How To Apply Red Lipstick [Even Without Lip Liner!]

Red lips are classic, timeless, and can be both casual or formal. Red lipstick works on so many different levels. But if you aren't careful when applying it, red lipstick can get everywhere. That's why we've researched the proper way to apply red lipstick, with or without lip liner, so that it looks clean, crisp, and stays on.

There are eight steps that you should follow to apply red lipstick perfectly every time. They are:

  1. Find the right color.
  2. Scrub your lips.
  3. Moisturize your lips.
  4. Apply a primer.
  5. Brush it on.
  6. Set the lipstick.
  7. Clean it up.
  8. Apply lip gloss.

Following this method when applying red lipstick will ensure that you get the look you want the first time. You won't have to erase the lipstick and reapply or start completely over. This can save you valuable time, especially if you're already running late for a big event. Keep reading for more details on how to do each step.

Beautiful woman applying a red lipstick in studio, How To Apply Red Lipstick [Even Without Lip Liner!]

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How To Apply Red Lipstick

Woman applying red lipstick

There are many reasons why your red lipstick doesn't stick well or doesn't look like you want it to. When many people, especially beginners, want to wear red lipstick, they think all they need is a lip liner and lipstick. In reality, you need several different products if you want to effectively pull off red lipstick. But don't worry; we'll tell you exactly what you need.

1. Find the Right Color

Pulling off red lipstick means first choosing the right shade of red. Since red is such a popular lip color, there is no shortage of shades to choose from. Red lipstick doesn't necessarily have to mean the brightest red you can find. Instead, you should choose a shade that complements your skin tone.

We'll look more in-depth at what shades look best on what skin tones later in the article. But when you're looking at different shades, a good rule of thumb to see how it would look is to apply a little of one shade to your fingertips. Then you can hold the shade up to your lips to test how it looks on your lips and against your skin tone.

We should note that you should never apply a tester lipstick directly to your lips when trying out lipstick colors. Doing so could risk spreading germs or contaminating the lipstick. Use only your fingertips to touch the lipstick, then avoid actually touching your fingertips to your lips. After testing lipstick shades, wash your hands before touching your mouth and face.

2. Scrub Your Lips

Smoothing your lips before you apply lipstick helps to remove any dead or flaky skin. Lips with a rough texture will make lipstick apply unevenly. There are lip scrubs that are made for the sole purpose of smoothing your lips. Just apply the scrub to your lips, rub your lips together to spread it out, and use a cotton ball to wipe it off. 

Click here to check out this lip scrub on Amazon.

3. Moisturize Your Lips

Dry and cracked lips can cause lipstick to look patchy, which will be noticeable with a bold color like red. To prevent this from happening, apply a lip moisturizer after the lip scrub to hydrate your lips.

After you apply moisturizer, you should always give it time to dry before you apply lipstick. If you don't, your lipstick may not stick as well or may look wet or shiny. Work on other parts of your makeup routine while you wait on the moisturizer to dry.

Click here to see this lip repair moisturizer from Amazon.

4. Apply a Primer

As with any other makeup, you should also apply a lip primer before lipstick, especially with dark colors like red. There are primers made just for lips used to keep lipstick from fading and help it stay on your lips longer. This means no left-behind lipstick marks when you eat or drink.

Check out this lip primer on Amazon.

What About Lip Liner?

You may have noticed that we haven't mentioned using lip liner yet. Lip liner doesn't have to be a necessity when applying lipstick. However, you can use a lip liner in place of a primer. Like primer, lip liner is waxy. So, in addition to using it to give your lips more shape and definition, it can be used instead of primer to help your lipstick last longer.

You might also be interested in this guide: Should Lip Liner Be Darker Than Lipstick?

5. Brush It On

Red is a very bold lip color. You need to be precise when applying it, or you could end up with too much color or color that looks messy. Using a lip brush is the best way to apply red lipstick. Using the tube will transfer too much lipstick to your lips, making a mess or looking overdone.

Lip brushes are thinner and more precise, meaning you can control how much color goes onto your lips and keep it from getting outside your lip line.

If you've never used a lip brush to apply lipstick, the video below will show you how:


This lip brush is retractable, so it can fit into your purse in case you need a touch-up.

Check out this lip brush on Amazon.

