Red is a power color that refuses to be mistaken for anything short of bold, vibrant, and noticeable. While we could certainly dream up makeup looks to wear to every single occasion we have on the calendar (let's face it, most of us have looks planned for months to come), what happens when we want to pair beautiful makeup that makes a statement alongside such a memorable color?
"It depends on what you’re trying to achieve in terms of makeup and the red dress. Are we talking sexy, confident, and also in what environment? A red dress is such a statement depending on how rich the shade, the fabric, and style of dress," says makeup artist Kenneth Soh.
Everyone has some variation of a red dress hanging in their closet (and waiting to be worn out). With the help of Soh and celebrity makeup artist Gilbert Soliz, we've rounded up the best makeup looks to wear with a red dress that will instantly make you want to unzip that garment bag or treat yourself to a new dress altogether.
Meet the Expert
- Kenneth Soh is a London-based makeup artist who works with clients such as Cara Delevingne and Naomie Harris.
- Gilbert Soliz is a celebrity makeup artist who has worked with clients including Lisa Rinna, Kali Uchis, and Paris Hilton.
Keep reading to see the best beauty looks that will complement that red number.
A Touch of Sparkle
"I love a bit of glitter, it’s an opportunity to create a look that will catch light and attention to the eyes," says Soh. A glittery eye combined with flushed rosy cheeks and a glossy lip is key when wanting to keep makeup natural, but dimensional. "Just make sure when you use glitter to choose products that don’t smudge or have terrible fallout," adds Soh, who is a fan of Lemonhead LA's glitter products, which are suspended in a gel that won't smudge when dried.
While the color on Taylor Swift's lids is more of a champagne tone, feel free to play with any soft-hued sparkle when wanting to play up your eyes. We like Hourglass Cosmetics Scattered Light Glitter Eyeshadow ($29) in "Reflect."
Before you decide on your makeup, Soh recommends looking at the dress. If the fabric is sequined and shiny, it may be too much with glitter. Instead, go soft and velvety matte.
Soft Smoky Eye
Kerry Washington's makeup is always to die for, but this particularly soft smoke show is a great alternative to the traditional, moodier smoky eye—letting your dress do the talking. "A softly-smudged smoky eye in gray is always striking and modern without looking overly severe and vampish," says Soh. "Smoky eyes in shades of gunmetal, pewter, black, or dark browns pair nicely with bright red dresses," adds Soliz. "Sisley Phyto-Eye Twist No 4 Steel ($53) and Trish McEvoy Lash Curling Mascara ($33) in Jet Black can help you achieve this look. As for a nude lip, Soh's pick is CTZN Nudiversal Lip Duo ($25).
Metallic and Dewy
Some things just work perfectly together, and this metallic eye with dewy skin is a great way to balance this makeup look for a red dress. "A clear sparkling complexion that’s fresh and slightly dewy, strong boyish brows gives an edge to a red dress that can sometimes be too girly," says Soh. Use a waterproof eyeliner like L'Oreal Paris Infallible Pro-Last Waterproof Pencil Eyeliner ($9) and smudge it all around the eyes, bringing in the metallic eyeshadow on top.
For the perfect dewy face, apply Laura Mercier Tinted Moisturizer ($47) and a liquid highlighter like Becca's Shimmering Skin Perfector Liquid Highlighter ($30) under the brow and on the apples of the cheeks (on top of blush) to create a healthy glow. Be sure to use a great moisturizer daily under makeup as a primer. All that dew enhances the sequins and crystals in a sparkly dress.
"If you’re going for a fuller beat or skin that is more matte, I would recommend opting for a matte lip. For sheer, glowy skin pair it with gloss, this creates harmony and allows makeup to flow seamlessly," says Soliz.
Fierce and Fresh
Gabrielle Union's fierce black eyeliner paired with a nude lip is a perfect look to wear with a red dress. "If you’re going to focus on the eyes and do them dramatic and strong, I would keep the lips natural, like a lip balm or tint to make it modern," says Soh.
A Hollywood classic makeup look with a twist, here, Union's eyes are lined on the top and bottom, meeting at the outer edges in a sharp wing. Kat Von D's Tattoo Liner ($20) is precision perfect. Add lots of mascara, like Grande Cosmetics GrandeDRAMA Intense Thickening Mascara ($25) as your finishing touch.
Bronze and Peachy
As if J.Lo needed to give us any more reason to drool over her makeup, this look pairs incredibly well with a red dress due to the warm peach and bronze undertones carried throughout the eyes, cheeks, and lips. This is another perfect example of a look you can wear with any kind of red, including dresses that have a more orange-red undertone (which will be enhanced by the peach tones in your makeup). Swap out your traditional blush for bronzer instead. Try Physicians Formula Murumuru Butter Bronzer, $12, and apply a slightly deeper bronze eyeshadow right around the eyes to make them pop. Charlotte Tilbury's Luxury Eyeshadow Palette ($53), in "Bella Sofia" offers a good blend of copper-toned shades to create your look.
