Friday, November 26, 2010

Red Lips - Not Scary!

Red lipstick is one of the hallmarks of classic femininity and glamour. It's a look that screams "Look at me!" and makes you feel like a movie star. Think Marilyn Monroe, Betty Boop and any classic pin-up girl. Think Dita von Teese, Madonna, Marlene Dietrich.

I get asked a lot about eyebrows, liquid eyeliner and false eyelashes but most of all I get asked about red lips. It can seem intimidating, particularly for those of us who wear lipgloss or naturally-toned lipstick or lip balm exclusively. These lips are the high maintenance divas of the beauty world (kinda).

It can be high maintenance to wear as it does need to look perfect but there are ways to wear red lips that doesn't require precise lines and numerous applications throughout the evening.

Sophia Loren
I've collected a bunch of photos to illustrate how red lips can be worn by pretty much every skintone and hair colour. It's perhaps most dramatic worn on someone with fair skin but it's a myth that redheads can't wear red lips and a red lip on a woman with olive skin or very dark skin can look extremely sultry. Just look at Sophia Loren in the above photo.

Tone: Tone is key when you're looking for a red lip. If you scroll through the photos below, you'll notice there are variations in the shades of reds being worn. Some are true blue-reds (see the photos of Scarlett Johansson as a brunette, Anne Hathaway, Rihanna and Alek Wek) and are best for skin with cool undertones. Others are red with warm tones - orange-red and brown-reds (see the photos of Scarlett Johannsson as a blonde, Julianne Moore, Penelope Cruz and Gabielle Union). A tamer version of the red lip can be seen in the photos of Oprah Winfrey and Chanel Iman - they're both wearing berry-toned reds.

True reds can look harsh on older women, so it's a good idea to look for warmer-toned reds or berry-reds for a more softening, flattering look. 

Redheads need to be extra cautious when choosing a red lipstick. There's a reason why it's said (falsely) that redheads shouldn't wear red lips. Use these ladies as your inspiration and make sure your lips don't clash with your hair.

Texture: In most of the photos below, the red lips are created with lipsticks, either matte or with a bit of sheen to them. On the ladies with darker skin, there's more sheen and some appear to be red glosses. On the ladies with pale skin, the lips are matte.

The easiest way to wear a red lip is as a stain and it's also a good way to start, if you're scared by the drama of the red lip. You can buy stains ready made - Benefit and Tarte make good ones - or make your own using a red lipstick. Simply exfoliate your lips using a dry, clean toothbrush and apply a good lip balm. When you're ready to apply your colour, blot any excess balm off your lips with a tissue and using your finger, tap lipstick onto your lips. The balm on your lips will ensure not too much colour will adhere to your skin. When you've finished applying, blot your lips gently with a tissue. Apply another layer of colour and blot again. The layering of colour will ensure a "stained" effect and will help it last.

A red gloss is another way to wear a less scary red lip. You could even use a stain and then top it with gloss for a light, glossy, sheer red lip (see the photo of Beyonce below). Some good ones are: 

MAC, of course has a fantastic selection of lipsticks and they've got a good variety of reds:
  • Cockney (sheer yellow-red)
  • MAC Red (true blue-red)
  • Chili (brown red)
  • Russian Red (blue-red)
  • Ruby Woo (blue-red)
  • Lady Danger (orange-red)
 Some other reds to keep an eye out for are:
  • Dolce & Gabbana's Iconic (orange-red)
  • NARS' Jungle Red (pink-red)
  • Maybelline Colour Sensational Lisptick in Red Revival (blue red)
  • Clinique High Impact Lip Colour in Red-y To Wear (true red)
  • Revlon Matte Lipstick in Really Red (blue red)
  • NARS Matte Velvet Pencil in Cruella (scarlet red)
And here's some inspiration for you - loads of photos of gorgeous women with all kinds of hair and skin colour. Enjoy and be inspired!

Light skintone:

Angelina Jolie

Anne Hathaway

Dita von Teese

Gwen Stefani

Scarlett Johansson as a blonde

Scarlett Johansson as a brunette

Eva Green
Mischa Barton
Christina Aguilera

Michelle Williams

Julianne Moore
Camilla Belle

Medium and olive skintone:

Jennifer Lopez

Eva Longoria

Rosario Dawson

Leona Lewis

Victoria Beckham
Jessica Alba

Penelope Cruz

Thandie Newton

Monica Bellucci

Dark skintone:

Trya Banks

Grace Jones

Gabrielle Union

Naomi Campbell

Taraji P. Henson

Kelly Rowland

Sanaa Lathan

Chanel Iman

Oprah Winfrey

Alek Wek

There you have it! Will you be rocking a red lip this holiday season or will you be leaving it the rest of us?

