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Forever Scarlet

Red lipstick is hardly a new concept: It’s Helmut Newton, it’s boudoir, it’s femme fatale—and it’s awfully easy to get wrong. What should be dramatic and sexy gets sloppy and sad when smeared, and there’s nothing worse than a veiny, migratory spread. How can I get it right, and make it stay?

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Armani Cosmetic’s Shine lipstick ($24 at Saks Fifth Avenue) uses a new silicone formula to keep it shiny and supple, and No. 9, the bright, fruity red seen in the spring fashion show, is a perfect summer color. It has great staying power, but, unfortunately, no SPF. The shea butter in Chanel’s classic Red No. 5 Hydrabase Creme Lipstick ($23.50 at Barneys New York) makes for a particularly creamy feeling, but the company’s Ultra Wear Lip Colour in Ruby Lite ($30 at Barneys) actually lasts longer; the double wand has a base color on one side and glossy sealer on the other. Lancôme also uses the one-two punch with its Juicy Wear glosses ($25 at Bloomingdale’s). Candy Apple is a vibrant, luminous red, and the seal-and-shine topcoat is water- and oil-resistant—but the company’s newest long-wearing lip color, Le Rouge Absolu ($24 at Bloomingdale’s), has vitamin E, SPF, and a plumping agent. The shade, Merlot, which has a little shimmer, is one of those flattering neutral reds that doesn’t skew too blue or too yellow.

The Lipstick by Kanebo in New Ginza Red ($50 at Bergdorf Goodman or Takashimaya) costs enough to turn your smile into a sneer, but the apricot-pulp oil used instead of a traditional wax base keeps the mouth extra-moist, and added yuzu extract is said to redden your lips on its own. At the other end of the price spectrum is Avon’s Beyond Color Plumping Lipcolor SPF 15 in Chili ($8), a hybrid between lip balm and full-coverage gloss; it contains a retinol derivative to exfoliate and minimize fine lines, and collagen to increase fullness.

Shiseido’s Perfecting Lipstick ($20 at Saks) is the highest-tech of the batch—it has “3-D powder,” which is meant to make lips look fuller. If you’re happy with your current shade but spread is your primary concern, a swipe of Revive’s Lip and Perioral Renewal Cream ($115 at Saks) under your lipstick hydrates and plumps the lips, so there are fewer lines for the pigment to sink into. It also has epidermal growth factor to increase cell regeneration, so by summer your mouth will look so good, you may not even need lipstick.


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