Clean Skin and Bitten Lips
Jamie Chung's perfectly balanced makeup look shows how different variations of red lip colors can pair with a red dress, depending on your skin tone. This berry-red paired with a softer berry blush and thick, voluminous eyelashes is a look even the minimalist of makeup wearers would be willing to give a try. Soh's pick for a Bordeaux stain is Rouge Dior Forever Liquid ($38) in 943 Forever Shock. To really make things easy, use a cream lip and cheek combo in one, like Tata Harper's Vitamin-Infused Cream Blush ($42) in "Very Naughty."
Bear in mind that glossy lipsticks no matter how hard you try might run the risk of it shifting and smudging.
Known for wearing some of the most shocking, jaw-dropping makeup looks of all time, Lady Gaga shows us just how well silver and red go together. The shimmer and shine of the silver along with the matte lip gives us everything we want for an edgier makeup look but still has a chic flow throughout. When recreating this look yourself, try blending Stila's Glitter and Glow Liquid Eyeshadow ($24) in "Diamond Dust" to the brow as pictured here, or you can use a silver eyeliner around the eyes for something a tad more delicate. Pair with an embellished red gown (instead of Gaga's silver), and invert the look with a silver lip, if you dare.
The monochromatic nude feel of Rose Huntington-Whiteley's makeup is an excellent color palette to choose for a red dress when wanting to wear a more natural makeup look. Our pick is the Master Mattes Eyeshadow Palette by Makeup by Mario ($48). The soft brown tones on the eyes with just the right amount of eyeliner define without distraction. Since nude colors are different for everyone, you don't have to mimic the exact tones shown here when wanting to wear this look yourself; simply choose more earthy tones in the colors that suit your skin the best.
Pretty in Pink
Variations of pink look beautiful next to a red dress, even outside the month of February. Since pink is a softer, less-saturated red, you strike a nice balance between two similar shades that compliment each other when you pair the lip with a red dress. The key is finding which shade of pink's undertones go best with the type of red undertones in your dress so that nothing ends up overpowering the other. Clé de Peau Beauté's Cream Blush ($60) in "2 Pale Fig" is buildable and perfect for a touch of color.
The Feline Flick
"I always appreciate classic takes on beauty when it comes to red dresses, so I often create soft neutral eyes and ground the look with black eyeliner," says Soliz. As you can see here on Emily Ratajkowski, this tiny flick of eyeliner with soft and natural skin looks incredible with a red dress and makes us wonder how we can get our skin beaming just like this all day long. To get this eyeliner flick look, use the tip of a liquid liner like Neutrogena's Precision Liquid Eyeliner ($8) and simply extend outside of the lash line ever so slightly. Since it's a bit different than a traditional winged eyeliner, you don't need to focus so much on getting the perfect shape. Follow up with some tinted moisturizer, liquid highlighter, and a natural lipgloss or lip color of your choice.
Bold and Beautiful
"If you’re going to wear a strong lip shade, keep eyes bare or just with mascara and maybe a dab of sheen from a balm or gloss to catch the light," says Soh. "For me, it’s about looking authentic and striking a balance of making an effort and nonchalant sensuality."
Embrace the “redness” of a dress and go for a strong lip paired with brushed-up brows, a light slick of liner to intensify the eyes and mascara. We like Charlotte Tilbury's Matte Revolution Lipstick ($34) in Scarlet Spell. For a bold brow like Kravitz's, Soh recommends Glossier Boy Brow ($16).
My Fair Lady
A sculpted face with red lips is very flattering on fairer skin, as seen here on Kate Bosworth. "Using neutral shadows like the Makeup By Mario Master Mattes Palette ($48) makes the eye-look easy. Start by applying a lighter shade to the lid, then sweep a medium shade through the crease," says Soliz. Add definition with black eyeliner like Pat McGrath's Perma Precision ($32), and pull the liner out at the corners for a feline effect. "Add two coats of Charlotte Tilbury’s mascara in Pillow Talk ($29) for added drama," adds Soliz.
Both experts agree that focusing on one feature, whether it be a powerful eye and more demure lip or a more neutral eye and red lip, will help balance a red dress look.
Off the Vine
No one said a red dress had to be bright. "Pair the rich wine and burgundy of a deep red dress with another part of the grape, the vine. I love and think green will make a comeback soon. Not bright lucid fluorescent greens but a green that’s murkier, dirtier, mossy, and sexier," says Soh. His pick for an inspirational eye like Lily Collins is Viseart Petit Fours in Peridot ($19). For lips, try Charlotte Tilbury Matte Revolution ($34) in Pillow Talk.