A bold lip can really take your makeup look from zero to 100 in a minute. I’m personally not afraid of a dramatic lip color, especially when I’m too lazy to put on a ton of makeup. Give me a statement-making lipstick, some mascara, and concealer and I’m good to go. I instantly look polished and ready for the day with minimal effort.
One lip look that never goes out of style is a dark red lipstick. It’s equal parts dramatic, vampy, powerful, and feminine. Plus, dark red is a universally flattering color.
“Dark red lipstick is a classic look because red is a color that looks good on everyone,” explains celebrity makeup artist Bob Scott, whose clients include Karlie Kloss and Padma Lakshmi. “It brightens one’s entire face, and wearing a dark red shade is just as easy. A dark red lip adds the same warmth or pop to a person’s face, just in a slightly subdued way. It can complete a look and carry its visual weight but not be the star—or be the star.”
Quinn Murphy, whose clients include Kate Hudson and Dakota Fanning, says there are three major things to think about when choosing a red lipstick: the value (how light to dark), the hue (the color and undertone), and the chroma (the saturation).
“It’s not too difficult to choose a dark red hue that suits your skin tone. Just like a classic bright red lip, one dark red lipstick might be more blue or more orange in tone than another, but the darkness and depth of the crimson pigment can make that difference more subtle and less likely to clash with one’s skin tone,” Scott says. “It might be the difference between wanting your lips to look more dark red/brown than red/berry without going as dark as wine or burgundy. It also might be as simple as mixing your favorite red with a brown or a berry-tone lip pencil to test for depth and tone before you buy new. A blue-toned dark red lip will feel a little more bold, and a warmer dark red will feel slightly more muted.”
If you already have a favorite red and want to go darker, Scott recommends bringing that lipstick with you and comparing it with a few options of darker reds to find a shade that is like a natural progression of what you already have.
Once you find your perfect shade, you can play around with application. “Apply the color and see how you like it,” Murphy says. “If you want a more knocked-back, less intense look, blot it and make it into a stain. Or you can manipulate the color by adding another shade on top of the blotted color.”
For a crisp lip, Scott recommends taking a matching pencil and sharpening the edge. And if you want to go softer, put balm on top of a couple of layers.
Ready to try out the look? Shop some of our favorite dark reds below.