Secrets to the Perfect Red Lip from a (Part-Time) Parisian

Photo Credit:   @felipeespinal

Photo Credit: @felipeespinal

By: Lisa Anselmo

Bold, red lips are my signature. In every photo, even on my book jacket, there they are—loud and proud. But not everyone embraces the red lip. I get it: red can be scary. How do you choose the best shade? What if it feathers, flakes, or—eek!—gets on your teeth? Fear not, mes belles! I’m sharing my ultimate tips for the perfect scarlet lips.


There’s a general rule (made to be broken) that says if your skin has more cool pink undertones (you look good in blues, greens), you’ll want to choose blue reds. Warmer skin tones (you glow in that yellow shirt) look best in orange reds. Not sure? Talk to a makeup artist next time you’re at Sephora.


My fave blue red: MAC Retro Matte Lipstick in Ruby Woo, $18;


My fave orange red: Revlon Super Lustrous Lipstick in #654 Ravish Me Red, $5;


My fave one-red-fits-all: Smashbox Always On Matte Liquid Lipstick in Bawse, $24;


I’m not a fan of a one-color, flat red lip. I prefer a subtle mix of reds for a more dimensional look—for example, rich matte red as a base, like Bobbi Brown Lip Color in Red, and a brighter, creamier red on top. I apply the second color to just the inner half of my lips, avoiding the lip edge, then press my lips together to gently blend. For the top color, I love Revlon Super Lustrous Lipstick #725 Love That Red. Revlon is famous for their red lipsticks—the perfect mix of creamy and waxy—and they have an enormous range of hues. 

My other fave reds: 


A rich and creamy color that feels luxurious. 

L’Oréal Color Riche in British Red$6;


Because every girl needs at least one Chanel red lipstick. What? That’s a real reason!

Chanel Rouge Allure Luminous Satin Lip Colour in Pirate, $37;


This French company is known for skincare, but I like their color cosmetics, too. Lipstick and moisturizer in one. Gives 9 hours of moisture.

LaRoche-Posay Novalip Duo in Pur Rouge or Rouge Mat$19;


There’s no short cut to long-lasting, smudge-free lips. Products called “long-lasting” tend to get tacky or chalky on me, so I take the time to create my perfect lip. What’s 3 minutes in the morning for all-day wear with only minor touch-ups?

  1. Moisturize. Start with a lip that’s dewy but not greasy. I like ChapStick, and I apply it about 10 minutes before so it has time to work. Blot excess before the next step.
  2. Define. Use a lip pencil, like Bobbi Brown Lip Pencil in Red (or Sangria for a richer lip) to define your lips. But—ugh!—don’t draw a hard, thin line with the point. For a more natural lip line, work with the side of the pencil tip to sketch the edge, then fill in the lips part way to create a good base for your lipstick.
  3. Set it. With a large, soft brush, lightly dust your lips with your face powder to set, but not obscure, the color. I like Chantecaille HD Perfecting Powder
  4. Apply. Either straight from the tube or with a brush. Avoid going to the lip edge. Your lip liner is already defining your lip, why screw it up now? This will also avoid feathering later. If you need to, use your lip brush to gently blend the liner and lipstick. 
  5. Blot. Reapply lipstick and, yes, blot again. This helps avoid excess color getting on your teeth, and sets the look for all-day wear. 
  6. Optional: Add some shine. Feeling bold? Add a daube of gloss to the center of your lower lip. Don’t go to the very edge or your color may bleed. I like a clear gloss that’s a bit tacky and won’t spread. A couple good choices: Makeup Forever Artist Plexi-Gloss or Bobbi Brown Crystal Lip Gloss

I’d love to see your red lip experiments! Tag me on Instagram with your best selfies and discoveries. Vive la rouge!

Lisa Anselmo is an author and blogger living in Paris and New York. Her memoir, My (Part-Time) Paris Life is published by Thomas Dunne Books/St. Martin’s Press. You can follow her on her blog, Instagram, and Facebook.


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