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11 best red lipsticks for a standout pout

Think of Hollywood glamour and one thing that always comes to mind is a showstopping red lip. Whether that’s on a red carpet or as the focus of a minimal make-up, a bold lip never goes out of fashion.

From liquid lipsticks to bullets and balms, a red can come in many undertones and finding the right one for your skin tone is crucial. As a very general rule, if you’ve got fair skin, opt for something quite warm, like a copper, medium skin looks great with terracottas or poppy reds and darker skin tones suit auburn or ruby.

Reds can seem daunting if you aren’t used to wearing bold colours, but they don’t have to be. In fact, a red lip with some blusher and slick of mascara creates a chic, sleek make-up that is low maintenance, quick to put together and lower key than you think.

Ready to try something more glam? We don’t believe in the old rule of eyes or lips – why not do both? Channel the golden age of Hollywood with a liquid liner cat eye and fluttery lashes, or create a monochrome look with a pink or red eyeshadow to match your red lip.

A struggle that many people find with bold colours, like red, is transfer onto cups and glasses and a lack of longevity, which is why choosing the right product is so crucial. For lipsticks that aren’t fully transfer proof – which is the majority of them – a great tip is to apply the lipstick, blot it with tissue to create a stain and then go back in with the same colour to add more intensity.

How we tested

We put these red lipsticks through the ringer to see if they were comfortable to wear, how strong the pigment was, whether they were easy to apply and, most importantly, their staying power. We applied each one in the morning and wore it throughout the day to see how it would fare through breakfast, lunch, dinner and multiple cups of tea before needing to be reapplied. These are the ones that stand out.

The best red lipsticks for 2022 are:

  • Best overall red lipstick – R.e.m. Beauty liquid lipstick in Meryl: £18, Rembeauty.com
  • Best red lipstick for quick application – Revlon colorstay matte lite crayon in Ruffled Feathers: £9.27, Amazon.co.uk
  • Best red lipstick balm – Trinny London lip luxe in demon: £22, Trinnylondon.com
  • Best refill red lipstick – Charlotte Tilbury hot lips 2 red hot Susan: £29, Charlottetilbury.com
  • Best liquid red lipstick – Dior rouge forever liquid lipstick in shade 626: £34, Johnlewis.com
  • Best dual ended red lipstick – Sculpted by Aimee lip duo in double trouble: £17, Boots.com
  • Best red lipstick stick applicator – Bobbi Brown luxe defining lipstick in terracotta: £32, Lookfantastic.com
  • Best matte red lipstick – Nars powermatte lipstick in too hot to hold: £26, Narscosmetics.co.uk
  • Best high street red lipstick – Maybelline superstay vinyl ink in red hot: £11.99, Superdrug.com
  • Best luxury red lipstick – Pat McGrath mattetrance lipstick in Elson: £35, Selfridges.com
  • Best red lipstick for pigment – Vieve modern matte lipstick in muse: £21, Cultbeauty.co.uk

  • Best: Overall
  • Size: 9.7ml
  • Vegan: Yes
  • Finish: Matte

This red liquid lipstick from R.e.m. beauty – Ariana Grande’s beauty brand – is, in short, unbelievably good. There are three reds in the range, but we love the shade Meryl. It’s a deep, rich colour with a berry undertone that looks beautiful on skin with an olive undertone. It dries down quickly and matte but it doesn’t crack on lips or make them look dehydrated. It also claims to be transfer-proof and we can confirm that it is. After an entire day of eating and drinking, it hadn’t budged and it still felt comfortable to wear.

It has a doe foot applicator which we used, and although we usually prefer to apply these kinds of products with a brush for more precision, it does a fairly good job of neatly distributing the lipstick without the need for a lip liner. This deserves its spot as the best overall for its rich, deep colour, comfortable wear and unrivalled staying power.

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  • Best: For quick application
  • Size: 5ml
  • Vegan: No
  • Finish: Matte

If you’re looking for a bluey red that’s quick and easy to apply and costs less than a tenner, then let us introduce you to the Revlon colorstay matte lite crayon in the shade “ruffled feathers”. As the name suggests, it comes in a crayon like shape, so you have a thin pointed tip to draw the lip line and then the sides of the nib can be used to fill in the rest of the lip. Of course, the more you use the product, the blunter the nib becomes but if you’re careful, the shape can stay fairly pen like for a number of uses.

It stays well and the pigment is strong, creating a bold, matte finish that’s good enough to wear alone or as part of a full glam make-up look. After a number of hours of wear, it did begin to feel a little dry and we did need to reapply once throughout the day, but with a price tag of just under £10, you can’t go wrong.

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  • Best: Balm
  • Size: 4g
  • Vegan: Yes
  • Finish: Creamy

Since its launch in late 2017, Trinny London has been making waves in the world of beauty. Known for its no-fuss take on traditional products, the brand – founded by Trinny Woodall of What Not To Wear fame – is all about ease. And this red lip balm is no different.

The pot looks quite small compared to a usual bullet, but don’t let that dupe you, because this stuff is pigmented. Swipe one circle of product onto your lips and you’ll see a bold, opaque red that looks like it took much more effort to apply than it did.

It’s not hydrating like a lip balm, and has the finish of a lip stain, although not the lasting power. We love the colour payoff and the simplicity of just using our fingers, but we did need to top up a few times and it did make our lips feel a little dry after a couple of hours of wear. But for a balm, which is so handy to slip into your handbag, the pigment was really good and we were able to recreate that “just been kissed” look we’ve been seeing all over the catwalks for the past couple of seasons.

