Red lipstick is classic—it’s a makeup bag staple and the ultimate sign of confidence when proudly swiped on by its wearer. But like all makeup, finding the right one for you—the one that makes you feel confident and comfortable—comes down to your preferences. And with so many options on the market, it can be challenging to discover your best fit. So, we took the guesswork out of it for you by putting dozens of popular and well-loved red lipsticks to the test in our lab in New York City. Each one was evaluated based on comfort, pigment, transfer resistance, and wear, and ahead, we’re sharing which ones impressed us the most.
Best Overall: Dior Rouge Dior Forever Liquid Transfer-Proof Lipstick
We love wearing red lipstick, but it’s no secret how messy it can be. That’s why we appreciate that this one has a pointed applicator which makes precise application easy, and the liquid formula completely dries down. Contrary to many liquid lipstick formulas that are thick and heavy-feeling on the lips, this one is thin and lightweight, making it more comfortable to wear.
With just one coat, our tester was able to achieve full, even pigmentation. Once applied, the formula dried down quickly, didn’t bleed or feather outside of her lip lines, and didn’t bunch up in the corners of her mouth. Aside from minor transfer when eating and drinking, this lipstick stayed put, making it a great option for those who struggle to keep red lipstick looking pristine. Plus, the luxe packaging makes it an indulgent experience.
Price at time of publish: $42
Tested Shade: Forever Dior | Finish: Matte | Cruelty-Free: No
Best Budget: Maybelline New York SuperStay Matte Ink Liquid Lipstick
If you’re looking for a budge-proof red lipstick from the drugstore, make this one your go-to. This liquid lipstick formula provides full-on pigmentation, dries down to a matte finish, and most importantly, doesn’t budge for hours on end.
After wearing it through our blotting and transfer tests, our tester shared that it remained almost perfectly intact. He experienced almost no transferring and absolutely no fading, making this a great option for long days or special occasions.
The one downside? It feels a bit drying and sticky on the lips–so we recommend applying a thin layer of lip balm before wearing this formula.
Price at time of publish: $11
Tested Shade: Exhilarator | Finish: Matte | Cruelty-Free: No
What Our Testers Say
“After having my dark chocolate nuts and sea salt Kind Bar, and a small bag of Fritos chips, no lipstick has come off, even after licking [my lips].” —Lamont Paulin, Product Tester
Best Long-Wearing: Pat McGrath Labs MatteTrance Lipstick
Pat McGrath Labs might be most known for their iconic eyeshadows, but don’t sleep on their lipsticks—this one is fantastic. It’s a rich, matte lipstick with a velvety texture that glides onto the lips to provide full, vivid pigment.
Our tester noted that while she didn’t find the formula to be moisturizing, it was comfortable to wear and didn’t make her lips look or feel drier. She loved how smoothly the formula was applied, and she was extremely impressed that even after eating and drinking, the color and texture of the lipstick remained intact.
While it did transfer a bit during the transfer tests, we’re super impressed that it maintained a beautiful appearance on the lips and remained comfortable to wear throughout the day.
Price at time of publish: $39
Tested Shade: Elson | Finish: Matte | Cruelty-Free: No
What Our Editors Say
“I am really impressed with how light this feels on my lips while also staying in place. Combined with the texture of the product itself, it feels long-wearing without drying my lips out as I would expect from a long-wearing lipstick.” —Kate Geraghty, Editorial Director
Best Full Pigment: Tarte Maracuja Juicy Lipstick
Red lipsticks are inherently more bold than neutral shades, but this formula, in particular, takes bold to a new level—our tester couldn’t believe how pigmented it was in just one swipe. Aside from the excellent color payoff, she was really impressed with how comfortable the formula felt, and that despite experiencing a bit of transfer, it still looked great on the lips.
After eating and drinking and wearing the lipstick for some time, it looked almost perfect except for minor fading in the corners of her mouth. But considering how well this bold pick performed and wore, we’d highly recommend it if you’re looking for a super vivid red.
Price at time of publish: $21
Tested Shade: Cherry | Finish: Satin | Cruelty-Free: Yes
What Our Testers Say
“The lipstick had a bit of transfer onto the towel after blotting, but still looked bold and bright on my lips. After eating snacks and drinking from a cup, I still liked how the product looked—it remained saturated and bright!” —Bali Connors, Product Tester
Best Hydrating: ILIA Color Block High Impact Lipstick
It’s true, wearing red lipstick with a matte formula can help to keep smudging and transferring to a minimum. But if you prefer more hydrating formulas and don’t mind having to touch up every once in a while, this moisturizing lipstick could be a great option for you.
Our tester found it to be comfortable to wear and she noted that she was able to build up the color rather than getting full pigment straight off the bat—this is a plus if you prefer a more subtle red lip. While it did transfer some during the transfer tests, she noted that it didn’t cause much of a reduction in the pigmentation on her lips. If you’re on the hunt for comfortable red lipstick that won’t dry out your lips, this one has our stamp of approval.
Price at time of publish: $28
Tested Shade: Tango | Finish: Satin | Cruelty-Free: Yes
Best Lightweight: Sunnies Face Fluffmatte Weightless Modern Matte Lipstick
In recent years, matte lipsticks with powdery formulas have become incredibly popular, and this is without a doubt one of the best on the market. The weightless, powdery texture looks gorgeous on the lips, and you can build it up for full pigmentation like a traditional matte formula, or sheer it out for a blurred look.
Our tester loved how soft this formula looked and felt on her lips, and she noted how pleasantly surprised she was when she achieved rich color payoff in one thin layer. She did experience transfer, especially when drinking from a cup, so you might be better off using a straw and avoiding greasy food when wearing this one. But aside from that, she was really impressed with the look, feel, and wear of this lipstick.
Price at time of publish: $16
Tested Shade: Hot Sauce | Finish: Matte | Cruelty-Free: Yes
Best Satin: Shiseido VisionAiry Gel Lipstick
If you like a lipstick that falls somewhere between matte and shiny, this satin option is perfect for you. It has a gel formula that glides across the lips with ease, and the satin finish helps to ensure that it doesn’t feel dry or cakey.
Our tester shared that when she performed the blot test, a lot of pigment transferred onto the tissue, leaving her with a less intense lip color than she had before blotting. However, she didn’t experience transferring while eating or drinking, so the product that came off when blotting was likely just excess. She noticed that the color faded a bit as she wore it, but if you don’t mind reapplying, this shouldn’t be a deal-breaker. Despite minor fading, her lip look remained even and her lips felt comfortable.
Price at time of publish: $26
Tested Shade: Ginza Red | Finish: Satin | Cruelty-Free: No
Best Matte: Makeup Forever Rouge Artist For Ever Matte 24HR Longwear Liquid Lipstick
Like most traditional liquid lipsticks, this formula is a bit drying—that’s the nature of this type of product. However, our tester noted that this one was not as drying as other liquid lipsticks she’s tried, even sharing that she found it pretty comfortable to wear. She loved how evenly it applied on her lips, and was very pleased with the level of pigmentation she achieved in one swipe.
As for transferring, she noted that it was minimal while she was eating, but that the lipstick remained looking great. She did notice some feathering near her cupid’s bow and outer corners, so if you tend to experience this as well, we recommend applying a thin layer with a precise lip brush. Overall, the relatively comfortable feeling on the lips, smooth application, rich pigmentation, and long-wearing formula make it one of our top picks.
Price at time of publish: $25
Tested Shade: Constantly On Fire | Finish: Matte | Cruelty-Free: No
Best Transfer-Proof: Melt Cosmetics Liquid Lipstick
If you’re looking for a red lip color that you can rely on to stay completely locked in as you wear it, this is the one for you. The liquid lipstick formula is thin and incredibly pigmented, making it easy to apply, and once applied to the lips, it won’t go anywhere.
While some people might find it drying—which is just the nature of this type of lipstick—our tester shared that she didn’t find it to be overly drying or uncomfortable. She was incredibly impressed as it passed the blotting and transfer tests with ease. Between the exceptional color payoff, budge-proof formula, and comfortability, it has our stamp of approval.
Price at time of publish: $19
Tested Shade: Immoral | Finish: Matte | Cruelty-Free: Yes
Best for Everyday: Smashbox Be Legendary Prime & Plush Lipstick
If you’re the type of person who loves to sport a red lip on a daily basis, chances are you’ll want to have a comfortable formula in your collection. This one is a great everyday red lipstick because it’s not drying, it has a buildable formula, and it doesn’t bleed or feather outside the lip lines.
