Red Lips 101

By Martha Blow 

Mesopotamian men and women sported red lips as long ago as 3,500 B.C., unknowingly setting the trend for the next 5,000 years. Despite lipstick being criminalised in the 1700s in Britain, red lipstick has stood the test of time and remains a fashion staple for many in the 21st century. A scarlet pout exudes creativity, sexuality and confidence, and although it has always been popular it can be difficult to get right: such a bright colour inevitably shows smudges, cracks and patchiness much more visibly than a more muted hue. Luckily for you, i’ve assembled a breakdown of tips and tricks to keep pouts looking perfect.



Before applying any product, lips should be exfoliated. I also like to use either Carmex or Dr PawPaw’s Multipurpose Balm overnight to ensure lips are hydrated and flake-free in the morning, which creates a perfect canvas for an unforgiving shade. Next, use a lip primer – such as Kiko’s Invisible Lip Liner – to fill in lips, forming a base with maximum staying-power. It goes without saying that a lip liner is indispensable when using red lipstick, and both the NYX Slide-On and Rimmel 1000 Kisses liners offer impressive pigment and longevity for a low price point. Finally, a lip brush allows precise application, and I find that applying once with a brush before blotting and then re-applying from the bullet guarantees the best durability. Following these steps should ensure lips look Marilyn-Monroe-flawless!


Red lips can be intimidating, but before you sign off on red lipstick as ‘not for you’, try these tips. There are countless guides for the right shade for your skin tone, but these often contradict one another which suggests – and I would agree – that there is no one-size-fits-all rule to red lips. If you don’t feel comfortable wearing a bold bordeaux, dab it on the centre of lips for a just-bitten finish. Fire-engine red not for you? Apply lightly with your finger and finish with balm for a natural look. For a more wine-stained pout, apply a darker burgundy or plum lip liner around the outside of lips before finishing with deep blue-red (or have a bottle of Merlot to yourself – works just the same).



As before, I don’t believe there is a guidebook to makeup with red lips – in spite of the many that exist. However, fresh skin and long lashes partner well with bright lips to boost an otherwise everyday makeup look; whereas for the evening I love to layer burnt orange and brown eyeshadows with a dark brick red pout for 90s drama. The fun in red lipstick comes in breaking the rules – just ask our 18th century gals!

Get the lipstick here.


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