Red lipstick for pale skin can be a tricky one. The red does seem to accentuate the paleness of the complexion, and vice versa. It can also be daunting as a pale-skinned person trying to buy red lipstick, as the contrast may make you feel that your lips are lit up like a neon sign, or that your skin suddenly became deathly pale. I was scared of red lipstick and did not start wearing it until about two years ago. Today I want to share with you 5 of my favourite red lipsticks for pale skin with swatches and reviews!
There is a shade of red for every womanAudrey Hepburn
My Teenage Ideal of Beauty
Red lipstick just wasn’t a look when I was growing up. There are two makeup adverts in particular that I remember from that time. Christy Turlington for Maybelline wearing a plummy lipstick shade, and Kate Moss for Rimmel London adorned with green smokey eyes and a nude lip.
(Apologies – these Pinterest pictures were the best I could find – original source unknown).
Journey into Red Lipstick
The first red lipstick I tried was NARS Dolce Vita. Truthfully, I bought it because of the name of the lipstick. It didn’t actually suit me well. And I always felt like I was playing dress up wearing it.
Fast foward some time. I started watching Lisa Eldridge videos. If you don’t know who she is, you’re missing out! I think (from her videos and Instagram) that red lipstick is her signature look. She made it so accessible. I still didn’t want to try it though. Too bold. Too mature. Too red.
Fast forward another amount of time that shall remain unspecified. I was in Paris. From an outsider’s viewpoint, the stereotype of a Parisian woman walking around in her everyday life with a red lip does seem to be true. Not because every woman wears it. No, probably only about 50%, if that. But in proportion to the non-Parisian frame of reference, that’s roughly 50% more than a woman in the UK or Canada (or anywhere else I have travelled) would wear a red lip in the daytime. However, in that trip, suddenly the aversion to red lipstick vanished. They were just so chic! Even the red-lipped girl sat at the table beside mine blowing smoke in my face the whole time she was drinking wine (no food, mais oui), whilst I was trying to eat delicious French food!
History of Red Lipstick
This has been reviewed superbly well by Fashionista. Check out their article here. I will not attempt to regurgitate the information in their article. The key points are as follows:
- used by prostitutes (Ancient Greece)
- used to denote social class (Ancient Rome, Medival period, Renaissance)
- perceived as a “sinful” (Victorian era)
- used as an act of “rebellion” (Suffragettes)
- used as a morale booster (“Lipstick Effect” in the Great Depression, WWI)
- used as a symbol of power, femininity & sexuality (1950s and beyond)
Swatches of My Current Favourite Red Lipsticks for Pale Skin
Reviews of My Current Favourite Red Lipsticks for Pale Skin (in no particular order)
Please note: The following views are solely my own – thoughts of a beauty enthusiast! I am not paid for this post. I do not have any affiliate links. I have provided links to the products purely for your convenience, if you were interested in the products after reading my reviews.
Lisa Eldridge True Velvet Lip Colour in Velvet Ribbon & in Velvet Jazz
I will review them both together as they have the same formulation.
The formulation is a creamy, hydrating matte with a slight sheen – it’s not a flat matte. The colour is long wearing and non drying to the lips….Looks fantastic when applied as a precise ‘full on’ lip but also works well as a… stain.
A vibrant, universal, classic neutral/blue red. (Velvet Ribbon)Lisa Eldridge Lipsticks Velvet Ribbon & Velvet Jazz
A muted, earthy, brick red inspired by the 1930’s red lipsticks in my vintage collection. (Velvet Jazz)
Does it live up to the claims?
From the bullet, it does go on feeling “creamy”. It is not especially drying, but nor is it non-drying. Personally I do find I need to wear a balm underneath if I’m wearing it as a stain, rather than full-on. Initially, the feel is very comfortable, not tacky or gloopy. It really does feel like you don’t have lipstick on, which is great. My sister, who’s worn the Velvet Fawn shade, commented that the lipstick felt more matte and drier than the Charlotte Tilbury Matte Revolution lipsticks. I personally have not worn the CT lipsticks, so make of this what you will.
It’s definitely a matte lipstick, but it does have dimension. This makes it wearable in the day time. Also, you can apply it as a stain. Both lipsticks are pinker in their stain applications. And Lisa Eldridge also recommends using it as a blusher, to create a coordinated look.
