A dashing red lip will always denote Hollywood glamour – but what shade of red lipstick is the best? There are hundreds to choose from – we round up the most iconic.

From Marilyn Monroe to Madonna; Rosie the Riveter to Rihanna; Grace Kelly to Gwen Stefani: a dashing slick of red lipstick will never go out of style. Glamorous, powerful, sexy and edgy, it oozes confidence and lifts the mood like no other shade. Nudes, shimmery pinks and berry shades may come and go. A pillar-box red lip will endure forever.

Of course, there are reds and reds. Orange-reds are summer glow off-setting staples. Blue-reds have a whiff of Old Hollywood. And finally, there is the most statement of them all: the fire-engine red that is as attention-grabbing as the wail of a siren.

So what is the most iconic red lipstick? After much trial and error, we can attest that these are the very best red lipsticks there are.


Retro Matt Lipstick in Ruby Woo, £17.50

It's not for nothing that Ruby Woo, a classic blue-red, has achieved iconic status. It suits every skin complexion, lasts forever and is pleasingly intense. Buy it.


Rouge Allure In Pirate, £35

Deep, satiny and redolent of Hollywood, one slick of this and any outfit is immediately given a glamour uplift. Pair with a spritz of Chanel No 5. Buy it.


Rouge D'Armani Matte Lipstick, £33

This orange-red hue comes in an intense matte and is the perfect vibrant lipstick for summer nights – whether you wear it with a maxi frock or a light blue denim jacket. Buy it.


Powermatte Lip Pigment, £24

A liquefied pigment, the matte colour saturation comes with ultra-flexible long-wear, applying like ink on the lips. Buy it.


Generation G, £29

Glossier’s lipsticks are one of our favourite discoveries of recent years. Formulated to look like it’s just been blotted – or you’ve just been kissed – it is brilliantly buildable too. The perfect undone holiday look. Buy it.

Charlotte Tilbury

Hot Lips Tell Laura, £26

A warm orange-red, this matte lipstick is our go-to for summer pouts. And if you’re unsure about the shade, Charlotte Tilbury has a handy tool on the website whereby you can see it on a model with an approximation of your skin tone. Buy it.

Lisa Eldridge

Velvet Jazz, £26

Muted, earthy and velvet soft, this impossibly seductive lipstick is inspired by 1930s styles. Eldridge says, ‘Saturated and highly pigmented lipstick with a beautiful, true velvet effect on the surface of the bullet which looks exactly like velvet fabric. The formulation is a creamy, hydrating matte with a slight sheen - it's not a 'flat' matte. The colour is long wearing and non drying on the lips.’ Cruelty- and paraben-free. Buy it.

ILIA Beauty

ILIA Beauty Color Block Lipstick, £27

Crafted by hand, this gorgeous hue is created from mango seed butter, smoothing sunflower seed wax and apricot oil. Buy it.


L’Oréal Paris Infallible Very Matte Lip Crayon – 110 Caramel Rebel, £9.99

Perfect for warm skin tones, this lip pencil is ideal for easy application and accuracy. Buy it.

Carolina Herrera

Satin Lipstick – Carolina N310, £25

Pillar-box bright and a satin finish. In other words, everything we are looking for in a slick of red lipstick. Buy it.

By Nancy Alsop
August 2022

Nancy Alsop


Nancy is a magpie for the best in design and culture.