Red lipstick is the ultimate makeup poster child for glamour and timeless beauty, but it’s notoriously difficult to apply. Without carefulness and attention to detail, your lips can begin to look really messy, really fast. This is because bold, bright makeup colours aren’t exactly “just apply and go” — They take effort. However, they are definitely an effort worth making. Red lipstick oozes sophistication, confidence and power and is the perfect instant pick-me-up.
To help you pull off this classic trend, I’ve compiled an all-you-need-to-know list of dos and don’ts for applying a bold, gorgeous red lipstick.
* Disclosure: This blog post contains affiliate links. This means that if you purchase an item or items through one of those links, you won’t pay a penny more, but we’ll earn a commission for the influence of the sale. For more information, please read our disclaimer.
Consider your skin’s undertone
Despite popular belief, your skin colour does not determine what your skin’s undertones are. You can be of fair skin and have a warm undertone, just like you can be of dark skin and have a cool undertone. To get to the bottom of what your undertone actually is, there are a few steps you can take. First, check the colour of your veins. If they are blue, you are cool-toned. If they are green, you are warm-toned. If they are both blue and green, you’re a lucky bean because you have neutral undertones and can wear anything you like. Next, place a silver piece of jewelry and gold piece of jewelry next to your skin — Which is more vibrant? Nope, not which colour you prefer — Which makes your skin appear more vibrant and glowing? If you look great in silver, you are cool-toned. If your skin looks more awake in gold, you are warm-toned. And once again, if you look great in both, you are neutral. Lastly, grab a mirror and find yourself some natural light. Place a piece of white paper next to your bare face. If you see a pink, lavender, or blue-ish tint, you have cool undertones. If you see a yellow tint, you have warm undertones. If you can’t find either or your skin looks grey, you have neutral undertones.
Once you’ve figured out your undertone, you can pick your perfect red lipstick. If you have a cool undertone, look for blue-based reds to brighten your complexion. If you have a warm undertone, look for orange-based reds to help pick up on the gorgeous golden hues of your skin.
Prep your lips
The most important step to applying red lipstick is the prep. Without a smooth base, lipstick will apply unevenly, which can give your lips the appearance of being dry, flaky, or rough. To avoid a grainy, unpolished texture, begin by exfoliating your lips with a sugar scrub. This will help slough off any dry, dead skin that’s been sitting on the surface of your lips. Use gentle circular motions, then rinse off any remnants with a damp wash cloth. After exfoliation, apply a hydrating lip balm or lip primer. This will help to add moisture back into your lips and ensure that your lipstick has a smoother application.
Best lip scrub: Mac Lip Scrubtious
Best lip balm: Jack Black Lip Balm
Best lip primer: Trish McEvoy Lip Primer
Use a lip liner
Lip liners are important because they help to provide a base to which lipstick can cling onto, however it’s especially important to sport a liner when stepping out with a bold red lipstick. The lip pencil will help prevent feathering, create a defined lip line, as well as prolong the wear of your lip colour.
Begin with a slightly dull lip liner, as over-sharpened lip pencils will create too thin of a line and ultimately won’t blend in well with your lipstick. Ensure that the lip pencil is similar to the lipstick colour. They don’t have to be a perfect match, but they should be fairly close in hue. Next, have a large mirror around to really see what you’re doing. Small mirrors are great for up-close precision, but they’re not great for seeing if your shape is uneven. With a large mirror, you’ll be able to pull away from it throughout application and see how your lip lines are coming along. Use small, light-handed strokes and make sure to really focus on accentuating your cupid’s bow (the small dip in the middle of your top lip).
Rub your lips together
It’s a natural reaction for many of us to press and waltz our lips together after we apply a lip product to even it out — Resist the urge when it comes to lipstick! The issue with this movement is that your lipstick will end up spreading outside of the lip line you just created, spawning a very messy look. Instead, focus on layering your lipstick. Once you’ve applied your first coat, grab a tissue, gently blot it on top of your lips, and apply another layer of lip colour. This will help remove any excess product, oils, or emollients from the first application, whilst still leaving the pigment intact (thus helping to extend the longevity of your lipstick!).
Overlook concealer for clean up
When sporting a bold red lip, it’s important to spruce up the edges of your lips with a concealer after application. Concealer helps to further define the lip line you have created, as well as clean up any colour that has accidentally gone astray. Simply use a teensy amount of cream concealer and a small concealer brush to sharpen the lip’s outline. Ensure that you’re using small strokes and have a tissue or makeup wipe nearby to remove any lipstick colour that may have gotten on the brush throughout each correction. If there are any visible smears of concealer around your mouth, use your ring finger to gently blend it away.
Forget to check your teeth
Lipstick on our teeth happens to the best of us, but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t ways to prevent it from happening. The easiest way to avoid this mishap is by forming an “O” shape with your mouth (once you’ve finished applying your lipstick), sticking a clean index finger through the “O”, gently closing your mouth over the finger, and pulling it out. This helps to remove any excess product that was sitting on the inner portion of your lips onto your finger instead of on your teeth.