Home > Red Lips 101: A Guide For Beginners

Red Lips 101: A Guide For Beginners

I love red lipstick. It’s sexy, classic and makes anyone look beautiful. Like a beautiful pair of heels, sparkling diamonds or classic pearl earrings, red lips are eternally in fashion. If you doubt this, look at pictures of Cleopatra – one of the last Egyptian pharaohs (and total beauty) who’d crush semi-precious stones, beetles and ants to make her own fabulous scarlet-hued lipstains.

Ottawa Blogger Style Domination Red Lipstick for Beginners Cleopatra
Cleopatra with her brick red lips…I wonder if that’s MAC Cosmetics Film Noir she’s wearing….

Red lips can also be intimidating. I understand the hesitancy to wear a shade so bright, sexy and attention-grabbing. Maybe this stems from really old thinking (I’m talking dated and sexist thinking of how “harlots” and prostitutes only wore red lipstick. Hello 1700s!!). Thankfully, as cosmetics became popular, women started embracing a range of beauty products including rouge and mascara.

In the early 1900s, smarty-pants Maurice Levy invented the first tube of lipstick. Before his invention, women carried lipstick made of beeswax, deer tallow and castor oil wrapped in silk paper. You couldn’t pay me enough to carry that potential disaster in a designer bag – no way. By 1923, lipstick as we know it, housed in a metal swivel tube, was patented and heavy-hitters such Chanel began making lipsticks in still-popular shades such as Pirate and the rest is history.

Now…how to actually wear red liptick without looking clowny? The key is finding the best shade for you. Let’s start with skin tones. Choosing a shade that is too yellow or too cold will quickly take you from sultry Marilyn Monroe to hideously creepy Pennywise the Clown.

Pennywise the Clown Ottawa Blogger Style Domination Halloween Fashion Blog
Lord Jesus in Heaven above!!!

Alright – Red Lips 101 is in session!  Pay attention, Class!

Those with caramel complexions (think Rihanna) can pull off red lipsticks with warm, yellow tones well. Below, Rihanna is wearing MAC Cosmetics Lipstick in So Chaud – perfect for her.

Rihanna Red Lips Ottawa Blogger Style Domination Red Lipstick for Beginners
Caramel princess Rihanna wearing MAC So Chaud

Are you a very fair blond with a cool skintone? Bright red lipsticks with a hint of pink or raspberry will warm up those icy cool pinkish undertones in your skin. Try Bite’s Cashmere Lip Creme in Sancerre.

Margot Robbie Red Lips Ottawa Blogger Style Domination Red Lipstick for Beginners
It’s not fair to be this pretty.

Have beautiful, flame red hair (my favourite hair colour of all time)? Do NOT shy away from red lipsticks – they were made for you! Coral red lipsticks look fantastic on redheads. The orange tones in corally-red lipstick look beautiful especially on those with milky skintones with auburn hair. Give NYX Cosmetics’ Butter Lipstick in Hot Tamale a whirl.

On sale now at Amazon $5.93 (click pic below):

Christina Hendricks Holland Golden Red Lips Ottawa Blogger Style Domination Red Lipstick for Beginners
Gorgeous bombshell Christina Hendricks (left) and Holland Golden (right)

Brunettes with medium complexions really benefit from pinky-red lipsticks – think raspberry tones. Chanel Rouge Coco Hydrating Crème Lip Colour in Envoutante is calling all fair-toned brunettes!

Anne Hathaway Red Lips Ottawa Blogger Style Domination Red Lipstick for Beginners
Wow. So pretty – big bright eyes, full lips, so chic!

Brunettes with golden tones should try bright berry-coloured reds to enhance the golden warmth of their skin. A perfect example is Nars Satin Lip Pencil in Luxembourg.

Jamie Chung Red Lips Ottawa Blogger Style Domination Red Lipstick for Beginners
Gorgeous Jamie Chung

Those with olive-toned skin – think glimmering, summery tans and golden glows – should take advantage of all of the awesome orangey-reds out there! JLo should teach a class on this.  Avon’s Ultra Colour Lipstick in Tangerine Tango is a good one to try.

JLo Red Lips Ottawa Blogger Style Domination Red Lipstick for Beginners
Jennifer Lopez looking better than everyone at 46.  Just change your name to “J.Glow” already.

For all of my chocolate beauties out there, if you have dark skin with warm undertones blue-based reds were made for you. Think the immensely popular MAC Cosmetics’ Ruby Woo or Kiko Make Up Milano Ultra Glossy Stylo in #809 Ruby Red (shown on me below).

Jennifer Hudson Red Lips Ottawa Blogger Style Domination Red Lipstick for Beginners
Stylish Jennifer Hudson rocking MAC Ruby Woo
Red Lips Ottawa Blogger Style Domination Red Lipstick for Beginners
Me sporting my red lips this past Valentine’s Day!

For my dark chocolate ladies, you tend to have blue undertones. Reach for ruby red shades with a little golden shimmer to enhance that deep cocoaness! Lancôme L’Absolu Rouge Lipstick in Saffron Silk is perfect for your dark gorgeous skin tone.

Red Lips Ottawa Blogger Style Domination Red Lipstick for Beginners
Total cutie Lupita Nyong’o wearing Saffron Silk by Lancôme.

