Editor’s note: Since we first published this story in April, we’ve updated it with a video showing the lipsticks in action.
If you’re a lipstick person, I’d bet money that M.A.C’s iconic matte Ruby Woo lipstick is currently in your makeup bag. There are millions of red lipsticks on the market, but Ruby Woo’s bright blue-red pigment, velvety matte finish, and long-lasting wear made the lipstick a cult favorite and then a staple. Don’t believe me? M.A.C claims it sells four tubes of the shade every minute.
But last year, the iconic product gained a worthy adversary from the Queen of Red Lipstick herself: Rihanna. In case you don’t know, there is no talking red lipstick without mentioning the Bad Gal — her coordinated matte red lip and red Calvin Klein slip at the 2012 Fashion Awards still has me shaking. So when Rihanna released Stunna Lip Paint in Uncensored, dubbed “the perfect red” and “universally flattering” by her marketing team, I was immediately intrigued.
I was doubly intrigued when my sister, a daily lipstick wearer and Ruby Woo devotee, told me that she’d run out of the M.A.C product and had started subbing in Fenty’s Uncensored. She’d found it through a makeup artist, she said, who told her that Uncensored had a similar pigment and velvety matte effect to Ruby Woo, with one key difference: Uncensored, she said, wouldn’t suck the moisture out of my sister’s chapped winter lips. Since trying the product the first time, my sister has worn Rihanna’s Uncensored in lieu of M.A.C’s Ruby Woo almost every single time she’s gone out. “Ruby Woo will always be my No. 1,” my sister says, “ but this is a very close second.”
Two weeks ago, eager to dress up a white T-shirt and jeans, I finally decided to give the product a go myself. The first thing I noticed about the Stunna Lip Paint is how Rihanna the packaging is: the lean, pointed paint bottle reminded me of the spiked jewelry and nail decals Rihanna tends to wear. The second thing I noticed is the applicator, which the Fenty team calls a “lip-defining precision wand.” Unlike Ruby Woo, which comes in traditional lipstick form and goes on matte, Fenty’s Uncensored has a thicker-than-usual doe-foot applicator (the spongy-tipped wand generally found in tubes of lip gloss), and goes on liquid. And while I do generally appreciate how precise a doe-foot applicator is, with a pigment this bright, and consistency this runny, I worried my shaky hands wouldn’t be able to pull it off.
Once I started applying, I realized that if you start at the center of your lip, applying the most product there, and then work your way up to the lip line with less on the wand, it’s much easier to get a straighter line. I wouldn’t say I lined my lips perfectly, and I definitely had red all over my hands from making quick edits, but for the most part, it looked good.
Also, this lipstick dries like a dream. It’s an ultramatte velvet red that’s eye-catching without looking overly pinup-y. Unlike Ruby Woo, which goes on super thick, wearing Stunna Lip Paint feels like wearing nothing at all.
Since the Fenty team claims that this lipstick looks good on everyone, no matter their age or skin tone, I forced my mom, who’s about five shades darker than me, to try it on. It looked beautiful — even significantly better — on her.
The next thing I tested was the product’s longevity. I’d heard Rihanna herself say in interviews that it would stay put “even as you eat, and even as you make out.” I put this to the test in the only way I knew how: four courses at a Mediterranean-food buffet, plus two-and-a-half glasses of wine, after which I ran to the bathroom to check the damage. I was floored. While the ultraprecise lip-lining had somewhat smudged, the lipstick looked essentially the same as it did five-and-a-half hours (plus one messy meal) earlier. It was just as bright, and hadn’t worn at all in the center of my lips. And it only took two Bioderma-soaked cotton pads to completely remove it once I turned in for the night.
As far as how it fares against Ruby Woo, I’ll say this: Applying Stunna Lip does require more time, attention, and Q-tips. But I think it’s absolutely a worthwhile investment for those who don’t generally wear red lipstick, or don’t typically like the way lipstick feels; the light nature of this product is one of the coolest things about it. And if you’re a messy eater like I am, I think Fenty might just be the winner.
Fenty Beauty by Rihanna Stunna Lip Paint
MAC Matte Lipstick
Other Strat-Approved Red Lipsticks
Enriched Lip Luminizer Refill
“These glossy lipsticks from Clé de Peau Beauté almost resemble elegant old-timey long cigarette holders. They have a silky texture and don’t dry the lips out.” —Kathleen Hou
Save Authorized Retailer Face Stockholm Veil Lipstick in Cranberry
“The brick but still bright color is freakishly flattering, and the semi-sheer coverage makes it look especially good on an otherwise bare face. At the time, I bought it specifically because it reminded me of Carolyn Bessette-Kennedy. Then, years later, Cat Marnell linked to a blog post that ‘proved’ (whatever that means) that indeed CBK was a Face Stockholm Cranberry Veil fanatic!” —Alice Gregory
Kat Von D Studded Kiss Creme Lipstick in Underage Red
“I love the color on this lipstick. I wear a lot of different lipsticks — if I’m wearing leopard, I might go darker, and if I’m wearing pink, I might wear something more cherry — but I always gravitate toward this color.” —Amanda Lepore
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