The return of the red lip: how to find your perfect shade

Make-up artists share their pro tips to help you choose the best rouge.

Red lipstick is back. Not just on our lips – thanks to lockdown easing meaning we’re embracing bold make-up again – but on the SS21 catwalks, from bright matte pouts at Hermes and Balmain, to deliciously dark red wine hues at Rodarte and Valentino.

“We saw a lot of red on the runway this season, which wasn’t surprising, as it’s such a glorious pick me up,” says Chanel make-up artist Zoe Taylor. “Personally, I love a red lip. It’s modern yet classic and, paired with a slick of mascara, is the ultimate in Parisian chic.”

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Sascha Jackson, Stila UK lead pro make-up artist, says scarlet is the ultimate powerhouse shade: “You put on that red lipstick and you feel powerful, you feel like you can take on the world. And it’s a great way of looking really put together – you can even wear quite a casual outfit, then you put on this red lipstick and all of a sudden, you’re dressed up.”

The great thing about red lipstick, Taylor says, is that “it suits everyone. It’s just a matter of finding your perfect shade.”

Here, our experts run down everything you need to consider when deciding on the right hue for you…

Skin tone

black woman applying red lipstick looking in a hand mirror
(Alamy/PA)

“Understanding the undertone of your skin is key to choosing the best red for you,” Taylor says. Specifically, you need to work out whether you have cool or warm undertones.

Cool undertones mean “you have more blue veins in your skin, you tend to burn easily in the sun, and you tend to suit pinkier shades,” says Jackson. “You would be better off to go for what’s called a blue-based red. That’s reds with an almost berry or pinkish tone. They will really suit those lovely lighter skin tones.”

Those with warmer undertones “tend to suit more corals and oranges – you love those summer shades,” Jackson continues. “Especially if you’re olive skinned, you tend to suit orange-based red lipsticks – those reds with a slight burnt orange to them.”

She adds: “I find that darker skin tones have the best of both. Both blue-based and orange-based suit warm and cool undertones.”

Teeth

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“When testing out reds, you’ll notice how they seem to change the colour of your teeth,” says Taylor, so if you want your pearly whites to shine, you’re better steering clear of orangey reds.

“I find the blue-based reds tend to make your teeth look a lot whiter,” Jackson says. “So that’s one thing to note for the coffee drinkers!”

Hair colour

red haired woman wearing red lipstick
(Alamy/PA)

“Understanding the undertones of your hair is also very important. This, once again, comes down to whether your hair is cool or warm in colour,” Taylor says.

“Cool colours are going to suit raspberry reds and warm colours will suit more tangerine reds.”

Texture

Asian woman wearing red lipstick
(Alamy/PA)

While matte lips ruled the runways this season, there are no hard and fast rules when it comes to the great velvet versus gloss debate.

“Go with the textures that make you feel comfortable and that you know you’re comfortable wearing – there’s no point wearing a make-up product that you don’t like the feel of,” says Jackson.

“However, that being said, because a red lip is so bold and striking, I love it in a matte finish. It looks very polished, and it prevents the pigment from moving around. Glosses are very malleable, and can move around your lips when you’re talking, eating and drinking.”

How to create the perfect crisp lip? Taylor says: “Prepping your lips will help your red lipstick to glide on smoother, so remember to scrub, oil and balm, before you choose and apply your lip colour.”

Try before you buy

“Obviously at the moment, trying on lipstick is a bit tricky when you’re shopping,” says Jackson.

But there are now hundreds of digital try-on tools on beauty brand websites, that let you upload a photo or use your camera to ‘apply’ a lipstick live and see if it suits. See a red somewhere that you think would look luscious on your lips? With Chanel’s new Lipscanner app, you can point your camera at any swatch and the app will suggest a lipstick shade to match.

Lip glossary: 5 red shades to suit all skin tones 

MAC Retro Matte Lipstick in Ruby Woo
(MAC/PA)

1. MAC Retro Matte Lipstick in Ruby Woo, £17.50

An absolute cult classic, Ruby Woo is a blue-toned red with a matte finish.

Avon Anew Revival Serum Lipstick in Revitalising Rouge
(Avon/PA)

2. Avon Anew Revival Serum Lipstick in Revitalising Rouge, £8 (was £10)

New from Avon, this blue-toned red is highly pigmented with a satin shine finish.

Stila Stay All Day Liquid Lipstick in Beso
(Stila/PA)

3. Stila Stay All Day Liquid Lipstick in Beso, £17

A neutral ‘true’ red, this matte liquid lipstick suits both warm and cool undertones.

All Tigers Natural & Vegan Matte Lipstick 886 Orange Red
(All Tigers/PA)

4. All Tigers Natural & Vegan Matte Lipstick 886 Orange Red, £21.80, Superdrug

A rich orange-red, this matte liquid lipstick suits warmer undertones best.

Chanel Rouge Coco Bloom in Blossom
(Chanel/PA)

Chanel Rouge Coco Bloom in Blossom, £33

This glossy bullet delivers bright orangey-red pigment and a high shine finish.