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Red lipstick has been a style staple since Cleopatra, but rather than combining precious gemstones and ancient bugs in order to create your signature shade, we recommend exploring the best options drugstores have to offer. Truth be told, the wonderful thing about a classic red shade (so long as you get your undertones right) is that it makes very little difference whether you spend $3 or $30.
Before you start shopping, take the jewelry test to determine your undertones. If you prefer the way silver looks against your skin, you’re more likely a cool undertone; if you’re better in gold, you could be a warm tone; if you’re inclined to wear both—you may have a neutral undertone. Once you’ve got an idea, don’t sweat over taking the plunge. Since drugstore options are so affordable, you can easily experiment with different formulas and shades until you find your perfect match.
Best Overall: Rimmel Lasting Finish by Kate 111
Who knows more about making a fashion statement than Kate Moss? That’s why fans were delighted when her long-running collection with Rimmel produced this classic red—a dead ringer for some department store brands thanks to its highly pigmented color, beautiful blue undertones, and creamy matte finish. If you’re over the matte look, it’s easy to layer on a gloss, and it comes in an entire range of equally head-turning shades that might just make you double your purchase. Fans especially love how long the color stays and how evenly it wears—you’ll never end up with a red ring around your mouth thanks to Rimmel’s staying power.
Best Budget: e.l.f. Cosmetics Matte Lip Color in Rich Red
This oversize lip crayon isn’t just one of the most unique lipstick products on the market, but one of the most budget-friendly at just $3 a tube. If you’re dipping your toe into the world of red lipsticks, this pen makes it easy to get precise color application. In fact, there's even a sharpener at the base if you’d rather use this as a liner topped with gloss rather than a full-on lip. The color itself is highly pigmented and enriched with vitamins A, C, and E, and—like all e.l.f. products—it’s cruelty-free and vegan.
Best Matte: NYX Professional Matte Lipstick in Perfect Red
Perfect Red is a beloved “dupe” (read: exact shade match) for one iconic brand’s signature red, so it’s developed quite a following among beauty enthusiasts looking to save a little cash. For a matte formula, it's surprisingly comfortable and even feels a little hydrating, and while the color does have a bit of transfer, it’s nicely pigmented and stays relatively opaque. Many reviewers praise it for its lack of feathering. Not needing to wear lipliner underneath not only saves you a step when getting ready, but it makes it feel lighter and more comfortable for all-day (or night) wear.
Best Liquid: e.l.f. Cosmetics Liquid Matte in Red
When you’re applying a matte lip that lasts all day—and in a statement shade like this true-bluish red—you really want to make sure you get the application exactly right. That’s where e.l.f.’s diamond-shaped applicator comes in. The tapered tip lets you carefully trace your lip line and if you miss a spot, it’s easy to fill in with precision thanks to the flat edge and sharper tip. The formula has vitamin E to help nourish your pout over a full day of wear, and the formula is phthalate-, paraben-, and cruelty-free—a great thing to know when it comes to a product that can easily be ingested as you eat and drink throughout the day.
Best Stain: No.7 Lip Stain in Ruby
This double-sided tube is the secret weapon of girls on the go, with a super easy-to-apply marker tip on one end, and a clear, slightly glossy balm on the other. Application is as easy as tracing your lip line, coloring in your lips, and letting it dry, but it’s also possible to blend it out into a sheerer finish by applying the balm across your lips as the stain is drying. If you’re getting ready for a big night out, keep building up layers of color and letting them dry in between coats and you’ve got a drink-proof, food-proof, kiss-proof finish that won’t budge.
Best for Fair Skin: Revlon Super Lustrous Lipstick Fire & Ice
First introduced by Revlon in 1952, in an ad campaign starring American model Dorian Leigh, this iconic lipstick challenged women to live a life interesting enough to justify such a vivid shade. Women responded to the call in droves, and it’s been on shelves ever since. As befits an icon of 1950s Americana, Fire & Ice usually looks best on fair skin, but it’s a surprisingly versatile true red shade, with both orange and blue undertones. The lipstick has been updated to a modern moisturizing formula with lots of shine, but it’s lost none of the color payoff and definitely none of its independent spirit.
Best for Olive Skin: Maybelline ColorSational in Rich Ruby
This true red has bluish undertones, which works well with both cool and neutral olive skin. As a bonus, it also helps make your teeth look whiter and brighter. The velvet matte formula really doesn’t dry out—it’s creamy enough to wear all day and doesn’t pill up when you reapply. If you aren’t ready to start your day serving a serious red lip, you can always layer the color on with a brush or your finger and build up to a full swipe from the tube when you’re ready to head out for the evening.
Best for Dark Skin: Revlon Ultra-Matte HD in Passion
This ultra-matte formula comes in 16 high-definition shades, each of which contrasts beautifully with dark skin. Fans love the luxe-feeling plush applicator, which is curved to hug the contours of your lips, and the formula is smooth and creamy enough that you can wear it all day long. It has a pleasant scent of mango and whipped vanilla and they’re cheap enough to keep a whole rainbow around for when the proper mood for fuchsia strikes.
Our writers spent 3 hours researching the most popular drugstore red lipsticks on the market. Before making their final recommendations, they considered 35 different lipsticks overall, read over 20 user reviews (both positive and negative), and tested 7 of the lipsticks themselves. All of this research adds up to recommendations you can trust.