Colours & Pigmentation
The colours are amazing. Velvet Ribbon is everything you want a “proper red lipstick” to be. It is blue-red, definitely pulls on the pinker side for me. So is it truly a neutral? Hard to say, as it could also be my lip undertone that makes it pull pinker. That suits me better anyway. Velvet Jazz is very unique. It looks like it would go on making your lips look like a 90s brown. But I think there is a lot of red in it because it actually pulls a lot pinker. Again, maybe that is just my lip undertone. On me, Velvet Jazz is like one of those Bordeaux-wine lippies, but with a subtle grunge edge to it.
Velvet Ribbon makes me feel like a fun, vibrant, sophisticated lady; and Velvet Jazz makes me feel like a cool, art-curator oenophile. The power of lipstick. That’s what you want it to be! A magical tube of colour that gives you the super-power you need right at that moment.
The pigmentation is something else. You really don’t need much at all. One application in the morning will do you until you eat something. It will survive eating, so long as you’re not eating something oily or messy like a large sandwich or burger. It doesn’t really transfer much, especially not if you apply it as a stain first.
Scented lipsticks drive me nuts. It is the thing that will break a lipstick for me. If there is synthetic fragrance, it will almost guarantee that I can’t wear the lipstick on a regular basis, or at all.
The bullet looks like a genuine piece of velvet fabric. So gorgeous!
Where to get them?
Would I buy them again?
I have back-ups of both already… In my defense, these were meant to be limited edition releases.
Bobbi Brown Crushed Lip Colour in Cherry.
The look of a lipstick meets the feel of a balm for our most wearable lip yet. Loaded with crushed pigments and lip-loving ingredients, it’s the ultimate swipe and go formula…it won’t feather or fade for crush-worthy colour that lasts all day.Bobbi Brown Cosmetics
Does it live up to it’s claims?
I can’t comment if it lasts “all day” because I tend to remove my lipstick when I eat. That said, I don’t find I need to re-apply it in between meals. It definitely doesn’t feather.
Like a balm.
Pigmented like a lipstick, but finish like a balm. You can still see your own lip texture through the lipstick. It’s really quite a clever thing what they did. I haven’t tried anything like this before. Mind you, I don’t wear a lot of tinted balms anyway, mainly because the colour ranges of tinted balms tend to be inappropriate for my shade of pale and neutral-ness. But also because in the past when I have tried them, they’ve either been nothing-ness or lipstick-y. The Crushed Lip Colour does truly succeed in being a true lipstick-balm hybrid.
Looking at my swatched lipsticks, I think it’s safe to say I have a type!
This one is similar to the Velvet Jazz, but it is browner and brick-ier than Velvet Jazz. I think because of the slightly more browner/brick-red undertones going on in Cherry, this red lipstick tends to be one that suits me when I have a little bit of a “tan” going.
It is the same fragrance in all Bobbi Brown Lipsticks. Not fruity. Not vanilla. It’s sort of a “lipstick” smell.
It’s not overpowering per se but I am very sensitive to smell, so I am definitely aware of it when I wear this lipstick. It’s not my favourite, but it’s not intolerable cruelty either.
Yes there are “lip loving ingredients” – namely beeswax, castor seed oil, tocopherol (vitamin E) & ascorbyl palmitate (vitamin C).
There are also some definitely non-clean ingredients, which would be contained in most other mainstream lipsticks – for e.g.: paraffin, synthetic fragrance (under the guise of “Parfum”, which could be any number of chemicals), and interestingly, Ethylhexyl Methoxycinnamate (or octinoxate – a chemical sunscreen). Note: Bobbi Brown does not claim this lipstick is clean. It only claims there are lip-loving ingredients contained.
Where to get it?
Anywhere Bobbi Brown products are sold, or direct from Bobbi Brown Cosmetics online.
Would I buy it again?
Maybe. Though I would be more likely to try another colour, as I could have bought almost the entire line when they first came out! If good clean lipsticks didn’t exist, then yes I would definitely buy this again. But I am moving more towards the clean formulations, particularly for lip products. That said, I put this on for the first time in about a year, and was reminded how unique and amazing this formula is!
