Resolution #2: Embrace a Bold Lip


This may surprise you, but we’re well aware that not everyone is eager to slap some aquamarine Disney-princess-mermaid-tail pigment on their eyelids. Some of you are even a little wary of color (you’ve told us, we've listened), and prefer the whole “I’m not trying” brand of trying. Well, no longer! ITG Resolution #2? Embrace a bold red lip. (Why not? #YOLO, etc.) To bolster our efforts, we got Wren designer and crimson-lip aficionado Melissa Coker involved in the conversation—nobody we know can work a red lip quite like Melissa.

“Funnily enough, winter seems to be perfect for red lipstick because you can look really nice and polished and pulled together. When you're a little bit pale, it really pops and looks classic—retro in a nice way, like you made an effort. It can be the smallest effort but it looks sophisticated.

I don’t remember why I tried it for the first time, but somehow I made the connection that if I wore red lipstick in a photo, it was the ultimate secret for a flattering picture. And all of a sudden, it would add all this color to my face and it was just transformative. And it was like, 'This is my magic secret!' for how to take a photo I'd find flattering and be happy with. It just adds so much life to your face. Especially when it’s the only bit of makeup I have on—especially being so fair—I just feel like it’s night and day. I go from being sort of one-toned to being more dynamic. As I’ve gotten more into it, I’ve experimented more with ‘Is it a blue tone or a red tone?’ and playing it off of my blush or eye color. If you get shades that are complimentary, it's amazing. For me, I want to bring out the blue in my eyes and it’s incredible how the lipstick can play with your blush to kind of intensify the effect that I'm going for. When I discovered that, I was like, 'It’s a miracle!!!'  The right red, with the right blue-ish undertone really brings out the blue in my eyes, and I’m just like, ‘This is so cool!’

These days, I love the Nars Velvet Matte Pencil in Dragon Girl. It wears really well and I love the tone. It’s so easy to apply and you know you’re going to put it on and you’re not going to end up with it only around the corner of your lips in an hour. That’s my new discovery; I know it’s not new, but it is to me. I’ll put that on my whole mouth and then apply a lipstick over it, whichever one I'm feeling at the moment [right now that's Smashbox 'Be Legendary' Matte Lipstick in Infrared], so that if the brighter colored lipstick wears off, you still have the base color; you don’t have to worry about constantly reapplying or having lipstick in some places and not others. Also, I've found it’s a good way to extend the life of your darker-color lipstick without having to put on a million coats. To me, the Nars Velvet Matte Pencils are a good ‘gateway’ red lip. For beginners, you can put it on really lightly or just a couple dots around and blend it in with a lip balm and you get a blush or a hint—almost like it's deepening your natural color—before you really dive into the red lip.

Ever since I started layering and mixing the Nars pencil and other colors, I’ve had people come up to me—strangers, on the street—and say, 'Excuse me, what's that color you’re wearing?' and I’m like, 'Oh wow, that’s exciting! Something must be working.' I never felt like someone who was going to worry about doing my makeup, I never really thought it would make much of a difference in how I looked, and then this, a bold lip, is something that’s such a simple thing, and it’s just like, ‘Oh wow, makeup really works.’ I get why people have such a thing about it.

My advice for the beginner? Nike was on to something when they said ‘Just do it!’ I can get on board with a good slogan.”

Our red-lip starter picks:

MAC Ruby Woo + Russian Red

Nars Jungle Red + Dragon Girl

Revlon Cherries in the Snow

CoverGirl Hot

Tom Ford Cherry Lush

Melissa Coker photographed by Emily Weiss in New York. 

Let’s Talk About It! JOIN IN
  • Jane Stouffer

    The Revlon lip butter in red is a greater starter red. And Maybelline"s 14-hour Ravishing Red is long-lasting but doesn't feel drying.

  • KateSouth

    I love a red lip, with an otherwise bare face. Such a classic look.

  • loni rubes

    Dragon Girl is the best- Check out my review of Dragon Girl from last week.

  • loni rubes

    Dragon Girl is the best- Check out my review of Dragon Girl from last week.

  • Sophie Lewis

    i love red lips on others, but have never been able to pull it off myself. I am determined to find my perfect shade in the new year! xx

  • Laura

    I love ilia crimson and clover and arabian knights. It is a very luxe natural alternative

  • Jody

    Any tips for those of us with less than pouty lips? I found a great red that I wore to a ball a while ago, but on looking back at the photos it just seemed to make my lips look thinner.

    • CayC

      Wear the red, but put a bit of clear gloss JUST in the very center of your lips. It'll create the optical illusion that there is more surface area there.

      • Jody


    • Kayla

      You could also try highlighting your cupid's bow :)

      • Jody

        Thank you!

