Red lipstick is the ultimate in glamour – timeless, elegant, grown-up, polished. A sweep of red screams classic Hollywood, and can take you from daytime to ready-to-party in seconds. It suits every skin colour and every age.
In short, it’s the one item everyone needs in their make-up bag.
But, like a flattering pair of jeans, it can be difficult and time-consuming trying to find the right one. The red that suits your skintone and hair colour, that’s neither too matte nor too glossy.
And then there’s getting to grips with how to wear the thing. Do you need to prepare your lips first? Do you have to apply it with a brush or can you slick it on straight from the tube? Is lip liner necessary?
And once it’s on, how do you keep it on your face and not leave it smeared across your wine glass, or worse – your date?
Time to ask the experts. So we did. Here, those in the know, from the big brands at House of Fraser’s beauty department, share their tips and tricks – and recommend their perfect shade.
“A lot of ladies are actually a bit scared of red,” says Nadia, who has been working for Yves Saint Laurent for 15 years. “There’s matte, there’s gloss, there’s orange tones, pink tones, blue tones…”
There are around 30 YSL shades that Nadia would categorise as red, and she believes there’s a shade for everyone.
YSL’s bestselling shade is Rouge Couture Pur No 1 – and Nadia believes you need to get your lips ready for the classic red. She recommends exfoliating the lips first with a toothbrush and then applying Touche Eclat to neutralise their natural colour.
She recommends using a lip liner – either in a neutral shade or in a matching red tone – and then applying the lip colour with a brush.
“It can be a bit much sometimes when applied from the tube, but you can build up the colour and have more control with a brush,” she says. “And when it comes to red, you definitely don’t want any smudges.”
The base and liner help the lipstick last longer as well as looking neater – and it’s worth trying a stain such as their Tatouage (tattoo) range if you’re looking for a formula with real staying power. It won’t budge, she promises – until you decide to take it off using cleanser.
Anna, who has worked at Guerlain for seven years, says it’s important to match a lipstick to your skintone – although a true red suits just about everyone. Their most popular shade is Rouge G No 25.
“It’s a treatment, a liner and a lipstick all in one,” she says. “It makes it nice and easy. And it’s such a true red – real pillarbox.”
For extra staying power, she suggests you can hold a tissue over your lips when you’ve applied the colour and lightly brushing powder over it to ‘set’ it. “But that does make it more matte,” she says.
If you’re nervous about diving straight into bold colours, she suggests starting with a tinted balm rather than a traditional lipstick formula as it will be more sheer.
Charmaine at Lancome suggests a sit-down lip makeover at their counter if you want to explore what really suits you – though their bestselling shade, Rouge L’Absolu in shade 132, suits just about everyone.
“It’s great for any special occasion,” she says of the true red, which comes in three finishes – sheer, cream and matte.
Vicky, over at the Christian Dior counter, says the brand has about 30 shades of red lipstick, so she can see why customers might be daunted.
“If you have a cooler skin tone, you tend to suit shades with more orange in,” she says. “Or warmer skin tones tend to go for something with more blue in.”
Their most popular, shade 999, is a true red – and she suggests applying a universal lip pencil (which will match any shade) before you apply the colour, which you can use straight from the tube rather than needing a brush.
“Shade 999 suits everyone,” she says. “It really is the perfect red.”
Six suit-all shades to try:
six seductive true reds in a range of textures – and prices.
Yves Saint Laurent Rouge Couture Pur No 1 (Le Rouge)
In a beautiful gold case you’d be proud to whip out of your handbag, this classic red has a SPF 15 moisturising formula which saturates lips with intense colour which lasts for up to six hours. £29
M.A.C. Retro Matte Ruby Woo
For a very matte finish, try M.A.C’s Retro Matte lipstick in shade Ruby Woo (a vivid blue-red), or Russian Red, both £17.50.
Rouge G de Guerlain No 25
Build your own lipstick with customisable case and colour. This luminous, long-lasting pillarbox shade is enriched with jojoba and mango butter to keep lips soft. £24.50 for the lipstick, or £39 with customisable case and mirror.
Bobbi Brown Luxe Matte Lip Colour in Red Carpet
This matte lipstick features oil-infused powders and pure matte powder pigments for 12-hour high-impact colour. £28.
Lancome Rouge L’Absolu in 132
This classy red comes in three formulas depending on your preference, from easy-to-wear sheer to sophisticated cream to bold and long-lasting matte. £27.
Christian Dior Rouge Dior in 999
An elegant suit-all shade which lasts for up to 16 hours, this lipstick is available in a satin or matte finish. £30
All these brands – and plenty more – are available at House of Fraser, Deansgate.