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How to Find the Most Flattering Red Lipstick for Your Skin Tone

Updated: Feb 27, 2019


If you've never tried a bold red lip, now is the perfect time, especially if you have a romantic date lined up. A lot of women are intimidated by wearing red lipstick (myself included), but it's all about finding the right shade based on your skin tone and your undertones. I've hear a lot of women say, "I just can't pull off red lips." Though really anyone can wear red lipstick. You simply need to find the right shade for you! Pictured above: stila Stay All Day Liquid Lipstick, Beso (True Red)

To find the best makeup shades for your face, you first have to determine your skin's undertone. Your undertone can range from cool to neutral to warm whether you have fair, medium, or dark skin. Though naturally tan people do tend to have warmer undertones, while women with fair skin tend to have cool undertones. But that is not always the case. I have tan olive skin, yet I have neutral undertones that are slightly on the cool side. I'd previously assumed I had warm undertones simply because I'm always tan. Now I know why I could never seem to find the right shade of red lipstick. Here is a great article on how to determine your skin's undertone.



The easiest way to determine your skin's undertone is to look at the underside of your wrists where the veins are clearly visible. If they look blue or purple in color, then you have cool undertones. If they appear more greenish, you have warm undertones.

If you're still unsure, the safest bet is to go with a neutral true red. These are often labeled with words like "classic", "true red", or "rich red". A classic red lipstick is likely going to have blue undertones, so it's perfect for someone with cool-toned skin that is on the fairer side, though it also works with warm undertones and most any skin type. The stila Stay All Day Liquid Lipstick, Beso (True Red) is a cool-toned bright red that is incredibly versatile and is very long-lasting. A classic red lipstick like this is also great if you want a versatile shade that you can either dab on lightly for daytime or apply several layers for a night out. If you're not a fan of liquid lipstick, try this NARS Velvet Matte Lip Pencil, Dragon Girl, hailed as the most universally flattering red lip color.


How to Pic A Red Lipstick by Light vs. Dark Skin Tone

A lot of red lipstick guides vary by both undertones and from fair to dark skin, but really, even if you have very fair or very dark skin, you can pull of a bold shade as long as it matches with your skin's undertone.


However, if you do have very light or dark skin, you may want to stray a little from the classic red. A rosy or light berry red, for example, is more wearable on lighter skin tones with blue undertones, and a coral red is great with lighter skin and warm undertones, while a wine red is beautiful on darker skin tones. See the following chart for a more detailed guide on red lipstick by both undertone and skin type, and see my top picks by brand below.



Cool Undertones with Fair Skin - a lighter red lipstick with rosy or raspberry tones, like the Anastasia Beverly Hills Matte Lipstick Ruby, or a classic red with cool tones.


Cool Undertones with Medium to Tan Skin - a rich classic red with slightly blue or purple undertones like the MAC Matte lipstick in Russian Red or the NYX Matte Lipstick MLS10 - Perfect Red 


Cool Undertones with Dark to Very Dark Skin - a dark purplish red like NYX Matte Lipstick MLS16 - Merlot (Plum Red) Long Lasting Lipsticks or a very dark vampy wine red like this Black Radiance Perfect Tone Lip Color 5033 Midnight Glow (one of my personal favorites!)


Warm Undertones with Fair Skin - a lighter red with coral or peach tones like the Maybelline New York ColorSensational Lipcolor (in "coral crush") or a warm classic red like this NYX Matte Lipstick MLS08 - Pure Red (Bright Red-Orange) Long Lasting Lipsticks


Warm Undertones with Medium to Tan Skin - a rich classic red with slightly brown tones like the Maybelline New York ColorSensational Lipcolor, Red Revival 645 or a classic red with slightly orange undertones, like the e.l.f. Studio Moisturizing Lipstick 82640 Red Carpet


Warm Undertones with Dark to Very Dark Skin - a dark red wine shade with warm tones like Smashbox Always On Liquid Lipstick in Deep Red


I hope this helps you find that perfect red lip! Start with a more affordable brand like NYX until you're more comfortable with picking out your lipstick colors. If you're still stumped or want something a little more subtle, go with a red tinted balm or gloss, or lightly apply a red lip stain and top with clear lip gloss.


Do you have a favorite red lip color? Let me know in the comments below!

About the Author: Krisztina Clifton is the owner and editor at Krisztina Clifton Beauty. She has been testing beauty products and blogging about beauty and wellness tips for over ten years. See more about Krisztina.

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