How To Do A Perfect Red Lip

A bold red pout is a great choice for all the upcoming holiday parties. It adds visual impact, communicates confidence, and is just a lot of fun to do on special occasions. If you haven’t mastered the look yet, the good news is it’s easy — but only if you know a few key things.

The perfect red lip eluded me for far too many years. The shade was off, the color didn’t last, or the edges feathered. Fortunately, a few years ago, I made friends with a makeup artist (highly recommended!) who finally removed all the mystery for me, and now the look is something I like to think I’ve perfected. Here are some tricks of the trade.

Selecting Your Shade

Not all reds are created equal. Since your skin tone determines what looks best on you, someone else’s perfect red may not be yours. First, determine your skin’s undertones: warm (skin has a yellow cast to it), cool (a blue cast) or neutral (a green cast). Next, choose your lip color appropriately: If your skin is warm, then brown- or orange-based reds will look best on you. If your skin is cool, blue-based reds will look best on you. And if you’re skin is neutral, lucky you! Those with neutral undertones can wear the whole range of reds.


Lips should be ultra-smooth to create a flawless and pigment-absorbing canvas for your color. There are many exfoliant products on the market for this — right now I like to use Kiss Me Exfoliating Lip Scrub by Philosophy — but you can also just use a toothbrush. Gently rub the toothbrush in a circular motion until your lips are soft and smooth. If you’re not using any kind of exfoliant with moisturizer in it, first apply a little lip balm and wait a few minutes before brushing. Never brush totally dry lips — they’ll crack and bleed. Not pretty.


First go around the edges of your lips with a little concealer. This will help keep the color exactly where you want it — on your lips, not around your mouth. Next, line your actual lip line (don’t go outside the edges) with a liner identical to the red you’ll be using. Some cosmetics companies make this easy by creating liners that match their lipsticks, but if you can’t find an exact match, don’t risk using one you think is close — use a nude liner instead. If you skip this step, your lip color will gradually feather, which ruins the effect of a red lip altogether.

Next, pick up some color with a lip brush and begin to fill in your lips. I like the NARS Retractable Lip Brush 11, because I can easily toss it in my purse. And although a lip brush will allow for the most precision, if you’re in a hurry, you can save some time by applying a little lipstick directly and then using the lip brush to distribute the color.

Finally, to really set your color, consider brushing some translucent powder over your lips. A great one is the Too Faced Absolutely Invisible Translucent Pressed Powder , which I’ve not only used to set my lip color, but also as an eye shadow base and to touch up my T-Zone.

You’re all set. Head to the party and then jingle bell, jingle bell, jingle bell rock!

Extra Tips

Since you’re making such a statement with your lips, it would be wise to keep your eyes looking less dramatic so that it doesn’t look like you’re wearing costume makeup.

Can’t find your “just right” shade of red? Remember, you can always blend a couple different ones!

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