How to Pick the Best Red Lipstick for Your Skin Tone

Updated 04/12/19

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Red lipstick is like the little black dress or perfect pair of heels, bringing sophistication or a bit of mystery to any look, day or night. Red lipstick has been known to make a woman feel more confident. According to color psychology, the color red is a warm and positive color. It is an energizing color, giving confidence, especially to those who are shy or need a boost of boldness. But it can be difficult to know what red lipstick will look best on your skin tone. Light skin tones and dark skin tones require different lipstick shades and undertones to match their skin.

With a little perseverance (and a lot of swatching) you will find the best shade for you. Keep these tips in mind as you shop:

  • You might need to experiment to find your perfect red shade.
  • You don’t have to toss a red that is too bright or too dark. A too-light red can be deepened by layering it with a brown or wine-colored shade. You can make a too-dark red a little lighter with a pop of gold gloss on top or a layer of pink or beige underneath.
  • Know that a lipstick’s texture (cream, matte, or gloss) could have an effect on the way the shade looks on your lips. So keep your lips hydrated and exfoliated.
  • If you aren't ready to commit to lipstick, you can ease into red with a sheer lip gloss or try a lip stain to gradually add color.
01 of 05

Picking The Right Shade of Red

Actress Gabrielle Union
Actress Gabrielle Union in classic red lipstick. David Livingston/Contributor/Getty Images Entertainment

The right shade of lipstick can brighten a face, while the wrong red could very easily overpower a look. With so many variations in skin tone and undertones in women of color, the right shade of red can depend on a slew of factors, even the color of clothing. Don't be afraid to experiment to find the shade of red that you love.

02 of 05

The Best Red Lipsticks for All Skin Tones

Zoe Saldana wears Ruby Woo by MAC.
Zoe Saldana wears Ruby Woo by MAC. Mike Marsland/ WireImage/ Getty Images

For specifics, we talked to Brooklyn-based celebrity makeup artist Latisha Nicole Rankin. Rankin has done makeup for singer Jordin Sparks. She has also worked with Extra's Tracey Edmonds, fashion designer Angela Simmons, musician Swizz Beatz, and former American Idol judge Paula Abdul.

"My absolute favorite red lipstick is Ruby Woo ($18.50) from MAC Cosmetics. It truly looks great on every complexion as the blue undertones in this lipstick are just right," says Latisha. "Often, other cosmetic companies add too much yellow or orange into their red lipsticks causing the lipstick color to appear very bright on some skin tones. MAC's Ruby Woo lipstick is a perfect, universal red that all women can proudly wear, regardless of skin tone! Another great universal lipstick color that beautifully matches every skin tone is Tom Ford Cherry Lush ($55)."

For a drugstore option, try Maybelline New York's Color Sensational Made for All Lipstick collection ($5.48 each). The lipsticks are made to flatter every single skin tone.

03 of 05

Red Lipsticks for Lighter Skin Tones

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People with light skin tones can wear red for a bold pop of color against their fair skin. Pale and fair skin tends to look better in cool reds and berry reds with blue undertones, like cranberry. Try Revlon Ultra HD Matte Lipcolor in HD Romance ($8.99).

04 of 05

Red Lipsticks for Medium Skin Tones

Rihanna red lip 55th Grammy Awards
Rihanna wore MAC's Ruby Woo and Lady Danger to the Grammy Awards. Steve Granitz/ WireImage/ Getty Images

Medium skin tones have a bit more versatility when it comes to picking a red lipstick. Olive skin looks best in yellow or orange-based reds. Try Rodin Tough Tomato Red Olio Lusso Luxury Lipstick ($38). And warmer medium tones look great in brown-reds. Try L'Oréal Paris Makeup Colour Riche Original Creamy, Hydrating Satin Lipstick in Toasted Almond ($5.97).

05 of 05

Red Lipsticks for Darker Skin Tones

Lupita Nyong'o at the Accenture Gala.
Ben A. Pruchnie/Stringer/ Getty Images

Dark skin can handle more intense color, like deep reds and reds with blue undertones. Fabulous wines, berries, and brick reds look great. Try Bobbi Brown Luxe Matte Lipstick in Burnt Cherry ($37).

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