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The Best Red Lipsticks, According to Beauty Editors, Makeup Artists, and Enthusiasts

Photo: Archive Photos/Getty Images

A great red lip is just as much a display of personality as it is a vibrant, confidence-boosting accessory. For this story, we surveyed more than a dozen makeup artists, beauty editors, and red-lipstick enthusiasts, some who even went so far as to describe theirs as an extension of self (“an essential to my daily routine and identity”) and a mood lifter (“the ultimate product to turn your day from meh to yay.”)

And while there are thousands of colorways and products out there, some two dozen have stood out in their mind as the absolute best — from famous reds like M.A.C’s Ruby Woo to new millennial favorites, like Glossier’s Generation G. Here, we arranged them all by finish and formula (whether you’re more a liquid-matte or lip-stain person), and then pinpointed their color profile, so you could do your own parsing over them in the shopping aisle, from orange-reds to blue-reds to classic fire-engine reds.

Classic Red Lipstick

Nars Semi Matte Lipstick in Jungle Red

There are great lipsticks, and then there are lipsticks so iconic that they’re immediately recognizable by their shade or number. Nars’s Jungle Matte is one of these. It’s a semi-matte, cherry-red color that celebrity makeup artist Nick Barose has been using since the ’90s. “I love it because it’s such a badass femme-fatale red.” The name Jungle Red was inspired by a line from the movie The Women, and incidentally, there’s a matching nail polish, too.

Color: Cherry Red

M.A.C Retro Matte Lipstick in Ruby Woo

To attain “classic” status, there’s often something universal about its color, an ability to make a range of women look dazzling. Maria Sanchez, makeup artist and founder of Beauty Door Pro, found that quality in Ruby Woo, the best-selling M.A.C lipstick with blue undertones that’s arguably the most famous lipstick shade of all time. Sanchez says its bright and bold color palette “works beautifully on all complexions” and complements all lip shapes and sizes.

Color: Blue Red

Chanel Rouge Allure Luminous Intense Lip Colour in Pirate

Chanel’s cult-favorite shade Pirate, which was formulated to imitate the same shade of red that Coco Chanel wore, is similarly universal. Makeup artist Georgina Graham says she still thinks that Pirate “looks marvelous on all skin tones,” even after years of using it, and says that the product itself is great, too. “The formula is long-lasting but comfortable, and you can’t fail to feel chic using it.”

Color: Blue Red

Matte Liquid Lipstick

Nars Powermatte Lip Pigment in Don’t Stop

In the realm of matte liquid lipsticks, two beauty editors were in agreement that Nars’s Powermatte Lip Pigment — in the orangey-red shade of Don’t Stop — is the best. Jenna Rosenstein, senior digital beauty editor at Harper’s Bazaar, loves that it lasts for the entire day without migrating elsewhere: “It’s the only formula I trust to wear on days I won’t have time to peek in a mirror.” And the color works on pretty much everyone. “It’s unapologetically bright and looks fun on anyone who dares to wear it.”

Allure digital beauty editor Sable Yong agrees that it’s got some legs to it. “This stuff is like house paint for your lips,” specifically, with supersaturated pigments that cling to your lips, and no flaking.

Color: Orange Red

Stila Stay All Day Liquid Lipstick in Fiery

Makeup artist Susie Sobol fell in love with this Stila Stay All Day lipstick in a classic red shade called Fiery when she spotted it on a girl in Sephora. “It stopped me dead in my tracks!” It’s become a universal red that she can reliably match to “the fairest of the fair and the deepest, darkest tones, with equally amazing results.”

Color: Deep Red

Fenty Beauty by Rihanna Stunna Lip Paint in Uncensored

Recently, Strat’s Rio Viera-Newton deemed the new Fenty Stunna Lip Paint — available in a single shade, Uncensored, that Rihanna’s team dubbed “universally flattering” — the new Ruby Woo. It’s appealing as a “lipstick that looks good on everyone, no matter their age or skin tone,” and though it’s similar to Ruby Woo in matte finish and color, “it feels like you’re wearing nothing at all.” Graham agrees that “it’s a new classic, for sure.”

