here are some things I never thought I’d have—Kate Moss’s body, Blake Lively’s hair, Gwen Stefani’s red lips. Yeah, the first two are pretty much pipe dreams. But the red lips? Sure, they’re within the realm of possibility. Only every time I’ve tried to slick on a great new red lipstick, I’ve ended up looking more like a strung-out Courtney Love than the cute and polished Gwen Stefani.
1. Start with a clean slate. Bright colors highlight every little crack, crevice, and flake on your mouth. So after washing your face, exfoliate your lips with a mixture of honey and raw sugar: It tastes good and it’s a great scrub. Then apply a rich lip balm like Aquaphor and let it soak in before applying your lipstick.
2. Pick the right formula for you. If you want your red lips to last all night, Murphy suggests a matte or semi-matte formula. (Try Shu Uemura Rouge Unlimited Creme Matte Lipstick in RD 165M, which goes on creamy but dries to a bold, matte finish.) But if your lips tend to be dry, go for a moisturizing formula, like Chanel Rouge Coco Hydrating Creme Lip Color in Gabrielle or Rimmel London Moisture Renew Lip Colour in Red Alert.
3. Fill it in. Before you touch that tube of lipstick, color your lips in with a red pencil—this gives the lipstick something to adhere to, Murphy says. Try M.A.C. Lip Pencil in Cherry.
4. Use a brush. It’s nearly impossible to keep red lipstick neat without one. Murphy recommends a tapered-tip lip brush (we like Sonia Kashuk Retractable Lip Brush) to paint on color in short strokes, starting at the center of your lips. Then, blot with a a tissue. “That removes the oil, but leaves the pigment on as a stain,” Murphy explains. Apply a second layer of lipstick to “put back the velvety finish,” he says.