The best red lipstick shades for every complexion - tested by our beauty experts

Find a hue to suit you!

a colage showing red lipstick shades by Nars, L'Oreal, Yves Saint Laurent and MAC
(Image credit: Future)

Finding the best red lipstick shades to suit you can feel like a daunting task, but once you know what to look for, you’ll find your perfect match in no time.

But where to begin? Finding the best red lipstick shades can be as much of a minefield as a foundation shade finder (opens in new tab), with countless shades available. According to Global Senior Artist for MAC Cosmetics Dominic Skinner (opens in new tab), a makeup artist with years of experience and judge on BBC’s Glow Up, there’s a simple trick to finding your perfect shade. "The interesting thing about red lipsticks is that each one has a subtle undertone, which can vary from pinkish to golden to even blue. It’s these undertones that you need to look at - not just the red colour." Skinner continues, "This is why, if you are someone who has always said, ‘red doesn’t suit me’ - it’s probably because the undertone hasn’t worked in line with your own undertone."

So it's a common beauty myth (opens in new tab) that red lipsticks aren't for anyone - as there really is a red to suit everyone. It’s just about the tone, not necessarily the shade. In our list, we’ve picked a multitude of different tones which will work on all skin undertones. A good way of finding out your skin’s undertone is to look at your veins - if they’re blue or purple, you’re cool, if they look green, you’re warm. If you’re somewhere in the middle, you’re neutral, and can wear pretty much any shade - lucky you! 

What to consider when looking for the best red lipstick shades:

Why you can trust GoodTo Our expert reviewers spend hours testing and comparing products and services so you can choose the best for you. Find out more about how we test.

  • Star rating: Our in-house star-rating system is based on peer reviews. They’ve tried and tested the best red lipstick shades and awarded stars based on factors such as product quality, ease of use, customer feedback, awards and value for money. Products that have received a 5-star status are rare and considered exceptional, going above and beyond our reviewer’s expectations.
  • Finish: You can buy the best red lipstick shade in lots of different finishes - long-wearing mattes, high-shine glosses or sheer stains. Generally, we tend to find mattes look brighter and are more long-wearing, so most of the options on this list are matte unless stated otherwise. 
  • Packaging & formula: We've only picked red lipsticks that are easy to apply, will sit comfortably on lips and won't dry them out. There's nothing worse than lipstick that vanishes after 20 minutes of wear, so we've picked hard-working, long-lasting colours for this list to, for the ultimate all-day wear. If you're wondering how often to replace makeup (opens in new tab), the more airtight the packaging, the longer it will last. We've picked lipsticks with smart, safe packaging to help your red lipstick shades last as long as possible. 
  • Cruelty-free: More and more beauty brands have realised that testing on animals is not a humane or sustainable practice. We’re keen to select products from brands that follow this ethos.

The best red lipstick shades for every complexion

Nars Powermatte Lipstick in Dragon Girl, a true red shade

(Image credit: Nars)

1. Nars PowerMatte Lipstick in Dragon Girl

Best overall red lipstick

Specifications

RRP: £26
Finish: Matte
Formula: Solid bullet
Tone: Neutral - a true red

Reasons to buy

+
A true red that we've found suits all skin tones
+
Long-wearing formula
+
Vibrant colour

Reasons to avoid

-
Some may find a little drying

One study found (opens in new tab) that 78% of UK women feel more confident when they wear lipstick, so not only will the best red lipstick shades perk up your face, they could lift your mood too. 

The best overall red was a hotly contested debate amongst the beauty team, but we all eventually agreed that this was the one that suited us all and which also had the MUA seal of approval - via makeup artist Ruby Hammer (opens in new tab) - who also picked it as one of her all-time favourites. A very close second was MAC Ruby Woo, which is further below. It's a matte, long-wearing formula in a vibrant, true-red tone. It's also available in a liquid formulation - which is even more long-lasting. 

Beauty Director Sarah Cooper-White always recommends this as one of the best red lipstick shades in her collection. "It is my go-to party shade. It’s a true red that suits everyone. The colour payoff is absolutely unbeatable - one swipe and you’re good to go - and the 10-hour staying power means I don’t have to constantly check if it’s smudged or in need of a touch-up."

