As the ever-wise Charlotte Tilbury once said: “Red lipstick is instant glamour.” That quote has perhaps never been more relevant than in 2021, a time when applying a confidence-boosting shade can be considered a big (big) win for the day.
Whether you’re a beauty novice or seasoned aficionado, we all know the power of a statement red lip. In fact, some shades of red are so iconic that the formulas have become household names, from M.A.C’s Ruby Woo to NARS' Jungle Red and of course, Dior’s 999.
But, not all reds are made equal, and in fact, choosing the right one can make all the difference in feeling like it fits your personality to a tee, to… well, looking somewhat like a kid who’s raided their mum's vanity.
With that in mind, we turned to none other than celebrity makeup artist Sofia Tilbury to uncover the tricks of the trade, so prepare to find your next picture-perfect pout colour.
As Tilbury notes, finding the perfect red comes down to looking at your skin’s undertone—which she explains you can find with one simple tip.
“Whenever I’m selecting a red lipstick for a celebrity client, I always start by determining their skin tone. If the veins on the inside of your wrist appear blue and you tend to burn easily, you’re cooler-toned. If they’re green and you tan easily, you have warm tones. If you can’t work out which colour they are, you’re probably more neutral or olive-toned! Choosing a red lipstick with the right matching undertone can really make a difference when it comes to making your complexion look brighter.”
“If you have a cooler undertone to your skin (pink for fair skin, or red for darker skin) go for shades that have a pink or blue undertone like ‘Patsy Red’ — named in homage to my fabulous grandmother Patsy! — ’Carina’s Love’ or ‘Red Carpet Red’, which looks incredible on fair skin tones for a timeless, silver-screen siren effect.”
“Medium complexions should look for rich, summery, orange-reds that go well with a bronzed tan. I love ‘Tell Laura’ on olive and medium skin tones for a real pop of colour. It instantly creates a happy, confident, seductive look!”
“If you have a warmer undertone to your skin (olive, yellow or golden undertones), then you can go for a lipstick with warmer undertones to complement your complexion, for example, ‘Tell Laura’, ‘Red Hot Susan’, ‘So Marilyn’ or ‘Love Bite’.”
“I think the biggest mistake with all lipsticks, not just reds, is that so many people fail to use lip liner to their advantage,” Tilbury says. “Charlotte’s Lip Cheats have such a dreamy, creamy texture that you don’t have to worry about them dragging or creasing as some lip liners do—they glide on like silk.”
Tilbury’s top tip? “Use a Lip Cheat to sketch out the perfect lip shape, then top with a matching or complementary lipstick shade to create a flawless, long-lasting pout! Lip liner is crucial for helping to prolong the wear of any red lip!”
Before diving right in with a bold colour, Tilbury states that starting with a smooth base is going to get the most out of any lipstick formula.
“The best trick to applying red lipstick is to first make sure you’ve got a smooth canvas. I like to start by using a lip scrub like Charlotte’s Magic Lip Scrub, followed by Magic Lip Oil, right at the start of the makeup application, just after skincare. That gives your lips the time to absorb moisture and look healthy and plump!”
Finish it all up with liner.
“Your lip liner needs to be as sharp as a pin! Start by slightly over-lining at the Cupid’s Bow, then fill in the entire lip shape to create the perfect base. A great trick is to add a deeper shade of red in the outer corners of the lips to create a look of fullness. Finally, finish by gliding on your chosen shade, and use a lip brush for a precise finish!”