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Your Guide To Finding The Best Red Lipstick For Your Complexion

Your Guide To Finding The Best Red Lipstick For Your Complexion

Your Guide To Finding The Best Red Lipstick For Your Complexion

the best red lipstick

I was around five or six when I first saw a woman wear the best red lipstick I've ever seen. Her hair was perfectly coiffed and her cherry red lips complemented her lovely, long nails. It was at that moment I knew red lipstick was mine for the taking, and I continued to admire the stylishwomen whose looks weren't complete without it. What I didn't know is that red lipstick has different undertones that could be hard to understand without knowing a few makeup hacks.

Although I haven't worn it in a while, my admiration for red lipstick hasn't waned. It's the reason I finally decided to ask the clever author Candice Brathwaite-Aboderin about her signature lip. Aside from having an appealing sense of style and an unforgettable way with words, her signature red lipstick captures my attention whenever she wears it. She usually wears Fenty Beauty's Fenty Icon Velvet Liquid Lipstick in "The MVP" or Trish McEvoy in Red with MAC Cosmetics Nighmoth lip liner.


Image via Candice Brathwaite-Aboderin


She said, "Funny enough, the inspiration behind wearing red lipstick was to be defiant. It had often been said that black women, particularly dark skinned black women, didn’t look good in red lipstick. I had already bucked the trend by shaving my head way before we knew who Amber Rose was so this felt no different."

Her decision to create a contrast that has a "perfect frame" for her lips is also intentional. "The idea to wear a darker lipliner (which creates an ombré effect) was definitely rooted in my love for 90’s hip hop and dancehall culture. All the female artists of that time leaned on a darker lipliner with a truck load of gloss on top," said Candice. Besides that, she prefers the way the lip liner helps her favorite shades not to look harsh on her.

Even though she's cracked the code for her complexion, we both know it's still not easy to find a shade you may love. To help simplify things, I spoke with veteran makeup artist and founder of premium makeup brush brand Artis (yes!) Matthew Waitesmith so you can find the best red lipstick for you complexion.


What should I consider when looking for red lipstick?

Image via Sam Lion/Pexels

As the former VP of Artist Training and Development at MAC Cosmetics with consult work for Kiehl's, Lancôme, Nars, and La Mer, Matthew knows a thing or two about creating makeup looks that are specifically formulated different complexions. He said there are two things to consider when searching for the best red lipstick. "One is the value [lightness or deepness] of your skin's pigmentation. And the other consideration is the natural undertones occurring in your skin color.

The value of your skin is important to consider since how color looks is dependent on surrounding [colors]."

Matthew noted that a good example of this is by thinking about how the color blue may look different depending on the shade next to it. " will look different if it is surrounded by a pale beige compared to a rich brown. The blue is the same, but it looks different because the surrounding colors influence how you see it in contrast."

Deeper Complexions

Image via Photo by Adrienne Andersen/Pexels

Contrary to what some may believe, deeper skin complexions are able to wear color well — including red lipstick. Matthew said, "A Person with a deep skin color value will be able to wear lots of different colors of red due to all the rich colors and undertones that surround the red lips."

Brit + Co's Best Red Lipstick For Deeper Complexions


MAC Cosmetics Ruby Woo

This is the first shade of red lipstick I wore when I was granted permission to wear something bold. It definitely attracted a lot of attention in 2011, but I didn't care. I wore it every chance I got and purchased this many times over during my early 20s.


The Lip Bar Vegan Matte Liquid Lipstick "Bawse Lady"

This is another beautiful shade for darker complexions that's not as bold as Ruby Woo. The color payoff is amazing and it doesn't budge as much.


NaChé Cosmetics Liquid Matte Lipstick "Ruby"

In an effort for those with a deeper complexion to not feel excluded from wearing red lipstick, educator NaChé Thompson decided to create a shade that felt inclusive. Named after grandmother, she said "The right touch of blue makes Ruby the epitome of the perfect red lipstick to complement a wide range of skin tones. You can wear [Ruby] for up to nine solid hours without needing to reapply, and it defies the norm of dry and crusty matte lipsticks."

I've had a chance to wear it and find that the creamy texture is almost irresistible!

Medium & Olive Complexions

Image via Sephora

People with this complexion "generally have warm undertones that include golden or yellow as a part of the skin color composition. So, they should pick a red that includes them," said Matthew. He also indicated that medium complexions can include an olive undertone and that reds with warm undertones — like coral or even warm pink — will work for them.

Brit + Co's Best Red Lipstick For Medium & Olive Complexions


Rare Beauty Lip Soufflé Matte Cream Lipstick "Inspire"

Also known as Selena Gomez's favorite shade, "Inspire" is a bright-red that's hydrating despite it's matte finish. It literally glides onto the lips where it sits comfortably throughout the day.


Charlotte Tilbury Matte Revolution Lipstick "Red Carpet Red"

Long before we know of Shonda Rhimes' Queen Charlotte, Ms. Tilbury was the one we bowed down to. Her matte revolution lipstick is considered a community favorite on Sephora and features the glorious "Red Carpet Red" shade that just looks like it belongs on the lips.


Tom Ford Lip Color Matte Lipstick "Flame"

If you want to cause a commotion, you'll reach for Tom Ford's "Flame" matte lipstick. It's a bright red-orange that complements medium complexions like no other.

Lighter Complexions

Patrick TA's Major Headlines Matte Suede Lipstick in "That's Why She's Late" Cherry Red

Image via Sephora

On other hand, Matthew said, "A lighter skin person needs to be more thoughtful about picking a red that plays nicely with the subtle undertones — pink or cool — of their skin. Choosing a red that includes neutral/pink or cool undertones will look like it belongs on the skin."

Brit + Co's Best Red Lipstick For Fair Complexions


Armani Beauty Lip Power Long Lasting Lipstick "400 Four Hundred"

While this can be considered a universal red lipstick, "400 Four Hundred" looks like it was made for fairer complexions. It's comfortable enough to wear all day and will give you a nice pout.


Yves Saint Laurent Tatouage Couture Velvet Cream Matte Liquid Lipstick "N12 Rouge Rebel"

Rev up the drama with this rebellious shade of red lipstick by Yves Saint Laurent. It's made without parabens or sulfates, so you won't have to fret about harsh chemicals on your lips!


bareMinerals Mineralist Hydra-Smoothing Lipstick "Inspiration"

What's full of hydrating ingredients that don't skimp on rich color? This shade by bareMinerals that's set to become the best red lipstick for your fair complexion.

Matthew's Final Piece Of Advice

Image via Sephora

Lastly, Matthew said, "...the best final step is to try several reds on, and at look at the resulting color in natural daylight to see if the red plays nicely with your skin color." He doesn't believe there's ever a "wrong" red, but feels that there are reds that can blend in better with your skin.

"Either way, red is a great way to bring attention to your look and get reactions, "he said. In other words, have fun finding the best red lipstick that complements your complexion and don't be afraid to be bold!

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