The perfect red lipstick should be comfortable, timeless, and as universally flattering as possible. MAC Ruby Woo is iconic for a reason — a classic, matte, blue-toned red that works on most skin tones.
Red lipstick is the beauty equivalent of a power suit. If you want to look put-together with minimal effort, you put on red lipstick. If you're falling into a beauty slump, you put on red lipstick. If you need to look glamorous in a pinch, you put on red lipstick. But the thing is, there are so many red lipsticks out there, many of which look almost or completely identical. Even once you whittle it down to a specific brand, you'll probably still need to choose between three or four red shades in any given range. There are blue-toned reds, orangey-reds, reds that are really more like pinks — the options are endless. The two most important things to pay attention to when shopping for red lipstick are formula and undertone. Once you decide which tone of red will suit you best and whether you want a long-wear pencil or a creamy bullet formula, you can start to narrow it down. Here is the best red lipstick you can buy in 2019:
Best red lipstick overall: MAC Ruby Woo Best sheer red lipstick: Glossier Generation G in Zip Best red lipstick pencil: NARS Velvet Matte Lip Pencil in Dragon Girl Best drugstore red lipstick: Revlon Super Lustrous Lipstick in Cherries in the Snow Best hydrating red lipstick: Hourglass GIRL Lip Stylo
Updated on 2/18 by Erin Mayer: Replaced the best hydrating red lipstick with a new option based on testing.The best red lipstick overall
MAC Ruby Woo is the ideal matte cherry red lipstick, no matter your skin tone. If you keep one no-brainer red lipstick in your collection, let it be MAC Ruby Woo. New York Magazine called it "arguably the most famous lipstick shade of all time," and I have to agree. This is the ultimate matte, cool-toned red lipstick that flatters most skin tones, from ultra fair to super deep. Unlike the drying liquid lipstick formulas that have been all over Instagram and YouTube the past few years, this one is long-lasting without stripping your lips of all moisture. It can last up to eight hours without feathering or fading, too. MAC red lipsticks have almost 5,000 reviews on Nordstrom and a high star rating. Ruby Woo, in particular, is a three-time Allure Reader's Choice winner and has been featured on Cosmopolitan, Teen Vogue, New York Magazine, and Rank and Style. Pros: Works for a variety of skin tones, matte finish, long-lasting, formula comes in other reds Cons: Matte finish might be drying on some The best sheer red lipstick
Glossier Generation G in Zip is the ultimate barely-there red lipstick in a sheer but buildable formula. If you're tired of me talking about Glossier makeup by now, my deepest apologies because I'm about to do it again. The brand's reformulated Generation G lipsticks are fantastic, and the red shade Zip just might be my favorite. This is an ultra-sheer orange-y red that gives you that low-maintenance blotted look with minimal effort. I was a fan of the original Generation G, but the brand improved upon the initial concept in November 2018 with a slightly different formula and sturdier, more luxe packaging. The new iteration is ever-so-slightly more moisturizing but still sheer and balmy. Generation G is the ultimate "apply without a mirror" lipstick, but you can build the darker colors up to create a pretty bold, opaque look, and Zip is probably the most intense of the shades. Because the pigment is so sheer, the color varies from person to person, but Glossier helpfully provides videos of people with different skin tones wearing it on its website to help you get an idea of how it might work on you. Like all Glossier makeup, Generation G is cruelty free. It's also vegan, hypoallergenic, paraben free, and allergy tested. This lipstick has been recommended by New York Magazine and has more than 1,700 reviews on Glossier. Pros: Sheer, buildable, comfortable to wear Cons: Has a slight floral scent The best red lipstick pencil
The NARS Velvet Matte Lipstick Pencil in Dragon Girl is a comfortable, no-fuss red that flatters a variety of complexions. If you love the low-maintenance vibe of Glossier but want more pigment, I recommend picking up the NARS Velvet Matte Lipstick Pencil in the color Dragon Girl. These pencils are easy to apply — not too chubby and not so thin they might as well be lip liners — and the velvet matte finish is so comfortable you might even forget you have it on. Dragon Girl is probably the most well-known shade from this range. Described as "siren red" in the product description, the color has an orange undertone. Because it comes in a pencil format, you can use it as a liner underneath another lipstick for increased staying power, or layer it on and wear it alone. One coat gives you that trendy, blotted velvet lip look. This formula comes in a few other reds, including another personal favorite — the deep, bold Cruella. But Dragon Girl is likely the most versatile, and a good "true red." Teen Vogue recommends it for tan, olive skin tones. Dragon Girl has also been featured by Cosmopolitan, Rank and Style, Into The Gloss, and more. Pros: Easy to apply pencil shape, comes in multiple reds, comfortable to wear Cons: Pricey The best drugstore red lipstick
Your perfect timeless red lipstick is only a few dollars away thanks to the iconic Revlon Super Lustrous Lipstick in Cherries in the Snow. You don't have to splurge to find a red lipstick you'll want to wear to every single holiday party from here to eternity. Revlon Super Lustrous Lipstick in Cherries in the Snow is a gorgeous option that's available for less than $5 on Amazon. This lipstick is majorly iconic. According to Allure, it first launched way back in 1953 and was beloved by writer Sylvia Plath. Cherries in the Snow is more of a pink-toned red, rather than a true red, so if you tend to prefer magentas or raspberry shades, this might be a good pick for you. For a true red from Revlon, try Fire & Ice. Regardless of the shade, all Super Lustrous lipsticks are formulated with vitamin E and avocado oil for a non-drying finish. "Love this shade — somewhere between pink and red and quite wearable with my fair skin. Will definitely buy it again," writes one shopper. It's also been recommended by Allure, InStyle, and The Gloss. Pros: Super affordable, iconic shade, moisturizing formula Cons: None The best hydrating red lipstick
The Hourglass GIRL Lip Stylo in Icon is a classic blue-red in a creamy, hydrating formula. If, like me, your lips are prone to flaking at the slightest sign of full-coverage lipstick, reach for a hydrating formula. I love the shade Icon from the Hourglass GIRL Lip Stylo range. It's your classic blue-red shade with a slightly shiny (but not overly glossy) finish. The formula boasts a number of hydrating oils that help create a flake-free wearing experience. If your lips are perpetually chapped, I still recommend laying down a lip balm before you apply, but overall I find that these Lip Stylos don't make my lips feel worse, which is a major accomplishment for high-impact lipstick. I'm also a big fan of the shape, which is a pointed bullet that's slightly larger than the NARS pencils, making accurate application a breeze. The color fades as you eat and drink since it's not a liquid formula, but it gently stains the lips so that they stay red for hours, and the glide-on texture helps smooth out the re-application process. In addition to Icon, the range includes three other reds: Visionary, a brick red; Innovator, a neutral red; and Lover, an orange-red. The shades look slightly different in the tubes, so check out swatches online or in person before you decide which is right for you. Pros: hydrating formula, pointed bullet for easy application, luxe packaging Cons: bullet cannot be sharpened so loses shape over time What else we considered:
Lime Crime Velvetine in Red Velvet ($20): This is a very popular liquid lipstick formula known for its velvety smooth matte texture and stay-all-day finish, but I found it extremely drying. Though the staying power was impressive, the lipstick looked worse the longer I wore it as the color began to flake off. Check out our other makeup buying guides
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