Red Lips – Choosing the Right Shade


Red Lips - Choosing the Right Shade

Don’t let the thought of a bold lop colour scare you off. There are many shades of red. Reds can be soft, rusty, bright, cool and warm.  You can see in the pictures above that some reds suit me, others don’t, they make my lips the focus of my face.  The reason for this is either they are too warm for my colouring, or too bright.

Finding the right red lip colour comes down to your personal colouring.

Which red lipstick would be the right one for you?

If you’re cool, look for blue based reds, if you’re warm yellow or brown based reds.  If your colouring is soft, wear a softer red lip.  If brighter colours suit you in clothing, then brighter lipsticks will too.

Lipstick Queen Poppy King

If you’re wearing a bright red lipstick, don’t wear too much eye makeup at the same time – either a bold eye, or bold lip – not both at once.  I once read an interview with Lipstick Queen Poppy King and she said that she only wears bright red lipstick and never wears eye makeup (though from this pick I’m guessing she does wear mascara on her top lashes) as she wants her lips to be the focus.


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  • Totally got my red lips on today! I’ve only started wearing red lipstick in the past few months – had always been a little afraid before. Now it’s a regular thing for me.

  • My red lipstick is MAC Paramount, a rich shade of matte brown red. I was short of time this morning, but to pull it off I had to do some basic make-up: I applied tinted moisturiser, contoured with a light bronzer, defined my eyebrows and put on brown mascara and just a touch of dark red cream blush. Since I was wearing red lips already, I thought I could pull off an outfit darker than usual, and I dressed basically in black with a lighter jacket. I particularly like the street version of the look: dark brown raincoat with a burgundy poncho underneath and black cap and half-gloves with fur trim. It’s rainy here, but luckily my umbrella is burgundy too 🙂 The overall look is dark and moody but not boring at all. I’m really loving how the Fabruary Style Challenge is pushing me to explore new unexpected looks: nothing revolutionary, but I’m surprising myself a little bit every day…

  • Put my red lips on with a forest green T-shirt – and looked like a clown, but with a soft blue shirt the whole look was transformed into ‘sophisticated’. Both colours are in my dusky dark colour range, however the difference was astonishing.

    • Green and red are complementary colours (opposite) on the colour wheel, so will make each other look brighter and more obvious. The blue is a softer look.

  • I couldn’t upload my pics to my blog today (as I couldn’t rotate the photo) but I need your thoughts as I I would just love to wear red lipstick but dread actually doing so.

    I have real hang-ups about 1. my nose, which is too wide and bulbous and 2. the shape of my face, which is so narrow/thin it’s almost like a line. i know it could be worse and have accepted both, still I try to hide their obvious flaws as much as I possibly can. (e.g. I don’t normally tie my hair back, and sometimes slim down the edges of my nose with make-up) But I have found and I fear that red lipstick doesn’t so much emphasise my lips as the narrowness of my face (or my jaw/chin as my face shape is an elongated heart rather oblong) and the size of my nose.

    The last photo is a bright orange lipstick, which I knew wouldn’t suit me as I am cool, the first two (they are the same) are a blue-based cool shade. In clothes I need bright rather than soft, so that means bright lipstick. It was a bright blue based red that is supposed to suit me. (Lighting wasn’t perfect, sorry.)

    What do you all think/ any comments/thoughts/ advice? I tried this lipstick on in the shop but then felt the need to wipe it off immediately after as I felt so self-conscious about how it brought up my face-shape and the size of my nose.

    (PS I am not fishing for compliments and I’m not being harsh on myself. I’ve tried to maximise my assets and perfect my appearance (this blog has been really helpful in general), but my nose and my face shape have always been bogies and the only two things about my apperance that I have felt uncomfortable with, all my life, even if I don’t show it/don’t let others normally realise.)

    • Hi Susie! I agree with you that the first red is better than the second, but I think you’ll need to do some more research to find your best shade. I can’t tell if red lips make your face thinner and your nose bigger :o) 😉 However, I can see that the red lips bring out the blue of your eyes in a beautiful way. One piece of advice I can share on the topic is that everybody needs some basic make-up to pull off red lips. Nothing complicated, as Imogen pointed out: flawless skin, defined eyebrows, mascara and a pinch of blush. In this way the red on your lips won’t overwhelm you. Keep sharing!

      • Thank you. I agree that my eyes seem bluer, they are normally an indeterminable colour and depending on what I wear they’ll be more green or grey or blue. Also red lipstick is v feminine and elegant and would suit my style well. I’m hoping that there is a red lipstick out there that will bring all the benefits of a red lipstick while not emphasising that my nose and the lower half of my face are just not that ideal…

        But how do I find the right shade of red lipstick? Any tips on that?

        • If you’re cool look for blue based reds. Then just try them on. The shade that works with you rather than overwhelming you or just creating a face that is just lips is the one to go for.

