The Power of Red Lipstick

A recent survey showed that 54% of British women feel too shy to wear red lipstick. I could relate to this as I have been wearing pinky nude lip shades for the last 20 years. This was mostly because I didn’t think my lips were full enough and partly because I just didn’t see myself in such a statement colour. My lip shape hasn’t changed but caring about it has. Life is too short. I’ve decided to give red lipstick a go.

“Red is powerful, strong, smart, bold, sexy, lethally feminine and iconic…Nothing has such a glamorous,timeless appeal. It breaks my heart that so many women are scared to wear it” – Sali Hughes, Pretty Honest

I like the fact you can’t hide in the background while wearing red lipstick: it forces you to stand out. I was spurred on by Val the Cookie Queen’s post on Ellis Faas Red lipstick. She sent me some samples in  “Milky Lips” and I immediately liked the way it made me look and feel.

About a year ago, I bought Ruby Woo by MAC Cosmetics but wasn’t ready for it until now. It’s a highly pigmented, incredibly striking red and perfect for nights out.  I have discovered that I like matte finishes because they feel clean, modern and long-lasting. I also seem to be drawn to shades with cool/blue undertones, though I have no idea if this suits my skin tone or not. I’m trying not to get hung up on the rules.

I recently bought a Retro Matte Liquid Lipcolour by MAC in Dance with Me. This is a dark cranberry red and while I love the shade, I think it will take time before I feel confident about application. Unlike the lipsticks, I do notice how drying it is during the day so doubt I’ll re-purchase, especially considering the price.

For me, one of the most enjoyable things about a new passion is finding out all about it and the options available. YouTube has been invaluable for this. I have found the videos by French Canadian beauty vlogger Emily Fox, particularly helpful because they are so clear and she has great taste (as well as being very likeable and has a lovely accent).

After watching Emily’s MAC videos, I ordered Russian Red, a darker matte red which makes me feel very pulled together. I also got Flat Out Fabulous which is a gorgeous bright, yet somehow muted, magenta/plum. At the last minute I added Relentlessly Red to my basket which turned out to be a lighter pinky/coral red than suits my skin tone, but works well with a red lip pencil underneath.

I saw a Cruella Velvet Matte Lip Pencil by NARS on another vlogger and was wowed by its scarlet beauty. It does feel like a fairy-tale, wicked queen red. I particularly like that it’s a combination of a lip pencil and lipstick, so you don’t have to double up. The texture is beautifully velvety so it’s a dream to apply. I love it.


Wearing Cruella by NARS on a work morning.

The only budget red lippie I’ve bought so far is Rimmel’s Lasting Finish Matte by Kate Moss in 107, which is the colour of red wine. I also have my eye on several Matte Lipsticks by NYX, namely Merlot, Bloody Mary and Eden.

I’ve bought a couple of coloured lip pencils to wear with the lipsticks and a clear one by Lord & Berry because I thought that would be easier on mornings when I’m rushed. You wear it just outside the lip line and it stops the colour bleeding around the edges. I am rather paranoid about not applying these bold and bright lipsticks flawlessly but my best is going to have to be good enough.

As Val says, wearing red is liberating, but it’s also a hell of a lot of fun. Now I want to spend the rest of my life in the Red Lips Club.

“When do you know you’ve happened upon the right red? Magic happens. Everything seems to brighten. The face lights up. The overall look -clothes, face, hair – comes together. The mood lifts. That is what I love about red lipstick!” – Dita Von Teese, My Beauty Mark




Please share your favourite red lipsticks in the comments. I’m eager for more suggestions!









Filed under Beauty Review

38 responses to “The Power of Red Lipstick

  1. Lady Jane Grey

    Haha, our Val again. She did the same with me… I’ve been a brownish/nude type of woman for my whole adult life (during the 80s I even went seriously glossy…) – until I got a sample of the Ellis Faas Red from Val. In the meantime I got the full size of the same from our Cookie Empress too (have I mentioned that I love her ?). Just like you I like my lips matt these days, and I’m still not the full bloom red, so I put on the Milky lips and tone it down with blotting it a tiny bit. I like the fact that it comes with a built in brush, so I can put it on perfectly exact (essential with strong reds !) and I mostly use a lip contour to avoid the dreaded colour bleeding.
    And BTW, judging from the photo you look absolutely stunning with red lips !
    Have a lovely Sunday, T ! 🐾


  2. First I want to say that I like your picture. I can’t clearly see the color of your lipstick, but it looks great!

    Second – now I’m dying to try that NARS pencil: I love the name!

    I rarely wear statement lipsticks to the office: it just feels out of place… I don’t even think I mean “in the work environment” but “during the daytime”, outside of vacation. But I have many bright/dark lipsticks (red, dark purple, wine, etc.) and I enjoy wearing them on the weekends, to different more or less formal events, etc. My main brands for that kind of lipsticks currently are Dior, Chanel and Lipstick Queen. While colors are very personal choice, I do recommend Dior for darker colors in general: I like the coverage and they are not drying.


