How to Apply Red Lipstick

Wearing red lipstick instantly ups your style points. But improperly apply a stark shade of red, and you can wind up with feathering, fading or off-color lipstick and a not so perfect pout. Quickly that style win devolves into a style fail. The founders of Mented broke into the cosmetics scene with high-quality makeup for women of color, so we know a thing or two about choosing and applying lipstick. Here are our 8 red lipstick tips on how to apply this style staple. With this guide you’ll learn how to apply red lipstick perfectly every time for a no-miss, guaranteed style win. 

Getting the Red Tone Right

Not all shades of red are created equal. Not at all shades of red suit every skin shade. There is true red, and then there are a spectrum of reds that are warmer or cooler in hue. Warm reds have more yellow in them than true red and typically are a good go-to lipstick color for tan skin. The colors cardinal, brick and tomato red are examples of warm reds. Alternatively, cool reds have more blue undertones in them, such as the colors burgundy, cranberry or magenta. 

Here’s the rule of thumb when determining the best shade of red lipstick for you: select a shade that matches your skin’s undertone. Oh… but what’s my undertone, you ask? It’s pretty easy to determine by answering these two questions:

  1. Do you look better in gold or silver jewelry?
  2. Are the veins at your inner wrist green or blue?

If you look better in gold jewelry and have green veins at the wrist, then you have warm-toned skin. Conversely, ladies who shine in silver and have blue wrist veins have cool-toned skin. If you look good in either type of jewelry and your veins are a combination of green and blue, then you have neutral skin tone and will look equally good in warm or cool shades. In essence, there are so many lipstick colors for warm skin tones and cool skin tones 

Women with warm skin tones should reach for the warm reds, like Mented’s Red & Butter Matte. If you have a cool skin tone, then go with a cool red lipstick like our Red Carpet Matte or Red Rover Matte. There are so many shades of red lipstick, but the secret to success is understanding which red lipstick would look best on you!

Hail Matte, Queen of Red Lipsticks!

If matte lipsticks were made for any single color, it would be red. The reason being is that when you wear a red lipstick makeup look, you want the color to be highly saturated and stay on for hours without the need for touch-ups. A faint red shade or red lipstick that fades quickly detracts from the statement-making red lips look you are trying to achieve.

In the world of lipsticks, there are all sorts of formulas with different ratios of moisture and pigmentation. Satin, sheer, pearl, frosted and cream lipsticks are just some of the choices you have when it comes to types of lipstick. Matte lipsticks have the least moisture and most pigmentation of all lipstick types. Basically, if you decide to go red,  red matte lipstick is the way to go. Here’s why:

  1. Its low moisture level means a matte lipstick has serious staying power and is less likely to feather outside of your lips.
  2. The high pigmentation in a matte lipstick gives the red hue a head-turning vibrancy. 

Give Your Lips Some Love

Regularly exfoliating and moisturizing your lips is probably the first steps to go in the beauty routine of a rushed woman with a busy schedule. But making the effort to exfoliate your lips twice a week, and moisturize your pout at least twice a day, has some serious benefits:

  • Lipstick color will not settle into cracks or rough patches since the surface of your lips will be smooth.
  • Lipstick color will stay on longer since there is less dead skin to slough off, taking lipstick with it.
  • Regularly exfoliating minimizes lip discoloration, so lip color goes on evenly and truer to the color in the tube.

Exfoliating and moisturizing your lips is especially important when it comes to wearing red matte lipsticks. The dry nature of a matte means it is likely to settle into cracks and rough patches, while potentially drying the lips out more. If you haven’t done it before, exfoliating your lips is extremely easy. You can purchase a specialized lip scrub, or make one yourself with sugar and oil or honey. Just be sure to gently apply the scrub, and always follow up your favorite moisturizing lip balm.

Choose Makeup that Enhances Your Red Lips

After prepping your lips, it’s time to apply the rest of your makeup. A pause between moisturizing your lips and applying lip color is important. This gives your lips time to absorb the balm, and less moisture on your lips improves lipstick longevity.

When it comes to pairing facial and eye makeup with red lips, less is usually more. You will want to choose colors that enhance your red lips. Avoid blush and eye makeup colors that clash with your lips, or worse yet (and we’ve all seen this before), look as if the rest of your makeup is jealous and trying to upstage your red lips. 