Maybelline Superstay Matte Ink Lipstick in Individualist, a bright, bold red

(Image credit: Maybelline)

2. Maybelline Superstay Matte Ink Lipstick in Individualist

Best red lipstick for staying power

Specifications

RRP: £9.99
Finish : Matte
Formula: Liquid
Tone: Bright, zingy red

Reasons to buy

+
Brilliant price
+
The most impressively long-lasting formula on the market
+
35 shades available, so there's one for everyone

Reasons to avoid

-
Can feel a little sticky on first application

Maybelline is one of the true heroes of the high street make-up world. Many of their products easily rival those at 4 times the price - their undereye concealer and mascara range are especially worth noting. This lipstick, for me, is the one product you should try if you're looking to find your best red lipstick shades, especially if long-lasting formulas are a priority. Their Superstay lipstick collection (opens in new tab) is designed to last, promising 16 hours of wear, and is available in 35 gorgeous shades. Our pick would be 'Individualist' for a crowd-pleasing bright red, but 'Pioneer' and 'Innovator' are slightly darker, blue-toned options if that's your preference. They also have a 'vinyl' finish available, if mattes aren't your thing. 

Anyone who knows me knows how passionate I am about this particular lipstick. I wear a red lipstick pretty much every day - I don't feel like myself without one on, so I need one that'll last all day. You'd be amazed how many expensive brands promise this, only to have the colour vanish by lunchtime. This is the only one that really holds up its promise of 16 hours of wear. 

I've recommended it to countless people, and I always get an enthusiastic text a few days later, listing all the meals, drinks and events the colour has lasted through. If I had to wear one red lipstick for life, it'd be this one. 

Mac Lady Danger Red Lipstick, an orange-skewed red

(Image credit: MAC Cosmetics)

3. MAC Matte Lipstick in Lady Danger

Best red lipstick for pale skin

Specifications

RRP: £20
Finish: Matte
Formula: Solid bullet
Tone: A vibrant red with a hint of orange

Reasons to buy

+
Loved my celebrities and makeup artists worldwide
+
Orange-tinted tone works well on pale skins
+
10 hours wear

Reasons to avoid

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Some may find it drying

Mac lipsticks are industry leaders for a reason - they have the MUA seal of approval, give impressive staying power and there is - truly - a shade for everyone. If you have pale skin, their famous 'Ruby Woo' shade might be a bit draining, but Lady Danger is brighter, with a hit of orange to add vibrance to skin tones. It'll also work well on darker skin tones - really standing out. It's also got an average rating of 4.5 stars on Amazon - which is no mean feat for those tricky-to-pick red lipsticks.

Beauty Editor Jess Beech (opens in new tab) is particularly passionate about Lady Danger. "There’s something about a red lip that always leaves me feeling a little bit inferior. I’m not amazing at application (with red, those wobbly lines really show) and I’m always nervous it’ll smudge during the day. The shade can feel too bold and grown-up for me too, which is why if I am going to brave a red lip it’s always Mac Lady Danger." 

She continues, "The shade has the slightest hint of orange, which makes it less of a true red, and helps to perk up my sallow-toned complexion. It dries pretty quickly, so you do need to be speedy with application (less time to overthink) but once it’s on, it won’t budge."

MAC Ruby Woo red lipstick, a blue-toned red

(Image credit: MAC Cosmeics)

4. MAC Matte Lipstick in Ruby Woo

Best red lipstick shade with blue undertones

Specifications

RRP: £20
Finish: Matte
Formula: Solid bullet
Tone: A blue-toned red

Reasons to buy

+
An industry leader
+
Iconic shade loved by celebrities
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Blue undertones help teeth look whiter

Reasons to avoid

-
Again, a little drying!

Ruby Woo is arguably MAC's most iconic shade, so much so that it's available as a high-shine finish, a lip pencil and a liquid formulation, meaning there's an option for all preferences. Dominic Skinner cites it as his favourite, explaining that it's, "the ultimate classic Hollywood red." We're inclined to agree - plus, the blue tones work some complexion-making, helping the whites of your eyes look clearer, and your teeth look whiter. This is one of the best red lipstick shades for an iconic, bold colour.

On testing, I found this to apply comfortably, give an impressive colour payoff with just one swipe, and lasted impressively well. If you re-apply and wear it all day, it can start to feel a little bit drying towards the end of the day, so if you're prone to chapped lips, take that into consideration. You may prefer to swap to the non-matte versions, which give the same colour payoff with less of the dryness. 

