We’ve already discussed the many, many questions one must answer whilst questing for the perfect red lipstick. But once you’ve found your ultimate red, where do you go from there? How do you apply it without getting the dreaded clown lips? How do you keep your red lipstick in place and avoid smearing? And what are some back-up plans you can keep in the corner of your mind in case something bad happens on a red lipsticked night on the town?
A Few Irrefutable Truths
Before I break down basic red lipstick application, there are a few need-to-know facts that you…um, need to know.
First and foremost: it’s a tad ridiculous to expect your makeup to look freshly-applied perfect for 12 hours. I’m not denying the existence of “Holy Grail” products that look lovely for your entire work day, longwear lipsticks that stick to your skin like paint on a canvas, or setting sprays and powders that hold everything in place for a few hours longer. Those things definitely exist. But if you’re expecting your red lipstick to stay perfect for hours on end, you’re most likely going to be disappointed. That’s the beauty of makeup: it’s made to be removable so you can try something new the next day! I’ll certainly give you a few tips and tricks that can help prolong the wear of your lipstick, but again, keep your expectations realistic.
In the same vein, you should be prepared to touch up your lipstick if you plan on drinking a lot or eating oily foods. People who wear a lot of dark eye makeup often keep q-tips and an extra liner or brow pencil in their purse; red lipstick deserves the same amount of real estate. If I go out wearing red, I always throw the actual lipstick or a similarly-colored lip liner and a few q-tips in to my bag for touch-ups. Red lips are easy-to-do when you get the hang of them, but provide a lot of pow, so I don’t mind touching them up every few hours.
And if you must add gloss for a little extra shine, do yourself a favor and go easy on it. The nature of gloss is to be shinier and more liquidy than the average lipstick, but because it is so slick, it’ll slick off some of your lipstick and may make it bleed outside of your natural lip line. The best way to prevent this is to use the tiniest dab of gloss on the center of your lips, carefully avoiding the corners of your mouth and the very edges of your lips, and of course, bring your products along for touch-ups
Red lipstick can also bring out the red in your face, which means it may make acne and rosacea more pronounced. Make sure you use a good foundation and concealer to cover up any redness or spots on your face before you apply your lipstick.
Basic Red Lipstick Application
First, select your lipliner and lipstick. You want them to be roughly the same shade of red. Begin by outlining your natural lip line using short, feathery strokes. Don’t just drag the pencil around your lips in one continuous line; this will almost always result in an uneven shape. If you want to make your lips appear slightly larger, you can outline the very edges of your lips, but overdrawing them too much can look ridiculous. If your top and bottom lip are two very different sizes, consider watching Lisa Eldridge’s video for some helpful tips.
Fill in the rest of your lips with the lip liner. This will prevent your lip color from fading away completely and give your lipstick something to “stick” to.
Now apply your lipstick over top, starting with the center of your lips and carefully working out to the edges. Use your fingertips to dab a bit of the lipstick in to the very corners of your mouth; this will give you a uniform look, not a clownish one. I prefer to apply my lipstick directly from the bullet, but if a lip brush works better for you, stick with that.
Place a piece of tissue or toilet paper between your lips. Then, gently roll your lips over the tissue. This blots away some of the excess moisture and product, improving your lip color’s staying power. Apply another layer of lipstick.
Clean up the edges of your lips and any mistakes with a cotton bud. This gives you a soft but precise lip line. If you want an exceptionally sharp lip line, you can use a concealer pencil or a small amount of cream/liquid concealer on a brush around the edges of your mouth. You must have a concealer that’s exactly the same shade as your skin, however, and you must apply and blend the concealer very carefully, so practice this trick at home first.
Last, but most certainly not least: make an “L” with your thumb and pointer forefinger, pucker your lips, and pull your pointer finger in and out of your mouth. It sounds disgusting, but it pulls off the excess lipstick from the very insides of your lips, preventing the dreaded “lipstick on teeth” look.
Other Application Methods and Tip
1. Don’t want a full-on red lip? Apply it more sheerly. Instead of applying the product with a brush or directly from the bullet, rub a clean finger on to the lipstick, then tap it on to your lips. This will give you a stained effect. It’s especially nice for people who want a more natural look or who are just starting to wear stronger lip colors.
2. You can also use the fingertip trick to create a matching cream blush. Apply a little bit of your lipstick to the back of your hand in a “swatch”. Dab your finger in to the swatch and blend the product on to your cheeks.
3. Some red lip liners are incredibly pigmented, smooth, and beautiful in their own right, so there’s no shame in wearing them as stand-alone lip colors! This is especially convenient for travel, since pencils are so small, light, and melt-proof. Just outline and fill in your lips with the liner, then pat on a bit of lip balm.
4. Have you considered using a taklon paint brush to apply your lipstick? They’re generally cheaper than lip brushes, but come in many small sizes and unique shapes.
What To Wear
So if you plan on rockin’ red lipstick…what should you do with the rest of your makeup? The real answer to that question is, “Whatever you damn well please.” At the end of the day, it’s your face to makeup as you like.
But I do have three looks to recommend: the classic pin-up look, which harkens back to the 50s, the sheer red look, which works well with slightly stronger eye makeup, and the modern “metro” look, which evokes city chic. All of these looks are easy to achieve and work on the idea that the face should be kept “in balance” (which I’ll explain more in my next post).
A pin-up look revolves around a strong, but generally not-too-glossy, lip and some cat eyeliner. Because the eye and lip makeup are both quite intense, it’s usually best to use a very soft, neutral blush, or skip blush altogether. I personally find that pin-up looks are at that best when they’re full-blown glamorous, which flawless foundation, precise lines, and a set of false eyelashes. Cat eyeliner is actually incredibly easy to do and is a mainstay in my makeup routine; for tips on getting the perfect flick, check out this post on my blog.
If you’re in to a softer, sheerer red, consider pairing it with a darker eye. Here, I used a sheer berry gloss and a warm coral blush to compliment a gold and brown smoky eye. It’s perfectly plausible to wear red lipstick with a lot of eyeshadow, especially if one is sheer and soft while the other is dark and strong.
Wearing a bright lipstick and keeping the rest of the face seemingly bare is often considered a more “modern” and “appropriate” way to wear red lipstick than, say, the pin-up look. I certainly don’t agree that this sort of look is better than any other, but it’s definitely a beautiful look I think everyone should try! With this kind of makeup, it’s best to keep the skin looking very healthy, but natural and not “overdone”; use a sheer foundation and plenty of illuminating products to give your lips a beautiful canvas.
Check out Lisa E’s video about adjusting your lip shape!
Check out my cat eyeliner post!
RENEE IS A FORMER ENGLISH TEACHER AND FOREVER MAKEUP ADDICT CURRENTLY CAUGHT IN RETAIL HELL. SHE LEARNED MOST OF HER MAKEUP “SKILLS” BY READING KEVYN AUCOIN BOOKS, BROWSING INTERNET FORUMS, AND FORCING HER FRIENDS TO POSE FOR PHOTOSHOOTS. HER FAVORITE MAKEUP ITEMS INCLUDE OBNOXIOUSLY BRIGHT LIPSTICKS, SUPER-SHINY HIGHLIGHTERS, AND FOUNDATIONS THAT ACTUALLY MATCH HER OH-SO-WHITE SKIN. WHEN RENEE’S NOT SCANNING PRODUCE, SHE’S BUYING TACKY CLOTHES, SENDING OUT JOB APPLICATIONS, AND POSTING MORE DRIVEL TO HER BLOG, “BAD OUTFIT, GREAT LIPSTICK.“