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9 Tricks to Apply Red Lipstick Like a Makeup Artist

It’s classic but notoriously hard to pull off. Here’s your guide to getting the perfect red lip.

Clockwise from top left: iStock/Lorado, iStock/Makidotvn, iStock/mapodile, iStock/AIMSTOCK

Pick your perfect shade

“People hear ‘red’ and think ‘fire-engine red.’ But red is for everybody,” says makeup artist Katrina Hess. Bright cherry red might not be your thing, but you can go for a darker or sheerer shade. She recommends using your fingertips, which are the same shade as your lips, to test a color, then holding your hand next to your lips to get a sense of how it’ll look. If you don’t know where to start, take a look at the undertones of your skin, says Jessica Mae, founder, creative director, and makeup artist of WarPaint International Beauty Agency. Warmer undertones pair well with warm reds with a coral or orange base, while cooler undertones look nice with blue-based shades like a classic Hollywood glam red, she says. (Now that you know how to apply lipstick, these are the different lipstick shades every woman needs in her life.)

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Smooth the surface

With a bold lip, you want the attention to be on your daring color choice, not how dry and flaky your lips are. “With a sophisticated matte lipstick, you need smooth, hydrated lips,” Hess says. She likes to exfoliate with a store-bought sugar scrub but says you can make your own by mixing raw sugar and honey into a paste. Don’t miss these makeup mistakes that make your skin look dry.


Add moisture

To apply lipstick like a pro, keep any more cracks and flakes from forming by getting your lips hydrated. Hess recommends organic argan oil—anything that’s too shiny could ruin the color of your lipstick. Do your face and eye makeup while waiting for your oil or balm to work its magic, Mae says. “It gives it the opportunity, even if for just five minutes, to allow the lip to be moisturized,” she says. (This is what your lipstick color says about your personality.)


Give your lipstick a base

You might want to start with lip primer if you’re concerned that your color will fade, but a sharp lip liner is even more essential to getting a crisp, long-lasting color. “Typically lip liner is more waxy, so it holds it in place and prevents bleeding,” Mae says. Check out these makeup tricks that make you photo ready.


Use a lip brush

A bold color requires a bit more control when applying it. “If you take a tube and wipe it back and forth, you’ll get way too much product on,” Hess says. A lip brush, on the other hand, makes it easier to get a thin layer that doesn’t travel outside your lip line. Applying lipstick from the center of the lip up will make your lips even more full, she says.


Set the color

Keep your color in place with translucent powder. Lay a tissue over your lips, then use a powder brush to distribute the product over your mouth. The powder will go through the tissue to set the color, Mae says. After it’s set, you can add another thin layer of lipstick, Hess says. (Now that you know the secrets on how to apply lipstick, this is the secret to picking the perfect red lipstick.)


Make it crisp

If you end up with lipstick where you didn’t want it, pull out your concealer or foundation to rescue your look. “Use a concealer brush to carefully run it around the line of your lips to get that crisp edge and clean up any little accidents you had when applying,” Mae says. A pencil product makes it especially easy to get a clean line, she says. Here’s how to fix these other sloppy makeup mistakes.


Go for gloss

For a bit of sparkle or shine, you can finish with a gloss, but be warned that it probably won’t last long and could take the rest of your lipstick with it, Mae says. “Because it’s tacky and sticky and wet, it will come off no matter what,” she says. If a glossy lip is the look you want, she recommends using a liquid lipstick rather than a traditional tube. Liquid is drier and longer lasting than regular lipstick, so even if your gloss slides off, the base color will stick around longer. Use these tricks to make your makeup last in the heat.


Strike the right balance

A smoky eye could be overpowering with a red lip, especially during the day, though it’s all about personal preference, Mae says. To avoid an overly heavy makeup look, Hess recommends picking two out of three when it comes to eyes, lips, and face. Pair red lips with either a bold eye or bold, contoured cheeks—but not both, she says. Read these simple makeup tips that make your eyes pop.

Reader's Digest
Originally Published in Reader's Digest

Marissa Laliberte
Marissa Laliberte-Simonian is a London-based associate editor with the global promotions team at WebMD’s and was previously a staff writer for Reader's Digest. Her work has also appeared in Business Insider, Parents magazine, CreakyJoints, and the Baltimore Sun. You can find her on Instagram @marissasimonian.