Bobbi Brown Luxe Shine Intense in Supernova - a shimmering, brick-toned red

(Image credit: Bobbi Brown)

5. Bobbi Brown Luxe Shine Intense in Supernova

Best red lipstick shade with warm undertones

Specifications

RRP: £32
Finish: High-shine
Formula: Solid bullet
Tone: A warm, brick-red

Reasons to buy

+
A flattering, everyday colour
+
Shimmer adds extra dimension
+
Wearable and comfortable on lips

Reasons to avoid

-
Shimmer isn't for everyone
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Not the most long-lasting

Warm red works well on cool-toned skin, which can be of any shade - you can be very pale or dark-skinned and still be cool-toned. This warm, brick shade will help enliven cool undertones, adding some warmth to your complexion. It's also got a slight shimmer to it - which may sound scary, but we promise it's very wearable! Think of it as a cross between lipstick and a gloss - a high-shine, flattering colour, just in a solid formulation. The non-matte formula means it's less drying, and it's also blended with Hyaluronic Acid and Vitamin E to soothe chapped lips. 

On testing, we loved how it added instant 'zing' to complexions, and it felt soft and comfortable on lips, unlike some of the matte options we tested. One enthusiastic LookFantastic reviewer agrees. "My first time trying a Bobbi Brown lipstick so it was a bit of a gamble to order online. But I was pleasantly surprised with how perfect it is. Super creamy and pigmented. This shade is a warm rusty hue and is an easy 'everyday' colour. I usually tap it on and have a sheer wash of colour. Very happy with my purchase!"

NYX Smooth Whip Matte Lip Cream in Velvet Robe, a deep red tone

(Image credit: NYX Professional Makeup)

6. NYX Smooth Whip Matte Lip Cream in Velvet Robe

Best budget red lipstick

Specifications

RRP: £8
Finish: Soft matte
Formula: Cream
Tone: A deep,

Reasons to buy

+
Soft matte, so it's a bit more wearable
+
A lovely, rich shade
+
Brilliant price

Reasons to avoid

-
Won't last all day

If bold, bright reds aren't your thing, consider some darker tones, like this deep red shade. To stop it from looking severe, avoid full-blown mattes, as they can look unflattering. This is a really soft matte formula, so you get the colour payoff without the severity (or dryness!). 

Beauty Editor Stephanie Maylor (opens in new tab) is a huge fan. "This is a relatively new launch but it's already made its way into my lipstick rotation. The formula feels almost weightless, and a lot more expensive than £8." She continues, "I feel good in this slightly deeper brick red shade - to me, it just feels a bit cooler than a classic pillarbox red. The buttery ingredients pad out fine lines and feel really quenching, and a matte colour that doesn’t crack or pill is hard to find, especially one with change from a tenner."

Ruby Hammer Lip Serum Balm in Red, a pencil with a bright red sweep behind

(Image credit: Ruby Hammer)

7. Ruby Hammer Lip Serum Balm in Red

Best red lipstick shades for beginners

Specifications

RRP: £18
Finish: Shiny and sheer
Formula: Crayon
Tone: A true red

Reasons to buy

+
Hydrating
+
Non-scary sheer colour
+
Great for everyday wear

Reasons to avoid

-
Doesn't last very long

Still feeling intimidated by reds? Start with a less blocky colour and opt for a sheer balm formula instead. This option is very wearable and combines lip care with colour. It's blended with a mix of natural oils and cocoa butter to deeply nourish, so it's also one of the best red lipstick shades if you're prone to chapped lips. Ruby Hammer specifically designed it to make it a wearable, everyday red. "My top tip for starting to wear reds when you're not feeling confident is to opt for a sheer colour. You can apply the red and then use your fingers or a brush to pat and smooth out the edges. You can build it up as you feel more confident."

Beauty Editor Jess Beech is a fan of this crayon. "I always recommend this to people who are just as cautious of reds as I am. It gives a lovely wash of colour without looking too out there, and I love that it's so hydrating too."

Max Factor Colour Elixir Lipstick in Tangerine, with a bright swatch next to it

(Image credit: Max Factor )

8. Max Factor Colour Elixir Lipstick in Tangerine

Best lipstick for people with cool undertones

Specifications

RRP: £9
Finish: Satin
Formula: Bullet lipstick
Tone: Warm, orange-red

Reasons to buy

+
Feels comfortable on lips
+
Less intimidating than a matte
+
Cheering, zingy red
+
Available in 29 other shades

Reasons to avoid

-
Not for all complexions

Satin lipsticks are a great go-between for mattes and shine, so they're a great place to start if this your first venture to finding your best red lipstick shades. Max Factor's offering is available in 29 shades but Tangerine tipped the others to the top spot, thanks to the joy-sparking, zingy red tone. The formula is also incredibly soothing on lips, and won't dry out your pout as much as many of the other reds on the market. It's blended with Vitamin E and Avocado oil so it feels really comfortable on lips all day long.