          Plus if you have blue eyes red lipstick will make them look bluer. It’s to do with the colour wheel and colour theory.

    • Susie, I think the first lipstick is nice, but I think being under fluoro lights will make a difference to how the lipstick looks. I always think everything looks more washed out under fluorescent lighting.

      I definitely think that you need to get used to wearing red lipstick. I felt really self-conscious about it the first 2 or 3 times as I’d spent years sporting a very “natural” lip colour.

      And you have nice lips, too – good for wearing red lipstick!

      • Yes, thank you. The lighting is ghastly in those shots, hard to judge what that lipstick looks like.

        Based on Imogen’s criteria, a cool and bright lipstick is what suits me and that first was most definitely cool and bright, but perhaps shouldn’t go too bright. It’s the same with clothes that too soft will have me looking washed out, but too bright will overwhelm me, there is a middle way.

        As I said, the additional challenge with red lipstick is the emphasis it puts on nose and face shape, which I need to come to terms with. If you look at your own pic, it’s not only that that hue of red goes with you so well but that the lipstick accentuates your very good bone structure, which is very welcome as everything on your face is in proportion. I do wonder to what extent the camera exaggerates as anything out of proportion seems more stark in a photo than in real life, that’s why I am (facially) not as photogenic and while I know that not ideal, my face shape and nose may not be that prominent in real life. Perhaps a more purple-y tone could also work (does that still count as red lipstick? :)) I do have a fair bit of green in my eyes and one of the best eye shadows I have is a light cool purple for day-time and deep purple for the night. And I do like my lips so would be nice to bring them out. I still always fear looking like a clown and must find a good shade of red lipstick before I ever wear one with people around.

        Liv Tyler’s very beautiful despite her face being also far too narrow (of course she does have perfect skin and a lovely petite nose to balance it out), yet imo this shot is not great exactly because her hairstyle and lipstick draws attention to her face shape:

        of course if shot from above, her face seems more in proportion, so this following photo is flawless. this is just a gorgeous shade of red too, but perhaps too dressy for during the day:

        • Cameras distort your face. Whatever is closest appears larger. So your nose is closer it will appear larger in a photo than reality. I think you’re being way too hard on yourself Susie

          • Thanks, sweet of you to say, as always. Being the wonderful person you are (and surely partly on account of your job as well), you always encourage us to see the best in ourselves. My poor nose has endured so much criticism from me all my life that it’s probably thoroughly depressed now. I’ve also read that angular and strong features (as in jaws) often look much better in photos, so my slightly skewed faceshape may not be that obviously in real life.

            As for Liv, I have the same colouring as her (or you for that matter), cool and bright and high colour contrast, and I now suspect that even the first lipstick in my own picture if less warm (and less orange-y) than the one in the last may still have been more warm than cool. I generally love the colour red but I find it difficult to really discern whether there is more blue or more orange in a red, whether lipstick or clothes. An additional difficulty is finding cool bright reds, I have found that warm orange-y bright reds are on offer galore, but cooler red clothes are usually softer/more muted (while I need brighter!).

        • The second red is so much better for Liv as she has cool colouring and it blends with her face. The first red is warm and makes her lips jump off her face.

  • Ok, this was a bit hard for me.. I usually never wear red lipstick, except in parties maybe once or twice a year. Having red lips at work was therefore a real challenge for me. 😀 But actually it worked quite nicely!

  • I find bright red lipstick harder to wear as I get older, though I loved it in my 30s and 40s. For a while I switched from ash blonde to a cool – almost purple – burgundy coloured hair and my greyish blue eyes suddenly were a brilliant blue, which I loved. I didn’t love the grey roots, however, against the dark red and have gone back to my old ashy-blonde. It’s far easier to keep up, but my eyes aren’t as blue which is sad. The other day, however, I noticed that a bright-ish pink lipstick brought out the colour in my eyes (or I’m just nuts, which is possible). I’m thinking lipstick is still very important in my late (ouch!) 50s.

  • For Susie: I know the challenge is a red lip. But girl you have seriously gorgeous eyes, I would play them up and focus on your assets!

  • I love wearing red lipstick! There’s nothing better than getting on the bus at 06:20 in the morning and seeing how people wake up at the unexpected sight of me with red hot lipstick on! Everyone else are more or less make up free, and still half asleep. That just makes my day – Hurrah for red lipstick!

  • So, Imogen, which color do you think looks the best on you? I think the second row, right side is beautiful but maybe you are thinking it’s too bright?

    • Amy, that shade suits you really well, I think. If you like a sheer colour, some brands do a sheer lipstain and you can just wear a gloss over the top. Max Factor used to do a nice one – may still do. Revlon do the “Just Bitten” range but I’ve tried that and it didn’t go on very well for me.

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