    • Thanks, Undina. I am sorry I couldn’t do the usual swatches or close-up pics. I’m leaving that to the professionals 🙂
      Isn’t Cruella just the best name for a lipstick? That totally sold me aside from the colour. I hope you like it, I thought the formulation was excellent.
      I think it’s nice that you reserve your statement lipsticks for when you are relaxing or having fun outside of work.
      I appreciate the Dior tip for dark shades.


  3. Sandra

    Hi Tara! You look gorgeous with the red lips! I am so glad that you are a convert. I have always tended to wear darker lipsticks as I do not wear eye makeup. But red was introduced to be by Val too. She is such an enabler. I will go and look at your lip liner suggestions. Have a great Sunday. Sandra xoxo


    • Cheers Sandra, I’m a very happy convert! It’s funny but I don’t like even the thought of wearing a pink/nude shade now. Hilarious.
      I agree that red lipstick means not having to worry about eye make-up so much, which is great.
      Have a lovely family Sunday.


  4. Ana Maria Andreiu

    OMG, that Cruella shade is absolutely perfect on you! You look incredible with red lips. I have Ruby Woo too, and it doesn’t look too shabby on me either, but it’s a pest to apply. It’s very dry and very matte so I need to have proper lined lips and use a lip brush, but the result is striking. I rarely wear it though as it is too much of a statement for work, so during the day I stick to brighter, more summery shades like coral-red (Clinique Runway Coral springs to mind) or if I’m feeling more autumnal a browny-red like Clarins Joli Lipstick in Cinnamon Spice.


    • I really appreciate the feedback, Ana Maria. I do think it’s given my face more “life”.
      I have the matching Ruby Woo lip pencil and that with the lipstick really is a bit much for work. I love it though.
      I’m interested in coral reds so thanks for mentioning the Clinique.
      You make a good point about “feeling more autumnal” because I have been thinking about how to adjust the shade to suit the season (I do a similar thing with perfume).


  5. You look amazing with that lipstick!
    I do have a few reds, Chanel and Lipstick Queen ones, but I rarely wear them. It is a statement I am not often ready to make…but you inspired me today, so I’m going to wear a bright red lip whilst doing my household chores.


    • Thanks, Sabine. I value your opinion.
      I bet you look fantastic in red lipstick but can understand you don’t normally feel in the mood and it is high maintenance. Love the thought of you wearing it while doing your household chores today though! Now that’s true glamour 🙂


  6. Brilliant dear Tara, another member of the RLL here 🙂 there’s only one for me, the one and only Armani 400. They have it in different styles, even a sheer, which somehow manages to be the perfect lipstick red and sheer at the same time.


  7. You are ROCKING the red lips Tara.
    WOO HOO! Good on you.
    Portia xx


  8. Tena

    That Cruella shade was made for you!! I have Russian Red and Ruby Woo in my arsenal – love them both. I am an extremely pale redhead, so any lipstick will look bright on me – might as well go for the red.


  9. You look fantastic in red lippy, like one of those flamenco dancers you saw in Barcelona, especially with your hair tied back! How you could ever have thought your lips were not full enough I shall never understand, haha. They are pillowy as all get out. 😉 I can also well understand the fun you have been having on the quest for your holy grail red lipstick, having had similar hunts for a pink, a nude and a red in recent years. I still feel quite lairy about me and red though because I really do have thin lips and they are getting thinner with age. Sali Hughes herself does not advise the thin lipped to try to pull it off, which is sound advice i think. What does work for me though is a particular lip gloss by Revlon, smudged off a bit, also that Cinnammon Spice mentioned by Ana Maria above, but with a Revlon nude lip butter on top to tone it down. You must keep wearing strong lip colours now you have lost your cherry, as it were!


    • Thanks, V but if I do a toothy smile my upper lip all but disappears! I’m not letting it spoil the fun though and neither should you. I do think sheering out the colour as you are doing is the answer. I really don’t think anyone should be deprived of the joy and power of red lipstick.
      It’s funny but I feel like I’m making up for lost time and don’t intend on touching another pinky nude for the foreseeable 🙂


  10. Crikey

    You look fabulous in that Cruella.

    I was horrified recently when doing a rare spot of proper tidying up and realised quite how many lipsticks I had. I had *bucketloads* of lipsticks that I never wore. Or rather, I bought them when in bad moods, wore them once or twice, and then went back to all the eye make up and no lippy at all, telling myself I looked wrong with lipstick. So over the summer I made a bit of an effort to wear them. And then I had to go and buy some more, obviously. Because that’s exactly how to solve the problem of too many lippies. Ahem.

