Red, She Said.

The Contenders. Paper towel test:
L: Julie Hewett “Gem Noir” / M: Chanel “Incandescente” / R: Nars “Heat Wave”

The Red Lipstick Road Test, Ctd.

The Mission: find red lipstick that works with my coloring.

What I’ve Learned So Far: most “reds” I’ve tried look pink on me, and the more blue in the color, the more it goes to fuchsia or pink rather than red. Even some lipsticks marketed and reviewed as “neutral” or “warm” look cool and pink on me. My search kept me moving in an orange direction, and these are the three most likely contenders.

Protocol: I applied each of these with only a Smashbox Nude lipliner (which is a match for my natural lip color) to get the clearest sense of the actual lipstick color. The photos were taken in indirect natural light, and other than cropping no other retouching was done.

1. Julie Hewett “Gem Noir.” I actually had this in my stash from last year. I applied straight from the tube, as this formula is sheer. I don’t know why I haven’t worn this. It’s a lovely formula that has decent longevity, and doesn’t look blotchy over time. Of the three I tried, I think this one is best for casual, daytime wear. It’s described as a “rosy red” on the website, but I think there’s enough orange-brown in it for my warm complexion.

2. Chanel Rouge Allure “Incandescente.” This one is very vivid, but it’s the “right” red. I applied with a brush; one coat, then blot, then a second. Using a matching lip pencil would probably amp it up even more. The finish is satiny, with a slight sheen.

3. NARS Semi Matte “Heat Wave.” Even though this looked brighter and more orange in the tube than the Chanel, the color looks almost identical once applied. (Same application: brush, blot, brush.) This one is more matte than the Chanel, and feels a little bit drying. I’d want to wear a gloss over this for a little sheen and moisture.

Conclusions: Julie Hewett wins for daytime wear, Chanel for evening. And I need to get a matching lip pencil for that one. The color as it appears in the tube can look very different when applied; there’s no substitute for trying on!

What do you look for in a red lipstick? Do you despair as I do that as soon as you find that perfect shade, it will be discontinued?

I loved reading everyone’s lipstick tricks and tips in the comments from last week.  Keep ’em coming!

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  1. Oh I think number one really suits you.
    Every so often I try a red lip but with dark hair and blue eyes I think it makes me look witchy, I think those with brown eyes suit it better.

  2. Oh my gosh, that Julie Hewitt shade is lovely and so wearable! Of the two more opaque shades, I believe I prefer the Nars, but if it’s too drying, the Chanel is almost identical. They’d both work very well at night and under artificial light, where a cool red can turn purple-y.

  3. The first 2 colours are wonderful on you! I stopped wearing red lipstick for about a decade favouring more natural rosy browns then re-discovered reds last year and have never been happier. I have 3 shades depending on what is needed and I’m not worried about them being discontinued because lipsticks always last me a long time and I feel it’d be best to have a good look around again if/when they are no longer made.

    1. I agree. When my favorite lipstick was nearly used up and I found out it was discontinued, I took it to a makeup counter. The sales assistant helped me find a nearly identical shade, and it was in a better formulation, with a more modern finish. So I got an updated, more comfortable lipstick in a shade that suited me just as well as the old favorite. 🙂

  4. I wear Lancome’s ‘Red Stiletto’ every day, so I vote for the more saturated Chanel for you, Pseu. Lining the lips with a transparent wax pencil before brushing on the red is key to preventing the color from ‘bleeding’ into those pesky lines. Lucy

  5. Elia Blake light summer lip palette. There are a couple of reds as well as some other shades. All just perfect for light summer.


  6. I like the first one best.
    I have a shea butter Revlon red velvet which I like to wear.
    There is a Chanel gloss in my collection which is a va va voom shade for night time or parties.
    Bright bold and daring….

    You really look good in all three but there is something about that first one that looks more natural if you can say that about a red.

  7. You should try Revlon’s Just Bitten Kissable balm stain in “Romantic”. It’s very sheer and wearable for daytime and as it’s a stain, it has a lot more staying power than gloss, but it’s not dry, either. It looks like a cool red in the tube (well, crayon – it’s like a big, fat crayon) but, at least on me, it’s a lovely orange-y red.

  8. I have the same problem! Red looks pink on me- so orange red is often the best bet. My fave is Revlon the one which was named for Penelope Cruz- so perfect! True red stays red on me and is creamy and easy to wear. Cheap price too. So I bought 4 tubes, and gave one to my mama. She loves it too!

  9. I think the Chanel looks best on you…. more French. I’m also looking for a good ref, and found YSL No. 1 was the best classic red for my mediterranean colouring. It’s very similar to the Chanel you are using, but not quite so much pigment and therefore gives a lighter fresher look.

    You may also like Dior Fireworks which is really light, warm and fresh – almost like a watermelon!

  10. The first one is delicious on you and not so intense that it takes the focus off your eyes. WIth really vivid lipcolours all I see is LIPS, and super intense reds in full daylight make grown women look crazed. Also, the workplace is not friendly to continual touch ups reds demand as soon as you take a sip of coffee or just talk it off.

    IMO the Chanel is perfect for evening, in lowish light, like that of a romantic restaurant. (Garish lighting plus highly pigmented lipcolour plus the age we are all getting to be is not as flattering as it is on the young ‘uns.) Suggest you get rid of the NARS; drying is never satisfying and why drag around the gloss when you have gorgeous, nourishing reds for day and evening?

