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How to Apply & Wear Bold Red Lips

by Lindsey Robinson Sanchez, studioD

When it's well done, a bold red lip can get you all the right attention. However, a poorly applied red lip in the wrong shade can scream, "Look at my super-red mouth -- I'm really so very glamorous!" The key to making your lips more glamour girl -- and less clownish or crazy aunt -- is all in how you wear your that bold red lipstick. Pay small attentions to application and carefully underplay the rest of your look. Your lips will thank you.

How to Do It

Choose a red lipstick that matches the undertones in your skin. Check the veins in your wrist -- if they're bluish purple and you blush easily, you probably have pink undertones and you should stick to reds that are blue based and pinky. If your veins look greenish blue, you look amazing in gold and you tan fairly easily, you probably have a golden hue to your skin and you should aim for yellow- or orange-based reds. Deeper skin tones can generally pull off a wider range of bold colors, but if you can, test the red out before you buy. When in doubt, choose a lipstick with the words "true" or "classic" in the name, as these adjectives indicate that the color is neither too blue nor too orange.

Choose a matte lipstick if you're looking for classic glamour that can last for hours -- but be aware that matte is also a bit drying and might age you. Choose a creamy formula for a more natural, yet still bold, look. The downside to this formula is that it will last for a shorter time than the matte formula will.

Prep your lips by rubbing on a very light exfoliate. A mixture of honey and sugar is a gentle (and delicious) way to remove any flaky skin and leave your lips super smooth.

Smooth on a rich lip balm to moisturize any cracks and dryness. Let the balm sink in for a minute or two before you start on your red lip.

Trace your lip line carefully with a red pencil in your chosen shade. For results that look bold but not artificial, stick to your natural lip line.

Fill in your lips with the same red lip pencil, which gives your lipstick double the staying power. Using short strokes, start at the lip line you just drew and gradually work your way into the center of your lips. Even if the lipstick wears off, you'll still have a wash of color from the pencil.

Pick up a little color from the tube of your chosen red lipstick -- using a tapered lip brush -- and smooth it on your lips in short brushstrokes, the same way you filled in with the lip pencil. Take your time and fill in your lips completely.

Blot your lips gently with a tissue and smooth on a second layer of lipstick with your lip brush. Those red lips aren't going anywhere!

Pop your clean index finger in your mouth, gently press your pursed lips around your finger and slowly pull your finger out. This will pull away any excess color from the inside of your lips and prevent lipstick from getting on your teeth, which is never a good look.

How to Rock It

Apply a light foundation to any minor imperfections and redness on your skin and keep the rest of your face clean, but not totally bare -- unless you have the perfect skin of a (weirdly glamorous) baby.

Pinch your cheeks to find your natural blush, flash a big grin in the mirror and use a fluffy brush to apply a light blush color that mimics your tones onto the apples of your cheeks. Aim for a barely-there wash of color to avoid looking clownish.

Swipe on a coat of mascara for day and add a little eye liner for night. Remember that the focus should remain on your lips.

Forget that you're wearing your red lipstick. No, really. A red lip looks best when it effortlessly enhances your everyday look, not when it's clear that you're self-conscious about it. Rock a red lip with your favorite dress at night -- or go for the ultimate cool-girl look with your favorite beat-up jeans and a comfy tee.

Items you will need
  •  Red lipstick
  •  Lip exfoliate or toothbrush
  •  Lip balm
  •  Red lip pencil
  •  Tapered lip brush
  •  Tissue
  •  Light foundation
  •  Blush
  •  Mascara
  •  Liner


  • If you aren't ready for full-on, red-lip glam, stains and glosses are perfect for your first time with the red lip -- or for a casual daytime style. You can also apply stains and glosses straight from the tube.
  • Use a fresh Q-tip to clean up any small messes around the lip line.

About the Author

Lindsey Robinson Sanchez, from Bessemer, Ala., has written for the "Troy Messenger," "The Alabama Baptist" and "The Gainesville Times," where her work was featured on the AP wire. She has a Bachelor of Science in journalism from the University of Florida. She writes style, beauty, fitness, travel and culture.

Photo Credits

  • Marili Forastieri/Photodisc/Getty Images