You can quote me: red lipstick will always be in a league of its own. Everyone should own at least one, and it’s one of the few beauty trends that will forever be timeless and elegant. I shamelessly own over 200 red lipsticks (yes, I have a problem), but the beauty of my collection is that each and every shade is different. More than half of my collection falls into the category of a “dark” red, and I mean it when I say these rich, pigmented colors look good on everyone. A deep red will take your makeup look to the next level and steal the show. Trust me.
There is a red lipstick for everyone, but we are here to highlight the shades that are universally flattering. The reds that look good on all skin tones and all people, all the time. The reads that will turn heads. Ok, you get the point.
From drugstore gems to luxury picks worth your pennies, keep scrolling for the best dark red lipsticks you need, like now.
Best Overall: Pat McGrath Labs MatteTrance Lipstick
Who else recommends it? Cosmopolitan and Allure both picked the Pat McGrath Labs MatteTrance Lipstick.12
What do buyers say? 2,300+ Pat McGrath reviewers rated it 5 stars.
Meet one of my favorite reds of all time made by the one and only, Pat McGrath. When I tell you this sultry shade looks incredible on all skin tones, believe me. It was formulated with the fairest of fair and the richest of rich skin in mind, and we personally think they can consider it a success. Plus, a burst of color shows up in just one glide, make application easy and simple. The lip itself is long wear, and touch ups are far and few, but layer nicely on the lip with no uncomfortable or cakey feeling.
Shades: 28 | Size: 0.14 oz. | Finish: Matte | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: Yes
Best Drugstore: Maybelline New York SuperStay Matte Ink Liquid Lipstick
This drugstore gem of a lipstick is loved by celebrity makeup artists for a reason: it works. The brick-red shade gives us winter vibes, but when the look calls for it, this lip can be rocked year-round. It has 16-hour wear, but is easily removed when need be. The best part of it all? It’s affordable.
Shades: 36 | Size: 0.17 oz. | Finish: Matte | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: Yes
Best Splurge: Tom Ford Lip Color Matte
Courtesy of Sephora
If you’re looking to splurge and invest in a great lipstick, this one is for you. Trust that Tom Ford knows how to make a good red—this one screams “independent woman,” in my opinion. The matte lip is a long-wear formula packed with Vitamin C and E for a comfortable wear.
Shades: 11 | Size: 0.1 oz. | Finish: Velvet-Matte | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: Yes
Best Matte: Smashbox Always On Liquid Lipstick
Courtesy of Sephora
I’m such a fan of this collection of matte shades from Smashbox because they stay on without completely drying out your lips, which is quite honestly magic. If you want your lips to be the star of the show, reach for this red.
Shades: 22 | Size: 0.13 oz. | Finish: Metallic | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes
Best Liquid: KVD Beauty Everlasting Liquid Lipstick
Courtesy of Sephora
If there is one thing Kat Von D’s lipsticks are known for, it’s their long wear. These things could stay on for days (or so it feels). In the 42-shade lineup, this deep crimson color stands out from the pack. The liquid formula is vegan and cruelty free as well, for a guilt-free wear.
Shades: 15 | Size: 0.22 oz. | Finish: Matte | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes
Best Crayon: Laura Mercier Velour Extreme Matte Lipstick
Lip crayons are my favorite because they take things back to the basics. You can pop this in your bag and know you have a pretty, brown-based red readily available at all times for a quick slay. Despite its matte appearance, this crayon in particular is a creamy formula that sits comfortably on the lips.
Shades: 11 | Size: 0.035 oz. | Finish: Matte | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: Yes
Best for Fall: Urban Decay Vice Lipstick
Courtesy of Nordstrom
If you don’t own an Urban Decay lipstick, you… should. This line offers a rainbow of stunning shades, but I always find myself going back to Bad Blood when fall foliage hits. It’s a true red, if you will with a moisturizing and vibrant finish and vegan formula.
Shades: 35 | Size: 0.11 oz. | Finish: Creamy Matte, Creamiest Matte, Super Intense Matte, Metallic | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No
Best for Winter: Bobbi Brown Crushed Lip Color
This gorgeous cherry shade toes the line between a true berry and deep red hue. With moisturizing benefits of a balm, it’ll help keep your lips hydrated for hours.
