How to select the perfect red lipstick for your complexion

Marilyn Monroe is the poster child for the classic red lip. It’s bold, glamorous and a little bit sexy.

Synonymous with femininity, this iconic beauty staple is always in style and can transform any look – it just takes some confidence.

One way to gather up the courage to wear a red lip is knowledge. Knowledge is power and the more you understand about the shades you’re buying and how to apply the product the more comfortable you’ll be.

When faced with 20 different shades of red lipstick it can be really overwhelming, especially if you’re just getting started. A lot of people say “I can’t wear a red lipstick” however it’s not as intimidating as it may seem, it’s usually just because people haven’t found a colour or texture that’s right for them.

Let’s start with finding the right shade for your complexion.

Firstly, you need to understand the difference between your skin’s surface tone and undertone.

Your skin’s surface tone is the colour you’d describe yourself as (light, medium, dark) and your skin’s undertone is the colour under the surface (cool or warm).

This relates back to the four colour palettes:
Spring  Warm – light, bright, clear
Autumn  Warm – rich, soft, muted
Winter  Cool – clear, bright, intense
Summer  Cool – soft, muted, pastel

Cool Complexions

For those with a cooler complexion (pink, red or bluish undertones) it is best to look for classic blue-based reds.

Try Jane Iredale’s Hot PlayOn Lip Crayon or Passion Lip Fixation for a long lasting matte finish.

Warm Complexions

Women with a warm complexion (olive, peachy and golden undertones) should try to source reds that are infused with orange hues – think deep oranges and bright corals.

We love Jane Iredale’s Peach Lip Pencil applied all over the lips for a matte finish or Saucy PlayOn Lip Crayon for a vibrant orange red.

Warm Soft Complexions need a Brick Red

You need warmth and depth. I like to combine Peach or Spice Lip Pencil with Melody PureMoist Lipstick and top off with Crabapple Lip Gloss.

Cool Porcelain Complexions – think Snow White

A milky porcelain complexion and dark hair lends itself well to deeper shades of wine and berry reds. Try jane iredale’s PlayOn Lip Crayons in Naughty and Luscious, or Berry Lip Pencil with Annette PureMoist Lipstick.

Remember dark colours contract so these gorgeous rich tone are better on the full lipped women. If you have thin lips I would select a lighter shade of red and add gloss.

Cool Medium to Dark Complexions

A medium to dark complexion looks stunning when combined with a deeper classic red such as Cindy PureMoist Lipstick and Crimson Lip Pencil.

Pair this with a black winged liner and you’ll have the ultimate red carpet look.

Cool Soft to Light Complexions need a Raspberry Red

A medium soft red such as Karen PureMoist Lipstick and Rose Lip Pencil with a small dab of Red Current Gloss give you a strong red that is not too harsh – this is my red.

How to Create the Perfect Red Lip in 5 Simple Steps

1.  First remove any surface dryness. Try Sugar & Butter Lip Scrub for a smooth and polished finish.

2. Ensure the skin tone around your mouth is even and free from any redness, use foundation or concealer and take right up to the lip line, dust a very light layer of translucent powder over the edges of the lip, this will create a matte barrier to help prevent your lip colour from bleeding.

Now you now have a few options:

3. Outline your lips with a lip pencil. This is useful if you need to improve or balance the shape or your lips.

Once you have drawn the line, take take a clean firm brush such as the Detail Brush to blend away any obvious hard edges or lines, then follow with your lip colour.

4. The best way to apply your lip colour is with a lip brush. This will help keep your outline precise and have your lipstick last longer.

5. Gloss – the question of gloss or no gloss is a matter of personal style. Gloss is light reflective so it will make your lips look fuller, place a small dot in the centre of your lips to add pout if you don’t want a wet look.


For the precise application of red lipstick without outlining your lips first, try applying your lipstick with the Bent Liner Brush, it’s pointed tip gives you the precision of a lip pencil so your outline will be spot on every time.

If you’re concerned that your red shade will be too bold, why not try wearing the same shade as more of a stain? You can try dabbing a little on the lips so the coverage is more transparent.

Try using jane iredale Forever Red Just Kissed Lip and Cheek Stain for a sheer and long lasting colour. This lip stain looks different on everyone and changes according to your skin tone, I love it for a sheer beach look.

Also to avoid getting red lipstick on your teeth or the inside or your lip, pop a tissue around your index finger and slip between your lips to remove any excess or as Naomi Campbell says just suck your thumb!

Once you have applied your lipstick, go back and clean up the edges of the mouth using your foundation, concealer or complexion powder, by using a brush such as the Angle Liner.

Remember lipstick is meant to be fun – enjoy your Marilyn moment.