The following is tried-and-true makeup pairing with red lips:

  • A touch of blush in a red-brown shade
  • A judicious application of nude eyeshadow
  • Well-sculpted brows 
  • A lacquering of mascara (or falsies).

Go Nude...with Your Lip Liner

Outlining your lips with a lip liner gives your pout flawless definition. It also makes applying lipstick that much easier; the liner creates an obvious boundary so all you need to do is fill in between the lines with your lipstick.

When using a lip liner with red lipstick, we recommend using a lip liner color close to your natural lip color. A lip liner shade that is not an exact match with your lipstick will require blending in to overcome a two-toned effect. Blending in a lip liner shade into your lipstick will alter the color of the lipstick. Of course, this could be a plus if you want a customized shade of red. Many professional makeup artists create their own shade of lipstick by combining lipsticks and lip liners. If you go down the customized red lip shade route, consider if your lip liner is warmer or cooler than your lipstick and if this will flatter or contrast with your skin tone.

Whichever color of lip liner you choose, go with a no-skip lip liner that glides on easily. Lip liners made with too little moisture or too waxy of a finish will be difficult to apply. Not being able to finely control your lip liner can deliver a not-so-sharp lip line. Fortunately, Mented makes a long-wearing, glide-on lip liner in several shades.

There are two basic approaches to applying lip liner: lining the natural curvature of your lips, or lining just beyond your lips for a fuller-looking pout. Either way you choose, try drawing an X at your cupid’s bow first. Simply start at the top of cupid’s bow and draw down diagonally along your lip line and then down into your lip. Repeat on the other side. This will give you an X, which you can fade out by smudging with your finger. The benefit is that this technique will give you an even, crisp cupid’s bow that is a must with red lips.

Apply a Coat of Lipstick

Actually putting on your red lipstick is the easiest part in the process. You can either apply directly from the tube onto your lips, or you can use a lip brush. Simply apply one coat between your lip liner-outlined lips. A single coat of matte lipstick should be enough. Much more than one coat and your matte lipstick is at risk of becoming too thick and cakey.

Grab a Flat-Edged Brush with Concealer for the Win

Ever notice how some women’s lipstick has an uber clean edge fit for a magazine spread? They probably did the following:

  1. Took a small, flat-edged brush
  2. Dabbed concealer at the tip
  3. Carefully dabbed the outside of their lips with the brush

Taking these simple steps delivers an extra sharp lip outline, and also creates a damn of sorts to further prevent lipstick feathering. 

Your brush with concealer will also come in handy at this point, if you have a runaway smudge of lipstick. Maybe the lipstick slipped while you were applying it, or you got momentarily distracted, but there is a stray mark of lipstick beyond your lips.... Hold on! Don’t grab the tissue paper! 

Blotting at an errant lipstick mark, especially in a bold color, is likely to spread the color. Instead of attempting to remove the color, gently blend it in with a brush dabbed with concealer.

Make It Last with Setting Powder

You’ve followed all of the above steps and you’re looking in the mirror right now very proud of your work. You’re rocking a shade of red that looks dynamite on you and the application is picture perfect. While many steps you’ve already taken will help keep your lipstick on longer, we have one more trick up our sleeves to extend with lipstick longevity: dust on a bit of setting powder

You can press a small amount of powder onto a brush or puff and simply pat it against your lips. This is the quick and easy method, and often works fine. The downside is that too much powder may be deposited onto the lips, creating a cakey effect. To prevent powdery lips, try the following:

  • Place a tissue over your lips - preferably a single half of a two-ply tissue
  • Dip a brush into setting powder
  • Lightly tap the powder onto the tissue

With this technique, the tissue acts as a sieve, allowing just the right amount of powder through; there is enough powder to absorb excess moisture and hold down your color, but not too powder much as to be detectable on your lips.

Velvety Red Lipsticks for Women of Color

Whether you only wear red lipstick to holiday parties, or won’t be caught outside the house without red lips, this guide on how to apply red lipstick should have at least a tip or two that ups your red lipstick application game. At Mented, we got started by making lipsticks for women of color, including red lipsticks. If you are in the market for a lush red lipstick, we have velvety red matte lipsticks specifically designed for your all skin tones!