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Best red lipstick 2023: Find the right shade for every skin tone

A bold lip colour can instantly transform your look, but there’s a trick to choosing the best red lipstick for your skin tone

When it comes to getting ready for a night out, finding the best red lipstick is a must. Your lipstick is almost always the last thing you put on, and for good reason: whether you’re going for dramatic or demure, the shade can really make a difference.

The formula matters, of course. Depending on the look you’re going for, you might want a highly pigmented, long-wear option or a sheer one that you can easily apply without a mirror. The shape can also make a difference to how easy it is to use. And if you’re wearing lipstick every day, you’ll definitely want one that keeps your lips from chapping.

But have you ever wondered why certain shades look better on some people than others? Well, according to the experts, it’s all about finding the right shade for your skin tone, rather than the colour of your skin. Here’s what you need to know.

Best red lipstick: At a glance

How to choose the best red lipstick for you

Why skin tone matters

The colour of your skin is actually determined by two things: the surface colour, which can change with the seasons, and the undertone, which stays the same but will affect your overall hue.

When choosing a red lipstick, you’re essentially looking for a shade that complements your overall hue, and the undertones of your skin will influence this more than the colour of your skin.

How do you know what your undertone is?

Most people will have either warm or cool undertones, but some may be in between. This is separate from your skin colour; you can have dark skin and cool undertones or fair skin and warm undertones, for example.

The easiest way to check is by looking at the veins on your wrists, says Saffron Hughes, makeup artist at “If they’re blue or purple, you have a cooler skin tone, whereas if they’re green, you have a warmer skin tone.”

For those with darker skin, or if you don’t have obvious veins, Hughes recommends holding a white sheet of paper to your face. If your skin looks red or purple against the paper, you have cooler undertones. But if it’s more gold or yellow, you likely have a warmer skin tone. Another test is to use gold or silver jewellery. Those with cooler undertones will suit silver jewellery better, whereas gold will look best on those with warmer undertones.

If you can’t tell using any of these tests, you probably have a neutral undertone, so a mix of warm and cool. It means you’ll suit most lipsticks.

READ NEXT: The best nude lipsticks to buy

How to choose your lipstick according to your undertone

“For cool undertones, opt for blue-based or pink-based reds – think raspberry tones,” says Hughes. “Orange-based reds can also really help brighten up your complexion. For warmer tones, think fire engine reds with gold or peachy undertones. These won’t wash out your complexion. And for neutral tones, you can go for universally complementary shades of red, with equal amounts of blue and orange.”

Some retailers will specify whether a lipstick is warm or cool, but if not, it can just be a case of trial and error.

READ NEXT: The best lipsticks to buy

The best red lipsticks to buy in 2023

1. MAC Retro matte lipstick: Best for staying power

Price when reviewed: £16 | Check price at Amazon

MAC’s lipsticks are real classics and what originally propelled the brand to iconic status in the makeup world. If you’re looking for a super-matte finish with intense colour that will stay on for hours, the Retro range is the one to go for. And of those, Ruby Woo is hands down the most flattering shade for the majority of people.

You can apply it with relative ease straight from the bullet, although it glides on a little easier if you apply some lip balm first. Once it’s on, it won’t shift from your lips to your coffee mug at all. Moreover, due to the highly pigmented colour, you’ll only need to apply one layer, meaning it will last you for ages.

Key details – Vegan: Yes; Cruelty-free: Yes; Shade range: 6 colours

2. Illamasqua Antimatter lipstick: Best for intense colour

Price when reviewed: £15 | Check price at Amazon

For a deeply pigmented shade, try the Illamasqua Antimatter lipstick. As the brand’s best-selling range, it has developed a cult following – and for good reason. The formula delivers a semi-matte, satin finish that looks freshly applied throughout the day. Although some will transfer onto your coffee mug, you can be certain there will still be plenty of colour left on your lips at the end of the day.

We tested this lipstick in Rocket – a bold, statement red – and were impressed by the coverage. It’s not the easiest to apply, so use a lip brush if you can. Unlike other long-wear lipsticks, we love that this one doesn’t feel drying.

Key details – Vegan: Yes; Cruelty-free: Yes; Shade range: 30 colours

3. Dr. Hauschka Sheer Lipstick: Best for easy application

Price when reviewed: £17 | Check price at LookFantastic

A gorgeously nourishing lipstick, this Dr. Hauschka number contains a few different all-natural ingredients – including jojoba oil and beeswax – to keep your lips moisturised all day long.

This formula is very sheer, but it works with your natural lip colour. Thanks to this and its slimline design, it’s easy to apply without a mirror; the lipstick effortlessly glides on like a lip balm, with a shimmery finish. If you look closely, there are actually reflective particles that help catch the light. For an uplifting rouge, try the Florentina. The lip colour just stains your lips slightly, which makes it a great option for daytime when you might want something more subtle.

Key details – Vegan: No; Cruelty-free: Yes; Shade range: 6 colours

4. Odylique Organic Mineral Lipstick: Best moisturising lipstick

Price when reviewed: £19 | Check price at Amazon

These Odylique lipsticks are made from moisturising ingredients such as jojoba oil and Fair Trade shea butter that are certified organic by the Soil Association, so they’re good for your lips and better for the planet. The lip colour is made from a sheer, mineral-based formula, meaning it offers light coverage with a satin finish.

We tested the Cherry Tart colour, which the brand says is “as true a red as you’ll find without carmine or synthetic colour”. Because of the sheer formula, though, you’ll need to apply a couple of coats to get real depth of colour – otherwise, it will just brighten your natural lip colour instead of covering it. What we particularly liked was how soft our lips felt straight after use, but compared to some of the other options we tried, the colour didn’t last quite as long.

Key details – Vegan: No; Cruelty-free: Yes; Shade range: 9 colours

5. Ecooking Lipstick: Best for a subtle finish

Price when reviewed: £18 | Check price at LookFantasticWhile not quite as well known in the UK, Danish brand Ecooking has built a loyal following in its native Denmark due to its approach to sourcing as many organic and natural ingredients as possible for its products. Its lipsticks are vegan, fragrance-free and dermatologically tested. They also contain hyaluronic acid and vitamin E to help your lips maintain moisture.

Most of the colours in its range are light, delicate and sheer, which means they’re great for daytime use or for those who want a more subtle look. Colour No 4 is perhaps the boldest shade in the range, and delivers a punchy, strawberry red – but even this is light enough that it could pass as your natural lip colour.

Key details – Vegan: Yes; Cruelty-free: Yes; Shade range: 7 colours

Check price at LookFantastic

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