  • Ada

    I endorse all your selections. Truly the best of the best - and pretty much universally flattering. ;)

  • despitecolor

    Excellent choices, and I agree, people should be bolder.

  • mangie

    Melissa is the best!

  • Ashley Taylor

    I love this. I've been starting to embrace the vampy lip trend myself and I'm LOVING it.

    xo Ashley

  • Lori Santos

    People are more interested in the no make up make up look, not trying? Me too. So what. I've got that one down. Please do what you want ITG. I come to ITG for inspiration. Bring on the aquamarine, the red lip AND the not trying look if that's what's up with ITG. And Melissa on red lipstick was rad!

  • Lemon Stripes

    red lips represent style and femininity! such a classic look - i love it

  • fairytalesandcoffee

    This list heavily favors blue-reds. I prefer strong oranges over true reds, or blue reds. True reds/blue reds can make olive skintones look very green, while orange undertones will balance it out and pop the way a blue-red would on cool/beige undertones. Nars heatwave and MACs so chaud look very red on me as opposed to orange. Although Russian Red looks great, probably because it is closer to a neutral red, as opposed to Jungle Red which makes me look sickly. Just a tip for those with warm olive undertones. Although, I wonder if very fair olive tones can wear blue-based reds?

    • TGFRL

      I love Tom Ford Wild Orchid for exactly this reason, but still love the red/blues like Tom Ford's Cherry Lush.

      • fairytalesandcoffee

        must go check out then - I was thinking the "ginger" lip might be my first T. Ford lip purchase.

  • Jonill

    Pretty sure Melissa Coker is my spirit animal. Xo

  • AKM

    Wet n Wild has some greater starter reds including megashield That's Berry Beautiful. At $2.99 you can't go wrong

  • syvan y

    As someone who feels comfortable wearing bright lipstick in 7 am in the morning just to go to the grocery store, I think this is a great new years resoilution, the world simply needs more red!

    I recently started a blog all about bold lipstick, check it out and would love to hear your opinion. xx

  • Kallie, Happy Honey & Lark

    I swear by Nars in Cruella, the only problem is it is really drying. What can you do besides wearing lip balm underneath (which doesn't work) to keep that from happening? I swear I can only wear it one day a week or my lips peel off.

    • Lia

      Agreed! No matter what lipstick I wear, it looks great until my lips inevitably start peeling two hours Tom Ford "Crimson Rouge" which I've been lusting after for Christmas, but am too scared to wear it!

    • syvan y

      it may sound weird, but brushing your lips with a tooth brush and a bit of water every morning is great way to keep your lips moist and smooth.

  • Avalon

    i love Kat Von D's lipstain in backstage bambi (bold pink) and outlaw (true blue/red). They don't budge and crack like other long wearing bold color.

  • CFH

    YES. After I started bold-lipping, I almost couldn't bear looking at pictures of me without it. It just looked like dead fish lips...

  • Sarita

    Any suggestions for those of us who are darker-skinned women (i.e., those who share complexions with the Naomi Campbells, Ajak Dengs, and Ubah Hassans of the world)?

    I recently got into reds and bought NARS' Scarlett Empress (which I adore), but I'm at a loss for other reds that would work for my skin tone.

    • joyce


      • Sarita

        Thanks for the suggestions! I'll have to look into those.

  • Catherine

    Yes LOVE a bright lip! For starter reds I'd like to add Burberry Lip Mist in Rosy Red - very forgiving formula, wears wonderfully and it's a sheer RED not a sheer pink red or sheer orange red which is rare! - and Laura Mercier Stickgloss in Cranberry a buildable berry red with an amazing even-wearing formula. For BAM! reds, Burberry Lip Velvet in Military Red is my favorite, especially when dabbed with a bit of Le Metier de Beaute Coral Confection (but really any transparent red gloss should do).

  • Lili

    What? The mermaid eye/red lip combo post was the first time I've ever gone out and bought every single product listed to recreate it - I absolutely loved it and colour is brilliant - ditto the smoky glitter eye - more posts like these please - ooh and pls do a post on what red lippies suit different skin tones - I suit orangey tones but keep buying bluey ones because they look pretty in the tube... this is just silly - pls help!

  • Lili

    oh and why do some red lipsticks make teeth look yellow?

  • texasvegmama

    This one is hard for me. I'm slowly moving into reds, but I've always felt my skin tone was too pink to pull off a red lip.

  • amatterofinctinct

    I'm really starting to love the bold lip, I'll either be buying my own colors soon or getting into my mom's-- oh the perks of living at home.

  • Jenna Daunais


  • joeylynn

    Kat Von D's Everlasting Lip Stain in Outlaw is THE RED. It looks gorgeous on with the first swipe of intense color and stays on forever. I usually layer with KVD's Underage Red lipstick and I am good for a full day without tell-tale coffee cup stains and smudge-proof ready for dinner!