Have you ever fallen in love with a beautiful bright red lipstick that you had to stop wearing because it didn’t look right? When we get the wrong shade of red, we look washed out or sickly, regardless of skin tone. I decided to investigate exactly what you need to do, to find your perfect red lipstick to wear this season’s most daring lip color so you can look like a sparkling ruby, rather than a shrinking violet.
There are two schools of thought on finding the right shade of red lipstick: The traditional method says that it’s got to match your skintone, by which they don’t mean you should choose a lipstick that’s the same colour of red that your face goes when you accidentally inhale a cranberry.
Instead, you should look at red lipsticks closely and decide whether they are a yellow based red (are they slightly orange) or a blue based red (are they slightly pink). By matching up the base colour of the red with the amount of orange or blue in your skintone, you should apparently find your perfect red.
Problem: We aren’t orange and blue based. If you are warm toned, you have yellow base, and if you are cool toned, you have a red base. And most of us are neutral-toned anyway, and just veer more towards one or the other.
Second problem: If everything you wear (clothes, make-up, hair etc) matches your skintone, you start to look a bit invisible, a la Jennifer Aniston in 1999, fading into the sofa at Central Perk in Friends:
See how her hair, skin and clothing are all nearly the exact same shade, and so is the sofa behind her? If she was next to someone else, you’d be able to see that they popped out of the screen while she faded away, which I’ve noticed about Rachel in quite a few episodes of Friends. This is a real danger if you are almost 100% neutral toned (like me) because everyone tells you that you’ll look good in neutrals (which is true, but it’s also only part of the story; you’ll look good in most other colours as well, including red).
I decided to investigate whether this was a good way to choose the perfect red lipstick by buying the W7 “The Reds” collection from Amazon (which was £4.79 for six tubes of red lipstick: scarlet fever, racing red, red hot, bordeaux, very red and kir royale, which isn’t really red so got ditched at the start of the experiment) then I swatched them on my arm before trying them on my face. That (putting one on my face) was when I discovered I was allergic to one of the red lipsticks (apparently lipstick allergy is the most common make-up reaction but I’d never heard of it before my lips started getting bumpy swellings and a lovely couple of splits in them). When my lips swelled down 2 days later, I tried again with the protection of two layers of foundation and a layer of silicon primer. Turned out the one that caused a reaction was the only red lipstick didn’t remotely suit me anyway. Apparently orange-based red lipsticks look best on me but I can also wear neutral based ones (neither orange nor blue is predominant), which figures. I’m slightly on the warm side of neutral skin tone, so I expected the neutral red lipstick colors to look best, but the orange-based shade really surprised me, I think it was my best red colored lipstick.
Here’s the video of me showing how to find the perfect shade of red lipstick using this warm and cool method:
The second school of thought, invented (as far as I know) by Makeupgeek.com, is that the perfect shade of red lipstick isn’t anything to do with blue or yellow undertones, it’s to do with the vibrancy of the lipstick, and how that matches up to the vibrance of your skin colour.
For example, if you have a very pale or fair skin, you don’t need a PALE red, you need a MUTED red lipstick, one that can be as light or dark as you like, as long as it’s not super-vibrant, because vibrancy will overpower the color of your skin, your eyes, your hair and everything else. If you have dark skin, your red lipstick can go as vibrant as you like, the brighter the better.
You can read more about this theory here:
And if you’re still stuck between all the shades on offer, according to most well-known glossy magazines, MAC’s lipstick in Ruby Woo is apparently somehow flattering to everybody. Whether you’re fair, dark, olive, neutral, warm or cool; this red lipstick will suit anyone. That sounds very mysterious (but I expected nothing less from MAC); I look forward to trying Ruby Woo out.
Do you wear red lipstick? Do you have a perfect shade? I suspect red’s going to be popular again this year since we’ve just had two years of neutral and nude lip colors!