While I was more adventurous with makeup in my 20s, at 35, I've reached the point where I just want to stick to shades and formulas that I know look good on me. Experimentation has fallen by the wayside, for the most part. So what that means for lip color is that I stick to neutrals with pink undertones. This may sound boring, but I like being able to reach into my collection of lip colors knowing that any one I pick out will work for any given occasion. That said, I'd be lying if I said that I didn't get the itch to experiment with different shades from time to time.
I've always thought that red lipstick doesn't quite suit me, especially as I've gotten a little older. I find that it makes my lips look thinner, my skin look washed-out, it highlights imperfections, the list goes on… But then I see women significantly older than me expertly pulling off a red lip, and I just feel confused. I'm a big admirer of the French-girl way of wearing red lipstick—smudgy, blotted, and imperfect (see Jeanne Damas), so maybe that could help me? That and the perfect shade of universally flattering red.
I asked eight of the best beauty brands on the market (as in Tom Ford, Glossier, Charlotte Tilbury, and more) to send me their most flattering red (I read many, many reviews to narrow it down), and they did not disappoint. I'm definitely not throwing out my nude lip color collection anytime soon, but I've been converted into a red-lipstick devotee.
Keep scrolling to read about my experience with the top eight surprisingly non-aging red lipsticks, and see how they look IRL on yours truly. (Bonus: Shop our two beauty editors' (Erin and Courtney) favorite red lipsticks at the end.)
Charlotte Tilbury Matte Revolution Lipstick in Red Carpet Red
I'm a huge fan of Charlotte Tilbury Matte Revolution lipsticks (shout-out to Pillow Talk), so trying this one was a no-brainer. The formula is magically plumping, quite creamy, and easy to apply for a matte lipstick. This is more of a deep, Old Hollywood red, which gave it a softer, more wearable look than a bright fire-engine red. It was very easy to achieve the French-girl effect with this shade because it's highly smudgeable without being messy.
Kosas Weightless Lip Color in Phoenix
Kosas's Phoenix shade is more of a warm red, so I wasn't sure if it would work with my cool coloring and light eyes, but it's a very buzzy shade, and I read multiple reviews speaking to how flattering it was, so I tried it without hesitation. I love matte lip colors that aren't super heavy, and this one fits the bill. It gives off just a smidge of shine. And I don't know how Kosas does it, but this is one "fiery" orange-red shade that I can actually wear. It even made my lips appear fuller.
Marc Jacobs Beauty Le Marc Lip Crème Lipstick in Oh Miley
Speaking of cool shades, this next one is as cool as a red lipstick gets. It's still a true red, but with pink undertones, and the formula is glossier than some of the other shades I tried. (That said, it has staying power.) I never wear shades this bold, but it wasn't as scary as I thought it would be, and I think it would be a fun shade to wear for warmer nights out.
Glossier Generation G in Zip
The next shade was a lot more within my comfort zone: sheer! You're probably familiar with Glossier Generation G, as you should be. I'd previously stuck to the more neutral shades (Like is my go-to), but the muted red shade is a new favorite of mine. It basically gives you the French-girl red-lip look without doing anything to it. I even layered it on for more intensity. Of all the red lipsticks I've tried, this one was the easiest to wear.
Tom Ford Lost Cherry Lip Color
Wow, this one definitely wins in the packaging department, but the formula is just as good. Tom Ford lip colors (which I even wore on my wedding day) might be pricey, but they're worth every penny. They're super saturated and apply more smoothly and evenly than any lipstick on the market. Lost Cherry is a deep, cool red with a bit of shine, and I found it very easy to blur out a bit with my finger.
Pat McGrath Labs MatteTrance Lipstick in Elson
When you look at this deep blue-red shade in the tube, it looks very intense and almost chalky, but miraculously, it's very light and hydrating. And it's wonderfully matte without being flat. I achieved the perfect effect by blotting it and smudging it a bit with my finger. It's the most Snow White–esque shade of the bunch, which felt appropriate for winter.
Dior Rouge Dior Lipstick in 999
It's virtually impossible to come across a list of the best red lipsticks without Dior 999 on it, and it lives up to the hype. The classic red shade comes in two finishes—matte and satin—and I tried the satin. This finish works best with a more precise application (I did my best), as it's quite creamy. If you want a true, timeless, glossy red that won't dry out your lips, this one is tough to beat.
Fenty Beauty by Rihanna Stunna Lip Paint Longwear Fluid Lip Color in Uncensored
For a red-lipstick novice such as myself, this one (the only liquid lipstick on the list) was a little advanced for me, but the payoff was beautiful. Let me explain: When you first put this on, it feels very thin and easy to smooth out (which I did with my finger), but it dries very quickly and it stays put. Since I wasn't aware of this, I had to use a little makeup remover to clean it up, but I think it will get easier with practice. (Just don't attempt the French-girl smudge, whatever you do.) It's a true, matte red, and if you're a more experienced red-lipstick applier, I think you could do wonders with this one.
Shop Our Beauty Editors' Favorite Red Lipsticks