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How to Pull Off the Best Red Lipstick for the Holidays in 4 Easy Steps

Photo: Courtesy of Charlotte Tilburry makeup

The word “classic” often prefaces red lipstick because it just so happens to be the best way to describe something as objectively timeless as the act of painting, drawing, or slicking a slash of crimson color across your mouth. Marilyn did it. Madonna did it. Sade did it. Rendered in a matte, satin, or glossy finish, a cherry pout looks as good with a cocktail dress as a white t-shirt and jeans—and it also happens to be an incredibly easy way to add a “festive” element to any outfit this time of year. Because red lipstick has been a centuries-spanning makeup staple, there are a number of ways to achieve it: Cleopatra was said to have crushed carmine beetles and ants to get just the right shade of scarlet, while Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez swears by the simplicity and staying power of a single swipe of liquid ruby lipstick as “the best way to really look put together.” Makeup artists overline, and blot, and powder, and layer but when it comes to getting the perfect color, texture, and finish for the holidays, when time—and patience—are at a minimum, these four easy steps should do the trick so reapplying your lipstick isn’t one of the many things on your to-do list this week.

1. Prep Your Canvas

Before even getting into color selection, consider the condition of your lips. Are they dry? Cracked? Flaking? Of course they are! It’s December, it’s freezing, and the recycled hot indoor air is almost worse for your skin than the cold air outside. Prior to applying your lipstick, administer a light lip scrub—a damp washcloth is as good a tool as any—to slough away dead skin.

2. Moisturize, Moisturize, Moisturize

This is a general winter skin care mantra but it also specifically applies here, as your lipstick will wear better on lips that have been well-hydrated. Choose a non-sticky lip balm and matte it down with your fingers to make sure it has fully absorbed before continuing with color.

Drunk Elephant Lippe Balm, DRUNK ELEPHANT AED 66

Tatcha The Kissu Lip Mask, AED 103

Le Paradis Jamaica Banana Lip Balm, AED 88

3. Overline, Underline, Just Make Sure to Line

Lip liner was once considered an outdated makeup bag holdover, but the recently resurrected staple is an essential step in any lipstick application. Whether you overline, or stay within the confines of your natural lip line, the trick to prolonging pigment is making sure to trace the entire surface of your lips with pencil to create an anchor for your bullet of choice.

L’Oréal Colour Riche Lip Liner in In-Matte-Uated With You, AED 33

Sephora Collection Beauty Amplifier Universal Lip Liner, AED 37

4. Color Is Everything

Undertones are extremely important when selecting red lipstick, but so is the time of year and the climate. Warm-toned orange-reds look amazing in the summer when the weather is hot and skin is golden. But when the temperature drops, it’s gotta be matte and it’s gotta be a blue-toned red, which pops against paler skin—and can outlast even the most endless family gathering.

Dior Rouge in Winter Poppy, AED 147

Pat McGrath Labs MatteTrance Lipstick in Elson, AED 140

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