If you don’t already wear red lipstick, you must have wished at least once that you could pull off red lips…

Here’s our best advice on how to do it right.

The lipstick mood-o-meter

Have you ever heard of the Lipstick Index? It’s a term that was coined by a bigwig at Estee Lauder to describe an increase in lipstick sales during tough economic times. It’s since been discredited, but the theory was that consumers (especially women) make smaller, feel-good purchases when times are tough.

I definitely have a Lipstick Index of my own. When I feel good, I tend to wear bold, bright lip colours. This in turn makes me feel even better and more confident. When I’m a bit down, I tend to forgo lipstick altogether, which makes me look exactly like someone who can’t be bothered to apply lipstick.

I’ve since learnt that I can beat the system by wearing bold, bright lipstick when I’m having less-than-stellar days – the mood and confidence boost follows automatically. I’m clearly very easy to fool and not nearly as smart as I thought I was…

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massonforstock – @123rf.com

How to wear red lipstick – Step 1: Prep

You don’t need perfectly plump and symmetrical lips to wear red lipstick. If you have lips, you can wear red lipstick! But you DO need to prep your lips properly in order to have a soft, smooth surface to apply your lipstick to.

Gentle exfoliation is key. There are many ways to do it, and you should be able to use a gentle dose of whatever you’re using on your face to exfoliate your lips. My favourite and most effective method of exfoliating my lips is still a generous slathering of lip balm, gently rubbed off with a warm, moist face cloth after five minutes.

How to wear red lipstick – Step 2: Pick your poison

Choosing a lipstick formula is down to your lifestyle and personal preference. I can’t deal with neediness in any aspect of my life, so I choose lipsticks that are matte and long-wearing. This way I know I only need to spot check my lips a couple of times a day, and I don’t live with the added anxiety of lipstick on my teeth (or on the rest of my face).

If you’re not a fan of matte formulas (it is more drying, no arguments there), choose a cream stick or a liquid laquer.

I won’t waffle on about undertones – pick a red you love and feel great wearing. In my opinion that’s more valuable than a lipstick that has the right undertone on paper, but doesn’t make you feel good.

Anastasia Kazakova – @123rf.com

How to wear red lipstick – Step 3: Plan

If you’re a mere mortal like me, perfectly applying red lipstick takes a good five minutes to get right, and requires some pre-planning. Don’t skip lip liner with this one – it’s worth the extra time spent.

Line your lips and use the lip pencil to adjust the shape of your lips if you want to – you can look at over- or under lining, or creating symmetry. Most of the time I line my entire lip to increase the intensity of the lipstick and make it last longer.

Read more: 6 Reasons to use lip liner (& why it’s such an underrated product)

How to wear red lipstick – Step 4: Slow and steady

If you’ve lined your lips as recommended (cough cough), the rest of the application should be pretty easy. Your lipliner should always be a close match to your lipstick – that way you can avoid the outer millimetre or so of your lips when you go in with lipstick, and prevent bleeding and smudging altogether.

Now read: 7 Of our favourite long-lasting lipsticks