6. Set The Lipstick

Use a translucent powder to help set the lipstick color in place. To do this, place a tissue over your lips. Using a powder brush, apply the powder onto the tissue. Just enough powder will transfer through the tissue to set the color without being noticeable.

Click here to see this setting powder on Amazon.

7. Clean It Up

Even if you've followed all the steps up to this point, you still may have gotten lipstick in places that you didn't intend to. It happens. To fix it, apply concealer around your lips, or anywhere else you may have gotten lipstick. This will help your lipstick look more crisp and clean. 

Check out this lip color remover from Amazon.

8. Apply Lip Gloss

This last step is, of course, optional. Adding lip gloss is a great way to add shine and sparkle to your lips if you're only going to be wearing lipstick for a short time. But because gloss is wet and sticky, it won't last through meals and isn't good for extended wear. When lip gloss does come off, it may take your lip color off, too, so use it cautiously.

How To Keep Red Lipstick From Feathering

Lipstick feathering is when lipstick starts to bleed and looks uneven. Following the above procedure for applying lipstick should decrease the amount of feathering, but some feathering is still likely for bold colors like red. Here are a few additional things you can try to prevent it:

  1. Blot your lipstick. Apply one layer, blot it, then apply it again.
  2. Use an invisible lip liner. Invisible lip liner acts as a primer and is very effective for bold colors.
  3. Use a lip conditioner. Apply it before bed and leave it on overnight to hydrate your lips.
  4. Use the right formula. Avoid wearing long-wear formulas daily, as these can dry out your lips. Switch to moisturizing formulas for daily wear and only use long-wear formulas for special events.

How Do I Look Good With Red Lipstick?

Photo of variation lipsticks selection in a beauty shop

Looking good while wearing red lipstick comes down to choosing the right lip color for your skin tone, hair color, and outfit. Colors can be either warm or cool, and skin and hair have warm and cool undertones as well. The key is to pair warm undertones with warm shades and cool undertones with cool shades. It's also important to choose clothing that compliments the lipstick instead of clashing with it.

Skin Tone

Here are the best red lipstick and lip liner combos for each skin tone:

  • Fair/Light - bright, true reds. If the lipstick looks washed out while on your lips, apply a brown lip liner underneath.
  • Medium/Tan/Olive - red-orange or raspberry red. Apply a slightly darker lip liner underneath if it looks too orange.
  • Dark - red-orange or wine shades like merlot. Apply similar shades of lip liner underneath.

This lipstick comes in a variety of red shades.

Click here to see it on Amazon.

Hair Color

Here are the best red lipstick colors for a variety of hair colors.

  • Platinum blonde - true reds in matte finishes. 
  • Dark blonde/light brown - deeper shades like cherry or reddish-pink.
  • Brunette - vibrant reds, such as red-orange or reddish-pink.
  • Black - deep reds or reds with brown undertones.


These clothing/dress colors look great with red lipstick: 

  • White
  • Black (especially suits or blazers)
  • Black and white stripes
  • Denim
  • Red (especially with brunette hair) 

You may also like this guide: What Color Lipstick To Wear With Red Dress?

Why Is Red Lipstick Attractive?

Red lipstick is attractive because as we get older, our skin and hair begin to lose color and tone, making us look pale. Bold lipsticks like red help to balance out this loss of color, making our complexion more flattering. Wearing red lipstick also boosts confidence, which can make skin glow more and enhance natural beauty.

Does Red Lipstick Make You Look Older?

Set of smears of red and pink lipsticks close-up isolated on white background

Red lipstick itself doesn't necessarily make you look older. It all depends on the shade of red you choose and how you apply it. Lips become thinner as people get older, and choosing the wrong color can enhance thinness if your lips are naturally thin. 

To avoid looking older, choose the right lipstick shade for your skin tone. This will help enhance your natural beauty, which will make you look younger. Wearing a lip liner with lipstick can help your lips look plumper and younger, a great trick if you have thinner lips.

In Closing

Now you know the proper way to apply red lipstick to last a long time and look good. The keys to wearing red lipstick lie in choosing the right shade for your skin tone and hair color and using the right products to apply it. Hopefully, this article has shown you how to apply red lipstick or any other shade like a professional. Thanks for reading!

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