From Chanel to Revlon, the best red lipsticks of all time

Subtle gradations of colour are the difference between brightening the face or dulling it

To a collector or an enthusiast, the subtle gradations of colour in red lipsticks are the difference between brightening the face or dulling it. Red is transformative and, despite common objections, anyone can wear it. Cooler skin tones will get on well with deep and blue-toned reds, while orange undertones will come to life on olive and deep skin tones. However, these are guidelines, not rules. While I’ve had the pleasure of collecting some of the best red lipsticks ever made below, the best red for you is the one that you actually wear without self-consciousness or fear of it moving by lunch time.

Lisa Eldridge Lipstick in Velvet Morning (£26 at is a statement red, and requires a little bravery to wear. With a good deal of orange in the beautifully rich pigment, it is ideal for summer and creates an almost electric red swathe of matte colour on the face which doesn't dry and pinch the lips as some mattes can. The quality of these lipsticks alone makes them well worth buying.

While beauty editors have written odes to Mac Ruby Woo lipstick for years, I much prefer its beloved sister shade, Russian Red (€20 at More of a blue red, it whitens teeth by contrast, and has a less dry texture than Ruby Woo with a little more slip to it.

Of course, you can revisit that time and place yourself with Revlon Super Lustrous Lipstick in Fire & Ice (€11.49 at which Marilyn Monroe actually wore. It is impossibly glamorous, with a forgiving, sheeny texture that neither veers into the audacity of gloss nor the flatness of matte. The lipstick was launched in 1952 with campaign imagery featuring model Dorian Leigh – it's well worth a Google and very much part of beauty history. There's something very exciting about the fact that we can still buy and wear the shade today, and that it still competes with the best red lipsticks ever made.


Chanel Rouge Allure Luminous Intense Lip Color (€36 at is another such satiny Hollywood red, though with a little more depth and edge.

Giorgio Armani Beauty Rouge D'Armani Lipstick in 400 (€33 at is something special. You will find that shade – 400 – across several of Armani's lipsticks, but this classic, sleek satin finish with its pleasing magnetic lid is especially sumptuous. With just enough blue to compliment and brighten the skin but not too much to wash out olive or deep skin tones, it's truly universal.

I tend to avoid dark reds outside the winter months, but they are a striking and edgy way to wear the colour. NARS Audacious Lipstick in Bette (€32 at Arnotts) is perfect. It doesn't veer toward plum, and it doesn't feel brown. It is a rich Bordeaux, with all the warmth, depth and opacity that term implies. It needs very little else to accompany it – even a slick of mascara will do, just to prevent the lipstick from taking over.