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Style & Living Beauty

The Only 9 Red Lipsticks Worth Buying, According to a Pro Makeup Artist

You can officially call off the search!

By Katherine Kluznik

We’re all for trying out each and every beauty trend we spy (hello sunset eyes and glitter lipstick!), but there's also something to be said for the classics. Case in point: red lipstick. While it has been prettying women’s lips for 5000 years and counting, its popularity is on a major upswing right now — and with good reason. “Red lipstick will brighten anyone’s face. It’s really the ultimate makeup pick me up!” says celebrity makeup artist Shara Strand, who preps stars such as Ramona Singer, Brooklyn Decker, and Sarah Jessica Parker on the regular.

Since the stress of finding a perfect red rivals the hunt for that perfect pair of jeans, we asked Strand to share her tried-and-true go-tos — the reds she uses again and again on clients. Ahead, her 9 favorite formulas and hues for getting a red-carpet look IRL.

MAC Retro Matte Lipstick in Ruby Woo


Why Shara loves it: There’s a reason Ruby Woo has been a go-to of lipstick aficionados of every skin tone since its 1990 launch. “This lipstick is a good universal red that works on most people, so it’s a great first option to try when looking for a red lipstick.”

Pro tip: “This particular color will look best with a lip liner under it. Use the matching lip liner as a base to ensure your lip lasts and doesn’t feather.” First, dapple your lips with concealer and set with a dusting of powder. Trace your liner around your lip line then use it to fill in the entire lip. Blend with a lip brush. Finally, use the brush to apply your lipstick in light layers, building to the perfect saturation.

Yves Saint Laurent Rouge Pur Couture Dazzling Lights Edition Lipstick in Le Rouge


Why Shara loves it: “Red oranges are one of my favorite alternatives to a crimson red, and can be a more wearable option for some people. This is an amazing red orange that looks gorgeous on both blondes and women of more olive skin tones.”

Pro tip: “YSL lipsticks are notorious for their high pigmentation, and are fiercely difficult to control out of the tube, so for the best application, apply with a lip brush.”

Julie Hewett Los Angeles Noir Collection Lipstick in Femme Noir

Why Shara loves it: “This creamy, hydrating formula won’t leave your lips looking flaky and dry. It has that perfect sheen and texture only found in a cream lipstick.”

Pro tip: “For the best application, apply foundation to your lips and then lightly powder. Fill in your lips with the matching lip liner using the side of the pencil. Once your lips are completely blocked out, apply your Femme Noir with a skinny lip brush from the inside of your mouth out, taking care not to feather the edges of the lip. Use your concealer on an angle brush to clean up any mistakes around the lip line.”

Colourpop Ultra Matte Liquid Lipstick in Saigon

Why Shara loves it: “This is a great red—and for $6 you can’t beat the price!”

Pro tip: “As this is a liquid lipstick, applying with a fine lip brush is best. I also recommend using Colourpop’s Lippie Stix primer underneath to guarantee a smooth texture and avoid bleeding.”

Revlon ColorStay Overtime Lip Color in Unending Red

Why Shara loves it: “This is the first red lipstick I have found that I actually liked. It is easy to apply and DOES NOT COME OFF.” 

Pro tip: “Use coconut oil or eye makeup remover to take it off. While this product does have a sticky feel, applying the gloss side removes that feeling instantly. My tip is to take your time applying this lip, since once it dries it is hard to remove.”

Benefit Benetint Lip and Cheek Stain

Why Shara loves it: “A great option for the girl on the go! A stain is an easy way to experiment with color since the color takes on your natural tones. You also can control the vibrancy of the color with ease by applying more or less of it.” 

Pro tip: “For a vibrant lip, apply with the brush. For a softer look, apply by tapping onto the lips with your fingertips.”

Shara Lip Shine Lipstick in Casablanca

Why Shara loves it:  After years of trying different shades and formulas, the pro developed her own line of lipsticks that are moisturizing and offer a touch of shine. “My favorite of the deeper reds, the pigmentation of Casablanca is great—and a little goes a long way! This lipstick looks great when worn with a lip liner or alone.”

Pro tip: “For a more ‘just bitten’ look, gently blot the color on your lips with your ring or pinky finger. For that classic red ‘40s lip, I like to use it with Shara’s Bordeaux gel lip liner for all-day wear.”

Bite Beauty Matte Creme Lip Crayon in Rose Hip

Why Shara loves it: “The convenience of a pencil with the color and texture of a lipstick, this matte red is easy to apply and doesn’t have that dry feeling that often comes with matte lipsticks.” 

Pro tip: “The precise tip helps you color in the lines. Use a dry lip brush after application to smooth and soften the lip line.”

Nars Velvet Matte Lip Pencil in Cruella

Why Shara loves it: “Another classic red lipstick. The pencil shape of this color makes it a good choice for ladies who don’t want to fuss with a lipstick and liner. Its color wears well, and is easy to apply on the go!” 

Pro tip: “Make sure to keep the tip sharp so you can get a perfect pout every time.”

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