Red Lipsticks I Have Known

I recently saw this ad:

The line: “Just because I wear lipstick doesn’t mean I’m not confident” implies that a person would wear lipstick out of insecurity, too scared to brave it “au natural.” Contrary to this perception, I believe it takes confidence to wear “unnatural” looking cosmetics, making yourself stand out rather than concealing self-perceived flaws. I consider this part of a queer aesthetic. From the time of Oscar Wilde, gay style has been associated with artifice and self-creation (Wilde wore a dyed green carnation to symbolize his preference for man-made beauty).

Make-up is central to expressing my femme identity; I think cat eyes and bright lips convey an intentional and confrontational femininity.

The number one comment I get about my lipstick is “That color looks so good on you, but I could never wear it.”

Bold lipstick is for everyone, and by wearing it you are proclaiming that you ARE the kind of person who can pull it off.

Plus, in the immortal words of Cher Horowitz, “Anything you can do to draw attention to your mouth is good.”

Stand-out orange lipstick (a la Neon Orange by MAC), hot pink hues (like CoverGirl’s Lip Perfection Lipstick in Spellbound), or crazy rainbow shades (from Keyshia Dior) may be on-trend, but personally, I stick to a classic red lip.

Beth Ditto for MAC

Red lips are not just for pin-up girls or going out at night. Wearing your red lipstick at 9 am, on the bus, and at all times, will make you feel distinctive and ready for anything.

Red lipstick can easily become part of your signature look; but even if you commit to red as your color of choice there is still crimson, carmine, carnelian, cerise, ruby, scarlet, rust, magenta, rose, vermillion and wine, a dizzying array of shades with equally descriptive and seductive names!

Marilyn wore three different shades at a time and applied them with a lip brush. Her preferred brands were Guerlain, Elizabeth Arden, and Max Factor.

Here are some red lipsticks I have known (and loved).

My personal pantheon of reds:

Mac Ruby Woo- If I had to select the one staple to have stashed in my bag when I got stranded on a desert island, this would be it. Ruby Woo is an arresting matte red with major staying power. It seems to look good with everything, but especially an all black, or black and white ensemble.

A red lip is a “pop of color” against a black outfit.

Legendary – MAC calls this a “Mattene”- it is matte but with enough moisture to keep it from getting flakey. This is an excellent dark and dramatic lipstick, best when worn with a liner (I use Brick, also from MAC).

Vampira is an inspiration to us all.

Urban Decay in Revolution (Vegan)

Kat Von D- Hellbent- A beauteous blood red

For a brighter 1940s red I use Maybelline Are You Red-dy?

Red hair + red lips for extra win.

Revlon Fire & Ice is another affordable option.

Be a Justin Vivian Bond Girl.

If you want to reapply your lipstick in public it is more fun when your lipstick case is a statement piece. For the kind of lipstick you can theatrically flaunt at the table (this requires the aid of a chic compact as well) opt for Chanel Rouge Allure in Dragon, Tom Ford in Cherry Lush, or Guerlain Rouge Automatique in Rouge d’Enfer which is a lighter glossier formula.

Estee Lauder makes cute compacts.


Because you are the Chanel type.

Tom Ford takes everything to the next level.

In my head I look exactly like this.

This lipstick is retractable so there is no cap to get lost in your purse.

I have also been coveting this Besame red in a gold art nouveau style tube.

Glamour fetish

If you want to coordinate with nails to match choose Chanel Dragon, Rouge Marie by Mac, Big Apple Red by O.P.I., or Got the Blues for Red by O.P.I.

So now, as Miss Elizabeth Taylor would say, go, “Pour yourself a drink, put on some lipstick, and pull yourself together.”


About shawnaelizabeth

Literary Lady.


  1. strongarone

    yes girl, yes!!

  2. I am always afraid of the “hidden” dangers of red lipstick i.e. heavy leads and chemicals. Do any of these companies have the ingredients posted, listed or discussed? I really love the idea of lipstick everyday. But I am afraid of the long term health implications….

  3. shawnaelizabeth

    Try E.L.F Mineral Lipstick, Urban Decay, or Natural Girl Cosmetics Natural Vegan Lipstick

  4. I have no idea how I ended up here, but I *LOVE* your take on self-decoration & self-esteem. I also love that you’re from Canada (what can I say, we rep hard :D)

    Keep shinin’ Shawna 🙂

  5. shawnaelizabeth

    I also use this website: to learn about the ingredients of different beauty products sometimes.

  6. rachelmonster

    i *love* ysl’s rouge volupte in red muse: (they say it is an orange-red and that red taboo is a true red, but i find this to be a pretty true red, and it works well with my pale, pinkish skin). it’s not the world’s best at staying on (needs liner, def), but it is SO SMOOTH AND SOFT and creamy and wonderful.

  7. danielle

    okay, i really appreciate this post and want to rock lipstick daily *but* i have a major problem getting lipstick actually to stay on my lips/last. any advice for that? thanks.

    • shawnaelizabeth

      Lipliner! Apply the liner first, then the lipstick. Also the matte formulas stick better, you might wake up wearing Ruby Woo in the morning.

  8. Red lipstick confession/dilemma: I wear red lipstick all the time, in my favourite shade Redberry by The Body Shop. Which has been discontinued. Years ago. 😥 And I bought up all of the tubes I could get my hands on. And now, I am down to the very last stub of the last tube of the most perfect red for my colouring in the history of ALL THE BRANDS. I am lost. It’s a coppery-red, deep with a golden shimmer. Glam as fuck. Suggestions needed for a new go-to shade. xoxo

  9. shawnaelizabeth

    I haven’t seen the one you are talking about but you might look at NARS brand because they make a lot of stuff with a shimmery golden undertone (available at Sephora) shu uemura Rouge Luster Lipstick is red with gold shimmer, and MAC New York Apple Lipstick is also red sparkly. You will have to experiment until you find your new “one”!

  10. Because of this video of Rachel Khoo in Tom Ford’s Cherry Lush, I now own a tube of red lipstick for the first time in 15 years. Now I just have to find the courage to wear it (MAC’s Viva Glam 1 cause Tom Ford is $48 a tube.)

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