Shades: 21 | Size: 0.12 oz. | Finish: Matte | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: Yes
Best Plumping: Sisley Le Phyto Rouge Lipstick
Courtesy of Nordstrom
This vibrant red, loved by Byrdie Editorial Director Faith Xue, is your next best secret to the perfect selfie. The formula is full of hyaluronic acid and konjac microspheres, so it has serious lip-plumping powers.
Shades: 24 | Size: 0.12 oz. | Finish: Luminous Satin | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: Yes
Best for Dry Lips: Flesh Beauty Strong Flesh Lipstick
You might as well call me Flesh Beauty’s biggest fan because I can’t stop talking about the line. This hydrating lipstick will comfort chapped, dry lips with its balm-like texture. This stunning deep red will make you feel like a bona fide badass.
Shades: 9 | Size: 0.12 oz. | Finish: Satin | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: Yes
Best Budget: The Lip Bar Liquid Matte Lipstick in Bawse Lady
This vegan, budget-friendly brand does not disappoint when it comes to lipsticks that consistently deliver in the shade category. This ruddy red feels like a gloss at first then settles into your lips with its matte texture.
Shades: 17 | Size: 0.24 oz. | Finish: Liquid Matte | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes
Best for Deep Skin: MAC Cosmetics Retro Matte Lipstick in Ruby Woo
Courtesy of Bloomingdale’s
MAC has always been known for the most intensely gorgeous color payoff. Sin is a rich red shade popular among women of color for enhancing our deep skin tones. The matte formula gives the lips a perfect velvet look.
Shades: 32 | Size: 0.1 oz. | Finish: Creamy Matte | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: Yes
What Our Testers Say
“Every single time I put Ruby Woo on, I feel confident and amazing. It’s that hero product I can use when I don’t want to put too much makeup on but want to look put together. Its matte finish and zero shine is the exact texture and finish I love, and the lipstick won’t budge unless you fidget with your lips too much or eat something greasy and messy.” — Khera Alexander, Product Tester
What to Look For in a Dark Red Lipstick
While these lipsticks are meant to look universally good on everyone, it’s still important to understand and know your undertones when honing in on the perfect red for you. For those with cool undertones, a lipstick with purple or blue hues will suit your skin best. For those with warm undertones, a lipstick with red or orange hues is the route to go. And for those with neutral undertones, lucky you—a wide spectrum of colors will suit you perfectly.
Understanding what formula wears best on your lips is another piece of the puzzle in finding the perfect lipstick. If you tend to have dry or dehydrated lips, finding a creamy moisturizing formula will help keep your lips looking supple and luscious. If you’re going for a matte look, a matte velvet lip is the choice for you.
Just like any makeup or skincare product, understanding what ingredients work for you is important. For starters, if you have certain restrictions and want to wear only vegan and/or cruelty-free products, knowing what ingredients to avoid is important (in this case, carmine, beeswax, and lanolin would be the top three to flag). Beeswax in particular can also be a skin irritant to some with sensitive skin, so all that is to say, read and understand the ingredient lists before purchasing.
Who does red lipstick look good on?
This is an easy answer: everyone. If you’re reading this thinking “not me,” it simply means you haven’t found the perfect red shade for you. Using the tips and tricks from above, combined with understanding your skin tone and undertones, will make finding the right red lip for you easier than you think.
Why does red lipstick make my teeth look yellow?
If you feel like your teeth look more yellow in red lipstick, you technically aren’t wrong. Lipsticks with warmer red shades will emphasize the warm tones in your teeth, which in turn will lead to the illusion of a more yellow smile. Wearing red lipstick with a blue base, however, can help make your teeth look whiter.
How do you choose the right lipstick formula for you?
Understanding the skin on your lips will help you understand what formula suits you best. If you’re prone to dry lip skin, avoid a liquid or matte lip (or prep with hydrating balm). Understand that a satin will sit most comfortably on your lips, but will have a shorter wear time and will need to be reapplied more often throughout your day and night. If you’re looking for a lower maintenance, more natural look, opt for a stain or shine.