The top three red lipsticks (that I’m thinking of right now)

I never used to wear red lipstick. Never.

To wear red lipstick was surely to court attention. To assume a certain level of confidence in one’s appearance. To take up visual space.

And then I got over myself. (Or maybe just got older). I drifted down the red lipstick railroad, making stops at some of the suburban outposts like Lipstick Queen’s Medieval and other great red lipsticks for people who are scared of red lipstick. I still like to visit these at weekends. But since then I’ve taken the plunge into central scarlet. I love a rich, matte finish, a painted pillarbox with precise edging and vibrant pigments. If it has just a touch of softness, so much the better.

Here are my current favourites – but, in the words of the Haunted Mansion’s Ghost Host, there’s always room for one more, so I’d welcome any recommendations.

  1. Besame 1941 Victory Red, $22

besame 1941.PNGA fairly new addition to the Besame family, the brighter 1941 shade supplanted even Agent Carter’s 1946 ruby Red Velvet in my affections. A slightly thicker formulation – Besame mixes are forgiving on the lips due to their softness, but messy to apply and a little prone to feathering – it wears better than the Red Velvet and is a better daytime shade, with just a hint of a sheen over a matte base. It’s quite an all-comers shade as I’ve seen it look beautiful on a variety of skin tones and with various hair colours, including my own paradoxical Mediterranean look: deeply dark brown hair with very pale skin. Taking Besame’s advice to apply, blot thoroughly, and re-apply gives it greater staying power, but you’re likely to need a couple of top-ups during the day, particularly if you’re an all-day tea-sipper like me.

The only problem with Besame is it’s very hard to come by in the UK; a very kind friend in LA sent me the Victory Red when it was released, along with a lovely special edition pin which was a launch gift, and I’ll be stocking up on Besame cosmetics when we’re in the US in a few weeks. If you have American pals near a Sephora – or the flagship store in Burbank, California – it might be quicker to beg a favour than wait for the infrequently updated European website to be stocked!

2. Illamasqua Sangers Blood Red, £19.50

illamasqua.PNGThis was a very kind birthday gift from another friend (I pick them super well, do I not?) and I absolutely love it. It’s much more matte than it appears on the website images (though full marks for showing different skin tones), and has a very thick, crayon-like texture which means you feel like you’re applying it with a trowel. It is mildly drying, but it clings on impressively – I rarely have to do much more than a quick post-meal reapplication, and it survives my habitual tea-drinking admirably. The shade is very similar to the Besame, and I have been known to mix them together to take advantage of the more silky feel of the Besame on the skin, without losing the staying power of the Illamasqua.

3. Charlotte Tilbury Matte Revolution Red Carpet Red, £23

I got a handful of CT samples when I bought a foundation and lip pencil from the shop in Covent Garden and this was among them. It is such a beautiful, classic Hollywood shade, with just a hint of softness and sheen so it’s never harsh – like combining a matte lipstick with a touch of highlighter. I immediately popped in again to ‘give it a try’ and wandered around town for the afternoon feeling like an absolute superstar. Because of the price I delayed splashing out on my own tube, but after suffering an epic cold / sinus drama over the last three weeks I needed something to cheer me up, and it had to come home with me this weekend as a post payday treat.

Because I still look bleary, I haven’t yet got a good picture of myself in it – but I’ll be sure to Instagram on both my day-to-day and style ‘grams when I do.

As ever, I hugely welcome tips. I’ve yet to find a shade of pure red I like in the NYX liquid lip ranges, but I feel they should get an honourable mention here are a favourite of mine – an absolute bargain at £5.50 each, so I have three other colours instead.

Disclaimer: None needed – the gifts were from brand-neutral IRL friends, not PRs, and I spent my own cash on NYX and CT!




  1. I would be pleased and proud to send you lipstick any time! I am a dedicated non-wearer although my mother has always worn it. Honestly, I’m just bad at makeup in general. Lips are hugely intimidating for me although I love how they look on other people when well-decorated. I don’t know the method to get lipstick on so I don’t feel/look like a clown.

    Remember that scene in Airplane? Yeah… that’s me. But I don’t have a plane to blame. Do you have any favorite YouTube videos that show how to do lips well? Because some day, I’m going to get over myself! 😀


    1. Awww, you’re an angel. Perhaps we can do a transatlantic swap if there’s anything you want from here?! I don’t watch tutorials because I fear finding out how wrong I’m getting it. I mean, I never use liner and only occasionally manage a cack-handed swipe of a lip brush. I forget to blot… this is where liquid lipsticks are the best though. You sponge them on, let them dry and hey presto. x


      1. See? Even that info about liquid lipstick is helpful! I have used Burt’s Bees colored lip balm type stuff once in a while. That is the extent of my capabilities. Whatever you’re doing, keep doing it because it’s perfect!!!

        I was in London once but it doesn’t count because I spent my time in Heathrow and Gatwick and on a transport bus between them so I have no idea what I would want. I would love anything because SQUEEEEE! Mailbox surprises are amazing! We can do this! 🙂

  2. All shades look gorgeous on you! You can’t go wrong with reds!
    Just curious, how do you compare Besame and Charlotte Tilbury lipsticks?
    Been wanting to try Tilburys matte lipstick love the shape and packaging.

    I have several shades from Besame all lasts more than 5 hours on me all survives a meal and tea time except oily foods and dressings.
    The most long lasting shades on me that survives oily foods are Besame Red and Cherry Red.

    I live in Asia the only reliable online store that ships worldwide and carries all their range is Besame Australia online store and shipping is quick too.


    1. My apologies for the late reply; I’m away from home for Christmas. 🙂

      Firstly, thank you very much – that’s very kind! It’s hard to compare outright as the formulations are quite different; CT RCR is much softer as a matte lipstick. So from that perspective Besame is a much stronger clinger. It’s just more likely to get dry. If you’re going for a very defined, sharp look I reckon Besame is the way to go; for a warm matte look with a slightly softer sheen – more everyday, as I think of it – it’s CT’s Red Carpet Red. However she does have other reds I haven’t tried that might behave differently! I hope that helps. 🙂


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