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  • Best: Refill red
  • Size: 3.5g
  • Vegan: Yes
  • Finish: Matte

Charlotte Tilbury very rarely misses whether that’s its TikTok viral Hollywood flawless filter or its hugely popular pillow talk lipstick. For us, red hot Susan is in the same category of excellence. An orangey red, named after uber famous actress Susan Sarandon, it’s a matte that doesn’t dry out lips or crack. The colour is standout without being flashy and our reviewer got a number of compliments every time she wore it on how beautiful the colour was.

It suits a range of different skin tones (have a look at the Charlotte Tilbury website for proof of that) and stays really well for a regular lipstick. Plus, it’s refillable, meaning you get to keep the funky leopard print bullet and can just repurchase the actual lipstick for a slightly reduced price (£20, Charlottetilbury.com).

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  • Best: Liquid lipstick
  • Size: 6ml
  • Vegan: No
  • Finish: Matte

Red lipstick can be a little tricky to navigate, whether that’s putting it on easily or having to keep a close eye on it throughout the day, but a liquid lipstick can make both of those stumbling blocks a bit easier. Particularly if it’s as good as the rouge Dior forever liquid lipstick.

It glides on smoothly without catching on any drier areas of the lip and the colour itself is pigmented and rich. We found using the doe foot applicator easy and accurate because the pointed shape made precision around the lip line straightforward. And there’s no faulting its longevity. In fact, we may be inclined to say that it’s too long-lasting, because once you’ve applied the product, it takes a very good make-up remover and a fair bit of scrubbing to get it off.

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  • Best: Dual ended lipstick
  • Size: Not specified
  • Vegan: Yes
  • Finish: Smooth

If you love a two-in-one make-up product then the Sculpted by Aimee lip duo is one to add to your basket. One side is a thicker, darker red and the other is a lip liner sized lipstick in a slightly lighter red.

We used the smaller end to sculpt the edges of the lip and the larger end to fill in the middle. The larger end was buttery and hydrating and glided easily whereas the smaller, pointed end caught a bit more, which broke the line a little.

We were impressed by the stay of this lipstick – it didn’t stay on for as long as the non-transferring liquid lipsticks, but we only had to reapply once or twice throughout the day, which for a regular lipstick is good going. We would have preferred the thinner end to have been the darker shade and the larger end to have been lighter for more of a sculpted effect when worn together, but individually both reds were flattering and easy to apply.

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  • Best: Stick applicator
  • Size: 6g
  • Vegan: No
  • Finish: Creamy, matte

When our reviewer wore the Terracotta shade of the Bobbi Brown luxe defining lipstick, she had multiple people come up to her to ask where her red lipstick was from which proves how good this colour is.

It comes in a golden, crayon like packaging which makes it look expensive as well as being super practical to throw in your handbag which is great considering we found we had to top up a few times (even with the blotting trick we mentioned earlier) throughout the day. However, the lipstick itself was really easy to apply, using the pointed end of the nib to draw around the lip line and the side of the pen-shaped lipstick to fill in the middle so as not to make the end blunt. And it has a satin finish which means more hydration than a regular matte.

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  • Best: Matte
  • Size: 1.5g
  • Vegan: Yes
  • Finish: Matte

A brand new product from Nars, the Powermatte lipstick in “too hot to hold” is exactly what it says it is: a matte lipstick that has powerful staying power. As with all of the brand’s creations, the newest addition comes in sleek packaging that holds a thin bullet lipstick which glides over lips, precisely distributing a full coverage red.

It’s quite a dark shade, which makes it easier to incorporate into a daytime look but still packs a punch for a glam evening make-up. It claims to stay on for ten hours and after our reviewer wore it through two meals and a gym class, we can confirm that it does so with just the smallest bit of smudging.

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  • Best: High street
  • Size: 47ml
  • Vegan: Yes
  • Finish: Shine

If matte’s not the vibe you’re looking for and neither’s a premium price tag, then Maybelline’s superstay vinyl ink in red hot is worth having a look at. Straight off the bat, this doesn’t stay like the name suggests; you will find it on cups and glasses and you’ll probably need to apply it a few times throughout the day. But the name is accurate about the finish – it is a vinyl texture that makes lips look plumper and juicier while still offering a full coverage red.

Plus, the red itself is a lovely, classic, pin-up girl shade which would go beautifully with a cat eye and bold brow. And at £11.99, it’s good value meaning you can feel free to swipe on as much of it as you like without worrying about the cost to replace it.

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  • Best: For luxury
  • Size: 4g
  • Vegan: No
  • Finish: Matte

Pat McGrath releases win after win after win and the MatteTrance lipstick in Elson is another one to add to the tally. It looks beautifully velvet in the typically unique bullet and gives a full coverage warm red matte with no trouble at all. In fact, the colour leans towards berry, which is perfect for so many different skin tones, especially as we move into the colder months and towards typically bolder make-up looks.

It stays fairly well – our reviewer had to reapply a couple of times throughout the day – but it’s the finish we love most about this red lipstick. It’s punchy and unapologetic, adding oomph to any look and despite being a regular matte it doesn’t dry out or leave your lips feeling parched. And while it is on the pricier end of the spectrum, this lipstick is perfect for those days when you want to feel extra special.

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  • Best: Pigment
  • Size: Not specified
  • Vegan: Yes
  • Finish: Matte, creamy

This lipstick from Vieve – founded by make-up artist, Jamie Genevieve – is a truly classic red. It’s a bright, cool red that screams fun rather than sultry and it doesn’t hold back on the colour. One swipe deposits a hydrating, comfortable colour that is packed full of pigment meaning you don’t need to go over and over to build coverage.

It does transfer slightly and you will likely need to touch up the colour a few times because it is so bright, but the pigment is so intense that reapplying is quick and easy. It’s a mid-price point at £21 but because of the boldness of the colour, a little goes a long way meaning this lipstick should last you.

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