Fact: I feel like a confident, unstoppable, gorgeous, fearless, badass, 26-year-old woman who can do anything when I’m wearing red lipstick. I’m beauty-obsessed, and there’s no other product in the world that has the same effect on me as red lipstick. The way it levels up my confidence is truly untouchable. So yeah, you can call it my signature lipstick.
I discovered the effervescent powers of good red color in my freshman year of college. I was that 18-year-old, unabashedly walking into my mass media communications class with bright red lipstick on at 8 a.m. just because I felt like it. The mood-boosting magic of red lipstick is a feeling everyone should experience, so I’m excited to share the wealth with my favorite red shades of all time.
Here’s the thing with reds: There are a lot of them. A line of lipsticks doesn’t feel complete without some sort of red, so nearly every beauty brand has several of them. Don’t judge me when I say this, but I have a stack of red lipsticks sitting in every corner of my room. The obsession is real. It’s been a learning experience finding the right reds for my dark skin tone over the years. There have been a few bad apples in the bunch, but the good ones deserve to shine. This was not an easy task, but I’ve rounded up the very best red lipsticks for dark skin tones. You can quote me on these.
Smashbox Always on Matte Liquid Lipstick, Bawse
Okay, now that you’re well aware of the fact that I’ve tried tons of reds in my day, feast your eyes on my favorite red lipstick of all time, which I’m wearing in both of the photos above. This gem has won me jobs, dates, tons of “likes” on the ‘gram, and countless compliments. I’ve never met a matte more lightweight than this; I forget I’m even wearing it. What I’m most in love with is how this shade pops against my dark skin tone. The slay is unprecedented.
MAC Cosmetics Lipstick, Ruby Woo
It wouldn’t be right if I didn’t show love to the first red I fell in love with: Ruby Woo. This OG red shade is a cult favorite for many women of color because it’s just the bomb. I discovered it in my teen years and haven’t let go since. It’s an unapologetic hue that steals the spotlight. MAC has always known how to make a comfortable matte formula that doesn’t feel too tacky or drying on the lips.
Fenty Beauty by Rihanna Stunna Lip Paint Longwear, Uncensored
Rihanna is my celeb bestie in my head, and my homegirl nailed the perfect red with this one. When RiRi uploaded her first-ever lipstick tutorial unveiling this shade on Instagram, I legitimately screamed. This universal red looked next-level, and I knew I had to get it in my hands. I will say, proceed with caution if you’re going to be eating a bunch. It has a tendency to transfer throughout the day. But rest assured your selfie will be fire.
Anastasia Beverly Hills Liquid Lipstick, Sarafine
If you can’t tell by now, I love reds that saturate your lips in a bold burst of color. This blue-based red does just that and outlasts every single thing it comes in contact with. I started wearing this red heavily in my college days and still recommend it to all my friends. The pointy applicator makes it easy to ditch lip liner if you want.
Pat McGrath Labs MatteTrance Lipstick, Elson 013
Leave it to the one-and-only Mother of Makeup, Pat McGrath, to create an elegant red that makes me feel like a grown-ass woman. I find that blue-based reds look the best on dark skin tones because they complement our undertones and never look too light or ashy. This doesn’t feel like your typical matte; it’s unexpectedly hydrating, and those two characteristics usually don’t coincide. I love layering this on top of a brighter red to give it some depth.
Revlon Ultra HD Matte Lip Color, Romance
It’s pretty hard to beat a bold red for $7. This is one of those reds that are clutch when you’re in a rush and need a lipstick you can find in the nearest drugstore that’ll overdeliver. Its matte, velvety texture glides on a gorgeous, opaque hue in one sweep.
Stila Cosmetics Stay All Day Liquid Lipstick, Beso
This is another one of those oldie-but-goodie shades that stays at the front of my vanity. I love lipstick, but I absolutely hate reapplying it. You can’t talk about a non-budge formula without throwing this star player in the mix. Plus, the color payoff is the truth and looks especially stunning on brown skin.
Flesh Proud Flesh Matte Liquid Lipcolor, Brazen
Everyone’s always pleasantly surprised when they compliment me on my red, and I tell them it’s from Linda Wells’s new line, Flesh Beauty. It’s because this line made its debut a few months ago, and women of color are slowly but surely discovering the products were made with them in mind. After reviewing her thoughtfully curated collection with a full face of makeup, I’ve been hooked on this eye-catching red. I moisturize my lips beforehand with a balm, and after that’s settled in, I apply this red. Then, boom, the compliments come at me all day. It’s so vivid, which makes it the ideal red to complement deep complexions.
Nars Velvet Matte Lipstick Pencil, Dragon Girl
This red was introduced to me by my lovely mentor, Kahlana Barfield, which means its reputation is nothing less than solid if it’s endorsed by her (she’s a legend in the beauty industry). Lip crayons conveniently take things back to the basics. You can control exactly how this shade will look on your lips, so you don’t necessarily need a lip liner or even a super-steady hand. This red has blue undertones and leans on the fiery red-orange side of the spectrum.
Coloured Raine Matte Lip Paint, Cherry Blossom
I’m forever obsessing over Black-owned beauty brands like Coloured Raine, which consistently puts women of color first. Buzzfeed’s senior beauty editor, Essence Gant, recently reminded me of how amazing this red lipstick is, inspiring me to pull it out of my drawer and give it a whirl this past weekend. It did not disappoint. It’s one of those selfie-worthy shades that’ll make you feel so confident in your skin.
Dior Rouge Matte Lipstick, 999
I was first acquainted with this luxury red after interviewing celebrity makeup artist to Meghan Markle, Jessica Alba, and more, Daniel Martin. He pointed out the coral undertones of this shade, which make it universally flattering on all skin tones (aka a winner). I dubbed this my “special-occasion red” that I love wearing when I want to feel fancy. It sits so pretty on my lips and against my skin tone.
Beauty Pie Moisture-Lock Wondergel Lip Liner
Allow me to make your day with Beauty Pie, a line of luxury-made makeup for drugstore prices. This is the red lip liner of all lip liners. I know we’ve been talking lipsticks, but I wouldn’t be doing my due diligence if I didn’t include my go-to red lip liner to accompany my lipsticks. This liner sets every shade off because it’s creamy, long-wearing, and transfer-resistant. It’s sort of a crazy formula concept because it feels silky but not slippery. The vivid hue is practically made for dark skin tones. Trust me on this: Buy this liner in bulk.