Color: Blue Red

Moisturizing Lipstick

Chanel Rouge Coco Ultra Hydrating Lip Color in Gabrielle

Dramatically shine-free lipstick has its place, but where it tends to flake off and dry out your skin, moisturizing lipsticks are your best bet for a comfortable wear. Ayla Igityan, makeup artist at G20 Spa & Salon, says her current obsession is the Chanel Rouge Coco Lipstick in Gabrielle — “a bright blue-red, with a slightly glossy finish” — for its hydrating and lightweight finish. And she’s not the only one in love with this shade.

Writer Elyssa Goodman came across it in Bloomingdale’s when she “pointed to the reddest and shiniest of reds” behind the Chanel counter. Its luscious red color made her feel like Marilyn Monroe, and the texture is even better: “It had a slick, glossy finish, but magically, my lips didn’t feel sticky. Instead, they felt as moisturized as if I had applied ChapStick.”

Color: Blue Red

Lancôme L’Absolu Rouge Hydrating Shaping Lip Color in Isabella 189

Another lipstick that has a certain “Marilyn on the weekend” appeal, according to Barose, is this Lancôme lipstick in Isabella 189. “It’s a warm brick red with a bit of an orange warm tone, making it a glamorous and laid-back red. It’s perfect for daytime or the weekend.”

Color: Brick Red

Lip Stain

Jane Iredale Lip Fixation in Passion

A bright lip stain is helpful for avoiding “lipstick faux pas,”says makeup artist Brie Leach, like a red tooth fleck here or a face smudge there. And a certain “Popsicle stain” is easy to pull off in the summer when you want a purposefully imperfect lip. Leach uses Jane Iredale’s Lip Fixation in the color Passion to get the look. “It’s the perfect mid-century, vibrant, cool red for olive skin tones. And it won’t smudge.”

Color: Cherry Red

Smith & Cult Tainted Lip Stain in Demon Dazed

Yong recommends this Smith & Cult lipstick shade because of how it pulls together a look without screaming “red-lip look.” Its subtle color variations tend to warm up to a different color on everyone, a reason she calls it a “sleeper” red. “It’s bricky, but also dusty, but also nude-y, but also rosy.”

Color: Burnt Red

Etude House Dear Darling Water Gel Tint in RD302

And because your lip stain should have some staying power, at only $5, you’d have a hard time finding a better deal than this Etude House Water Gel Tint, which Yong says “could outlast the apocalypse.” Though it has a shinier gel texture, it’s nothing like a lip gloss. “It has the look of a juicy gel tint, the feel of a juicier gel tint, but the resilience of Kris Jenner.”

Color: Wine Red

Sephora Collection Cream Lip Stain in O1 Always Red

The biggest red-lip secret of them all, though, according to Cut beauty director Kathleen Hou, is Sephora’s cream lip stain. “Shade 01 is used all the time on Vogue China covers. It looks really good on Asian skin tones, and basically everyone else. It’s like Ruby Woo in liquid form.”

Color: Cool Red

Sheer Lipstick

Glossier Generation G Lipstick in Zip

For more natural, sheer coverage, many beauty-obsessed women turn to Glossier’s Generation G lipsticks. The price point is super accessible, and everyone has their go-to shade. Graham uses the poppy shade Zip “for a more relaxed, modern approach and fresh look.” But if you prefer a plummier red, try Jam (the shade Anastasia Steele wears in Fifty Shades Darker).

Color: Orange Red

Face Stockholm Veil Lipstick in Cranberry

We first heard of this Face Stockholm veil lipstick from writer Alice Gregory — who described the bricklike color as “freakishly flattering” — and apparently red-lipstick enthusiast Carolyn Bessette-Kennedy was also a fan. The semi-sheer coverage feels less heavy-handed than a super-pigmented product, which Gregory adds, “looks especially good on an otherwise bare face.”

Color: Brick Red

Drugstore Lipstick

NYX Lipstick in Pure Red

In the world of dupes, drugstore beauty can be just as good as the real deal, and the low price point makes it easy to experiment until you find the perfect shade of red. Red-lipstick enthusiast Ashlee Piper, the author of Give a Sh*t: Do Good. Live Better. Save the Planet., loves a good NYX lipstick since it’s cruelty-free, inexpensive, long-lasting, and highly pigmented. She likes Pure Red for a tomato-red moment with a hint of orange. “It’s perfect for summer.”

