You can't get much more classic than red lipstick. After all, it's one of the (if not the number one) most traditional of all makeup products, having been worn by countless influential figures and characters throughout history. In our lifetime, it was the first piece of makeup we played with as a child and one of the first products we purchased as young adults. It's dynamic, bold, and confident; its power can't be overestimated. So, yes, we love red lipstick and the statement it makes—whatever that statement might be.
So while the answer to the question Should I wear red lipstick? is simple (hint: yes, always), picking the right shade isn't. That's because all red lipsticks aren't the same—not even close. Sure, there are a rare few that most people agree to be universally flattering, such as MAC Ruby Woo Lipstick ($19) and, more recently, Rihanna's Fenty Beauty Stunna Lip Paint ($24), but as for the rest of the red lipstick market, it's vast and finicky. It helps to have a few suggestions before diving into the depths on your own.
That's why we put together a list of the 12 best red lipsticks ever created, according to Byrdie editors.
Remember how we said the Stunna Lip Paint was universally flattering? It really is. And for all skin tones, too. (Would you expect anything else from a brand that's as mindful of diversity as Fenty Beauty?) Assistant editor Maya Allen loves this true blue-red color designed by Rihanna herself. It's a long-wearing formula that feels smooth and silky and lasts for 12 hours. It complements her dark skin tone with red-orange undertones well.
"Stunna is my jam for obvious reasons: Rihanna, what else? Even though my love for RiRi knows no bounds, I'm actually into how good this lipstick is. I don't play around when it comes to red lipstick. I don't want soft, muted, dusty reds—I like them bold and vivid. This pigment delivers a crazy color payoff and stays on for hours. The doe-foot applicator makes outlining my lips easy, so I can skip liner when I'm in a rush."
Another favorite of Maya's, this liquid lipstick from Smashbox is a little bit deeper than the Stunna Lip Paint but just as striking. It's a deep red shade that makes your lips look like velvet rose petals. It even has a similarly comfortable long-wear finish.
"So I love this Smashbox Liquid Lipstick for many reasons. For one, it looks good on women of all skin tones. At my former job, we put this lipstick to the ultimate test, and it seriously looked stunning on every single person. It was love at first sight for me after one swipe. I never thought lipstick could truly make me come alive until I tried this. This fire-red hue turns around my mood in a matter of seconds—I feel untouchably badass every time I wear it. It's become my signature red that I wear everywhere.
It's been by my side during job interviews and first dates and honestly has worked in my favor every time. I like to call it my MVP red."
Editorial Director Faith Xue has a light to medium skin tone with a neutral undertone, which this Charlotte Tilbury product complements perfectly.
"This, in my humble opinion, is the world's perfect red lipstick," she says. "The formula is a velvet-matte but doesn't feel drying at all. You can dab it on your lips for more of a lip stain effect (I tap it on my lips with my fingers), or you can apply it from the bullet for more color payoff. The shade itself is the perfect, universally flattering shade of red: not too warm and not too cool. I also love that it's low-maintenance—it's the kind of lipstick you can apply in the back of an Uber without worrying about it getting all over your face."
"This is my go-to drugstore red. It's a true red with bluish undertones, and I love that one swipe of it instantly makes me feel more polished," says Faith. "The texture is what really gets me though. It's a creamy matte formula that feels hydrating when you apply and doesn't dry out."
Assistant editor Erin Jahns swears by this cream stain from Sephora's in-house brand for complementing her light skin tone with neutral undertones.
"Cracked and flaked red lips are never cute, and this is truly the only liquid lipstick that doesn't suck every ounce of hydration from my lips," she says. "Plus, it's just the truest and most classic shade of red—not to blue, not too orange. It's also the first red lipstick I ever owned, and I still love it and re-buy it."
Erin's also obsessed with this high-end lip crayon from Hourglass Cosmetics. (It's the very same lip color she's wearing in her photo, by the way.)
"Since I have neutral undertones (not quite pink, not quite yellow), I'm lucky in that I can wear both blue- and orange-red lipsticks. And when I want the latter, I go with this one from Hourglass. Not only is the color bright and super-pigmented, it's also extremely moisturizing thanks to things such as jojoba, shea butter, mimosa, and sunflower."
This lipstick is a brand classic and one that's well loved by managig editor Lindsey Metrus, thanks to the way it flatters her fair skin tone with pink undertones. It's a crisp true red inspired by the brand's namesake, Elizabeth Arden, who in 1912 walked up and down 5th Avenue in New York City handing out red lipstick to all of the suffragettes as a symbol of solidarity. You won't be able to find a single lipstick with a better, more inspiring backstory. (It even happens to be one of celeb makeup artist Molly R. Stern's all-time favorites.)
"I love this deep shade of red with blue undertones for the fact that it's super creamy, non-drying, makes my teeth look whiter, and because 100% of proceeds go to UN Women, a fund for female empowerment," says Lindsay. "I'm not huge on red lip color (only for a night out really), so I like to tap this one on and pat it into my lips with my finger like a stain. Doing so makes it last longer, too."
Another Charlotte Tilbury matte lipstick, this one looks brighter in the bullet than it applies on the lips. What looks like a bright pink-red color transforms into a sophisticated berry shade once it's glided on the lips. Plus, you can rest assured knowing that it has the same non-drying formula and highly pigmented finish as Tilbury's other matte lipsticks.
As Lindsey puts it, "Charlotte Tilbury is the queen of lipstick. Her unique bullet shape helps me to intricately trace my lips without the dreaded smudge along my lip line. It's also got incredible staying power—it lasts through drinks, dinner, etc., and fades perfectly by the end of the evening. And again, like the Elizabeth Arden lipstick, it has blue undertones for more radiant pearly whites."
Senior editor Hallie Gould has a fair skin tone with blue undertones and has found the perfect match in two different Nars products.
"When it's warm out, I opt for Heat Wave—an orange-red matte lipstick I can't live without. It's a more summery, tropical version of my usual go-to," she says. "The shade is incredibly flattering, brightens up my entire face, and allows for an almost entirely undetectable fade. Reapplying is never a must, which makes life all the more easy to enjoy."
"This is perfect blue-red shade, and trust me—I've done the research. It's slightly darker than fire engine but a true, gorgeous, velvety red that envelops your lips in the most classic of ways. I have gotten more compliments on it than I can count. The formula is matte but not entirely drying (sometimes I'll apply a bit of balm on top to keep things moisturized if I want it to stay especially long-wear), and because it's a pencil, it's really easy to apply precisely," says Hallie. "Is there anything more incredible than an immaculately applied red lip?
In my world, the answer to that is no."
Tatcha's luxurious Kyoto Red Lipstick was inspired by the same brilliant shade that geishas have worn on their lips for centuries. It's a bright, striking color that is thought to bring happiness, protection, and good luck (who doesn't want that?). Plus, it treats your lips while you wear it thanks to an anti-aging blend of rice bran, green tea, and red algae extract. Features editor Amanda Montell swears by it for complementing her fair skin tone with yellow undertones.
Unlike the sheer, balmy texture of the brand's original Lip Glow Color Reviver Balm ($34), Dior's lacquer lipstick delivers a high-shine finish and full-coverage color in one swipe. Each shade, like this perfect orange-red color, was inspired by a different L.A. hot spot, which is why the brand describes these lippies as "Paris meets L.A."
Now that you know Byrdie editors' favorite red lipsticks, check out the ultimate guide to picking the best nude lipstick for your skin tone, because that isn't exactly easy either.