Home Makeup How to Apply Red Lipstick – Flawlessly

How to Apply Red Lipstick – Flawlessly

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This power shade can make you feel instantly unstoppable.

Year after year, season after season, there’s always one standout makeup mainstay – the classic red lip.  Has all the hype surrounding “Blonde”, the new Netflix historical drama about Marilyn Monroe got you wondering how to achieve the movie star’s iconic pursed red lips?  Or maybe it’s the “Emily in Paris” fashionable ooh la-la pout you’re after?  Red certainly packs a punch and the timeless lip color can make you look sophisticated and instantly chic. After all, red lips are known as the little black dress of beauty!

Besides being an old Hollywood/retro-glam go-to, red lippies ruled the fall/winter 2022 runways and with holiday season approaching, it’s prime time to master the technique. Pulling off the perfect red lip can truly be daunting, but it really doesn’t have to be. Practice makes perfect, so once you’ve mastered it, you’ll be able to apply like a pro in a matter minutes. Here’s our step-by-step guide.

Prep Your Pout

Starting out with a perfectly smooth, hydrated pout, is key to achieving a flawless look. Exfoliate: If you have dry, flaky skin, a soft toothbrush will do the trick, but it’s a good idea to regularly use a nourishing lip scrub a few times a week to gently buff and exfoliate dry, flaky lips.  We love the JOAH’s Sugar Doctor Lip Scrub. It has a deliciously juicy light peach scent and leaves your pout feeling smooth and plump. (Lip scrubs help stimulate blood circulation for a natural rosy effect.) Use your ring finger and massage a small amount of the scrub in small circular motions for less than a minute. Wipe it away with a tissue or rinse with water and pat dry.


Add Hydration

Now it’s time for a little hydration. Since you’re going for that modern matte look, and you want to make you’re your lipstick doesn’t slide off, it’s a good idea to avoid using anything with a heavy or oily texture. Just a dab of your favorite nourishing lip balm will do. We’re fans of Ilia Lip Wrap Reviving Balm.

Create a Base

Think of this step like priming a canvas.  Apply a light amount of foundation slightly over the edges of your lips and be sure to blend well and set with a little translucent powder. We recommend using a 2-in-1 formulation with a matte, velvety finish like Kiss New York Professional ProTouch Matte Powder Foundation. This way your lipstick really has something to cling onto and won’t slip off or travel anywhere it’s not supposed to. Priming your lips also helps bring out the true tones of your red lipstick color.

Time To Line

Drawing the perfect line can be a little intimidating, so one great way to do with sans the stress, is by  using a nude lipliner first, to make sure you have the shape perfected. We love JOAH Lip Candy Auto Lip Liner in ‘Nude’. The tip of your lipliner can be a bit dull which will help create a softer line.  (Sharp lines come later.) With your finger or small makeup brush, blend, blend, blend.  You have options here. You can underline (staying inside your natural lip line), overline (drawing outside your natural lip line to make your lips look a little bigger) or simply stick to the shape of your lips you were born with.

Apply Your Lipstick

While there’s all types of red lip formulas to choose from, like glossy and sheer, for autumn and the upcoming holiday season, you can leave the high shine for your hair and skin. On your lip, it’s all about matte. You can go ahead and directly apply your lipstick, or, if you want to feel like a pro, use a lip brush. Either way, the trick to applying red lipstick flawlessly: build up the color gradually, by layering.  Also, avoid ‘swiping’ it on as you normally would lipstick.  Try to press or pat it on as this helps push the color in. Start with one light coat, then blot with a tissue. Apply another coat, and blot again. Depending on the lipstick pigment and formula you use, two coats should be more than enough.  We’re big fans of JOAH Air Light Satin Lipstick Satin Lipstick in Fireworks.  It’s hard to beat the price, staying power and color payoff!

Redefine Your Line

We are back to lip liner again and the goal is to perfect the look and prevent your lipstick from bleeding or feathering. Your lip liner doesn’t have to exactly the same shade, but it should be just as dark as your red lipstick or slightly darker.  Be sure to use a sharp lip liner because this is the step that keeps the entire red lipstick look on point. If you want extra definition, don’t be afraid to venture out to the corners of your lips. A little wobbly? No worries, the next step with fix any mishaps.

Erase Your Mistakes

If you get a smear, something about your line looks of, or your hand was a bit shaky (hello, 2nd cup of coffee) it’s really no biggie at all. Just don’t attempt to correct the mistake with your fingers. A full-coverage concealer can quickly help clean up your lines and sharpen up your lines. You can use a small angled makeup brush and a dab of concealer to clean up the lines. Or, you simply use a pointed Q-tip and some micellar water.

Make It Last

Want to give your perfect red lips some staying power? Place a facial tissue over your lips, and with a fluffy makeup brush or puff, dust some loose setting powder over the tissue.  Your red lips are not only traffic-stopping, they are officially smooch-ready and your lipstick will last,  no matter how many glasses of Prosecco you sip.

Makeup Tips

Once your red lipstick is applied perfectly, you can go ahead and do the rest of your makeup.  Since your lips are bold and likely stealing all the attention, it’s a good idea to keep the rest of your makeup simple. In fact, skip the eyeliner, eyeshadow, and mascara all together and apply FALSCARA DIY Lash Extensions. Paired with dewy skin and a brick red lip, the minimalist look is undeniably edgy, editorial, and so very movie star.

Which Shade of Red Will Match You Best?

Finding a no-fail flattering red that fits you best isn’t as tricky as it seems, although there are a lot of varying red shaded to choose from. The safest bets are true reds (equal amounts of blue and orange undertones) True reds are also known to make your teeth look whiter and can flatter a multitude of skin tones.  If you have an olive complexion, a warm, rust-colored red would be very flattering.


To be perfectly honest, there are no hard and fast rules. From bright and bold to moody Megan Fox-style berries, our advice: play around with a variety of shades and have fun. Once you find that power red that you really love, one that makes you feel good, and totally matches your vibe–wear it loud and proud. The right red lipstick for you is simply the one that makes you feel most confident

Match your lips to your tips!

Double down on the glamour by wearing a mani that matches perfectly with your daring red lips.  If you want to sidestep the salon and get a fiery red manicure that only takes minutes to apply. Be prepared to stop traffic! Our fave: KISS Gel Fantasy Nails (PRODUCT)RED in Love.



Using the exact same lipstick as blush or cheek stain, along with a little concealer is a great way to pull the look together. A small dot of lipstick blended onto the apples of your cheeks gives the classic red lipstick look a modern update.

author avatar
Janene Mascarella