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. It brightens one's entire face, and wearing a dark red shade is just as easy," explains celebrity makeup artist Bob Scott, whose clients include Karlie Kloss and Padma Lakshmi. "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.
"It's a strong, beautiful, deep merlot. It's very red and dark without going purple," Murphy says.
Scott says Nars's lipstick pencil is a recent favorite. It has a matte finish and is enriched with vitamin E and emollients to moisturize.
The liquid lipstick is so easy to apply thanks to its applicator and smooth formula. The super-saturated lip color lasts for 16 hours, so you don't have to worry about smudging or having to touch it up throughout the day.
If you want that deep wine look, try this burgundy-hued lipstick. The matte lipstick is lightweight yet highly pigmented.
"It's a show-stopping, very deep red. The texture is long wearing but very comfortable and creamy," Murphy says.
If you prefer a glossier look over a matte finish, try this drugstore pick from Scott. The color is buildable, providing sheer to medium coverage.
Murphy recommends this classic mid-to-deep red. The formula contains equal parts saturated hue and luminosity for a statement-making look. The texture isn't sticky at all, and the color will stay on for eight hours.
Another Murphy pick, this lip stain has a velvety, matte finish. The shade is a deep red with a hint of wine. The full-coverage product has a creamy texture.
This classic dark red saturates your lips with bold color but doesn't dry them out since it's formulated with moisturizing ingredients. The lipstick has a lot of staying power, too.
For a more purple-red shade, go with this rec from Scott. It has sheer coverage, which is a great option if you aren't ready for a bold, dramatic lip just yet but still want some color. The formula contains nourishing ingredients like vitamins C and E and mango seed butter.
"I'm obsessed with all of the Lisa Eldridge reds and her dark reds in particular," Murphy says. "Velvet Myth is an unapologetic blackened red. It's deep, rich, and smooth. It's a balanced blue-red but not too cool that is gets vampy. It's very universal."
For a luxe velvet look, Shiseido's matte lipstick will do the trick. The product doesn't feel too heavy. In fact, it has a powdery finish.
Just a step darker than a classic red, this lipstick is an easy and subtle way to get more dramatic with your lip color. It's infused with hyaluronic acid to keep your lips moisturized and smooth.
Lightweight with a satin finish, this Tom Ford lipstick is a dark and ultra-rich red. The formula is buildable, so you can get the exact coverage you want, whether it's medium or super saturated.
Murphy suggests this second Lisa Eldridge lipstick, saying it's the slightly lighter and more scarlet sister to his other recommendation, Velvet Myth.