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How to Choose the Right Red Lipstick

Whenever you watch the red carpet, you see it, and you want it. What am I talking about?  Not the dresses… that bold red lipstick! (Okay, maybe the dresses too). 

The perfect red lip is a classic, elevated look that’s both captivating and timeless. But finding the right shade for you is like discovering a unicorn. The wrong red lipstick can make you look older, washed out, or just plain blah. But the right red lipstick, that can make a powerful and beautiful statement. Now if only you knew which shade that was…

 

How to pick the right red lipstick step 1: find your undertone

Most of us don’t know our undertone, but it’s a makeup (and fashion!) basic. Unsure of yours, or even what an undertone is? Don’t worry, we’ve got you.

Think of your skin as two layers. You know, of course, if you have a fair, medium, olive, or dark complexion. But that layer underneath has its own tone, which could be cool, neutral, or warm. And here’s how to find out which.

Undertone test 1: Check out your wrist and more specifically your veins. What color are they? If your veins are purple-bluish, then you have a cool undertone. If they are more blue-greenish, then you have a neutral undertone. And if they are very green, then you have a warm undertone. What if the veins on your wrists are a mix of green, purple and blue? That’s another indicator of a neutral undertone.

Undertone test 2: This test and the next one are fairly subjective, but can be helpful if the vein test didn’t give you a clear answer. Go get some gold- and silver-tone jewelry, such as necklaces. Which one looks best on your skin? If it’s gold, then tada, you are a warm undertone! If it is silver, you are a cool undertone. And if you look fabulous in both, then you are neutral. Not convinced yet? Then let’s continue…

Undertone test 3: Hold up some differently-colored clothes to your body in the mirror. If you look better in blues, greens and bluish-reds, then you are more likely a cool undertone. If you look better in yellow or orangey-reds, then you have a warm undertone. And if you look fabulous in all of them, then you’re a neutral (and also, very lucky. You go girl!)

Undertone test 4:  Think about what happens when you are out in the sun. If you tend to tan and not burn, then you’re more likely to be a warm undertone. If you skip straight to looking like a lobster, then you have a cool undertone. Those who swing both ways could be neutral. 

It’s possible you won’t get a clear answer from just one of these tests, so do them all and see if there’s an undertone that stands out. For example, if you burn easily and yet tests 1-3 said you have a warm undertone, then warm it most likely is.

 

How to pick the right red lipstick step 2: to match or contrast?

Okay, now that you know (or at least have a good guess of) your undertone, we can dive into how to choose the right red lipstick for it. Here’s how to put that info to work for you. 

For a subtler look, you’ll want to find lipstick shades that have the same undertones as you do. If you’re new to red lipstick, we definitely recommend starting with these, because they’re most likely to suit you. However, for a look that seriously pops, you’ll want ones with the opposite tones to your skin for that added contrast. 

Cool reds are the ones that lean more towards pink and purple, such as a watermelon or cranberry red. Warm reds are the ones with a hint of orange or brown, such as salmon, terracotta, and tomato red.

 

How to pick the right red lipstick step 3: complement your complexion

Now for the color families that look best with your complexion and undertone pairing:

Close-up portrait of young beautiful woman with red lips.

Fair complexion + cool undertone

The best red lipsticks for a fair complexion will brighten your skin tone. For pale ladies with cool undertones, it’s generally better to stick to blue-pink based red lipsticks. We recommend raspberry and cranberry hues to contrast, complement and warm up the cool pink undertones found in very fair, ivory skin. Stay away from dark maroon-reds as they may have a tendency to give off a ‘goth’ look.  

Fair complexion + neutral or warm undertone

However, if your fair skin leans toward neutral or warm, you can get away with some fiery orange-reds! The key is not to overdo the rest of your makeup, because these reds really stand out. We recommend our Chili Crème de Matte Lip Lacquer as a fun red for your fair complexion.

Beautiful woman with medium complexion wearing red lipstick.

Medium, tan & olive complexions + cool undertone

Women with medium complexions have the best luck because can get away with a lot – both darker and brighter red lipsticks look great. Red lipsticks rarely run the risk of overwhelming your face; you can still have fun with your blush, contour, and eye makeup even while wearing a loud red lip. 

Medium skin tones with cool undertones are a rare thing indeed, but if you are one then you should definitely stick to blue-based red lipsticks. We suggest our Rouge Crème de Matte Lip Lacquer

Medium, tan & olive complexions + neutral or undertone

Most medium skin tones come with warm undertones, a perfect combination that means you can pretty much get away with anything!  Try a true red for a sexy evening look, burgundy for a sophisticated look, or bright orange red for some fun. We especially recommend our Beso Crème de Matte Lip Lacquer or our Spicy Crème de Matte Lip Lacquer.  

Dark Complexion Woman Wearing Red Lipstick - Mademoiselle Magazine.
Darker complexions + any undertone
 

Shopping for a red lip color for darker complexions can be a little tricky, since red lipsticks often don’t necessarily register as red once applied to darker lips. But that doesn’t mean that a traditional red lipstick doesn’t look incredible on women of color!

A bright red lip looks fun and summery, while a softer red becomes a sophisticated, lip-enhancing color. The lipsticks that will give you that true red effect will usually lean towards being a little darker and look a little cooler while in the tube. For a great color choice, try our Rouge Crème de Matte Lip Lacquer.

We hope that this guide has shown you how to choose the right red lipstick for your coloring, but if you have any questions, leave a comment down below!

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