My Favorite Red Lipsticks

I started experimenting with makeup when I was in the 6th grade, and I loved my $1 Wet N Wild black eyeliner. Every day before school, I’d apply a thick line under my eyes, and when I looked in the mirror I thought Cindy Crawford was staring back at me! Even at 12, makeup had already begun giving me the confidence I was lacking. A single sweep of eyeliner miraculously erased the self-doubt that plagues many adolescents.

But when it came to lipstick, I erred on the side of caution. It seemed too presumptuous of me to wear anything but nude, and during my awkward teenage years, the last thing I wanted to do was draw too much attention to myself.


You Never Forget Your First Time

For a Halloween party when I was a Senior in college, I had the most amazing Madonna costume to wear- black tutu, sheer neon leggings, an army of plastic black bracelets, and white gloves. When I went to do my makeup, I realized that while I already had the black eyeliner down, I needed something else to complete the look. So, I grabbed my roommate’s red lipstick and applied it carefully.

The moment I walked out the door, my nude lipsticks were already a thing of the past.

I rocked that party. I owned it. I walked right up to a group of popular girls and joined their conversation with ease. I talked to boys I had always considered “out of my league”. Everything I said was somehow witty, smart, interesting, and hilarious, all at the same time. People I never met were approaching me – I was like a magnet.

I commanded the room. I could do no wrong.

When I got home and reviewed the successes of the night in my head, I tried to figure out what had been different this time. How did I go from being somewhat introverted to the life of the party?

The answer hit me like a ton of bricks… it was my red lipstick!

And that’s when my love affair with red lipstick began.

Why Do I Love Red Lipstick?

It’s multi-faceted. Like a chameleon, red lipstick is both feminine and powerful. It’s sexy and bold, while at the same time sophisticated and timeless. It’s classic and modern at the same time.

It’s transformative. Red lipstick has allowed me to “fake it till you make it” multiple times in my life, but especially during the early days following my son’s autism diagnosis. There were so many moments when my depression took over, and I could barely get out of bed. So many moments of doubt and fear. But when I put on my red lipstick, it gave me power in an otherwise powerless situation, and allowed me to face the world with strength and confidence. It was a prescription for what ailed me. And, it was a celebration of my survival.

It’s empowering: I shun the idea that women should be shy waifs, afraid of their own shadow. I think it’s important for all women to leave their mark and be heard. Wearing a bold red is my statement to the world: Pay attention to my mouth, I have something important to say.

It’s easy: This one is counter-intuitive. I won’t deny that the color itself demands a steady, careful hand, and sometimes it’s not easy to keep it within the confines of the lip line. But the extra effort is more than worth it. People often equate a nude lip with being effortless. I don’t agree, because when you wear it, you have to pay extra attention to your eye look or you run the risk of looking washed out. On the other hand, all that’s needed to complement a red lip is a little bit of eyeliner and mascara, and you’re polished in under two minutes! So, wearing red lipstick is actually easier than wearing a nude.

It’s unapologetic. Red lips unapologetically make a statement that you are daring, self-assured, and feminine. They tell the world – despite my hardships, my pain – I survived! Red is also defiant – it refuses to be invisible. While nudes say: sorry for being boring, reds say: sorry, not sorry.

It’s unique. I often subscribe to the “fashion over function” concept – valuing aesthetics over functionality – and make it a habit to go to the grocery store wearing 4-inch heels. That’s just who I am. But in a world that covets UGG® boots and North Face® jackets, I’m well aware that wearing red on my lips makes me somewhat of an anomaly. And I’m ok with that – I’m willing to contribute to the overall glamour in the world. It’s a thankless job, but someone has to do it. 😉

So, I guess the simple answer is, I’m the most “me” when I wear it.

Wearing a bold red is my statement to the world – pay attention to my mouth, I have something important to say.

Now Down to Business – My Favorite Red Lipsticks:

Maybelline Color Sensational Made For You 382 Red For Me

This is a beautiful, rich, ruby red with a satin-matte finish. Tested on 50 diverse skin tones, the whole line is universally flattering – and this one is no exception. The highly pigmented, bright red color is a mixture of pink and blood-red, and easily bonds to the lips. If that’s not enough, the honey nectar in the formula smooths and softens. With the addition of its matching lip liner, it’ll transform any look instantly.

