How to Apply Red Lipstick So it Lasts All Day (Or Night)

By on September 1st, 2011 31 Comments

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Want the perfect red lip without having to reapply every few hours? Here’s how to achieve it.


  • Rub a damp washcloth across your lips to buff away any dryness or flakes.
  • Swipe a lip balm on and allow it to sink in for a minute. Then blot off with a tissue so only a hint of moisture remains.
  • Dab concealer on to your lips. This provides a grip for the lipstick and mutes your own lip shade so the color of the lipstick stays true.


  • Line your lips with either a neutral colored lip liner or one that matches your lipstick exactly. Resist the urge to line with a darker pencil—that look is super dated.
  • For a more exact application, use a lip brush to apply the lipstick; otherwise swipe it on directly from the tube.


  • Ply apart a tissue and press it to your lips to blot. Still holding the tissue to your mouth, brush on translucent powder over the lips. It will seep through the single ply tissue and increase the longevity of the lipstick.


  • Apply a second coat of lipstick and voila, you’re done.
  • If your lips feel dry or the lipstick looks too matte, slick on a small dollop of lip gloss in the center of your lower lip only. A big goopy glossy red mouth is such a no-no.
  • And because dark colors always tend to get on your teeth (don’t ask me why but it never happens when I’m wearing nudes or light pinks), use this odd little trick to make sure your pearly whites are smudge-free: make an “O” with your lips, insert your finger and pull away slowly. All errant lipstick will come away onto your finger.

Ok, does this red lipstick-wearing business seem a bit… arduous? If so, a.) practice, because it’s actually much easier than it seems, and b.) here’s another way to apply it:

  • Dab some lipstick onto your finger, then pat it on your lips and smudge it around. A little imperfection is alright here—it looks more modern. This “technique” renders a less intense shade of red and works well if you’re still a bit shy about sporting a brazen scarlet lip.

Now that you know how to apply red lipstick, can I tell you how NOT to wear it? It’s simple, actually. Do NOT wear it with a lot of other makeup. Do NOT wear eyeliner or a ton of mascara with your red lipstick (unless you’re trying to look like a rag doll, a pin-up girl, a rockabilly or just really outdated).

With such a prominent lip, keep the rest of the face natural.

  • Apply concealer under your eyes and where needed, and brush powder along your T-zone to absorb oil; red lips look best with a matte face.
  • Swipe on a peachy blush or bronzer so the red doesn’t wash you out, but use a light hand. Clown cheeks and red lips will have you looking more Bozo than bombshell.
  • If you really, really can’t leave the house without eyeliner, opt for a soft brown or taupe instead of black, and limit yourself to one coat of mascara.

Now you’ve got my tips. Try them out and let me know how it goes! Or share your favorite red lipstick pointers below.

And if you’re still skeptical of looking too old school with red lipstick, read my argument in favor of it. Check out my latest column, At The Moment: A Bold Red Lip(stick).

Saimah Ashraf is a contributing writer at She blogs about fashion and style at Street Number Eight.