How-to: The Perfect Holiday Red Lips

Chanel Dragon Rouge Allure Laque

The Perfect Holiday Red Lips

‘Tis the season to wear beautiful mixes of burgundy, crimson, and scarlet. We’ve been enjoying The Scarlet Season for the past few months by featuring shades of scarlet, but here are all of my favorite tips to achieving the most defined and long-lasting red lip.

The Prep

It’s important to regularly exfoliate and moisturize your lips, even when you’re not trying to wear a bolder lip color, because it gives you a better foundation to apply lip color onto. I suggest Sara Happ’s The Lip Scrub for a yummy and effective for-purchase scrub. For a DIY version, I suggest a little jojoba oil and sugar. Scrub and then rinse off, blot dry, and apply a layer of a moisturizing balm. My favorite balm right now is Philosophy’s Kiss Me Tonight Intensive Lip Therapy. Super, super moisturizing and feels great on lips.

Now, let’s talk about the BASE, the DEFINITION, the COLOR, and the TOUCH-UP stages…

The Base

Lip color needs something to hang onto, and one method I’ve found to really help color stay on longer and look better several hours later is laying down a base–just as I would for eyeshadow. I’ve used products like concealer and foundation to MAC’s Lip Erase; they all work about the same.

Before you apply your base, ensure your lips are smooth, soft, and have nothing else on them — you don’t want them dry and flakey (if this is you, try moisturizing lips twenty minutes before you go to apply lip color; blot the remainder off by kissing the back of your hand).

Now, when you apply your base, you can do so with a lip brush, a concealer brush, or your fingers. It really doesn’t matter, but the idea is to fully cover your lips in a very beige-y, neutral base. If you have darker skin, I’d suggest using a light to medium concealer shade instead. The lip base works in two ways: it neutralizes your natural lip color (therefore, colors look truer-to-the-tube on you) and gives color something to grab.

The Definition

Defining lips is easier said than done! You need a steady hand and a good eye for your natural lip shape. Start by lining your lips with a matching lip liner–stay in the lines; it’s better to stay within your natural lip line (overall, at least) than to stray too far to make a faux shape. I also like to fill-in lips with lip liner, just because liner is excellent for adding another layer of staying power, so I recommend doing that during this time, too.

The second step to defining lips comes later, after you’ve finished applying your lipstick/gloss. Taking a concealer brush and your concealer match, apply concealer outside of your lips – this will help give you that crisp, well-defined lip you want. You can use a fluffy brush like MAC’s 217 to help blend the concealer to make it look soft and natural.

The final step to defining your lips is adding just a touch of highlighter at the cupid’s bow (that’s the area just above the middle of upper lip). You want to use a small, fluffy brush and just lightly sweep a highlighter shade (something very soft, nothing glittery!) over the area to add more light.

The Color

One of the best methods to apply rich color and get excellent results is by using a lip brush. A lip brush will allow you to be more precise and apply even layers. You can easily add additional layers, but you know you’ll be applying a solid, even layer from the get-go. If you want to cheat a little during this step, apply the lip color directly from the tube to the middle of your lips and use a lip brush to stretch and bring color to the outer areas of the lips.

If you want to apply a gloss on top, I recommend using a separate lip wand (like a disposable one) to grab the color, then apply it with your lip brush. This will let you add the glossy finish you’d like without reddening up the gloss itself–plus, you’ll get more precision with the lip brush, too.

The Touch-Up

You may find a touch-up is required, depending on the occasion, the length of it, and what you’re doing. Lip color always has a much tougher job if it has to endure eating and drinking; or if you want it to last more than four hours. Of course, picking the right product can help on both accounts, but you never know when you need a touch-up.

I always find that keeping a gloss around for touch-ups is easier than a lipstick, just because lipsticks often need to be fully removed and reapplied rather than just layered on top. For this purpose, I tend to recommend finding a gloss in a similar shade as the lipstick you’re using. Otherwise, invest in makeup remover pads or swabs for on-the-go so you can truly reapply with perfection!

Tips & Tricks

  • For another layer of long-lasting powder, try dusting lips with blotting or setting powder after you’ve applied the first layer of lip color. Apply a second layer of lip color, and then continue on.
  • Makeup remover is also another way to make sure you’ve defined your lips and kept the lip color where you want it. I like to use an oil-based makeup remover (like Lancome Bi-Facil) and a cotton swab or lip brush to make sure everything is on the up and up.
  • Two years ago, just in time for the holidays, I put together a how-to apply red lips tutorial — which is an oldie, but a goodie — so I encourage you check that out as well!