YSL Rouge Pur Couture Lipstick Collection 1 Le Rouge

More of a neutral, garnet-red – deep and vivid – this hydrating formula has a subtle floral scent. Its satin finish is rich and intense, gliding effortlessly across the lips. The emollient color has long wear – it won’t survive pizza, but it’ll last for at least 4 – 6 hours. And, if you’re like me and are enamored with YSL’s stunning gold, heavy packaging, this one’s for you. Paired with this lip liner, you won’t easily be forgotten.

Wet N Wild Silk Finish Lipstick in Red Hot

Like its name, this lipstick is hot hot hot! The standout shade of scarletred applies like a cream but dries down to a matte, making it very wearable and modern. Loaded with conditioning ingredients like Vitamins A and E, aloe vera, and macadamia nut oil, its rich and creamy. In conjunction with this lip liner, it’s the perfect day-time red. Who would have thought $1 could make you look like a million bucks!


Dior Rouge Dior Lipstick in 999

Celebrity fans love this intense, iconic red for its satin to matte, highly pigmented finish. Mango butter and hyaluronic acid revitalize and fill the lips, providing a subtle volumizing effect. Being extremely blendable, this deep crimson-red shade won’t streak or dry out the lips. And, the metallic couture case looks great when you pull it out of your handbag. Along with its matching lip liner, this color demands attention.  

L’Oreal Colour Riche Collection Exclusive Lip Liya’s Red 407

Known as a dupe for many high end, designer lipsticks, this extremely wearable matte gives a vibrant “pow!” to the lips. This cherry-red color is a medium-toned, traditional shade of red with pink undertones. Its velvety formula won’t smear or feather, and once in place, it stays comfortable on the lips for up to 5 hours. It also leaves a subtle and pretty stain. Add this lip liner, and you’ll sure to turn heads.  

Givenchy Le Rouge Lipstick in Carmin Escarpin

This richly hued, beautiful tomato-red is the color of power. Its light and creamy texture glides on smoothly, leaving a long-lasting wash of color. Because it’s infused with Beeswax, it leaves the lips subtle and soft. With fuschia undertones, this high-density color gives a gentle radiance to the lips. And, it’s luxurious packaging is unspeakably glam. Paired with the matching lip liner, it tells the world you aren’t afraid to leave your mark.

Mac Cosmetics Monochrome Lipstick in Ruby Woo


This is the #1 selling lipstick shade in the US – and for good reason! It’s the ultimate opaque, cool-tone, slightly maroon-red with blue undertones, making it chic, sophisticated, and playful all at the same time. Bold but not too bright, it’s a timeless brick-red that’s a true matte. An added plus – it makes your teeth sparkle! With the addition of lip liner, it’s easy to see why this lipstick has a cult following.

Tom Ford Lip Color Matte in Flame

I hate to pick a favorite among favorites – it’s like asking me to choose a favorite child – but this is it. I’m in love with the bright, almost orange hue that could best be described as fire-engine red. I like to pair it with this red-orange lip liner to add subtle definition to an already standout color. The velvety matte finish is comfortable on the lips, and because it’s richly pigmented, one swipe is all you need to achieve a powerfully sophisticated look. Almost equally beautiful is its packaging – impossibly heavy, sleek black, and gold edges. Be still my heart.

CoCo Chanel said, “If you’re sad, add red lipstick and attack.” In that way, it’s your armor. That quote always reminds me of the “Lipstick Effect” theory. This study revealed that during an economic recession, lipstick sales continue to rise. For example, during the recession in the early 2000s, lipstick sales saw an increase, while other commodities fell far below this statistic. The interesting question is why. Perhaps it’s because we women have an innate desire to feel confident and beautiful during life’s many challenging moments, and a red lipstick can do just that.

Red lipstick is an emblem of emancipation, releasing us from all that wants to suffocate us. That makes it both freedom and power in a tube.

So if the anonymous quote, “We are who we choose to be” is true, I say choose to be someone who wears red lipstick!


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