High Definition: Red Lips For All

ColumnRed is a commitment color for lips and a strong fashion accessory.

If I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard, “I want to wear red, but I can never find the right color for me,” I’d have a vacation home on a tropical island somewhere.  Good news! Every single one of you can wear red lipstick. It’s one of the most universally flattering colors and never goes out of fashion.  Whether or not you feel comfortable with fire engine red lips or a sultry cherry colored mouth is another story. Luckily there are innumerable variations on that rouge hue to suit any skin tone and any comfort level and I’ve compiled a list of reds with “green” ingredients.

Now, it wouldn’t be much of a suggestion list if I just looked on the internet for some random red shades of lipstick to suggest.  Instead, I took the time to test out several shades from various natural brands, both on myself and any willing friend with skin darker than mine. The most interesting part of the experiment was walking around almost everyday for the last week and a half with different versions of red slicked across my kisser.

First, I had to give up the idea that red was a party color and couldn’t go with casual clothing in the daytime.  Not all reds work for shorts and a tank top, but the more sheer ones can. Second, I needed to wear more foundation to take out the extra pink in my skin tone and use a bit more eye makeup to create a balance in features. Third, I had to be much more attentive about upkeep and applying lipstick with precision rather than the usual smoosh around on my mouth and run.

This is a commitment color, and definitely not low maintenance. So you’ve got to be willing to spend extra time with your makeup application and reapply diligently. If you take that challenge, then you are ready for the perfect red mouth to be your newest fashion statement.

Pro tip: Shape is incredibly important. If you have small, thin lips you’ve really got to emphasize rounding out and lifting up the cupid’s bow of the top lip and bottom center. Otherwise you’ll have two horizontal lines of red across your face, and that’s not cute.

For all the brands I’ve reviewed they range from very natural, pure and organic, to natural with some synthetics. Almost all of them use carmine, an ingredient that for some people is a turn off because it’s made from crushed beetles.  However it’s the only way to get a bright red in lipsticks at this point in time. Also with natural formulations, long-wear isn’t really possible. So don’t expect most of these to last for hours on end without some touch ups.

In alphabetical order here is the red round up:

Ava Anderson has two reds that in the tube look completely different but on the lips their difference is quite subtle. This very hydrating, pepperminty, natural lipstick is carmine free and goes on incredibly sheer, but if you are willing to put a few coats on, it does build up to a rather bright color that looks dewy.  The taste is pretty neutral. The wear isn’t super long, nor does it really stain the lips but they are carmine free.

Beach Rose is a bright and classic looking red which tested well on light, medium and very dark skin tones. (On very dark skin it just showed up more subtly and had to be applied with many layers, but the effect solicited some happy cooing).

Hot Cider appears to be a deep purple just by looking at the lipstick but upon application it turns into a more orangey red that is slightly deeper and less bright than the former color. This is great on someone with pink undertones in their skin.

Ecco Bella has a cool red lip crayon they call Cranberry, which is pretty accurate for the shade it turns.  It’s a pretty and very vibrant color after a few swipes back and forthwith the pencil, which offers great control.  It’s fairly waxy, and does leave a good stain but the wear wasn’t quite as long as I’d hoped given they call it a long wearing product.  The smell and the taste are pleasantly neutral.  This color is great for anyone with dark hair that has cool tones in it and is flattering on a variety of skin tones from fair to dark.

Dr. Haushka makes two reds suited perfectly for those looking for a distinctly cool or warm tone.  Their lipstick is pretty heavily pigmented, moisturizing and has great wearability.  I detected a bit of minty flavor with theirs, but it wasn’t overwhelming.

No. 4 is a rich warm red with orange undertones great for a redhead or someone with pink undertones and caramel colored hair.  No. 6 is the cooler version that borders on a berry red, perfect for blondes and brunettes, especially those with more olive/golden complexions.  Both colors could work on just about anyone.  Because No. 6 is more berry, it’s a bit more audacious as a statement.

Mineral Fusion’s lipstick has lots of pigment and a waxier feeling that gives it great longevity.  Flashy is an orangey red, that is slightly lighter than Dr. Haushka’s No. 4 so it’s a great option for someone looking to do a sophisticated, warm red that isn’t screamingly bright but still holds its own where pigment and wearability are concerned.

Youngblood’s Vixen is the endurance queen. This one has got some synthetics in its mostly natural formulation, and is worth mentioning because it’s a cool red that screams, “I’m here for the party and not leaving ‘till dawn!” Talk about a bold red that just won’t quit.  Even in the world of traditional lip colors I’ve yet to come across something so vibrant that doesn’t need to be touched for hours. This color would work on anyone brave enough to put it on.

Hopefully you’ll be inspired to take on the summer with a mouth as hot as you feel and try out some of these great shades. If you have any reds that have rocked your lips in the natural category, leave a comment below.

Editor’s note: Got a celebrity look you’d like to copy or a trend you’d like to see incorporating healthy, non-toxic makeup? Send your questions to High Definition columnist Kristen Arnett at beauty@ecosalon.com

New York City based Kristen Arnett is an internationally renowned makeup artist and founder of the Green Beauty Team, styling high profile celebrities and runway models as well as a sought after beauty expert, educator and teacher for other makeup artists.

Image: Davide Todini

Makeup: Kristen Arnett