For those of you who are curious, in my header image, I am wearing MAC Cosmetics Marilyn Monroe Collection for Holiday 2012 Lipstick in Charmed I’m Sure which unfortunately is unavailable.  A great dupe is MAC Cosmetics Ruby Woo lipstick.

My outfit details (header image):

  • Shirt, Aritzia (no longer available, similar here)
  • Statement necklace, J.Crew (no longer available, similar here)

Have I missed anything? Let me know in the comments! Also, please share your favourite red lipsticks and identify your skintone too!


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Affiliate links used in this post. All proceeds made are used to make styledomination.com bigger, better and more awesome.

Dominique Baker
Dominique Baker

Dominique is a Canadian-based fashion and beauty influencer with a strong voice in Ottawa’s black community. Since launching her blog Style Domination in 2015, she has amassed a global fanbase. Dominique shares her life through beautiful imagery and compelling story-telling that speaks to her fans on a personal level. She’s been featured in The Guardian, Flare, The Kit and Cityline. She also hosts events for Dress for Success, the Gem Conference, and has been named a United Way Person 2 Know for the past three years.

Find me on: Web | Instagram

Leave a comment

  1. October 5, 2015 / 7:42 am

    The red lip is everything! It´s definitely effortless beauty guaranteed. I´m a huge fan of the red lip and just like Taylor Swift says: “And I got that red lip thing that you like…” Who doesn´t go crazy for a red lip. I like this most, is it obvious!!! haha

    • October 5, 2015 / 9:15 am

      The red lip is so sexy, right? It’s a definite go-to for me. Absolutely love it with black winged eyeliner! Haha – see? Taylor knows! LOL!

  2. October 5, 2015 / 1:46 pm

    I read a good tip once for wearing red lipstick. It suggested you apply it at least an hour before leaving the house, so that way you get used to seeing yourself with it on and don’t feel as self-conscious. It works!

    • October 6, 2015 / 11:16 pm

      Excellent, excellent tip! Jeez – I always apply it right before running out! Lol! Thanks for sharing!!

  3. October 5, 2015 / 1:48 pm

    Incredibly informative! I am neutral colouring but I do prefer something with a slight berry tone. I love how you provided examples for every colouring. 🙂

    • October 6, 2015 / 11:15 pm

      Thanks! I tried hard to cater to the myriad of beautiful skin tones out there. Thanks for reading!!!

  4. October 5, 2015 / 1:58 pm

    I prefer more brown reds as other shades of red look clownish on me. But a nice brown brick or rusty red I can pull off decently.

    • October 6, 2015 / 11:14 pm

      Good to know. I actually was looking for a good brick red example but couldn’t find any good pics. I have a nice brick/brown red lipstick, but for the life of me I can’t find it or remember the name! It’s by Bobbi Brown. Sigh.

      • October 6, 2015 / 11:25 pm

        I have one of the Revlon Colorburst Balm Stains in Adore, which is a pretty red-brown. Rust by Makeup Academy is a gorgeous rusty red-brown (borderline marsala shade).

  5. October 5, 2015 / 2:21 pm

    This was an awesome post! Love all the different suggestions. As I’m planning a hair colour revamp in my near future, having tips on what colours to aim for when I’m done is awesomely helpful!
    Here’s a question though. I’m AWFUL at the actual act of applying any colour darker than clear Chapstick. Tips for those of us who end up looking a smudgy mess?

    • October 6, 2015 / 11:13 pm

      Ooooh. I’ve been thinking about doing a YouTube video on this. Ok. Start with a lip pencil. There are a bunch of tips for keeping your lipstick where it should be including blotting with a Kleenex after applying, using long wear lippies (but they are drying) and applying a matching lip liner all over your lips before applying lipstick. I’ll add your question to my list of future blog posts and YouTube vids and give you a heads up once it’s up. Thanks, luv! xoxo

      • October 7, 2015 / 12:17 am

        Awesome! Thanks for the overall tips!

  6. October 6, 2015 / 5:53 am

    Such an amazing post Dominique; well thought out points and guidelines for lipstick amateurs. I can totally relate to the fear of wearing bold colors, especially red as once upon a time I only wore nude lipsticks and sparkly glosses. Let’s just say once you go bold … you never really come back. My current favorite lipstick color for fall is royal blue haha. Yeap my sparkly lip gloss days are definitely history!

    Xo. http://www.sonamnaiducreative.com

    • October 6, 2015 / 11:04 pm

      Royal blue! I would love to see that! You look so stunning in all of those deep, luxurious wine shades! Really highlight your exotic features. Thanks for reading, babe!

  7. October 6, 2015 / 11:23 am

    Love your intro pic. You look stunning!

    This post is spot on. I wrote a similar one last week, but didn’t go as in depth. Finding the perfect red lipstick and explaining the fundamentals is tough, but you nailed it. You are such a great writer and always entertaining. What I like about your post too is you often include a little history behind the topic. ??

    • October 6, 2015 / 11:03 pm

      Thanks, Asa! I feel including a little history helps to understand the item’s appeal. Reading your red lip guide now! xo

  8. October 6, 2015 / 7:38 pm

    Love how well written and well rounded the choices of red lip sticks are and the skintones as well. Everyone is included! Love it.

    • October 6, 2015 / 11:02 pm

      Thanks Joy! That was my goal – inclusion of as many skin tones as possible. I always hated those lipstick guides that only included white redheads, blondes and brunettes!! Thanks for reading!

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