young beautiful lady with big frizzy curls and red lips

It's one of the ironies in the modern era of makeup that as the clothing women wear take on masculine overtones (like this fall's matched suits and tweeds), the trends in makeup become stronger — sexier, if you will.

One of the hallmarks of this look is the red lip. Everyone can wear red lipstick — everyone! It doesn't matter if you're a pale, Nordic princess, or a dark, nubian queen; there is a shade of red for you. The trick is finding the shade and formulation that doesn't make you look like a refugee from clown school.

Match Your Skin Tone

Start with your skin tone. Are you warm, cool or neutral? I could spend this entire column on the topic (and will at a later date), but the quick method should give you a general idea as a starting point. Look at the veins on the underside of your forearms. If they show up blue against your skin, you most likely have a cool skin tone. If they show up green, you have a warm skin tone. Some lucky people have very neutral tones and can wear any shade.

Cool skin tones find their perfect complement in blue-reds. These tend to look more pink or purple as you veer away from true red. Warm skin tones look best in yellow reds, with orange and brown tones to them. If you have yellowing teeth (due to gasp smoking, too much Starbucks or drug therapy), a blue-red shade will make your teeth look whiter. And if that isn't most favourable to your skin tone, try a sheer gloss that's only a degree or two more blue than true red.

In selecting a red, consider the formulation of the product. The dark matte reds worn by the screen sirens of the 1930s and 40s are still available, but there are many more options around today to make it easier to wear this most dramatic of colours — frosts, creams, transparents and glosses abound.

Be aware that you will leave your mark when wearing red lipstick. Most glosses will not last, no matter how hard you try. In order to attempt to keep the colour on your lips instead of on your coffee cup or your child's forehead, there are a few tricks to try.

Prepare Your Lips

Exfoliate! Red lipstick requires healthy lips as a base. Use a rough wash cloth or old toothbrush to exfoliate your lips and liberally apply your favourite lip balm. Then use lip liner! A nude liner shade will work so that you won't need to worry about matching, however Revlon;s Red is a reasonably priced one to try. After lining, use a lip brush to fill in your lips with the desired colour, being careful not to go outside the line. Then take a single ply of tissue, put it over your lips and lightly dust powder through the tissue. Apply a second coat of lipstick over the powder. Voilà!

Another solution would be to try one of the long-wear lipsticks on the market: Revlon Colorstay Overtime, Estée Lauder All Day, Max Factor's Lipfinity, Clinique Stay-the-Day and Cover Girl Outlast, among others. Or try Benefit's She-Laq over your favourite lippie.Will all this in mind, I armed myself with a fresh tube of Blistex and sacrificed my lips in the search for the perfect red! I've tried to find something at all price points in warm (W), cool (C) and true (T) reds.

Hot Red Lip Colors

  • Benefit: Benetint - either the original or the lip balm; cool shade that's adaptable to warm tones.
  • Bobbi Brown Essentials: Red (T)
  • Clinique: Red Hot (T), Earth Red (W), Plush Red (C)
  • Dior: Kiss Gloss in Caramel Apple (T)
  • Lancôme: Juicy Wear in Candy Apple (W), Seductive Berry (C)
  • L'Oréal: Invincible in Crimson Joy (C), Fired Up (W)
  • MAC: Lipstick-n- Ruby Woo (T), Russian Red (W), MAC Red (C); Lipglass in Russian Red
  • Make Up Forever: True Red
  • Revlon: Super Lustrous in Fire & Ice (W), Cherries in the Snow (C), Love That Red (T)
  • Rimmel: Shine Temptation (sheer) in Hot to Trot (C), Heat (W)

As for me, whenever my inner Rita Hayworth strikes, I reach for one color —MAC's Rage.