  11. When I saw Heat Wave at the top I was curious to see how it looked on you since I wear it and find it to be the boldest and craziest red in my stash. On you it’s so chic and classic! I agree it IS drying and the Chanel is a better choice. All three look fantastic.

  12. I too think that Number One is absolutely perfect! Shining and flattering as well as harmonic with your skin tone and your hair – beautiful!
    I would be happy if I could find a Red for myself, I have been looking for years but not been successful by now… I am always ending up with colors between Rose and Berry. But I will keep on looking! 🙂
    Best wishes from cold Germany,

  13. You look so good in all of these, but I also am on the Number 1 bandwagon…it is understated elegance! Red suits you well!I love the statement of confidence a great red lipstick makes.

  14. #1 all the way, though all three look nice. I like to just carry around one shade, and yes, I will slit my wrists (or someone else’s) if it’s discontinued.

  15. Gorgeous photos! Sadly, I too have sung the discontinuation blues oh so many times.
    Lipstick is the only makeup I wear, and I stick to one shade – a red with a lot of blue and brown in it.

  16. When I look at you in these three, I am struck not by how attractive or unattractive they are on you (in fact, they are all nice enough). Rather they all read to me as a dark, intense orange not as red. Hesitate to say it, but for that true “red lip look” maybe you should go bluer?

  17. You look great in red lipstick. I vote for #2, the Chanel, even during the day. #1 is beautiful, but very understated. Doesn’t have the pizazz of a real red. And as others have mentioned, you have a beautiful mouth – show it off!

  18. Love all three on you and you’re right, #1 is great for day.

    Of course, I’m one of those crazy people who wear the same red night and day. CRAZY, I tell you!

  19. Didn’t your latest color analysis put you as a summer, which tends to look best in cooler colors? You said you thought you were an autumn but kept being drawn to soft, cool colors, I think. Did I dream this?

    1. Hi Anon, actually I was analyzed as a Light Summer, which is a neutral season. I just find the warmer lip colors look better on me than those with a lot of blue. All of these reds are within my color palette.

  20. I agree with your assessment on the colours – and may I say, you look just beautiful! You have lovely skin and the red lipstick really emphasises it.

  21. First, your skin is so supple and soft looking! Are you still using the Eucerin from Europe?

    I love all the reds on you – but #1 is my favorite.

    I have a hard time with reds. But you are inspiring me to keep on trying to find one for my coloring.

  22. Alas, I have never found a single red lipstick that looks good on my rather sallow complexion. However, I’m madly in love with number one on your list, although you look great in all of them. I hope you know that you are one very pretty lady!

  23. I have that Gem, and the Oona as well, but my very favorite is the Ruby balm (actually, I also have 4 other products from Julie Hewett but hey who’s counting). Her quality is astonishing, and the range of reds available is out of this world. My problem is too many reds turn orange, and I really need the pinky, fuschia, blue-tones. I love her ruby balm, and honestly, that’s probably as much color as my nonexistent lips can take. Congrats on finding your reds…and for wearing them! I think you’ve encouraged others to go for the gusto, too. A more polished look for all of us can only be a good thing.

  24. I think the Nars is the clear winner. It’s definitely the reddest of the three, and it looks gorgeous on you. I went on a similar quest last week after your previous post and tried — and loved — Incandescent, but on me it was much redder. I have darker hair and maybe cooler skin than you. I never have been able to figure out what my skin tone is or my “colors” are.

    One thing to try, if you haven’t, is either Ruby Lite or Alexandrite in the Double Effects line — the Chanel line that has everything you’re looking for, a matte stain that lasts for hours and a gloss in one tube. I just love em.

  25. I am very fair with gray green eyes and silver hair. Red lipstick has always seemed meant for someone else. Finding myself at the mall today, I wandered the cosmetics counters and consulted with numerous SAs regarding the red lippies. Nothing moved me until I tried Chanel Rouge Allure in Passion. Never in a million years, would I have thought it would work. A true clear, classic red and highly pigmented. Wore it for several hours, and after the shock wore off, I was in love! I see it mostly as an evening look, something special. The case is pretty cool, too. Good luck, Pseu, finding your shade.

  26. As a fair skinned redhead, my favourite reds now are Joyous red by Nars and Truly Red by Laura Mercier.

    But Ilove all of your choices on you!

  27. The Chanel 2-in-one product is Double Intensite (not Double Effects ). Anyway, the lip stain is not drying on me, and I like a matte look, so I rarely use the gloss. When the stain does begin to fade (which takes hours, literally) a little gloss on top spreads and smooths out the stain, making it last even longer.

  28. Well done finding the right red. I am still on the search although close to deciding on Dior Addict in “Lucky”. I think you recommended Dior to me. So thanks.

  29. I watched the video and it was time well spent. My shopping is quite curtailed but I made the Man take me to a nearby Walgreens and bought the Maybelline. Not sure if it’s one of the colors she recommended but I love the texture and it does last well.

  30. Every one of these looks spectacular on you! Don’t you find it amazing how different you feel in one red versus another? It’s my very favorite lip color. I wear it so often that everything else looks sorta drab on me. Favorite: MAC’s Russian Red. Love your blog!

  31. I second the recommendation of the Revlon “Just Bitten” in Romantic. I tend to wear MAC, Julie Hewett and Chanel, and doubted that anything from the drugstore would be very good, but a friend recommended it so I tried it. It is unexpectedly good: hydrating, lasting, leaves a bit of a stain, and a great true red with a little orange in it. (I am fair with dark-auburn hair FWIW.) You might try it — it’s one-third the price of a Chanel after all.