The 19 Best Red Lipsticks of All Time, According to the Experts

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Red lipstick on Meghan Markle? So elegant. Red lipstick on us? Total clown vibes. Though we’ve always been drawn to the classic but bold makeup look, we can never seem to pull it off—which is why we brought in the big guns. We asked makeup artists to share their favorite red lipsticks of all time. Not only did they spill their favorite shades, but they also gave us tips for choosing the best red lipstick for your skin tone and shared some application pointers.

"Because a red lip can be a bolder look, think about how your other makeup will play with it," shares Dani Kimiko Vincent, founder of KIMIKO. "While more is more for some people, if you’re concerned about looking overdone and want to go with the classic red lip look, keep your complexion clean and your eye makeup simple so it won’t compete with your new beautiful, bold red lip."  

From the blue-based shade that works on (pretty much) every skin tone to the darker rouges that are preferred by their celeb clients, here are the makeup artists' picks for the best red lipsticks of all time. 

How to Choose Red Lipstick for Your Skin Tone  

Blue-red lipstick? Deep-red? Orange-red? The options are dizzying. So how do you choose the best red lipstick for your skin tone? According to Vincent, the only way is through trial-and-error.

"To determine which reds suit you, focus on what undertones you have, regardless of the depth of your skin tone," she explains. "If you have more golden or warmer undertones, you’ll lean towards warm reds. If you have cool undertones, a cooler red will suit you." 

What is a cool or warm red? Pink-toned reds run cool, whereas coral-toned reds are warmer and a neutral red balances the two. Vincent says that a truly neutral red will pair well with all skin tones. "You’ll tend to know right away if you’ve found a winning red, as it will look balanced with your skin tone and pop in the right way."

As you dive into experimentation, it can feel overwhelming deciding which shades and types of red lip colors to try first. With your skin tone as a guide, go with your gut. "The first tip I give people is to pick a red you’ll be comfortable wearing," counsels New York City-based makeup artist Ashley Rebecca. "If you aren’t a bold lip type person, opt for a sheer, red balm or gloss. The best red lip is the one you’ll actually wear."

How to Choose the Best Finish 

Aside from picking the most complementary red shade, you’ll also have a choice between matte, glossy and satin finishes. Which one should you choose?  

If your goal is a long-lasting red lip, Vincent suggests a matte finish, as it's less emollient than satin or glossy varieties, and therefore less likely to wear off quickly. A satin finish hits that sweet spot between glossy and matte, while gloss, of course, delivers on shine but will have less staying power. You're also not bound to a single product. Vincent explains that you can layer different finishes—just make sure to apply matte first, followed by the richer satin lipstick or gloss.  

Additionally, you should take comfort into account. “Matte is the driest of textures, so if you tend to get chapped lips, it would be better to use satin finishes that have a bit more slip to them,” Rebecca says.  

How to Prep Your Lips for Red Lipstick  

To get the longest wear and smoothest application out of your red lipstick, ensure that you have properly exfoliated and hydrated your lips beforehand. “I recommend gently exfoliating the night before and drenching lips with your favorite balm or treatment. Drinking lots of water always helps your skin (and lips) stay plump,” Vincent advises. “Use a soft toothbrush to make gentle circles over lips or use a muslin or cotton washcloth. My preferred lip treatment is Image Skincare - Ormedic Lip Enhancement Complex. I apply it prior to red lipsticks, but I remove any remaining balm before applying color.” 

Additionally, Rebecca recommends applying a lip primer so that you have a smooth base for lipstick. She swears by the Anastasia Beverly Hills lip primer, calling it “magic for keeping lipstick smooth.” 

Red Lipstick Application Tips 

Vincent’s first step when applying red lipstick is to always use a matte lip liner, which will help prevent feathering. "Instead of matching the shade of liner to my lipstick, I match it to the lip’s natural color,” she shares.

First, line the perimeter of your lips with a matte liner to define the shape. Then, use the liner to fill in your lips and gently blend in with a lip brush. When it comes to the red lipstick itself, you have two options: apply straight from the bullet or with the lip brush. Vincent says that using a lip brush will give a longer-lasting finish.  

“Apply two to three thin coats, blotting with a tissue in between layers,” she recommends. “Once you’re happy with the shape and application, take a single tissue layer, gently place it over your lips, and dust some translucent setting powder over them to set the color in place.”  

