by a sexy scarlet shade? Try a slightly deeper shade like this wine-inspired hue. The hydrating formula will nourish your lips while giving you a luxuriously rich color you won’t be able to stop looking at. This deep red shade complements those with cool undertones.

L'Oréal Paris Infallible Pro-Matte Liquid Lipstick in Mademoiselle Mango

This one is for those who aren’t afraid to step out of their lipstick comfort zone. Perfect for people with warm or neutral undertones, this orange-based red makes for a fun statement to any look. It has a long-lasting liquid to matte formula that will feel so light on your lips, you’ll barely remember it’s there.

L’Oréal Paris Colour Riche Satin Lipstick in Raspberry Rush

A must-have for warm-toned beauty lovers, this pink-red lipstick coats your pout in a luxurious, bright hue worthy of your next Instagram selfie. The beautiful berry base is sure to make your lips pop.  

L’Oréal Paris Les Nus by Colour Riche Intense Nude Lipstick in Nu Insouciant

Another hue we can’t get enough of is this vivid magenta lippie. While it’s technically considered a dark nude, the lipstick still delivers a blast of red to make your lips the star of your glam. 

Our Best Red Lipsticks For Medium Skin Tones

Still struggling to find your “it” red? Fortunately, there are a variety of red hues you can choose from if you have a medium skin tone. Here are some of our favorites:

L’Oréal Paris Colour Riche Satin Lipstick in Le Rouge Paris

Prepare to turn heads in this rich, classic red lipstick ideal for anyone with warm or neutral undertones. Plus, it does it all — keeps lips smooth all day long and delivers a stunning, vibrant hue that contrasts beautifully with medium skin tones.

L’Oréal Paris Colour Riche Satin Lipstick in Ruby Flame

Take your glam to the next level with this head-turning red lipstick with blue undertones. This is an ideal shade for those who have coordinating cool undertones. You’ll never have to worry about a dry pout either as it provides luxurious color while conditioning your lips.

L’Oréal Paris Rouge Signature Matte Lip Stain in I Am Worth It

Change things up with a blood-red lip color that offers a slightly darker take on a traditional red hue. Ideal for those with cool undertones, this liquid lipstick delivers a shocking pop of color with a comfy, velvety feel that lasts wherever your day takes you.

L’Oréal Paris Age Perfect Makeup Luminous Hydrating Lipstick + Nourishing Serum in Plum Wine

A red lipstick that's the ultimate statement-maker, yet is also perfect for everyday wear? Yes, please! This sangria berry color is unbelievably flattering on warmer undertones and looks especially gorgeous with a neutral makeup look. Bonus: It has anti-aging ingredients that leave your lips looking and feeling smoother over time.

Our Best Red Lipsticks For Olive Skin Tones

If you have olive skin, consider yourself lucky because you can venture into more daring hues. Including these red lipsticks that we’re heart-eye emoji over.

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L’Oréal Paris Age Perfect Makeup Luminous Hydrating Lipstick + Nourishing Serum in Flaming Carmin

If you think that you can’t pull off red lips, this offering will make you a believer. Give classic red lipstick another chance with this orange-tinted red. Thanks to a nourishing serum and pro-vitamin B5, this anti-aging lipstick will never dry out your pout. Plus, it always looks red-hot on those with warm undertones. 

L'Oréal Paris Brilliant Signature Shiny Lip Stain Lipstick in Be Courageous

Finally, a blue-red hue made just for you and your skin tone! This liquid lipstick combines the glossy, high-shine finish of a lip gloss, the lasting wear of a lip stain and the bold color impact of a liquid lipstick — all without feeling heavy or sticky on the lips. Still not convinced it’s for you? The lipstick doesn’t bleed, feather, run or smear.

L'Oréal Paris Colour Riche Reds of Worth Satin Lipstick with Saturated Color in Hopeful Red

Maybe a classic bright red isn’t your jam — and that’s okay. For something that’s not quite as vivid, try a deeper color like this burgundy. Your lips will be coated in rich color while getting the moisture it needs thanks to argan oil and vitamin E.

L’Oréal Paris Colour Riche Satin Lipstick in Blazing Lava

Matte formulas are not the end-all-be-all for red lipstick. This dark red option has a satin finish and is a great match for all you olive folks with cool undertones.