Color: Tomato Red

NYX Lipstick in Perfect Red

And if you’re looking for a moodier blue-red, she suggests NYX’s Perfect Red. “It lives up to its name — not too blue, not too orange, but a perfectly flattering pinup matte red.”

Color: Blue Red

Julep It’s Whipped Matte Mousse in At Midnight

Hou’s drugstore go-to is the Julep Matte Lip Mousse, which “goes on super creamy yet smooth.” She notes that it’s a good liquid lipstick for beginners since it comes at a low price point, too. Her shade Lip Service isn’t available, but here’s a deep red you could try instead.

Color: Fireball Red

Glossy Lipstick

Chanel Rouge Double Intensité Ultra Wear Lip Color in Ever Red

Because you might favor a glossier, shinier red, Leach suggests Chanel’s Rouge Double Intensité in Ever Red, which she describes as a moody blood red that would suit an olive or dark skin tone. “I find that my mature clients are very attracted to this color, as it’s a regal, muted shade that’s not too bright.”

Color: Blood Red

Cream Lipstick

Pat McGrath Labs Matte Trance Lipstick in Elson

Cream lipstick is a nice middle-of-the-road option that’s usually not too glossy or matte, with some exceptions. Two beauty editors recommended the creamy Matte Trance lipstick from legendary makeup artist Pat McGrath. Hou wears hers in the blue-red Elson shade, and it’s become her favorite tube lipstick for its super-creamy formula and matte finish. “It’s so pigmented that I think a tube could last you for years!” She also notes that it stains your lips nicely and wears off well throughout the day.

Yong prefers the vampy burgundy shade McMenamy “because everyone needs a red that’s a witchy, bad-bitch red.”

Color: Blue Red

Marc Jacobs Beauty Le Marc Creme Lipstick in Oh Miley

Jezebel editor-in-chief Koa Beck says her go-to for the last few years has been Marc Jacobs’s creme lipstick in Oh Miley. “On me, it’s kind of the blue jeans of red lipsticks.” She describes the pigmented, creamy color as an all-season kind of red that’s brighter than a classic red, so “it doesn’t look too dark for spring or summer or too orange-adjacent for fall or winter.”

Color: Strawberry Red

Stowaway Creme Lipstick in Scarlet

Image consultant Vanessa Valiente tells me that she put 20 years of research into finding the perfect red lip before settling on a travel-size creme lipstick in Scarlet from Stowaway. She describes the color as a “red-lips-you-saw-on-movie-posters-in-the-’80s red.” She lines her lips with Makeup Forever’s Aqua Lip Waterproof Lipliner in Red 8C first then blends the lipstick in to create a combo that is “the Traveling Pants of red lip color. It looks amazing on everyone.”

Color: Bright Red

Long-Wear Lipstick

Rouge d’Armani Lipstick in #401 Red Fire

Special occasions and long days call for a comfortable lipstick that can withstand feathering and smudging. Bella Hadid’s makeup artist Vincent Oquendo reliably looks to the Rouge d’Armani lipstick in red fire No. 401 (not to be mistaken for the No. 400 Armani Red) for a formula that’s long-wearing but not drying. “Red Fire is a classic red and suits any skin tone when you want a bright cherry pop on the lips.”

Color: True Red

Clé de Peau Extra Rich Lipstick in #311

Another long-wear classic is Clé de Peau’s best-selling color, No. 311, which has orangey undertones. Marlena Orlowska, a makeup artist and hairstylist at Paul Labrecque Salon and Spa, says it looks great on all skin tones, and is very long-lasting without drying out your lips.

Color: Orange Red

Natural Lipstick

Ilia Beauty Tinted Women’s Lipstick in Crimson and Clover

And if you’re the type of person who likes to know what goes in all of her beauty products, Christene Barberich, global editor-in-chief and co-founder at Refinery29, says that through trial and error with plant-based beauty products, she discovered Ilia’s tinted lipstick in Crimson and Clover. She says it’s classic enough to wear every day and buildable, so you could wear it as a sheer layer or double up for a bolder color.

Color: Bright Red

Kosas Weightless Lip Colour in Electra

She’s also a fan of Kosas’s Weightless Lip Colour in Electra, which has become “my go-to for going out or special events.” It’s a bright raspberry red with cooler undertones that goes on as a full-coverage lipstick.

Color: Raspberry Red

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The Best Red Lipsticks, According to Beauty Experts