The Best Red Lipsticks at a Glance

best red lipstick mac matte lipstick ruby woo

The Cult Classic

1. MAC Matte Lipstick in "Ruby Woo"


  • Why We Love It: Makeup artist favorite, universally flattering, makes teeth appear whiter

It should hardly come as a surprise that MAC’s cult favorite was recommended by seven of the artists we reached out to. It all boils down to the fact that this blue-based shade is so universally flattering. “I have yet to try it on someone and have it not look good,” shares makeup artist Megan Lanoux, who works with stars including Julianne Hough and Sienna Miller. Multiple artists added that this particular shade has the unique power to make your teeth look extra white. Yes, please.

best red lipstick chanel rouge allure in pirate

Best Splurge

2. Chanel Rouge Allure in "Pirate" 


  • Why We Love It: Deep, satin color loved by reviewers as nourishing and long-wearing with pleasant texture

“The packaging makes you feel like you’re treating yourself, and the color is divine,” Lanoux notes, adding that she not only uses it on her clientele but it’s also stocked in her own personal makeup bag. If it’s good enough for a professional, we’re game to try it.

best red lipstick fenty beauty lip paint in uncensored

Best Liquid Red Lipstick

3. Fenty Beauty Lip Paint in "Uncensored" 


  • Why We Love It: Quick-drying, great glide, excellent color payoff

Prefer liquid lipstick? We’ve got you covered. Tim MacKay, the genius behind the faces of June Diane Raphael and Nastia Liukin, declares this formula from Fenty Beauty his all-time fave. “It dries very fast, but when it’s wet, it glides perfectly, giving you pure color payoff in one quick coat. It also wears for a very long time without cracking or looking flaky,” he says. We’re also fans of the strategically shaped precision wand, which is compact and pout-hugging, making for a particularly easy application.

best red lipstick mac liquid lipstick in feels so grand
  • Why We Love It: Even, smooth wear that lasts up to eight hours; won't feather or bleed

MacKay is also a fan of this true red from MAC. He notes that this deep, classic red is his favorite to use on clients. “It looks stunning on everyone I have ever put it on, regardless of skin tone or age,” he explains. The fact that it has an eight-hour wear time doesn’t hurt either.

best red lipstick vapour lip nectar coquette
  • Why We Love It: Hydrating and easy to apply

We’re not always in the mood for a heavy matte formula, which is why we’re rather obsessed with beauty expert Jenny Patinkin’s recommendation: a highly pigmented balm from Vapour Beauty. “Matte reds can be very drying and accentuate flaking on the lips, while satiny or glossy reds can melt into the little vertical lines around the mouth,” she points out. “Balms are hydrating and have more glide; they tend to feel more comfortable and they’re lower maintenance to apply.” Glide on and go? We’re all about that life.

best red lipstick rms beauty rms red
RMS Organics
  • Why We Love It: Satin finish with a rich pigment, packed with proprietary beauty oil, comes in recyclable tube

“I only reach for clean beauty,” Patinkin adds. That explains why her other favorite red comes from RMS Beauty—and it’s more luxe than you might expect. “These lipsticks are super long-wearing and have just the right amount of sheen. And they photograph really beautifully.” She uses the shades "RMS Red" and "Rebound" when she’s creating a bold look. 

best red lipstick clé de peau liquid lipstick in red currant
Neiman Marcus

Best Orange-Red Lipstick

7. Clé de Peau Liquid Lipstick in "Red Currant"  

Clé de Peau

  • Why We Love It: Use it as a stain or lipstick, moisturizes lips with lightweight and dewy texture

Desirae Cherman, whose clients include Kristen Bell, Zoey Deutch and Lili Reinhart, names this orangey red as her current go-to: “It can be used as a stain with your fingertip or applied directly for a bolder look.” That versatility helps us justify the steep price tag.

best red lipstick tom ford matte lip color in ruby rush

Best Red Lipstick for All Skin Tones

8. Tom Ford Matte Lip Color in "Ruby Rush"

Tom Ford

  • Why We Love It: Classic red that harkens back to the glamor days of Old Hollywood

Looking for a red that’s a total classic? Glamsquad artistic director and makeup artist Kelli J. Bartlett recommends Tom Ford’s "Ruby Rush" to help you achieve that Old Hollywood feel. “It has the perfect depth of a true red—which features a balance of blue and orange—so it’s seasonless and universally flattering. I love that it is a traditional creamy matte formula, in a classic bullet with sumptuous packaging,” she explains. Watch out, Marilyn Monroe.

best red lipstick stila liquid lipstick in beso
  • Why We Love It: Gives up to 12 hours of coverage without feeling dry

Date night calls for something kiss-proof. Try Stila’s Stay All Day formula, which has been a mainstay since its debut almost ten years ago. Bartlett recommends it to all of her brides-to-be who are hoping to rock a bold lip on their wedding day.

best red lipstick pat mcgrath labs in elson

Best Red Matte Lipstick

10. Pat McGrath Labs Lipstick in "Elson"

Pat McGrath Labs

  • Why We Love It: Cooler red shade will brighten skin and teeth

According to Mary Irwin, professional makeup artist to brands like Badgley Mischka and Tory Burch, there’s a lot to love about this lipstick. “It’s a slightly cool red, which brightens up skin and teeth, and the matte formula never gets dry. It feels lightweight but goes on easily and stays for hours,” she says.