Any questions? Please feel free to ask!



  1. I really need you to come shopping with me. None of those black ladies look like me. Even in the "dark" category, they're mostly what we'd call fair, and the looks on Alek Wek and Grace Jones are not an everyday look. They're theatrical.

    Also, I have the problem of having both yellow and red undertones to my skin, so no red ever works. Consider this your challenge.

    B x

  2. Absolutely we'll go shopping together and I'll do some research to see where to start, ok? If it helps, here's another photo of Alex Wek with red lips that I didn't use in the post because I don't have photoshopping abilities.

    You don't have to ever wear red lips, but I'll help you if you want to find the right shade.

    x C.

  3. hi, your blog is awesome you know, i was lookin for a pretty red lipstick for my skin color..hmmim asian..
    you think you can help me out ,too?


  4. Hey Ele,

    I can suggest a few different reds for Asian skintones - MAC's Dubonnet (deep brick red, full coverage), MAC's Cockney (sheer bright red), Clinique Angel Red (true neutral red, semi sheer so is buildable),NARS Red Lizard (true opaque red).

    Let us know if you find a winner in any of those suggestions!


  5. May you please delete this article or edit penelope's name out. I find it offensive and despicable to call penelope dark skinned! My friends have also read the article and think its ridiculous. she is of spaniard EUROPEAN BLOOD. SHE IS VERY FAIR SKINNED!
    to imply that someone is dark skinned iss very offensive and racist, especially to those who truly are dark skinned like alek wek,jennifer hudson,gabrielle union,etc. they have deep chocolate brown tones. Every forum has called penelope a fair skinned spaniard.
    how are you gonna put african americans with medium skintones? rhianna is medium and tyra banks is darrk?? no way!

    1. Hey Anonymous.

      If you really feel like you've been offended, don't hide your identity. Identifying yourself as "Anonymous", plus your poor grammar and spelling, makes it look like this was posted by a troll. Like you just want to stir up shit.

      I don't understand your argument. If you read the post again, you'll notice that Penelope Cruz is listed under the "Medium/olive Skintone" grouping, NOT as "Dark skintone". And so is Rhianna - "Medium/olive". The African-American women included in this post have been put into the category that best suits their skin tone, not their race. Some are in the dark skin tone category, others in the medium/olive skin tone category.

      Light, medium and dark skin tones are used all over the cosmetics industry. The authors decided to use those same terms. They didn't use "black" or "white" or "Hispanic" - they went strictly by the tone of the person's skin. There is nothing racist there. Their skin is dark. How else would you categorize it?

      I also think you should focus your anger on real issues and not make misguided and erroneous accusations on a blog post about make-up. And make sure your accusations are accurate, or else you come across as an idiot.

      - A Beauty Squared fan (with a medium/olive skin tone)

  6. Dear anonymous,

    I don't believe that she was calling Penelope dark--as she has been sorted into the olive/medium tone section of the examples. Olive tone skin has this lovely ability to tan in the summer, but is often rather pale in its "off months" as you say. But to freak out and to demand her erase Penelope's name because she's calling her dark-skinned...? Even if she had, I wouldn't call that being offensive and racist, I'd call that being wrong (or at least of a differing opinion). To have dark skin isn't offensive. She may be a fair-skinned Spaniard, but to say "every forum" calls her that is a little bit of a generalization, no?

    The categories above are rather general, as everyone's skin is unique to them and doesn't necessarily organize neatly into three different skin tones.

    It looks like you might need to adjust your own colour settings.

  7. Where in this article is Ms Cruz described as dark skinned? I'm struggling to find it in all honesty. She has been classified as olive/medium which is accurate IMO.

    I know the blogger and I can say without hesitation that she is not in any way racist. I take personal offense on her behalf that anyone would even suggest such a ridiculous thing. If you knew her and how wide and varied her friends are you would find the accusation offensive too. And yes I am a women of colour with a multi racial background in case you were wondering.

    Btw I loved the article and I love when you do a red lip!

  8. Anon:

    "to imply that someone is dark skinned iss very offensive and racist" frankly makes you sound like the racist here.