How to Apply Red Lipstick

Red lips are elegant, glamorous, and never go out of style. The trick to wearing red lipstick flawlessly is prepping your lips with more precision than is needed with other less vibrant lip colors. When you wear red lipstick, it’s usually best to keep the rest of your makeup simple so that your lips can be the focus of your look. The vintage look with red lipstick paired with neutral eyes was made popular by many of Hollywood’s earliest starlets. However, even without any other makeup on at all (like the picture of me below), red lips can look great on its own.

If you’ve never tried wearing red lipstick before and are shy about it, I always say Halloween is the best time to go for it. The next best time is during the holidays, because it will stand out against the snowy/gray skies of winter and it will match all the red and green decorations. :) Whatever the time may be when you do wear red lipstick, wear it with confidence! I was shy at first, but now I love it! There are many shades of red as well, so if you don’t feel comfortable trying out a bright fire engine red, there are more muted reds and berry reds that you can try first (like MAC L/S in “Spice it Up!”).

Here’s what you need to do this Red Lipstick Technique:

  • Foundation, concealer, or a product specifically made for blocking out your natural lip color (such as MAC Lip Erase Lip Balm in “Dim”)
  • Red lipstick
  • Lip liner that matches your lipstick
  • Lip gloss (can be clear or red-tinted, and have shimmer if you like)
  • Lip brush, like MAC 316 Lip Brush
  • Tissue paper — just one sheet


Start off with clean bare lips. If you have chapped lips, I recommend also applying a small amount of lip scrub with your finger to exfoliate your lips. Use your finger to rub your lips until you achieve desired smoothness. Lip scrubs usually contain sugar which helps remove dead skin, leaving your lips looking healthier and retaining moisture better.

The picture on the right shows how my lips look after exfoliating my lips with Lush Cosmetics Lip Scrub in “Bubblegum” that I reviewed a while ago. This is my natural lip color. :)


Prep your lips by blocking out your natural lip color with your everyday foundation or concealer. Alternatively, you can use a product specifically made for this purpose (see my How to Block Out Natural Lip Color Technique where I used MAC Lip Erase Lip Balm). For this tutorial, I just dabbed some foundation on top of my lips as well as around my lip area with my finger.

This step will help prevent your lipstick from bleeding as well as allow your lipstick color to stand out even more.


Carefully outline your Cupid’s bow with a lip liner, making it even and symmetrical. I’m using MAC Lip Pencil in “Cherry”. The Cupid’s bow refers to the area of your upper lip with two peaks and a valley in the center. The Cupid’s bow can vary from person to person — if your upper lip is rounded without a Cupid’s bow, just draw one in.


Continue lining the rest of your lip line with the lip liner. Although I don’t use lip liner everyday (as you might have noticed in my makeup looks), I always use lip liner when I wear really bold lipstick. Lip liner helps keep your lipstick stay in place, which is especially helpful when wearing red lipstick that’s more likely to bleed versus other colors.


Fill in your whole upper and lower lip areas with the same lip liner. This step will help your lipstick last longer. Go over all the lip liner on your lips with a lip brush, so that you work the color into any creases.


Apply red lipstick on your lips starting from the center of your lips and working it outwards to the corners. Use a lip brush to achieve a more precise and even application. I’m using MAC L/S in “Lady Danger”, a very bright coral-red matte lipstick. Lipsticks with a matte finish can feel more drying on your lips, but this finish is the least likely to smudge or smear outside of your natural lip line once applied.


Now take a sheet of tissue paper, fold it in half, and then blot your lips by placing the tissue between your upper and lower lips and pressing your lips together.

Apply a second coat of the same red lipstick (repeat Step 6).


Apply some lip gloss on the center of your lower lip, and then press your lips together so that some of it goes on the middle of your upper lip. This last step is a trick to making your lips look fuller by making the middle of your lips pop out.

Have fun trying out this technique and rocking out your red lips! ;)


OlaDecember 11th, 2010 at 9:20 pm

How fun! You look great! When I use red lipstick its usually a matte but I’ve never owned lip liner. I’ve been looking for a new red shade, probably the muted berry you’ve described. I’d like to give this a shot, it’s funny.. I’m reminded of earlier tonight when I was looking over holiday recipes. There were a few things I liked that I was missing one ingredient for, now here is one more! ><

WyceeDecember 15th, 2010 at 1:51 am

Thanks Ola! Check out MAC Spice It Up! lipstick — it’s my favorite most wearable shade of red. :)

MariaApril 8th, 2011 at 10:31 am

Hi! Great how-to guide. Just one question: what shade of lipstick are you wearing?? Lol maybe I missed it? Thanks!

WyceeApril 8th, 2011 at 3:45 pm

Hi Maria! The lipstick I’m wearing is MAC “Lady Danger”. You can see a picture of it in Step 6. :)

Simple Glam Makeup LookJuly 4th, 2011 at 12:02 am

[…] This is a really easy makeup look you can wear anytime you want to feel extra glamorous! Shimmery white eye shadow along the tear duct brings attention to the eyes, and bright red lips brings the glam (see my step-by-step technique on how to create a red lip). […]

EmilyOctober 1st, 2011 at 6:13 am

I have a pretty much non-existent cupid’s bow. Will it still look ok if I fake it? I’m afraid it won’t look very natural (not that red lips are very natural) :)

WyceeOctober 3rd, 2011 at 11:14 am

Hi Emily,

Try drawing in a subtle Cupid’s bow — as long as you keep it not too far off from your natural lip line, it shouldn’t look that unnatural. Audrey Hepburn’s upper lip was pretty thin, and she wore beautiful red lips with a defined Cupid’s bow by going a little over her natural lip line. Click here to see pictures of her lips, like this one from Wikipedia. :)

JaneDecember 21st, 2011 at 2:53 am

Fabulous! :)

WyceeDecember 27th, 2011 at 1:41 pm

Thanks Jane! :)

CaroFebruary 2nd, 2012 at 6:54 pm

I love your step-by-step tutorials! You are really good at explaining and demonstrating the process.

What color lipstick would you recommend for someone with fair skin (pink undertones), light hair and blue eyes? (I don’t want to look like an old lady and if the shade is off it pulls out too much pink in my skin.)

WyceeFebruary 13th, 2012 at 11:06 am

Thanks Caro! Pink tones are best suited to cooler blue-reds. If you live near a MAC store or counter, check out “Russian Red” (a matte, intense bluish-red red) or MAC “Red” (a satin, vivid bright bluish-red). :)

GigiApril 8th, 2012 at 7:23 pm

Hi what would u recommend for brown skin n thin lips in red ?

WyceeApril 10th, 2012 at 11:18 pm

Hi Gigi,

Try MAC “Russian Red” if you’re looking for one that will really pop! :)

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