How to Wear Red Lipstick at Every Age

Red lipstick used to be reserved for dressier affairs, but paired with your everyday outfit and more minimal makeup, a red lip elevates your look and brightens your face. Regardless of your age, don’t feel like you have to be Gwen Stefani to rock the classic shade. Here’s how to wear it.

If you’ve never gone for a red lip before, ease in. Start out with a sheer red lipstick or lip stain, which are less intense and have less pigment. For another low-key red look, Bobbi Brown suggests applying a plain lip balm and then filling lips in with a red lip pencil.

Rae Allina, professional makeup artist and owner of Uplift Beauty Studio in Chicago, has two go-to red shades that are universally flattering: Limelight by Alcone Enduring Lip Color in “Cherry Pie” and Nars in “Vesuvio.” Both lipsticks are matte in texture and neutral in color. Allina explains, “Neutral reds are my go-to for all skin tones because they look gorgeous on everyone!”

If you want to vary your shade of red, Allina suggests choosing based on your skin tone.

Do you have fair skin? A pink-red undertone looks best. For those with medium skin, try a red lipstick with an orange-red undertone. If you’re dark-skinned, look for a blue-red undertone. Brown advises looking for a red lipstick that is matte and creamy rather than just matte, which can appear dated. For precise application, use a lip brush to apply color rather than putting it on straight from the tube.


During your 20s you can get away with experimenting with your makeup. Try a tangerine-red a la Taylor Swift or a deeper red — a great winter look. If you’re seeking high shine, layer a clear gloss over your red lipstick. 


This is the decade to start keeping your red classic. Avoid shimmer or frost and choose a bold, matte red. Don’t be afraid to go red during the day, but remember to keep the rest of your makeup subdued — stick to concealer, blush and mascara. 


Keep lips moisturized by using an exfoliant to slough off dry skin. Allina suggests applying your favorite serum and moisturizer to treat skin around the lip area that may have fine lines. This will reduce the appearance of wrinkles and plump the lip line. “I always recommend using a flesh-toned lip liner as a base versus a red lip liner because you can create a fuller lip line that will look like your own, and after the lipstick wears off you won’t be left with a rosy ring around your lips,” Allina says. 

50s and up

Don’t disregard red lipstick when you’re 50 or older. Applied correctly, red lips make a beautiful, age-appropriate statement. As we age, our lips thin and become drier so it’s important to choose a hydrating formula. Layer a plumper under your lipstick to add volume and stick to a brighter red to keep lips from looking thinner.

To prevent lipstick from bleeding into the lines around your mouth, apply lip balm to your lips and blot with a tissue. Press liquid foundation onto your lips and follow with some translucent powder to keep lipstick from feathering. Use a lip pencil to outline lips and then fill in with lipstick. Finish with a drop of clear gloss in the center of your pout.

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