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Red Lipstick: How to Choose a Shade that Looks Good On You

Updated on October 9, 2012
Roses are red...
Roses are red...

Finding The Right Shade of Red Lipstick

Nothing screams ‘siren coming through’ like red lipstick can. Yet, most women find the very thought of choosing a shade of red lipstick daunting, and with good reason too: choosing the wrong shade of red lipstick could ruin the whole look you’re going for, not to mention sending the wrong kind of message. The problems are further exacerbated by the fact that there are trillions – give or take a trillion – of shades on the market and the human eye can’t even make out the minor differences in a lot of cases.

The choices of this one color of lipstick alone are enough to stop you dead in your tracks and make your mind go blank. Fortunately, there are a set of guidelines that will make your job a whole lot easier, and you won’t end up with that ‘God I feel so awfully ridiculous’ feeling. Just follow the red brick road here and you’ll soon be on your way to Can-Kiss in no time flat.

The key to choosing the perfect shade of red that looks great on you is three-fold – skin, hair and clothes. If you can coordinate these four corners of the square, then you can be hip – and look out Marilyn and clear the ramp Heidi.

Matching Your Lipstick with Skin Tone

Fair skin tone and blonde or red hair calls for orangey red lipstick. Pick a shade like Korres No. 52 or MAC Cosmetics ‘You Say Tomato’. Stay away from bluish reds, as they can contrast with flushed cheeks and broken capillaries that usually appear on very light skin. Don’t go with ruby red or other clear tones; they’ll create the same problems.

Redheads can choose a bronzy shade like MAC Chili that’ll complement hair color. Copper’s good too, but if you’re already bought a red that’s much too bright that you never use, you can try a copper gloss to tone it down, or even layer or mix in a brown lipstick that will help accentuate the reds in your hair.

For Olive tone skin and dark hair, a red with some pink tones will look fabulous. Though cherry or fire-engine red is a good choice, if you don’t like the overly-sensual look you can tone it down by using it as a gloss instead of the base shade. If you’re wearing neutral eye makeup, then bluish red shades work better with olive skin and dark hair rather than the orangey tones – Clinique Angel Red should be perfect. Pure, clear reds are better when using green eye makeup.

Asian skin tones – from light to dark brown – suit classic reds perfectly, and even some earthy tones will make men’s knees go weak. Stay far away from anything remotely pink.

Black skin is probably the only type that can wear a bright tone really well, such as fuchsia or apple reds. YSL Rouge No. 14 is great for really dark skin, and a coral red shade goes very nicely with lighter shades of skin.

Matching lipstick reds to your clothing can be a bit of a challenge, with expert opinions being nearly as varied as the reds available on the market. However, a rule of thumb here is not to contrast your clothing with your lipstick by more that one or two shades of red on either side. And if you really want your dress to complement your lips, get a dress with the shade you like and then match it to a lipstick – mind you, it’s far easier to find the right shade of red lipstick than the right dress.


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