Nars Velvet Matte Lip Pencil in Dragon Girl
…instantly delivers the impact of a matte lipstick with the spontaneity of a pencil. The long lasting, non-drying formula is enriched with Vitamin E and emollients for a creamy texture, while a combination of unique silicones ensures long-lasting, seamless matte color for hours. Lips are instantly saturated with rich, vivid pigments and a velvety matte finish…This versatile formula also makes it easy to pair with another lip product for added dimension or as a tinted base.NARS Cosmetics
Does it live up to it’s claims?
This is another “creamy matte”. It’s not a flat matte, and your lips have some dimension. Also as advertised, you can use it as a tint of colour. If you wanted full on pigment, it doesn’t take much to build it up.
Definitely does not feel drying on the lips. Definitely long lasting with minimal transfer.
Colour & Pigmentation
This is similar to Velvet Ribbon, but a touch bluer, and less “vibrant”. I don’t know what it is in Lisa Eldridge’s lipsticks, but they do tend to have a “glowing” quality.
It’s not as concentrated in pigment as the Lisa Eldridge True Velvet lipsticks and the (M)anasi7 All Over Colour (see below), but it does pack a punch.
A light vanilla scent. Not overpowering, but I’m definitely aware of it.
It has parabens and synthetic fragrance, for those who care about these ingredients.
Where to get it?
Anywhere NARS cosmetics are sold, or online here.
Would I buy it again?
Probably not due to the clean makeup reasoning (see above under Bobbi Brown verdict). If clean makeup didn’t exist – yes I would buy this again. I like how it doubles for a lip liner, and I like how you can apply it more transluscently. The colour, comfort, and longevity are also good.
(M)anasi7 All Over Colour in Alizarin
I’m planning an article reviewing all the (M)anasi7 All Over Colour Pots that I have. So I will keep this brief by just saying that it’s clean, it’s vibrant, it’s highly pigmented, it’s moisturising, and it lasts. Yes it is expensive, but the quality of the ingredients is so good, and there are no fillers. I will elaborate more on this in my full review.
Colour-wise, this is the probably the warmest-toned one of my favourites. It also has a bright “glowing” quality to it. I love how it instantly brightens up my face. It’s been a great one this summer as we have been blessed with so much sun!
Please note: Alizarin has been reformulated recently so that the difference between that and Ikura is greater. The (M)anasi7 website says that Alizarin is now darker and bluer than before. I have the old version. And yes, they are close, but I personally am rather fussy about colour, so even when they were close, it was still a noticible difference for me. My swatches are for the old version.
Light vanilla scent – natural ethyl vanillin. I find it quite pleasant surprisingly.
They are FAB! Available here.
Note: there is retinyl palmitate (second to last ingredient). To be on the safe side, probably one to avoid if you’re pregnant/breast-feeding. But on the plus side, some anti-aging for your lips!
Where to buy it?
From the website.
I can only comment for in the UK, and I can only comment for shops where I have actually purchased from. The last thing I want to do is suggest a website that turns out to be scammy. (Not a paid review, and no affiliate links. This is just my experience buying from these two shops).
I bought my pots from Alyaka, as they had a good introductory offer, from which I got two. Then because I purchased the sample pack from Alyaka, the amount spent on the sample pack could go back towards the purchase of a full-sized (M)anasi7 item. Be aware that the minimum spend means that you do need to pick up more than one (M)anasi7 product, and they are not cheap. So I ended up picking up my other pots from Alyaka because of this.
The other place I have purchased from, where this product is available, is Content Beauty & Wellbeing. I have only shopped there in person once several years ago, and not for (M)anasi7 products. This is a London-based shop. I find they do tend to sell out of stock quite quickly, particularly for popular products. But for some reason that I can’t quite figure out, (M)anasi7 does not seem to be one of those “gotta have” brands like RMS, so you will probably be able to find something here also.
Would I buy it again?
Absolutely. When I finally run out. That will take years. The superb quality of the ingredients means you only need the tiniest amount. The pots are massive considering how little you need to use. I can take a lot of colour (Bright Winter colouring if you subscribe to Seasonal Colour Theory), and even for me, I can over-do it with the (M)anasi7 All Over Colour pots quite easily.
Let me know in the comments below or on Instagram what favourite red lipsticks you have. Hope this post about red lipsticks for pale skin has been useful! Until next time x