Our Best Red Lipsticks For Dark Skin Tones

Unlike other skin tones, dark skin tones are complemented by more vibrant colors like deep crimson and fiery red. Here are some of the most flattering red lipsticks for dark skin tones.

L’Oréal Paris Colour Riche Shine Lipstick in Enamel Red

This orange-based red lipstick will flatter those with warm or neutral undertones. We love how the ultra-rich formula provides comfortable wear and intense color pay-off with a glossy finish to top things off.

L’Oréal Paris Infallible Matte Lip Crayon, Lasting Wear, Smudge Resistant in Caramel Rebel

Prepare to be bewitched by this rich and vivid red hue. An absolute must for matte lipstick lovers, this lip crayon offers smudge-free and feather-free wear and is sure to become your favorite in no time. 

L’Oréal Paris Colour Riche Satin Lipstick in Divine Wine

Just as its shade name suggests, this dark, purple-red color is just as pleasing as drinking a glass of Bordeaux after a tough day. Not only will it look seriously gorgeous against a deep skin tone, as well as cool undertones, but it also adds ultra-hydrating color to lips with just one swipe.

L’Oréal Paris Les Nus by Colour Riche Intense Nude Lipstick in Nu Exuberant

Meet your new favorite berry lipstick! It's a super bold hue yet it looks subdued and flattering at the same time. Not to mention, the formula is so soft and creamy, you’ll forget you even have on lipstick. 

Our Best Red Lipsticks For All Skin Tones

While picking a lipstick based on your skin tone (and undertone) is a smart way to find a color match made just for you, there are plenty of shades of red that do look universally flattering on everyone. Consider adding one (or all) of them to your makeup collection in addition to our aforementioned suggestions!

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L’Oréal Paris Colour Riche Matte Lipstick in Matte-ly In Love

If you’re a sucker for classic, true reds and old-school swivel lipsticks, then make sure to get your hands on this eye-catching hue. The rich pigment glides on smoothly to create a gorgeous lip look that will last through your morning coffee and after-work drinks.

L’Oréal Paris Infallible Pro-Matte Liquid Lipstick in Stirred

Hey, true reds aren’t for everyone, but that doesn’t mean you can’t still get in on this go-to look. Instead of rocking a bright scarlet, consider trying this dustier color, which blends red, nude and brick hues for a more muted red lip.

L’Oréal Paris Colour Riche Reds Of Worth Satin Lipstick With Saturated Color in Prosperous Red

There’s nothing like applying a good ol’ fashioned creamy lipstick! Try adding this bold burgundy lippie to your collection, so you can score a picture-perfect pout anytime. 

L’Oréal Paris Les Nus by Colour Riche Intense Nude Lipstick in Nu Extreme

Wear this deep hue and we guarantee you’ll capture everyone’s attention in seconds. A must during the cooler months, this brick-red lipstick adds rich color to your pout and contains a nourishing formula that hugs your lips with comfortable all-day wear.

How to Apply Red Lipstick in 3 Easy Steps

Determining which red lipstick will best complement your skin tone (and undertone) — and finding it in your favorite finish — is only half the battle. How you apply your red lipstick is an important part of the process, too. Follow these steps below to do it right every time.

1. Prep Your Pout

Applying lipstick on dry, flaky lips is a recipe for disaster. First, use a gentle lip scrub to exfoliate dead skin cell buildup from the surface of your lips. You can’t go wrong with the L'Oréal Paris Pure-Sugar Resurface & Energize Kona Coffee Scrub — it’s infused with three pure sugars and crushed Kona grounds that will leave your lips feeling buttery soft.

2. Prime Your Lips

Use a lip liner as a primer, filling in your lips, and then tracing along your natural lip line. This can help prevent bleeding and help your lipstick stay put all day. Try the L'Oréal Paris Colour Riche Lip Liner or L'Oréal Paris Colour Riche Matte Lip Liner depending on your finish preference.

Editor’s tip: Overlined lips are in right now so if you’re trying to figure out how to make your small lips look bigger, overlining is a great hack to enlist.

3. Apply Your Red Lipstick

Pick up your red lipstick and smooth it onto your lips. You can either apply the bullet of the lipstick directly to your lips or use a lip brush if you want to slowly build the color. Don’t forget to blot for a long-lasting color.

Next: Our 20 Best Pink Lipsticks for Every Skin Tone

Edited by: Shalwah Evans, Photo Credit: Chaunte Vaughn

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