Lip service: A guide to red lipstick for people who don’t wear red lipstick

Red lipstick

If it’s the holidays, it must be red lipstick time. Chances are, you already know where you stand on this. Red lipstick is one of those things that you either wear every day or not at all: for some women, it’s their signature; the rest of us can’t remember the last time we even bought a tube. This season, though, it’s a genuine trend again, with Rodarte and Escada among the designers who sent red-lipped models down the runways for Fall/Winter 2018. Is there a red lipstick out there for you?

1Get inspired by the icons

Gal Gadot

If you’re still in the “not for me” team, perhaps some of our favorite Jewish style icons will persuade you. Gal Gadot, Scarlett Johansson and Natalie Portman are among the stars regularly rocking red lips on the red carpet. The sassy, red-lipped Marvelous Mrs. Maisel is back on our TV screens for a new season. And actress and writer Lena Dunham was so enamored that she even penned an ode to red lipstick for Vogue magazine last year. “The revolution will wear red lipstick,” she declared.

2Find your perfect red

Photo by Eleni Koureas on UnSplash

It’s possible to get very scientific about this. Is your skin tone warm, cool or neutral? You’ll want to choose an orange/brown/blue/coral/brick-based red accordingly. Alternatively, you could just dedicate some time to trying on a selection to see what works for you.

There’s a red at every price point, but those that get consistently good press include perennial bestseller MAC Retro Matte Lipstick in Ruby Woo, $18.50, and Fenty Beauty by Rihanna Stunna Lip Paint in Uncensored, $24. Newly released from makeup artist and video sensation Lisa Eldridge is the Plush True Velvet Lipstick Color, $26, in three different shades of red.

In the interest of research, I wandered into Sephora and asked for some help in choosing a red. The color artist nailed it in one shot: Bite Beauty’s Amuse Bouche lipstick in Gazpacho, $26, a true-blue red, glided on smoothly and made my lips pop without looking ridiculous for daytime; and when she turned down the lighting in the mirror to mimic evening, it looked even better. For what it’s worth, I would never have picked this out from the brand’s shade finder online. I guess there is no substitute for putting in the legwork.

3Apply with care

Photo via

First, just accept that it’s going to take you a few seconds longer to apply your makeup in the morning if you’re going the red lipstick route. Make sure your lips are thoroughly moisturized before you begin. While you can just smush it on straight from the tube, if you take the time to apply it with a lip brush after prepping your lips with lip liner, it will probably pay off. For the neatest edge of all, apply concealer around the outside of your lips too. Then get out there and kiss your nearest and dearest hello. If you don’t leave your extended family scrubbing lip prints off their cheeks, was it even a party?

Susannah Cohen
Susannah Cohen is a fashion journalist, e-commerce editor (specialist subjects: lingerie and diamonds) and Jewish mom. Recently relocated from London to the West Coast, she’s feeling a lot more spiritual these days.