My obsession with collecting lipsticks started with a red one – a dark, deep carmine red from Maybelline’s Superstay 14 Hour Lipstick range called “Continuous Cranberry”. It was sticky to put on but fairly satin matte, didn’t come off easy and I loved it to death. I still have it stashed somewhere as a keepsake, a souvenir paying a ridiculous homage to my mad dedication for beauty products. This was in 2012, and I’ve since then accumulated a lot of red lipsticks. It’s actually like tasting blood – once you wield the transformative power of a red lipstick, there actually is no turning back.
I personally consider red to be an accessory to my look, like a pair of diamond studs or statement neck piece would be. I derive a special kind of confidence from wearing this shade on my lips, expressing through Henry Matisse’s quote, “A certain blue penetrates your soul; a certain red affects your blood pressure.” I definitely recommend searching for your own red, and this list is supposed to help you do just that. That being said, no one’s particular suggestion is going to make you own a particular shade, trust me, I know. These are my favorite reds and for good measure. They’re dependable not only to elevate my look but also my mood, I’ve been known by my friends to wear a red lipstick just to sit and flip through a magazine at home, only because I felt low. I also suggest “investing” in red. Red color pigments used both in color and cosmetics are sort of expensive – for this particular reason, I do honestly think that apart from a few exceptions, an expensive red does look expensive. It is like buying velvet, although you get something in each price range, higher end velvet is spun more lavishly and it most definitely shows. A good formula amplifies your experience of wearing this shade, gives you more confidence, and you’re more likely to want to wear something you’ve deliberated carefully on rather than bought on a whim.
I guarantee you – whether or not you collect other colors, you’ll keep going back to every red lipstick that catches your fancy. And hence, through my short albeit sweet rendezvous with the color red, I’ve accumulated the experiences that are a by-product of this shade, and humbly present them all to you here.
This gorgeous bright, medium true red was a collaboration between Karrueche and Colourpop Cosmetics, and I’m putting it at the top because it is my favorite red lip ever. It is bright but not loud, the formula bold, almost like a one-piece, except for your face. I own a lot of red lipsticks but let’s be honest, wearing a red is as much about being comfortable in your skin as it is pushing your boundaries, and this red does exactly that. Get here.
2. Stila All Day Liquid Lipstick in Beso
Until recently, the most famous red in the range by Stila was Fiery and was touted as universally flattering and all that – until American Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio Cortez walked in for her Swearing-In Ceremony wearing this powerful red combined with gold hoops, making a political as well as a fashion statement. As soon as she revealed the shade on Twitter, Stila Beso was sold out everywhere – truly, this red is a beautiful marriage of fire, boldness, and brightness – delivering a neutral red that looks amazing on everyone. The formula might be a bit drying for some, but nothing a tube of lip balm or primer can’t solve. Get here.
3. Mac Ruby Woo
This list is incomplete without Ruby Woo. If the rumors are to be believed, 4 tubes are sold every minute – and this definitely speaks for the popularity and might of this shade. It’s a blue-red which is bright and not for the faint hearted – yet I’d consider this a beginner shade because it suits everyone. You can’t go wrong with investing your money in one tube. It can tug on the lips a bit because of the formula, but it more than makes up for the shade. Get here.
4. Sephora Color Lip Last Lipstick in No. 20, Wanted Red
This is a neutral, dark red with a very amazing, long lasting formula. It’s a creamy satin lipstick that sets to a powder matte which doesn’t move at all. Think – a liquid lipstick in a bullet form. Removal can be tough as can be the touch up, but the color is gorgeous for anyone wanting to venture into a conventional, non-bold but statement red. Buy here.
5. Milani Amore Matte Liquid Lipstick in Devotion
This is a dark blue red which could be almost called oxblood. One layer gives you a beautiful berry toned red that is apt to be the sole accessory amplifying your outfit on a night out, or layered for a vampish lip. My only gripe with it is the formula – it is super flaky, drying and fades center to outwards, leaving a “butthole” lip situation that just looks a bit unkempt. I nonetheless reach out for it a lot, but the situation definitely can be helped by using a primer or a lip liner underneath. Get here.
6. Fenty Uncensored Lipstick in Stunna
Since its launch, there is no “red lipstick must haves list” that has left this classic unincluded. Truly universal, this is a mid tone red that looks stunning on every skin tone and color. If you’re looking to splurge on something you will not regret, try this. It also helps that the bottle looks like a prism – amalgamating the best elements of masculine structure and feminine sleekness in the packaging. Suggested dupe – Colourpop’s Ambush or Arriba. Get here.
7. Sephora Cream Lip Stain in No. 1, Always Red
Another crowd pleaser, this product has an underrated formula that is begging to be discovered. This is not for the faint hearted – it is a bright poppy red that lights up your face. If you’ve so far not been satiated in your quest for a loud red, this might be it. A dupe would be Red Nature from Diana of London. Buy here.
8. Pat McGrath Matte Trance Lipstick in Obsessed!
As a person with neutral undertones, there’s hardly been an orange I’ve loved. Obsessed! by Pat McGrath is a reddish-orange that is sure to become your new favorite. Layer it on or pat for a juicy tint. This is the orange-red of my dreams for days I want to my look to be carried on my lipstick’s shoulders. The formula is a cloudy powder matte that stays on and delivers a blurred effect; a dream to wear and behold. I’d however reserve this shade for the seasoned as it is by no means a traditional color, best saved only for special occasions. Buy here.
9. MAC Retro Matte Lipstick in Dance With Me
MAC knows its reds extremely well. This is a dark pure blue-toned red that is deep enough to be mature but at the same time something you’d want to wear both to a formal night out or even as a bride. The shade in a different formula is much more manipulative and easier to wear or touch up. If you want a Marilyn Monroe red, go for this. (However, Marilyn sort of layered around 4 products for her iconic look, but this is the closest you get to the shade.) Flattering on EVERYONE. Get here.
10. Pat McGrath Matte Trance Lipstick in Elson
Elson is Pat McGrath’s higher selling shades from her Matte Trance Range. This is a dark red with neutral undertones. There is nothing much to say about this lipstick – it is however formulated a bit creamier than the rest and might translate as satin matte on the lips, unlike the coveted blurred, powder matte that Pat’s lipsticks are famous for. A dupe (only in colour, not formula) would be Faces Canada’s Ultime Pro Matte Crayon in Midnight Rose. My only issue with the latter is the medicinal cough syrup smell, and a bit tacky albeit matte composition. If you can digest that, get either and you’re sorted. Get here.
11. Dior Power Matte Lipstick in 999
First released as #9 in 1947, it was named so after Christian Dior’s lucky number 9. It was re-launched in 2013 in a matte and cream finish, and also a gloss of the same name. Reportedly an Emma Watson favourite, it is one of the best reds to be ever created. It looks great on everyone and frequents the lips of many runway looks. Let this one red be the red to rule them all. Get here.