How To Pick The Perfect Red Lipstick For My Skin Tone
How To Pick The Perfect Red Lipstick For My Skin Tone

How To Pick The Perfect Red Lipstick For My Skin Tone

7 minutes read

Red lipstick is considered more than just a cosmetic staple; but a tool that has embodied a spectrum of meanings such as power and femininity. Despite this, we often find ourselves asking, ‘What is the right red lipstick for my skin tone?.’ 

Worry not; we have got you covered. From bright tomato-red, rich rubies, and striking scarlets, to chic crimsons, we’ve rounded up the perfect red lipsticks for every skin tone with the help of the pros.

Also, try out the Clarins Lipstick Finder for a quick and accurate way to find a lipstick tone to suit you and then try it before you buy it with the Virtual Try-On tool!

Why is red lipstick iconic?

Girl with a red lip

It’s in our DNA! Women’s love affair with red lipstick dates a long way back. Women have been reddening their lips since 3,500 BC. 

A Mesopotamian queen reportedly wore a lip colourant made with white lead and crushed red rocks; Cleopatra would don a shade of crimson made from grinding red beetles and the Suffragettes wore it to protest. 

However, it was the Hollywood film industry in the 40s and 50s who took it mainstream making it the ‘most iconic beauty trend ever’ and made it into a siren look that has been everlasting.  

Red lipstick has not only beautified but empowered women for centuries. A study has proven women wearing colour cosmetics were perceived as more ‘competent’ and ‘reliable.’

How to choose the best red lipstick for my skin tone?

We are constantly bombarded with red lipsticks in varying tones, textures and formulas and we know how overwhelming it can be. But knowing the basics can help narrow the choice. Clarins’ Training Manager Charlotte McHale shares three tips before you buy your perfect red: “There is a red shade that suits everyone. How intense you want it to be is something you want to think about a little bit more.”

Swatch them first: A single red shade would look different depending on who’s wearing it. Your skin tone, undertone and natural lip tone can influence the final colour. 

McHale says, “The difficulty is trying the shades on – the continuous application and removal brings blood to the surface of the lip which changes the colour of the lip itself, which in turn affects the colour of the lipstick.”

Adding, “you can swatch the colours on the pads of your fingers, and then, facing a mirror, hold up each finger in turn to see it against your skin. You can then try your favourite on your lips.”

Finding your skin undertone

  • Warm undertone – To check your undertone, look at your wrist veins under natural light. If your veins appear to be green, you have warm undertones. Your skin has golden, peach or yellow underlying colours. Gold jewellery looks better on you. Warm-toned reds are orangey-red, brick-red, and terra-cotta.

  • Cool undertone – If they’re blue or purple, you have cool undertones. Your skin has hints of blue or pink undertones. Silver jewellery looks better on you. Cool-toned reds are bright cherry, crimson and cranberry.

  • Neutral undertone – If they are a mix of both, you have neutral undertones and can wear almost anything. Gold and silver jewellery looks great on you. But if you want to narrow down your red shade search, if you lean towards gold, you have a warm undertone. If silver looks better, then you have a cool undertone. Neutral-toned reds are a mix of warm and cool undertones. Try mauve shades for medium skin, pinky tones for fair types, and wine or berry shades for darker skin.

Read: What is your skin tone?


Choose your lip shade texture

“People with parched lips usually avoid matte because they’ll feel it draws attention to any dryness on their lips. However, the Joli Rouge Velvet is infused with apricot oil and is lovely and moisturising too,” advises McHale. 

Pro Tip: A time-efficient and clever tool that can help you find the perfect red is to try them on virtually. Clarins offers a no-fail and realistic try-before-you-buy experience. 

You’re three steps away from finding your shade. 

  1. Choose a product and click try it on
  2. Open your live camera (mobile or laptop) or upload a photo from your gallery
  3. Start scrolling shades and see which flatters you best. Trust us, you’ll find a shade, or two. 

After figuring out your skin’s undertone*, selecting your red lipstick should be straightforward. We selected the best shades of red that will complement every skin tone.

Read: How to Get Rid of Dry Lips

The best red lipsticks for fair and light skin

Best in cool-toned and neutral-toned reds*

For fair and light skin tones, take cues from old Hollywood: Pale Skin with bright, scarlet red lips.

This complexion looks best with cool-toned red lipsticks with hints of blue and purple. Think berry reds like cranberry or cherry. Not only do these shades make skin brighter, but give a whiter appearance to your teeth. 

McHale recommends: “Intense Lip Comfort Oil in Cherry. It has three ultra-nourishing organic oils: hazelnut, jojoba and cranberry to keep lips soft and supple with the added bright, punchy hue.”


For days you prefer to go matte, Joli Rouge Velvet in Rouge is a good pick. You can pair this with a balm matte lip enhancer in a similar shade. Apply the latter any time of the day for a more plump and moisturised pout all day. 

The best red lipstick for medium and olive skin

Best in warm and neutral-toned reds*

According to experts, people with medium and olive skin can wear red lipsticks with much versatility, from cool to warm reds: classic bright red to orange-based shades like tangerine or poppy. 

McHale’s suggestion? “For intense colour with a delicate satin finish try Joli Rouge in Spicy Chili. This lipstick is enriched with organic Salicornia extract and mango oil and stays put for 6-hours while providing suppleness and comfort.

For an instant vinyl shine, swipe with a layer of Joli Rouge Lip Lacquer in the same shade.”

The best red lipstick for dark skin

Best in cool, warm and neutral-toned reds* 

For those with darker complexions, you have the bonus of being able to wear blue red and warm red tones with intense colours like fiery, bright ruby red to richer deeper colours like plums, burgundy and wine. 

McHale recommends: “A lip duo, long-wearing  Joli Rouge in Deep Red and Lip Comfort Oil in Strawberry for an additional shine and pop of colour.

This lip shimmer has three nourishing oils: organic macadamia, hazelnut and organic jojoba.

The best red lipstick for all skin types

“If I’m being brutal,” McHale says, “I don’t think there is a red that suits absolutely everybody.” However, there is a red that is perfectly balanced for both cool, warm and neutral tones.

McHale raves about the shade Grenadine, which is available all three Joli Rouge textures. “It’s the perfect red of them all. It has a good balance of warm and cool, so it’s kind of a neutral red. It has got orangey tones and the more plummy tones too, making it a good choice for most.” 

Beauty Daily Pro Tip: Play with your lipsticks for endless shade possibilities. 

Mix two lipsticks in the same colour family and opt for similar finishes for a fool-proof result. Make-up pros say bright or deep colours, like orange and red, work best for mixing to make a bright tomato red shade. Others mix orange with pink to get a coral lip, while nude lipstick with a pop of red makes a flattering red nude. 

Dab them with the pad of your ring finger to blend or mix it on the back of your hand. You can also use a mixing palette if you’re feeling fancy. 

If you feel creative, experiment with different textures and effects. Start with a bright or deep shade and apply it all over the lips, and pat a light or shimmering shade to highlight the centre of the lips.

Did you know wearing red lipstick could make you look younger?

According to research, scientists have found red lipstick could increase facial contrast between facial features and the surrounding skin, making you look younger. 

For women with mature skin, it is strongly advised to stay away from super dark shades but opt for lighter shades of red with a matte lip finish. Try Joli Rouge in Guava

Wearing red lipstick is a form of expression and should match your personality. Swatch lipstick shades at your nearest Clarins counter or watch How to Wear a Red Lip guide to get started.

Next Read: Everything You Need to Know About Finding the Perfect Lipstick

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