The Ultimate Guide To Chanel's Red Lipsticks And Nail Polishes

Don't be intimidated. Along with a vast selection, Chanel has great formulas, beautiful packaging, nuanced shades and really fun names. I'll walk you through a few of my favorites.
Publish date:
July 29, 2013
chanel, lipsticks, nail polishes, classics, shades, swatches, reds

My name is Rio and I am a Chanel addict. (Hi, Rio.)

I love all makeup really, but I have a particular soft spot for nail polish of every stripe and red lipstick. And guess who makes the best: Chanel. Their lipsticks and nail polishes have it all for me: great formulas, beautiful packaging, nuanced shades and really fun names. I’m hooked.

For my first big beauty purchase, I bought Chanel Hydrabase in Barcelona Red, a deep blood red, when I was 14. I never actually wore it anywhere, but I danced around plenty in front of my bathroom mirror with it on. It resonated with me, not as a cliché for womanhood but as an expression of solidifying individuality.

Now, my collection has expanded a bit, but I still feel like the nuances of red can express my state of mind.

Red is bloody and primal and indelibly linked to our hearts. Gabrielle Chanel once said that we are all red inside, so we might as well show a bit of that on the outside. Red makeup makes the metaphorical connection between the physical reality of our red insides and our freer emotions. There is no logic in red lips--just pure impulse.

Chanel has been making lipsticks and nail polishes since the 1920s. At the beginning, Gabrielle Chanel offered three lipstick shades to her customers: one blue red, one true red, and one orange red. Her favorite was famously the blue red, which did a great job of disguising her yellow smoker’s teeth. One lipstick cost about a month’s salary and was cased in ivory. Luckily, it was refillable.

Red nail polish was also always a signature of the brand. Vintage shades like Pirate have been around since our grandmothers' day, and the modern nail polish industry owes a tremendous debt to the Rouge Noir that started the trend of vampy deep red lips and nails in fall 1994.

Below are some of my favorite Chanel reds, and I think they will look great on you. In fact, I think you should try them today. The real nuances of the colors can only be experienced by touching a bottle, brushing it on the nail, watching it dry and then admiring it in different lighting. Rather than matching a red nail polish or lipstick to your coloring, try matching it to your state of mind.


Coromandel is a sultry, exotic red orange named after Chanel’s Chinese lacquered screens in her apartment at 31 rue Cambon. It is chock full of pigments and shimmer, which makes it quite glittery in the bottle, but only adds dimension on the nail.

Fire is a pure, luminous red orange that has been around for years. It is slightly more translucent at application, which makes it glow in a way reminiscent of flame. Fire has technically just been discontinued, so you’d have to move fast to try this one in stores! My local Sephora said they’d have it until the end of the summer.

Dragon is a thick, pigmented red that runs only slightly orange of true red, with a rich, cream finish. This one is remarkable for its heft and pigmentation. The end result is quite expensive-looking, as only really luxury brands manage to get such a deep and intense final color.

Pirate is a luminous, almost translucent bluish red that adds an ethereal quality to the final look. This one is also a vintage shade, having been part of Chanel’s color catalog for many years. Pirate is good for a long-lasting manicure, since the relatively undercharged formula sticks well to the nail.

Lotus Rouge is a deep rich bluish red with heavy pigmentation. It’s like Dragon in its thick application and intense final look, but on the blue side of the spectrum. This is a deep, blood-like red.

Rouge Noir is the ultimate Chanel red. Launched on the runway for the fall 1994 fashion show, this vampy, dark garnet

shade put a middle finger up to the “natural” trend of the '90s. It was inspired by the deep red-black leather lining of a Chanel handbag. The legend goes that this lining was the color of Gabrielle Chanel’s uniform at the orphanage where she grew up. Rouge Noir is unlike any other nail polish on the market because it manages to combine depth and intensity with the most pure luminosity you can imagine. The best way to describe it is the inside of a black cherry, deep and juicy. This shade is not, and never will be, dupable.

Accessoire is a dark red brown oxblood. It is about as dark as Rouge Noir, but instead of luminosity, it has a velvety leather feel. It is a very chic alternative to a classic red.

Rouge Fatal is a melancholy brick red. It’s almost exactly the color of the Cartier box, which makes it look doubly luxurious. Rouge Fatal brings a note of sobriety to the reds.

Cinéma is a light, casual demi-tone red. It just came out in the LE ROUGE CHANEL collection this May with a series of coordinating lipsticks (Rouge Cocos and Rouge Coco Shines). Cinéma is summery and looks good with jeans.


La Fascinante is the Rouge Fatal of lipsticks. It is moody, serious, and deep. It has a slightly brickish color, which adds an element of classicism and sophistication. La Fascinante is a Rouge Allure Velvet, the matte range of Rouge Allure.

Palpitante is a bright raspberry red. It is an amazingly adaptable color to different skin tones. On light skin, it looks like a softer, more delicate red. On deeper skin tones, it looks like a rich bright pink. Really fun to try this one on lots of people to see how it changes.

Passion is the true red. The perfect red.

Incandescente is a hot tomato. This is the sexy Latin orange red perfect for summer parties. I wear mine with emerald green shimmery nail polish.

Rebel is also an orange red, but in a different, glossier texture. Rebel is one of the Rouge Coco Shines, which is Chanel’s shine lipstick line. It feels like a glossy balm and is a great texture for summer.

Montecarlo is also a Shine, but a more shimmery, bluish one. This one goes on so sheer that you can apply it without a mirror.

These are not all of the red lipsticks and nail polishes available at your local Chanel counter, but they are some of my favorites and the ones that my friends steal the most frequently. I highly advise you to try them out, look at them under sunlight, and see if any of them speak to you.

Do you love red lipsticks and nail polishes too? Any other Chanel addicts out there?