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Red Alert! A Comprehensive Guide to Red Lipsticks from European Drugstores

For years it’s bothered me how difficult it is to find a good red lipstick for a reasonable price. It’s such a pet peeve of mine that it’s become a running joke amongst my friends, who have grown to share my frustration. We’ve developed a habit of swatching every lipstick claiming to be red whenever we find ourselves in a drug store- 90% of the time, we come away with our arms covered in swipes of fuchsia, coral and maroon.

In the age of internet shopping this problem, has only worsened; the combination of heavily edited images on makeup sites combined with inaccurate shade names is a recipe for buyer’s remorse, and many companies don’t allow returns or refunds on used products.

So, I decided that I would go to a drugstore, armed with my phone camera, notes app and a friend, to document a cross-section of the lipsticks which claimed to be -or in the bullet looked to be- true reds.

Below is a list of these products, along with my (amateur) swatches, and notes on price and formula for each, so NBGA readers can make more informed decisions when looking for the most elusive of colors for a good price.

Product:

Revlon Super Lustrous Lipstick

Shade Name & Number:

Certainly Red, 740

Price:

£7.49

Finish:

Creamy & Smooth

Is it Red?

No! It’s more of a hot pink.

6.5/10

Product:

NYX Suede Matte Lipstick

Shade Name & Number:

Spicy

Price:

£8

Finish:

Super matte and velvety

Is it Red?

Yes! A true pillar-box red!

9/10

Product:

L’Oreal Paris Color Riche Satin Lipstick

Shade Name & Number:

Vendome, 364

Price:

£6.99

Finish:

Shiny and thick – it felt sticky on the skin.

Is it Red?

No – it’s a dark maroon with purple undertones.

5/10

Product:

Max Factor Colour Elixir Lipstick

Shade Name & Number:

Ruby Tuesday, 715

Price:

£7.99

Finish:

Smooth and light but extremely staining- I had to scrub this one off!

Is it Red?

No – it’s a dark fuscia.

5.5/10

Product:

No7 Match Made Moisture Drench Lipstick

Shade Name & Number:

Pillarbox, 900

Price:

£10

Finish:

Satiny but not too shiny. It applied super evenly.

Is it Red?

Yes! This is how I picture a classic red lip.

9.5/10

Product:

Natural Collection Moisture Shine Lipstick

Shade Name & Number:

Crimson

Price:

£2.49

Finish:

Super sheer; this one is more like a red-tinted lip balm than an actual lipstick.

Is it Red?

This one is a hesitant no- it is red-toned, but the lack of pigment means it’s not a true red. I do think it’s really pretty and subtle though!

7/10

 

Product:

Bourjois Rouge Velvet The Lipstick

Shade Name & Number:

Joli Carmin’ois, 07

Price:

£8.99

Finish:

Very even, creamy and velvety finish.

Is it Red?

No. To be fair to Bourjois, they do state that the shade is a ‘vibrant red with an orange undertone’ on their site. I would go as far as to say it’s closer to coral though, and is so bright as to be almost neon!

7/10

 

Product:

CYO Two Clever By Half Lipstick & Liner

Shade Name & Number:

Big Idea

Price:

£5.50

Finish:

Shiny and semi-sheer.

Is it Red?

No- it’s somewhere between hot and raspberry pink.

6.5/10

 (note, this one gets extra props as I love the smaller bullet, and it does include a liner!)

Product:

Maybelline Colour Sensational Made for All

Shade Name & Number:

Ruby For Me, 385

Price:

£7.99

Finish:

Semi-matte but greasy- this one was super thick, in an uncomfortable way.

Is it Red?

No, it’s dark pink.

4.5/10

Product:

Wet N Wild Mega Last Matte Lip Colour

Shade Name & Number:

Red Velvet

Price:

£6.12

Finish:

Smooth but with barely any pigment. I had to really rub the bullet on my wrist to get any colour payoff.

Is it Red?

No! It’s a light pink. This one is the furthest from red of the bunch.

3/10

Product:

Rimmel Stay Matte Liquid Lipstick

Shade Name & Number:

Fire Starter, 500

Price:

£5.99

Finish:

Liquid to matte. Super pigmented.

Is it Red?

Yes! A great red with blue undertones.

9/10

Product:

Rimmel Moisture Renew Lipstick

Shade Name & Number:

Mayfair Red Lady, 510

Price:

£6.49

Finish:

Glossy and smooth.

Is it Red?

Yes! It’s virtually the same shade as ‘Fire Starter’- Rimmel are doing well for reds!

9/10

By Emily Blundell Owers
Header image by Rebecca Storm for Ssense