Guide to Wearing Red Lipstick

So you want to wear red lipstick HECK YEAH. Go red lipstick. It is awesome! But for every one person I see talking about how great red lipstick is, I see three people lamenting “oh I can’t wear red lipstick!” That’s a flat out lie. Don’t lie to yourself. Beyoncé wouldn’t want it that way.

“But ooh oh oh Emma. I really don’t look ‘good’ in red lipstick!” We’ll get to those scare quotes at the very end, but first the main point of this whole thing: there is a red lipstick for everyone. I promise promise promise. Now get ready to go back to elementary school and let me drop some primary color knowledge

Remember this?? It’s the color wheel ~~~~woooo~~~. Find the red. Okay, got it?
Now red is a primary color. Which means it can used with other primary colors to make other colors (red + blue = purple and red + yellow = orange!). So red is the color of the lipstick you are trying to put on your beautiful face. Yes. Obviously. We’re all here for the same reason.

Now we are going to momentarily talk about the color of your skin and think about where it fits into a spectrum of all the colors of skin. You are probably thinking of a color spectrum from light to dark. That is a part of it! BUT this is an oversimplification of what skin looks like. You are thinking about the pigmentation of someone’s skin. What we need to think about is the undertones of your skin. Now some of you may have heard of this before, maybe you haven’t. But it is the magical key to unlock red lipstick.
Take a look at my face and my little sister’s face.

We’re both super pale! (Also super cute!) We both have dark hair and light eyes. But look good is drastically different colors. This is because I have cool undertones (sometimes called pink or blue) and Julianna has yellow undertones (sometimes called olive)
Think about what color you get complimented on the most when you wear it. That is the easier way to determine this. I look great in teal! Julianna looks great in turquoise! I look great in persimmon. Julianna looks great in coral!

Emma vs. Julianna

Now we are returning to the color wheel we talked about earlier. Colors are usually groups into the cool and warm group like this: cool: blue, green, purple vs. warm: red, yellow, orange.

But first let’s look at those colors Jules and I look good in... 
Teal and turquoise are both variations of the primary color blue, but they have different undertones. Teal on the bluer side of green-blues, so it is a cool blue. Two definitely cool colors coming together to make a cool color! Turquoise is on the yellow-green side of blues because it is a blue plus a yellowy green. (Yellow’s a warm color!) While it is doesn't make it a “warm” color (it is still blue!), we can say it  has warm undertones.

This happens with secondary colors too, but it feels more complicated, especially with orange. You know how orange is the color that everyone loves to hate on? Or people say that no one looks good in orange? That is because it is the only main color that is made by putting two of the same color family together red (warm) + yellow (warm) = orange (always warm), so it is hard for someone with cool undertones (like a lot of people have) to ever look great in a true orange. But I look good in persimmon because the orange has been what I am calling “greyed out”** basically by adding the opposite color on the color wheel (blue) to make it browner. This makes it both duller, but also more neutral. Julianna with her warm undertones can wear most oranges all the live long day (except Tennessee Orange. Obviously)
More about greying out** if you don’t quite get it yet: think about sage green. The stereotypical bridesmaid dress color. Not everyone looks good in green (typically a cool color). But sage green has been “greyed out” by the addition of a little bit of red hue to the color. So the cool + warm color = neutral color! Also a muted tone. This is why most bridesmaid dresses are muted colors. They have been mixed so they look good on everyone (or look great on no one. depending how you see it). (Navy would be another example, a really warm blue, or lilac, a warmer redder purple)

So think about what you think the undertones might be for the colors you look good. I am an extreme cool case and Jules is more of a neutral/warm. You could be neutral and look well in just about everything, but maybe mostly really saturated colors. Like that big neon trend! Or a super white t shirt. But it really does help to remove pigmentation from your thought process. Anne Hathaway and I wear similar colors, but so do me and Lupita Nyong’o. There will be variations based on hair color and skin tones, but the undertones places us together in one camp. 

So we are talking about red lipstick and which ones you should wear. BUT THE ANSWER HAS ALREADY BEEN REVEALED. We are looking at three potential undertones for red lipstick (there are tons of other stuff to factor into your fave lipstick. but this is what is going to make you look good. the other stuff is personal preference.)

Just like the way you think about colors in general now, apply it to lipstick. 
Here are some examples and one more thing to think about: if I wore any of the blue reds below, they would look more neutral, since my skin and their pigment is in the same undertone family. Those color look natural on me. When I wear something like NARS Heatwave, really not an orange but an orange red, it literally looks like I put an orange highlighter on my lips. That is because color perception is relative to the things it is next too. 

BLUE RED: Mac’s big three of reds are all blue reds, MAC Red,Ruby Woo and Russian Red, Revlon Certainly Red, NARS Scarlet Empress

NEUTRAL RED: Revlon Really Red (most colors that are red plus a veracity qualifier are true reds), Mac Relentlessly Red (though a little more orange-y), NARS Jungle Red (I think “retro” reds are usually a bit more orangey though), NARS Cruella (though maybe a bit cool), NARS Dragon Girl (bright bright true red)

ORANGE RED (this color could be called yellow red to reference the undertones but then everyone might think we were talking about…orange lipstick): Revlon Fire & Ice, Revlon Love That Red, NARS Heat Wave

It can be helpful to shop for brands that come with descriptors: MAC and NARS are the most evocative and clear for me and sometimes you can find descriptors of drugstore brands online. But like anything that says “blue red” or “cool red” I can be pretty confident purchasing. Same goes for someone who warm undertones “coral” “orange” “brick” are good words to look for. The more neutral ones are more universally flattering.

Now for my caveat from the beginning: honest to god, you can wear whatever lipstick color you want. Let me repeat YOU CAN WEAR WHATEVER LIPSTICK COLOR YOU WANT. Peacock blue. Black. Blush pink. Anything. Your lips, your rules. While you might want the color that compliments your skin tone the most, you can also wear something that isn't your best shade if you like it! I love wearing a brick red lipstick, an orange red which is not “my color” but so what? I love it! I also love wearing bright purple lipsticks which are totally my color, but are way more unconventional than saturated reds.
I even bought a coral lipstick the other day. But a really really pink coral! And I love it!

**if you do happen to buy a lipstick that you just feel like you look awful in, here’s what I recommend so it doesn’t just wallow in a drawer. Put a layer of nude lipstick on first. Like your “naked but better color.” Mine right now is Revlon matte balm in Elusive. (I have really pink lips!) But by putting that on, and it being the same color as my lips, I am letting my natural color mix with the color of the lipstick. So it may never be your most flattering shade, but it will be wearable, if you want to try different colors outside your comfort zone.
But really remember
You do you and you can’t go wrong.

Thank you to Emma for writing this for me! If you have more makeup questions, you can ask her here.

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