Beauty Editor Stephanie Maylor particularly enjoys this shade. She says, "in the sunnier months I like a brighter, orange-tinted red and this is a great one at a fantastic price point. I love the gold packaging too, which makes it feel luxe."

L'Oreal Paris Volume Intense Matte 336 Rouge Avant-Garde Lipstick

(Image credit: L'Oreal Paris)

9. L'Oreal Paris Volume Intense Matte in Rouge Avant-Garde

Best red lipstick for people with warm skintones

Specifications

RRP: £9.99
Finish: Matte
Formula : Slim solid bullet
Tone: A cool blue-toned red

Reasons to buy

+
Affordable
+
A rich-looking red
+
Great for on the go

Reasons to avoid

-
Can be slightly smudgy

L'Oreal Paris' Color Riche lipsticks are industry classics but this newer, slimmer lipstick in their collection really caught our eye. It means you can have better control when you're applying the colour, and it slots nicely into compact handbags. The blue-toned shade 'Rouge Avant-Garde' works beautifully on warm skin tones, to balance things out.

I love this lipstick. As a red lip connoisseur, it's a big deal that this is one of my current favourites - I've tried them all! It's matte without feeling too dry, and I really like the slim bullet which gives a really precise application. I keep it in my handbag, and it instantly improves my outfit - and mood.

ELF SRSLY SATIN LIPSTICK in cherry, with a cherry-red swatch at the side

(Image credit: e.l.f)

10. e.l.f SRSLY SATIN LIPSTICK in Cherry

Best bargain red lipstick

Specifications

RRP: £4
Finish: Satin
Formula: Solid bullet
Tone: Cool deep red

Reasons to buy

+
Brilliant price
+
Vegan-friendly
+
Sheer, wearable colour

Reasons to avoid

-
Pigment not super bright

You don't have to spend a lot of money to try the best red lipstick shades - this bargain buy gives you change from a fiver. It's available in 10 shades so you can experiment with a few different tones without breaking the bank. It's in that great, wearable satin texture too. We picked 'cherry' as a favourite - a jammy, berry red.

On testing, we were really impressed with the colour and the ease of application. Ok, so maybe it's not the most vibrant colour, but if you're looking for an everyday, crowd-pleasing red, then this is a brilliant option. They have a cool-toned and a warm-toned option, so there's one to suit all. 

Yves Saint Laurent Rouge Volupte Shine Lipstick in 83 Rouge Cape in gorgeous gold packaging

(Image credit: Yves Saint Laurent Beauté)

11. Yves Saint Laurent Rouge Volupte Shine Lipstick in 83 Rouge Cape

Best luxury red lipstick

Specifications

RRP: £32
Finish: Solid bullet lipstick
Formula: Shiny
Tone: A deep, cool-toned red

Reasons to buy

+
Luxury packaging
+
A flattering, high-shine colour
+
Won't dry out lips

Reasons to avoid

-
Expensive 

On the other hand, if you do have the budget for a bigger spend, this joyful option is one of our fanciest favourites. This lipstick had us at first glance - it has a gorgeous gold tube that feels pleasingly heavy and expensive. The colour also happens to be pretty gorgeous - a cool, berry-skewed red that looks really rich and luxurious. It's a unique oil-blended formula, that glides onto lips and helps instantly overhaul any dry patches.

Beauty Director Sarah Cooper-White loved using this fancy buy. "These YSL lipsticks make great Christmas presents - they look so glamorous, have gorgeous colours available, and the designer brand makes it feel extra special. I like the slightly shiny finish that this colour gives off, which helps lips look fuller."

Does dark red lipstick look good on everyone?

“Honest truth, no,” says make-up artist Ruby Hammer who has her own make-up line. “People often apply it wrong, choose the wrong tone for their skin type or don’t wear it with confidence – and in these cases, it won’t look right.” 

However, there is hope! “But - there is a red lipstick for everyone and once you find it – it can look really good!”

Global Senior Artist for MAC Cosmetics, Dominic Skinner, loves a dark red lip. ”Dark red lip colours are the ultimate vamp look and suit anyone. It’s very old school Hollywood femme fatale.”

Do red lips make you look older?

According to senior make-up artist Skinner, it’s all about how you wear your red lipstick. “Red lips on their own is not going to age you. It’s how you combine the red lip with other makeup that will cause this effect.” He explains.

“If you apply a red lip with lots of eyeshadow and base it could look dated and too much. On the flip side, if you wore a red lip with fresh dewy skin and a wash of mascara it could take years off you.”

We spoke to the following beauty experts: