Pin-Up Diaries: The 5 Red Lipsticks So Good They've Made My Everyday Rotation

For years, I was one of those people who thought they couldn't wear red lipstick. I could, and you can too.
Publish date:
March 12, 2012
shoppables, makeup, red lipstick, lipsticks

For years, I was one of those people who thought they couldn't wear red lipstick. I tried! Every few months, I purchased a new shade and slathered it on in the am, only to wipe it off the first time I caught a glimpse of myself looking like Bozo in a reflective surface.

Part of the problem was that I had no clue about the existence of makeup that didn't come from the drugstore so I was buying cheap colors that I couldn't try on before purchase. But a bigger problem was that I just didn't have the self-confidence to carry it off.

Like with a great blowjob, 90 percent of the formula for looking great in a red lipstick is enthusiasm. You have to just decide that you're gonna work the look, and stick with it long enough to get used to your face.

I, personally, also found it helpful to wear less makeup on the rest of the my face. A full smokey eye with red lip on someone as clean and smiley as me looks a little too beauty pageant contestant. Not even a good state.

So I do just a swipe of liquid liner on the top with mascara, illuminizer and blush. But I would never tell you what to do with your faces, darling. You know what works for you.

At NYU, I had a young writing professor who always had perfectly matte red lips. Once, one of my female classmates asked her what shade she wore, and she got really cage-y, like the Colonel being asked about his seven spices or an actor on "Mad Men" being questioned about the season finale. I think she may have said something like "That's kind of personal."

I thought that was extremely cool, but I will never be the girl who maintains an aura of mystery. I just like to talk too damn much.

And since I do wear red lipstick every single day, I will gladly share you with the shades I wear on the regular.

1. Lady Danger by Mac


This is my go-to red. I actually start to feel nervous if it's not in my possession and panic-buy it, which is why I now have 3 or 4 tubes in various locations. Like all my favoritest favorite reds, it's bright and tomato-y and coral-tinged and basically pops off your face.

Because I am into a vintage look, I don't want much shine or gloss on my mouth. MAC lipsticks are very matte, so even if you don't love Lady Danger, they're a great place to find your perfect bold red.

Similar colors:


by Nars ($24),

Mango Mambo

by Milani ($5.49), Kat von D



2. YSL 01 Le Rouge ($32)

This was my gateway red, purchased after Cat kept talking about YSL reds.

Her favorite is #17, Red Muse

, but I fell in love with #1 the first time I put it on. I actually recommend buying 01 (Le Rouge), 07 (Le Fuschia) and 13 (Le Orange) as a trio and calling it a day on lipsticks. They are more slick and creamy than the MAC lipsticks. Luuuuuuuxury.

Similar colors: Urban Decay


($22), Elizabeth Arden

Poppy Cream


3. Nars Jungle Red ($24)

Described as "bright red from the 1950s silver sceen," Nars' semi-matte Jungle Red is favored by tons of my burlesque dancer friends, and I believe, the red of choice to be worn with a leopard-print bikini.

Similar colors:

British Red

by Loreal ($8.95), Kat von D

Underage Red


4. Russian red by MAC ($14.50)

The shade favored by Dita von Teese, this is the perfect blue red and my second most-worn shade after Lady Danger. I feel like I don't even need to say anything about it because every red lipstick story since caveman times has mentioned it and you probably get that it's a good lipstick already.

Similar colors: There is only one Russian Red.

5. Poppy Pavot from Joe Fresh ($6)

Only available in Joe Fresh stores, this is another orange-y red, but this time for only 6 freaking dollars. "Poppy" is one of those code words that tip me off that I'm probably going to like a shade of lipstick. Do you have those? Wine, berry, spice, plum? Are those just things I want to eat? I also like reds that use words like "True" and "Really," as if to thumb their noses at all those imposter reds.

Similar colors: Covergirl

Really Red

, YSL 13

Le Orange


So, while I own probably 20 shades of red, I tried to keep it to the ones I genuinely wear on a regular basis. I hope this was helpful. Will you try one of these shades? Is there one I'm missing? Don't tell me Ruby Woo; I just don't get you Ruby Woo people.