Finding Your Perfect Red Lipstick

January 12, 2011 at 9:00 am , by

Think that bold red lipstick is too daring? Today’s guest blog is from Karla Sugar who solves the mystery of the right red by showing how different intensities and textures affect color by swatching a few lipsticks on herself. Check out more fun makeup swatching that she’s done at

Venturing into the world of red lipstick can be daunting. There are so many options. How do you find the shade that’s right for you?

Don’t feel overwhelmed. You can find a lipstick you love by answering a few easy questions.

First: do you look better in gold necklaces or silver? If you look better in gold, try a warm red lipstick. Warm reds have peach, orange, or coral tones, and are complimentary to certain skintones.

MAC Brave Red, $14.50. Smashbox Legendary, $22. NYX Eros, $4. Bobbi Brown Vintage Red, $22. Dior 999 Ara Red, $30. Estee Lauder Spanish Red, $21.

If you look best in silver jewelry, try a cool red. Cool red lipsticks have blue tones.

MAC Ruby Woo, $14.50. Bobbi Brown Hollywood Red, $22. NYX Electra, $4. Estee Lauder Rich Red, $21. Rouge d’Armani 400, $30. Make Up For Ever Moulin Rouge, $19.

If you’re making your first red lipstick purchase, if you’re very fair, or if you’re mostly the “natural makeup” type, you may want to start with a sheer red. Sheer lipsticks build on your natural lip color, so they may look mild in a swatch, but they’re quite flirty on the lip. Sheer lipsticks are less dramatic and more forgiving than full coverage formulas.

Laura Mercier Crimson HydraTint, $20. NARS Manhunt, $24. Armani Sheer 6, $27. Lipstick Queen Medieval, $20. Trish McEvoy Sheer Hollywood, $23. Yves Saint Laurent Rouge Pure Shine 1 Red Strass, $30. MAC Lady Bug, $14.50.

The deeper your skintone (and the more pigmented your lips), the easier it is for you to pull off deeper shades of red and full coverage formulas.

MAC Dubonnet, $14.50. Bobbi Brown Burnt Red, $22. NYC Sheer Red, $.99. Chanel Rouge Coco 36 Lune Rousse, $30. Rouge d’Armani 403, $30. Chantecaille Anemone HydraChic, $30.

The most important thing to remember when you’re looking for that perfect red: It’s just makeup. If you don’t love the first shade you try on, you can always wipe it off and try again.

23 Responses to “Finding Your Perfect Red Lipstick”

  1. Love this! You can really see the differences between them with these visuals.

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  3. Perfection! The mystery of a fab red lip is officially solved. Great advice!

  4. Thanks for this helpful guide, Karla! It’s amazing how different a lipstick shade can look in the tube versus on your skin.

  5. Aren’t you just the Swatching

  6. I am sorry about that above post: I wanted to finally congratulate you on all the Swatching and how it has landed you Big Time (long overdue)!!! Your efforts and diligence have helped millions of us to select the shades and brands that otherwise completely confused! Your work is invaluable to so very appreciated by your Fans and Subscribers … many many hugs and thanks and gratitude. :-) ) xo

  7. I think you nailed it and helped unravel some of the mystery of finding the perfect red lipstick.

    It’s a great article and great advice. Thanks!

  8. Thanks for your help in finding the right red.

  9. Miss Karla, you nailed it. This is the most clear & concise guide to red lipstick that I have ever read. And, as a longtime red lipstick fan, I can totally get behind everything you said here. No need for anyone to fear red lippies now!

  10. This is a terrific article. It really explained the types of shades perfectly. By accompanying it with the appropriate pictures it’s a better article than any I’ve seen in a magazine before.

  11. Thank you so much for this visual lesson, Karla. Your swatches take so much of the scary out of things – esp the daunting Red Lipstick!

  12. [...] you can’t take me shopping with you, here’s an article on How to Find the Perfect Red Lipstick. And if you love that post, make sure to hang out at Karla Sugar’s blog, The Next Best Thing [...]

  13. MAC’s Russian Red is a blue based red, but Ruby Woo is definitely a lot warmer on me and I’d call it warm based red. Also Dubonnet looks good on anyone imho.

    There’s also another category of mid tone reds..not blue and not orange based that most people look good in.

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