The perfect red lip is more than just a look – it's practically an accessory to your outfit, a slicked-on confidence booster, a symbol of glamour, rebellion, and femininity at once. Everyone who has applied a red lip knows the defiant feeling – or the fear – that comes along with the process. Picking out just the right shade of red is complicated – there are a million shades, formulations and finishes available to buy and sometimes we just want to cut through all the nonsense to get to the good stuff.
Especially as we head into the festive season – where the perfect red lip feels apt to tout – we've decided to round up all the classic shades and cult favourite reds to add to your Christmas wish list. From the 90s M.A.C shade that sells seven tubes per minute, to the NARS pencil that has Taylor Swift's heart, these are 12 of the best and most iconic red lipsticks for the festive season.
Known for: Clarins have perfected the classic red with their Joli Rouge range – in particular this deep Burgundy Lily shade that offers that perfect satin finish. Durable and with an intensity of colour that lasts through the day (or night), it melts onto the lips with a light, creamy texture that's both comfortable and hydrating.
2. M.A.C Matte Lipstick in Ruby Woo
Known for: Arguably the most famous red lipstick shade, M.A.C's iconic Ruby Woo shade was released more than 20 years ago, in 1999, as part of their initial five-piece Retro Matte lipstick collection. Ruby Woo quickly became one of the brand's bestsellers in the years since (apparently there are seven tubes sold every minute!). In terms of pigment payoff and quality, it's practically unbeatable – donned by fans like Rihanna and Gwen Stefani. The shade is a true red, but with a hint of blue that makes it the perfect balance of warm and cool.
Known for: Chanel – and the French in general – are pretty synonymous with the idea of a perfectly undone red lip. And this shade, Pirate, is out pick of the patch. It's a very cool-toned, blue-based dark red with a luminous finish akin almost to a gloss. The texture is ultra-fine like a second skin – but doesn't compromise in its bold and radiant colour payoff. It also uses sappan wood to keep your lips supple and hydrated.
Known for: Dior’s iconic 999 matte Rouge Dior shade has some high-profile fans that include Bella Hadid, Natalie Portman and Nina Dobrev. So it goes that 9 was Christian Dior's lucky number – so it only makes sense that their most beloved shade bears the numeral. With up to 16 hours of wear, and enriched with red peony and pomegranate flower extracts, its more modern and luxurious than ever.
Known for: Tom Ford's ultra-creamy and nourishing lip formula is perfected in his Cherry Lush lip shade. Comprised of Soja Seed extract, Brazilian Burumuru Butter and Chamomilla Flower oil, it instantly hydrates and conditions the lips upon application – boasting a medium-dark red with cool undertones and a natural sheen.
Known for: A staple in many makeup kits, the NARS Dragon Girl shade is even a favourite of Taylor Swift's. Living somewhere at the intersection of pink and red, the pigment is vivid and velvety – and despite it being formulated as a pencil, retains the impact of a matte lipstick. The colour lasts, and it's non-drying given its formulation with Vitamin E.
Known for: Another red carpet favourite – Estée Lauder's Carnal even made its way up the steps of the Met Gala on the pout of Kendall Jenner. Carnal is a dimensional bright, orange-red with warm undertones. It wears for 10 impactful hours, all while resisting bleeding, feathering and creasing. It has a dewy smooth finish that glides on effortlessly – and the gorgeous gold case can even be engraved when purchased.
Known for: Rouge Volupté Shine is one of YSL Beauty's best-sellers for good reason – a cult high-shine lipstick that combines a creamy soft balm-like texture with dazzling pigment and a fresh mango scent. The Chili Tunique shade is a moderately warm-toned, medium-dark copper that has a buildable amount of coverage. Its formulation is intended to preserve and condition your lips too – with up to 65% of the formula composed of oils like macadamia as well as pomegranate extract.
Known for: Burberry's luminous matte-finish Kisses Matte range is long-lasting and high coverage, with a rich and creamy formulation made in Italy. Their shade Red Crimson No.107 is our pick of the range, offering a lustrous red payoff that's still perfectly matte – and gently perfumed with a refreshing rose fragrance.
Known for: One of the more popular red lipsticks to emerge as of late is Charlotte Tilbury's Red Carpet Red shade from their Matte Revolution range. Australian beauty store MECCA already touts it as a bestseller, and it's honestly pretty perfect for anyone seeking those immovable, cashmere-matte lips. The hue is moderately cool-toned, medium-dark red, crafted with 3D glowing pigments and an angled-tipped bullet that allows for more precise application.
Known for: When it comes to cosmetics, we'd pretty much trust Pat McGrath with our lives, and the prolific makeup artist's lipstick range is no exception. They carry a range of red options to cater to all tastes, skin tones and hue preferences, but we think Forbidden Love, listed as their 'Ultimate Classic Red' is the go-to. Soft-focus and yet highly pigmented, it's delivers the ultimate soft matte finish.
Known for: The red lipstick for those who only want to dip a toe in. For those intimidated or put-off by a dazzling red lip, Glossier's Generation G lipstick range is a great way to achieve that barely-there makeup look that adds just a touch of pigment and dimension to your complexion. The shade Punch is their brightest, rosiest red – and even then, it offers a diffused flush of colour. It's kind of like the your-lips-but-better lipstick, soft-edged and buildable for a bolder evening look.