    I’ve recently discovered that, against all the rules, I suit very dark red and plum lipsticks. (Thin lips, lined, small mouth, crap teeth, etc, etc. All the contraindications for bright or dark reds. All of them.) It took me a little while to work up to them, but I must be doing something right because even the Gorgon of the Station Barriers stopped me the other day to tell me I looked fabulous. Which made me feel a lot less guilty for the almost thirty quid I’d just spent on a matte Bloodroses…

    What would I recommend? In the same family of dark reds: MAC’s Diva is brutally drying but a lovely colour, Chanel allure #59 is bit too slippery for my liking but gorgeous. On the redder-red side, the NARs Majella pencil is a good cool toned red but I don’t like the texture of that as much as I do of their Rita lippy. There’s a seriously red MAC pro longwear colour Prolong that sits between Ruby Woo and Russian Red, but is less drying and only slightly off-matte. Urban Decay’s Badblood is a smooth comfortable matte and seriously opaque darkish red. Oops. sorry. LONG comment…


    • Crikey I LOVED your comment. I haven’t had anyone to really share this with so getting to chat with you about it is brilliant.
      I had a tough time this week and was tempted to buy a lipstick to cheer myself up. It’s such a quick, cheap fix no wonder lipstick sales go up during times of recession – don’t they call it the Lipstick Index?!
      I am in danger of going from about 3 lipsticks to 33 but I’ve saved all that money over the years by hardly buying any, right? 🙂
      I have been eyeing Diva and think I’ll go for it once my confidence is up enough to go for those really dark colours.
      I’ve made a note of Majella and hear amazing things about those NARS Audacious lipsticks so will check out Rita too. Badblood is a great name! Thanks for the suggestions.


  11. Votre Sienne by Serge Lutens is my ideal red! I started experimenting with Cheapie but good ELF red lippies a year ago to decide if I could go the distance with red. I love my SL! Red does not naturally suit my complexion or facial features as it can be overpowering, but I love it anyway. It’s Sunday, and I’m still in my pajamas….think I’ll put some red lipstick in….:)

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh I bet that Serge Lutens red is amazing. I will investigate at some point but I’m scared of getting hooked on the good stuff, ha ha.
      I think there is a way for all of us to wear red, whether it’s a matter of finding the right shade, texture or intensity. Please don’t stop wearing it.
      Pyjamas and red lipstick is the perfect Sunday combination 🙂


  12. cookie queen

    I fell off my bike when I was 10 years old, knocking out my front teeth, fracturing my jaw, and ripping a large hole in my bottom lip. (The found one of my teeth with the roots attached in the street). Throught the miracle of plastic surgery, my lip was repaired, but it left a lump and scar on the inside, which I carry with me still. I did not look in a mirror for 10 months. I was already being teased in school for my big lips, oh how I hated them. The loss of my teeth and the scar did me no favours and I spent the next few years being painfully embarrassed. I was around 19 when I had a lightbulb WTF moment and started wearing red. I guess leaving puberty behind enabled me to not care any more. I have been wearing various shades of red ever since. I cannot go near a red if it has any pink in it though. I can spot that from a mile off. I have never loved a red as much as the Ellis Red(s) and the highly pigmented gloss 301 is the best ever.
    I want to hit the NARS counter with you though, and see what we can find. This is an amazing post Tara. Welcome to the Red Life. 💋
    (And yes, I wear red in my cookie kitchen too.)

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh my goodness, CQ, thank-you for sharing your story. That must have been so tough. Our teeth/mouths are central to our self-esteem/identity so no wonder you had such a hard time at school. Kids can be the pits but, I bet they would die for lips like yours now. So pleased had your red epiphany at 19 and never looked back. You know what suits you and it shows.
      Yes, would love to check out NARS lip products with you. Can’t freaking wait.


  13. That Cruella lipstick looks absolutely stunning on you, Tara!
    I have had a longstanding affair with red lipstick. While I don’t wear it all the time, a strong red lip on an otherwise “bare” face is probably the look I feel most comfortable in. Sometimes I wear red to yoga class or to run errands early in the morning. What could be easier and quicker than putting on a red lip and then throwing on a big pair of sunglasses? Voilà!

    My current favorites are Chanel La Fascinante, Givenchy Grenat Initié and Guerlain Love Kiss.


    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank-you so much, Caro. I totally agree that if you are wearing a red lipstick you can can get away with a lot less or no other make-up and still look like you’ve made an effort. Especially when paired with shades!
      Your favourites sound super chic.

      Liked by 1 person

  14. The red looks absolutely wonderful on you Tara! No surprise really, good on you for giving it a go, now the fun part looking for the perfect red! Or many perfect reds! This is such a great topic Tara, thank you for sharing your red lip story. I love reading all the comments and am going to try a couple of the lipsticks. Have fun lovely Tara xoxo


    • Aah, such a lovely, comment. Thank-you, Anna Maria!
      Looking for new shades is just too much fun 🙂 It would be great it you find something you like from the comments too.


  15. Pingback: In Rotation | A Bottled Rose

  16. ishloudnt

    hello, a fabulous lipstick of course. I love it. Do you know her products are also cruelty free ? (you can see my post if you want to) xoxo


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.