It transferred a bit during the blotting and drinking tests, but not so much so that it ruined our tester’s lip look. She noted that she feels like it’s a formula that one would need to reapply every few hours and especially after eating a big meal, but considering how smooth and comfortable the formula is, this should be a problem as it won’t get heavy or cakey on the lips.
Price at time of publish: $24
Tested Shade: Unbridled | Finish: Satin | Cruelty-Free: Yes
Our favorite red lipstick is the Dior Rouge Forever Liquid Transfer-Proof Lipstick. It’s luxe, easy to apply, richly pigmented, comfortable to wear, and long-lasting. But if you’re looking for a traditional lipstick formula that provides rich red color and a comfortable, satin finish, we recommend the Ilia Color Block High Impact Lipstick.
How We Tested
Our editors put in hours of research to find the most popular and highly rated lipsticks on the market before selecting dozens to put to the test in our lab facility in NYC. Each lipstick was evaluated based on comfort, pigment, transfer resistance, and wear. Every tester measured the moisture level of their lips before and after applying the lipstick, participated in a blotting test, ate and drank while wearing the formula, and tested for longevity. Each lipstick was then given a rating in each category, and those that scored the highest made our list.
Other Options We Tested
Chanel Rouge Allure Luminous Intense Lipstick
Our tester loved the feel and color of this luxe lipstick, but they experienced a decent amount of transferring and noted that it smeared as they wore it.
GXVE by Gwen Stefani Anaheim Shine Lipstick
There’s no denying the boldness of this ultra-pigmented red lipstick, but our tester said it felt pretty drying on her lips. While she noted that the blot test removed about half of the color, she didn’t experience transferring while she ate.
Saie Lip Blur Soft-Matte Hydrating Lipstick with Hyaluronic Acid
Despite this matte lipstick being formulated with hyaluronic acid, our tester said it felt a bit drying on her lips. However, she loved the rich pigment and transfer-resistant formula.
What to Look For When Buying Red Lipstick
Perhaps the most obvious thing to look for when buying red lipstick is the shade. Red is such a statement color, so selecting a shade that makes you feel confident is a must. It’s important to take depth and undertone into consideration when making a selection, but ultimately it takes trial and error to figure out what suits you best.
If you’re wondering—how do I find the best red lipstick for my skin tone?—here’s some general guidance: Rich, cool-toned reds look gorgeous on deep and dark skin tones, warm terracotta reds are perfect for olive skin tones, and bright, berry reds are super flattering on fair and light skin tones. If you’re on the hunt for a true, vivid red, go for the Makeup Forever Rouge Artist For Ever Matte 24HR Longwear Liquid Lipstick in Constantly On Fire. If you prefer a warm, orange-red, try the Sunnies Face Fluffmatte in Hot Sauce. Looking for a cool, berry red? We recommend the Dior Rouge Forever Liquid Transfer-Proof Lipstick in Forever Glam. But remember, it all truly comes down to personal preference.
Aside from the color, the other most important factor to consider when buying red lipstick is the formula and finish. If you like a full matte look, you’ll want to opt for matte bullet lipsticks or traditional liquid lipsticks, like the Melt Cosmetics Liquid Lipstick. If you prefer a luminous finish or a more comfortable, everyday formula, look out for a shiny bullet lipstick, like the Smashbox Be Legendary Lipstick.
How do I make red lipstick last?
There are a few things you can do to keep your red lipstick in place and look pristine. First, it’s always a good idea to exfoliate your lips before application to prevent flaking. It’s also wise to line your lips with a matte lip liner before applying your lipstick because the lip liner will help to prevent the lip color from bleeding or feathering.
What makeup do I pair with red lipstick?
People often find wearing red lipstick intimidating because it’s such a bold color and it can be tricky to figure out what other makeup to pair it with without looking overdone. When in doubt, keep the rest of your makeup simple—that is if you’re concerned about looking super bold. A red lip paired with luminous skin and a generous coat of mascara is a classic look that’s chic on everyone. If you want to sport full glam, keep it neutral on your eyes and cheeks and let your lips be the focal point.