best red lipstick nars lipstick pencil in mysterious red
Neiman Marcus

Best Red Lip Pencil

11. NARS Lipstick Pencil in "Mysterious Red" 


  • Why We Love It: Creamy and hydrating

“What I love about the Nars Velvet Matte lipstick pencil is that it’s essentially a jumbo pencil, so there’s no lip liner necessary,” proclaims Robert Sesnek. He’s worked on celebs such as Sophia Bush and Vanessa Hudgens, and he created Rose Leslie’s look for this year’s Golden Globes, so we really trust him. This chubby Nars stick is enriched with vitamin E and emollients, which explains the creamy texture and hydrating effects. Just make sure to use a large sharpener after every use so you can keep the lip lining up to par.

best red lipstick nars matte lipstick in jungle red
  • Why We Love It: Moringa and passion fruit seed oils provide exceptional vibrancy while moisturizing lips

Although he likens choosing a favorite red lip to Sophie’s ChoiceJames Vincent, director of education and artistic relations for The Makeup Show, was able to narrow it down to the aforementioned MAC "Ruby Woo" and this semi-matte one from Nars. It contains a blend of moringa and passion fruit seed oils that enhance color vibrancy while conditioning the lips. As for the hue? It’s just as classic and dramatic as the Meryl Streep film.

best red lipstick kevin aucoin liquid lipstick in julia
  • Why We Love It: Can be applied as a sheer tint or provide full coverage, metallic reflection with weightless feel

Nick Lujan, global director of artistry and education for Kevyn Aucoin, dubs this Kevyn Aucoin “the perfect red.” “Because it’s a liquid, I know I can apply it sheer as a tint, or layer it up for full intensity,” he notes. Plus, Lujan notes that it works on all skin tones.

best red lipstick rouge d'armani 400
Neiman Marcus
  • Why We Love It: Matte suede finish, glides seamlessly thanks to light diffusing gel, jojoba and ester oils

What a red carpet-ready look? This Rouge D’Armani shade is a slightly blueish-red hue that Vincent uses both personally and on her celebrity clients. The lipstick’s light-diffusing gel yields a creamy application, supple look and rich matte finish.  

best red lipstick the lip bar matte liquid lipstick in hot mama

Best Long-Lasting Red Lipstick

15. The Lip Bar Matte Lipstick in "Hot Mama"

The Lip Bar

  • Why We Love It: True matte, vegan, long-lasting and moisturizing

Rebecca calls this vegan red lipstick “an example of classic blue-red and orange-red tones that are long-wearing with a true matte finish." She adds that if you’re confused on where to start with matte formulas, you should start here.” The lipstick applies like a gloss and dries into a soft matte, promising up to 12 hours of coverage. Ingredients like jojoba oil and Vitamin E ensure it isn’t too drying.  

best red lipstick tower28 lip jelly in spicy
Tower 28

Best Red Lip Gloss

16. Tower28 Lip Gloss in "Spicy" 


  • Why We Love It: Classic orange-red lip gloss that's great for beginners

The “Spicy” ShineOn Lip Jelly by Tower28 has what Rebecca describes as classic red and orange red tones. “[There’s a] glossy finish, ideal for those who want to break into wearing red slowly.” She lauds the formula for being smooth but not drying or sticky, which differentiates it from typical lip glosses.

best red lipstick revlon colorstay satin ink in smokin hot

Best Satin Red Lipstick

17. Revlon Colorstay Liquid Lipstick in "Smokin' Hot"  


  • Why We Love It: Satin finish strikes the perfect balance between color and long-lasting

If you’re striving for a balance between killer color and an enduring finish, Rebecca recommends Revlon ColorStay Satin Ink liquid lipstick in “Smokin’ Hot.” 

“Satin finishes are long-wearing yet not all the way matte, and have beautiful pigment to them,” she says. “If you’re wanting great color but not in love with matte textures, satin is ideal.” 

best red lipstick olivia palermo in runway rouge

Best Red Lipstick for Fair Skin

18. Olivia Palermo Matte Lipstick in "Runway Rouge" 

Olivia Palermo

  • Why We Love It: Cool undertones compliment fair skin, sumptuous glide-on application

One of PureWow commerce director Nicole Briese’s favorite picks is Olivia Palermo’s "Runway Rouge." "It has more of a cool undertone to it and has become a personal favorite since I'm really pale and it compliments my skin," Briese says. Though a matte formula, Runway Rouge has a luxurious glide when applied to the lips. 

best red lipstick gucci rouge à lèvres in goldie red
  • Why We Love It: Vivid red shade loved for its rich pigments, long wear and easy glide

Gucci’s "Goldie Red" is bright, rich and velvety, while promising no smudging or drying out your lips. Briese calls it "the perfect orange-y red lipstick." Bonus points: It’s super moisturizing with good longevity.  

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