Many people never wear red lipstick as they find it too attention-grabbing or high-maintenance, but there is such a range available that there really is a formula and shade to suit everyone. Every lippy in our round-up has passed a four-hour wear test, including eating and drinking (and many easily make it beyond that) – and they all have the power to lift your mood, boost your confidence and amp-up a look from every day to glam in two minutes.
1. Yves Saint Laurent Rouge Pur Couture in Rouge Vinyle: £26, Yves Saint Laurent
We tested this in several different colours and it was our favourite formula across the board – great pigment, a nice smooth application and it doesn’t leave your lips dry and flakey after a few hours. Number 72, Rouge Vinyle, is our colour of choice; a slightly pinky red that goes on a little lighter than it appears in the stick, you can easily wear it for both day and night.
2. Nars Audacious Lipstick in Shirley: £24, Nars Cosmetics
This lipstick from Nars looks particularly good on those with brown or auburn hair and is just dark enough to feel wonderfully wintery without being OTT. The formula is thick and slightly glossy, meaning that while it doesn’t set and dry out, it does need reapplying every four hours. Our go-to Christmas lipstick.
3. Tom Ford Lip Contour Duo in Secret Escort: £39, John Lewis
The ultimate last-minute lipstick to keep in your handbag, Tom Ford’s duo has a matte twist lip liner in one end and a slim, sheeny lipstick in the other. Wear one or the other for a matte or slightly sheer finish, or use together for the full statement lip. Secret Escort is on the pink side of classic red, meaning it particularly suits paler skins.
4. Bobbi Brown Lip Colour in Burnt Red: £21, Bobbi Brown
If you’ve always liked the look of a berry lip but aren’t sure you can pull it off, this sexy, slightly vampy colour is an easy way to darken your red a little. We found it suits blondes as well as brunettes, which is unusual for a darker shade.
5. Dior Diorific Lipstick in Diva: £25.65, Escentual
Dior’s lipsticks have that fabulously retro, slightly floral scent that reminds me of my mother's lipsticks when I was a child. The shade is remarkably vibrant and long-lasting considering how light and hydrating it feels to apply, and also gets top marks for being most true-to-colour in the stick as it is on your skin.
6. Mac Lipstick in Ruby Woo: £15.50, Debenhams
This classic, reliable, Marilyn-esque red regularly features in red lippy halls of fame and is easily our most worn shade. It’s a matte finish and therefore can emphasise chapped lips so do load up on balm before. We find it’s best applied with a brush so it doesn’t drag.
7. Lancôme L’Absolu Rouge in Caprice: £25.50, Lancôme
We know you shouldn’t buy a product based on the packaging, but for what it's worth, the clever click-release on the bottom of this lipstick is a lovely touch. The shade is a statement, vibrant, true red and it applies creamy and smooth like an Absolu dream (see what we did there?).
8. Charlotte Tilbury Matte Revolution in Red Carpet Red: £23, Charlotte Tilbury
We have yet to find anyone who doesn't look amazing in this lipstick. It's a little darker than classic pillar box with a blue undertone, meaning it doesn't highlight red tones in skin and makes yellowed teeth look brilliantly white. It’s very flattering.
9. Estée Lauder Pure Colour Envy Matte Lipstick in Volatile: £25.50, John Lewis
If you're already dreaming of summer or just thinking ahead to a warm winter break, Volatile is your shade. This orangey red is crying out for a tan and sun-drenched evenings. For a matte finish, it’s remarkably non-drying, too.
10. Topshop Lips in Hazard: £8, Topshop
For the price, this is an absolute cracker. The formula is a little drying but it goes on satin, doesn't bleed round the edges and stays put just as well as more expensive numbers. The shade, fire-engine red with a blue undertone, is a near-perfect dupe for Mac's Russian Red.
The Verdict: Red lipstick
Our winning formula is YSL's Rouge Pur Couture, which performed well across the board and is available in a range of different reds (and other colours) so you can find the one that suits you. If you can't be bothered with the faff of picking one to suit, Charlotte Tilbury's Red Carpet Red is a fail-safe bet to suit almost everyone, also making it a safe present choice.
IndyBest product reviews are unbiased, independent advice you can trust. On some occasions, we earn revenue if you click the links and buy the products, but we never allow this to bias our coverage. The reviews are compiled through a mix of expert opinion and real-world testingReuse content