Red Lipstick: Why You Should Wear It and Feel Damn Good About It

This article was contributed by Riean Knight
Hey loves!

Valentine’s Day is here!  It’s time for chocolates, roses, all things lace, and red lipstick. Yeah I said it… lipstick!

Every February, the makeup world goes bananas for that classic red lip. Brands release their holiday collections and they almost always include a red lip product of some kind. It’s definitely a seasonal color in all its warmth and brashness. I get so excited to add a new red lippie to my collection, but you’d be surprised by the amount of women in my life cringe at the thought of buying a red lipstick.

Trust me, I had my issues too. Just like the women in my life, I felt like a baboon if I wore red lipstick and opted for dark maroons instead. Part of the issue is that the women I looked up to never trusted a red lipstick as far as they could throw it. It was taboo. I was “too dark” or my lips were “too big.” I was taught that red lips were just too...well...extra!

But why?

Well, I can go on and on about how the lack of inclusivity in the beauty industry has caused a number of women (especially black and brown women) to feel as if certain shades weren’t made for them, but I’ll save ya’ll the time lol. As I step down off of my soapbox, I’ll start with saying that the color red is associated with passion, energy, desire, and power. It’s so emotionally intense! It’s switching your hips in that new dress. It’s “don’t talk over me!” It’s a kickass workout. A “come hither” if you will. I can understand how red can be intimidating to wear on your face!

Coupled with the lack of diversity of makeup that fits all skin tones, and the overwhelming number of makeup brands out there, it can understandably cause anyone to shy away from it. From women with deeper skin tones to those with fuller lips, I’ve heard all the reasons why they can’t or won’t wear red lipstick. It makes me sad because they are missing out! It’s an even bigger shame because they think that there’s something inherently wrong with themselves. IT AIN’T YOU HONEY! It’s the industry, and I’m here to help change your mind!

Before I tell you anything else you need to understand this: YOU can wear WHATEVER you please. There are NO RULES to makeup. Below are just guidelines for those of you who are ready to rock those red lips!

1. Know your undertones
Undertones are the base tones underneath your skin. There are three main classifications: warm, cool, or neutral. If you have warm undertones, you’ll notice that you lean more toward yellow, gold, or peachy tones in your skin.
Cool undertones will lean red, pink, or blue, and neutral undertones will have a mixture of both. The easiest way to tell is to flip your arm over in natural light and look at your veins. Green veins are warm, blue/purple are cool, and blue-green veins are neutral.
Just like people, makeup shades come in three undertones (warm, cool, neutral). If your undertones are warm, red shades with warm yellow or orange tones will look best on you. Ladies with cool undertones can count on reds with cool blue-ish tones. My neutral gals can go either way (you lucky girl you!).

Neutral red shades are what we call “True Red” and will flatter any undertone. Personally, I’ve found that cool-toned reds look great on everybody, especially my brown girls! Notice the difference in the undertones of the lipsticks below (note: I have a med-deep skin tone with warm undertones):

2. Prep your lips
Exfoliate exfoliate exfoliate! Red lipstick can make lines and dryness more noticeable. Prep your lips by exfoliating with your favorite sugar scrub, or you can “brush” your lips with your damp toothbrush.

Afterward, dap a little bit of lip balm on your lips for moisture. This will help prevent flaking, feathering, and bleeding. The red pigment can also leave quite a stain on your lips and you definitely don’t want that stain to be left in the cracks!
3. Line ‘em up
Remember that feathering and bleeding we talked about in step two? Another important step is to use a lip liner to line the border of your lips. This allows the lipstick to stay where you put it. You can use a red liner that matches the color of your lipstick OR you can use a darker plum color for a dimensional effect. For those of you who want to be eased into a red lip, choose a liner that is a shade or two darker than your skin-tone. This creates more of a buffer between the outline of your lips and the lip color which will give you a more subtle look.

Below you’ll see an example of how you should line your lips with a red liner, a darker plum, and a brown a few shades deeper than your skin tone. Notice in the photos how I create an ombre effect with the liner by filling in the corners of my lips and forming a gradient in the middle.

4. Apply like you mean it
A swipe or two will not do it! You’ll find that your lipstick will fade faster because you didn’t build up the product. I’d say to swipe at least 5 times on both top and bottom lips.
5. Just do it
I’ll be honest. I generally hate pink lipstick on me...but I realized it’s because I hardly ever wear it! One thing that’s helped me learn to love certain pinks is to urge myself to wear them. In about a few hours, the color begins to grow on me. I would suggest that you find a red lippie you like and just wear it for a day or so. You’ll be surprised at how much you begin to like how it looks on you!

6. Werk!!!
Now that you’ve found the perfect red lipstick, you’ve prepped and lined your lips, and you’ve had a practice run, it’s time to werk girl! No more excuses! You are wearing red lipstick and you look damn good doing it! Say it with me, “I am wearing red lipstick and I look damn good doing it.” Can’t nobody tell you nothing boo boo!

As always, I couldn’t leave you hanging without swatches! Here are some of my most favorite red lipsticks! Bonus: I’ve included both high-end AND affordable brands!

Colourpop “Bossy” A matte finish lipstick only 5 bucks!

Coloured Raine “Cherry Blossom” Blue-red liquid lipstick

Until next time, happy red lipstick hunting!
- Riean
About the Contributor:

Riean is a Chicago-native, ENFJ, make-up artist, unicorn, and proud Ravenclaw. When she’s not painting faces, she’s managing her awesome team at Square, playing with her pup Chloe, or most likely eating cake. She believes in big hair don’t care, staying hydrated, and the art of minding her own business. She is CEO and Chief Editor of, a digital platform that is dedicated to celebrating inclusion of Women of Color in the beauty industry.

She found her love for makeup at 12 years old and hasn’t stopped developing her artistry since! Her go-to look is a classic nude eye and a sultry oxblood lip.

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