There’s no denying that red lipstick is basically the little black dress of your makeup wardrobe. And the holiday season is the perfect time to break out both classic looks. But one of the most common red lipstick complaints is the feeling that it doesn’t look quite right on you. We promise you this: There’s a red lipstick out there just waiting to become your signature shade. In fact, just like the LBD, there can be more than one type of red lip that looks amazing on you.
To help you find your most flattering shades of red lipstick, we tapped the expertise of Clinique Colour Pro Matin Maulawizada, who loves the glamour of a bold lip look, having created many for celebrities attending red carpet events. Here, he shares his tips on finding your perfect, holiday-ready red, whether it’s the shade of Santa’s suit or closer to a romantic mulled wine.
Our models are wearing, from left to right: Pop Glaze Sheer Lip Colour + Primer in Fireball Pop, Pop Lip Colour + Primer in Cherry Pop, Pop Matte Lip Colour + Primer in Ruby Pop.
Know your undertones.
The key to picking the perfect red lip look is understanding the undertones of your skin as well as the undertones of the lipstick—and how they work together.
To identify your skin’s undertones, simply check out your wrist. If your veins appear more purple-ish, you have cool undertones. If your veins look more green, you’re considered warm.
Just like skin, lipstick also has undertones. “Warm lipstick is usually an orangey-red,” says Matin. “A cool red is usually a blue-red, like a deep rose shade.”
Now you have two choices. If you want a red lip that really pops, then choose a red lipstick with undertones that are the opposite of your skin’s undertones. Want a red lip that looks understatedly chic? Then go with a red lipstick that has the same undertones as your skin. After all, a girl’s gotta have options, right?
Best warm red lip shades to try: (clockwise from top) Chubby Stick Moisturizing Lip Colour Balm in Two Ton Tomato, Pop Glaze Sheer Lip Colour + Primer in Fireball Pop, Pop Liquid Matte Lip Colour + Primer in Ruby Pop, Pop Lacquer Lip Colour + Primer in Happy Pop, Pop Oil Lip & Cheek Glow in Poppy Glow, Pop Lip Colour + Primer in Poppy Pop.
Lip test it.
Most of us wouldn’t buy that LBD without first trying on a few. Matin recommends taking the same approach with red lipstick. You need to actually try it on instead of just looking at it or swatching it on your hand.
“On some women, especially women who have naturally darker lips, an orange-red can look a little bit cool or blue-red,” says Matin. “The only way to really tell is to wear it and see how it looks.” A word to the wise: If you’re trying on lipsticks in a store, first wipe off the lipstick bullet with a tissue, then use a cotton bud to apply it to your lips to avoid catching anyone else’s germs. Want the help of a professional? Stop by a Clinique counter for a free makeover at any time.
A goof proof recommendation: Matin loves Pop Matte Lip Colour + Primer in Ruby Pop, which he calls a universal color, on everyone. “I used to have a whole bunch in my makeup kit, but they were all stolen by my editor and celebrity clients!”
Best cool red lip shades to try: (from top to bottom) Pop Oil Lip & Cheek Glow in Nectar Glow, Pop Liquid Matte Lip Colour + Primer in Candied Apple Pop, Pop Lacquer Lip Colour + Primer in Lava Pop, Pop Lip Colour + Primer in Cherry Pop, Pop Matte Lip Colour + Primer in Icon Pop, Chubby Stick Moisturizing Lip Colour Balm in Chunky Cherry.
The right red lipstick for your holiday look isn’t just about the color; you need to find the right formula and finish that works for you too. Based on your preferences and what makes you feel most confident, you don’t always have to opt for that classic, Hollywood satin red.
“It’s really hard to say, ’Oh, everybody this season should wear a matte red lip.’ A girl may not feel comfortable in that,’” Matin says. “The red that works is the one you put on and feel most confident in.”
If you want something bright and vibrant, but not as dramatic as a bold lip, Matin recommends Chubby Stick Moisturizing Lip Colour Balm in Two Ton Tomato. This sheer balm offers a natural-looking sheen and delivers just enough color to enjoy the red lip look. “This color is great for those who are shy of red lips.”
He also favors Chubby Stick Intense Moisturizing Lip Colour Balm in Chunkiest Chili, which gives the look of red lip, but with a deeper, more neutral tone.
Our model is wearing Pop Matte Lip Colour + Primer in Icon Pop.
Let the red stand alone.
You’ve done it. You’ve found your red lip. But now you have to figure out the right blush and eye shadow and eyeliner to go with it. If that feels overwhelming at first, Matin advises taking it slow. There’s no need to assemble the perfect palette to complement your red lips all at once.
“If you doubt yourself, and you’re not sure what to do with a red lip, just do the lip and nothing else,” he says. “You cannot go wrong with it. That look is ultra modern. Just even out your skin with foundation where needed, brush out your eyebrows and you’re good to go.”