Red lipsticks are completely gorgeous and completely classic. Everyone can wear red lipstick but the key is finding the shades that work with your undertones. Using the undertones in your skin ensures a good match in a red lipstick, which often pull shades of other colors, such as blue or orange. If you cannot tell by looking at your face, look at the skin and veins on the underside of your forearm. Blue and pink-tinged is cool; yellow, peach, golden is warm; no obvious colors or slightly green is neutral. This is also helpful for picking out a foundation.

The good news about red lipsticks is that there are hundreds of reds on the market, in a variety of finishes. The bad news is that it will likely take some trial and error, but we have tips and suggestions so that you can more easily find that perfect red lipstick.

Cool undertones: Your complexion is likely fair or light when you have cool undertones. Blue and purple-based reds work best for these undertones. The Bite Beauty Amuse Bouche Lipstick (satin) in Gazpacho or the Anastasia Beverly Hills Liquid Lipstick (matte) in Sarafine are great blue-reds to try. For a more purple base, check out the Revlon Super Lustrous Lipstick in Bombshell.
Warm undertones: Complexions often range from medium through deep. You will want to try a red lipstick that skews slightly orange. Look for the MAKE UP FOR EVER Artist Rouge Lipstick (satin) in Vermilion Red or the Givenchy Le Rouge Lipstick (satin) in Mandarine Bolero.
Neutral: For complexions of all shades, a neutral undertone means all shades of red will look fantastic on you. Go for any of the above or something deeper like the Urban Decay Vice Lipstick (mega matte) in Hex.

A true, candy-apple-red lipstick, such as the NARS Velvet Matte Lipstick Pencil in Dragon Girl, can work for all complexions and undertones.

Before investing in any red lipstick, always try it on. And if you do not want to test on your lips (we don’t blame you!), try the underside of your forearm (yep, that again—it’s the closest to your face complexion), to get a feel for what it will look like once you are wearing it. You don’t need to get matchy-matchy with your lipliner either, but you do need one. Just go for a liner in a nude-for-you shade. We love the NYX Slim Lip Pencils, which are budget-friendly and come in a variety of shades.

Now that you’ve found that perfect shade, you do want to nail the application, so as not to look like Ms. Geist. Even with a long-wearing, no-transfer, no-feather, no-bleed red lipstick, you want to start with a lip primer, such as this NYX version. Then, fill in your lips with a lip liner. Apply your lipstick with a lip brush for a super precise application. Fix any mistakes with a cotton swab dipped (the pointed ones work well) in eye makeup remover.

What’s your favorite red lipstick?

Lia is a makeup addict in Washington, D.C. When not at her digital marketing day job, she explores all things beauty and works as personal makeup shopper. She enjoys a strong latte in the mornings and a strong cocktail in the evenings.