Top Red Lipstick Picks


So a few fun facts about me:

  1. I hate Valentine’s Day. And no, it’s not because I’m bitter and jaded and seething at the thought of couples gushing at each other over dinner. It’s more the gaudiness, over-the-top chocolate and teddy bears that make me slightly sick. In the first year I was dating my boyfriend, I made it clear that there were to be no restaurant reservations, no heart-shaped chocolates, and no roses (Bonus fun fact: I hate roses, too. Orchids or lilies, anyday). And every year since then, Valentine’s Day has just been a normal day, although he does manage to sneak home some cookies or a bar of dark chocolate…
  2. Red lipstick is fairly new to me. For the decade or so that I’ve been wearing makeup, I will gladly wear purple lipstick or orange lipstick, but finding the right shade of red has been a real challenge. In the past year or so, I’ve been really trying to expand into reds, and as a result, I’ve found some red lipsticks that actually suit my skintone and make me feel comfortable.

In honor of these two facts, I wanted to celebrate my love of reds, and perhaps more important than Valentine’s Day to me, Chinese New Year. Now, I am the proud children of two Taiwanese immigrants, but my family has never followed Chinese New Years traditions the way many families usually do. I stopped receiving the red envelopes (with money!) around age 8, and the most we do is cook some food or go out to eat.

Still, the holiday still has me inspired to pull out my red lipsticks and to wear them over the next few weeks.

There are so many to choose from, and it’s easy to fall into a buying crazy of trying to find that perfect red. For some, one red is enough, and for others, there are never enough reds. For myself, I prefer a few different types of red, warm, cool, dark, bright, and in different finishes: liquid, cream, matte, glossy. And there’s something in here that falls into all of those categories.

After a rainy afternoon of watching, I pulled together some of my favorite reds, from warm toned to cool toned, which I find work best on my skin.

For reference, I am a warm medium skintone with some olive undertones, ranging from MAC NC30 (NC 27ish in the dead of winter) to NC37 when I’m tan. Of course, different reds will look different on everyone, but if you’re around my skintone, look around and see if you already have these, or add them to your list of products to swatch when you’re out shopping! There is a mix of drugstore, mid-end, and high end here, so I hope you find something that suits you.

From L-R: YSL Glossy Stain #9, Urban Decay Revolution Lipstick in Temper, Maybelline Color Sensational Neon Red, Illamasqua Sangers, Stila Liquid Lipstick in Beso, Nudestix Lip + Cheek Pencil in Sin, Kosas Cosmetics Fringe

The first is probably one of my first “real” (as in, not a tinted lip balm or sheer formula) red, and still one of my favorite lip products – the YSL Glossy Stain in #9. It’s a fairly warm toned red, and the glossy finish makes it work better in certain contexts, but it can be sheered out or applied more opaquely. They’re moisturizing for me, and exactly what they say they are – glossy stains – but they leave a nice stain.

The next is another warm toned, orange-red, but this time, in a matte formula – Urban Decay Revolution Lipstick in Temper. They have since repackaged and reformulated these to the Vice lipstick range (which are fantastic, by the way), but I adored the old formula as well.

My favorite drugstore range of lipsticks are definitely the Maybelline Color Sensational lipsticks. They are so creamy, moisturizing, pigmented, and long-wearing. I have so many shades of these lipsticks, and love them as much as my more expensive options. When they brought out the Vivids line, I just about bought every shade. This one – Neon Red – is a great neutral-red that slightly hints at warm tones. It is indeed, pretty neon, and it lasts forever on my lips, even though it has a slightly glossy cream finish.

The next lipstick, the Illamasqua lipstick in Sangers, holds a dear place in my heart. It was the first time I wore a red and that signature – brightened face, whiter teeth effect showed up. It was matte, bold, and looked like it was made for me. I wore it for my graduation from grad school and felt like a million bucks in it, and I still wear it often. It’s a neutral red with subtle blue undertones. Illamasqua is such an underrated brand, and has sadly since pulled out of the US, but I always looked forward to their collections and editorial images.

Under warm lighting, with flash. From L-R: YSL Glossy Stain #9, Urban Decay Revolution Lipstick in Temper, Maybelline Color Sensational Neon Red, Illamasqua Sangers, Stila Liquid Lipstick in Beso, Nudestix Lip + Cheek Pencil in Sin, Kosas Cosmetics Fringe

It took me awhile to jump onto the liquid lipstick train, especially since I have dry lips to begin with and don’t need something to dry them out even more, but the Stila liquid lipsticks are a really great longwearing formula that don’t dry my lips out. I had heard so many great things about Beso, the true red shade that worked for so many people around my skintone, and am happy to report that this is one of my go-to reds now, especially when I want something to be longwearing. This would be my pick for going out to eat.

I’ll admit that Nudestix was a brand that I thought was going to be gimmicky, with the brand claiming that you could do an entire face of makeup with pencil products. But I’ll admit, as I tried out the lip products, I’ve really enjoyed the formula and shades that I have. The red shade, Sin, is a richly pigmented – one swipe and done pigmented – slightly blue-based matte red that stays on for an impressive time. I applied this before going to dinner one time (I know, red lips + food is usually a mistake), but I was happy to see that after shoveling food into my mouth, the red had faded into a red stain, and did not transfer all over my face. That makes it a winner in my book.

The last lipstick is a relative newcomer in my collection, both shade-wise and brand. I discovered Kosas Cosmetics sometime last year, and was immediately drawn to their lipsticks. They only have a few shades available, which to me, is part of the appeal. Around the same time, I also became obsessed with finding the perfect brick red shade.The shade Fringe, is exactly that. It is a slightly shiny, medium coverage dark brick-red shade. I almost never wear red lips to work, since I prefer to wear MLBB shades, but the day after I received this in the mail, I wore this to work AND kept reapplying it throughout the day. I can’t get enough of this shade, and I think that brick red shades are so flattering on my skintone. Even though it’s darker than all the other reds I have, I find it more wearable.

Under fluorescent lighting, with flash. From L-R: YSL Glossy Stain #9, Urban Decay Revolution Lipstick in Temper, Maybelline Color Sensational Neon Red, Illamasqua Sangers, Stila Liquid Lipstick in Beso, Nudestix Lip + Cheek Pencil in Sin, Kosas Cosmetics Fringe

Whether you’re eating chocolate or eating dumplings this week (I’ll be eating both), I hope you find some lipsticks to accompany your food!


I’d love to know your favorite red lipsticks, as well. Do you have a different red for different occasions? 

Thanks for reading!


6 thoughts on “Top Red Lipstick Picks

  1. I love when people make their favourite red lipstick lists. Most of these are brands I never would have looked at. That Illamasqua is gorgeous!! I’ve never tried anything from them before. And I love the Maybelline, but I will deny ever saying that!


    1. haha the Maybelline lipsticks and mascaras are the only products i buy from them regularly. The Illamasqua lipstick was the first red lipstick I wore and felt a million bucks in because it was so flattering!


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