A few weeks ago, as the U.S. leg of Taylor Swift's 2023 Eras Tour was winding down (culminating in a mega-successful Eras Tour movie) and the Taylor Swift-Travis Kelce relationship was heating up, I received a message from a friend: "going to need an identifier on that Taylor Swift lipstick ASAP." My pal was not alone: fans had been trying to track down the official Taylor Swift Eras Tour red lipstick for months. In fact, makeup artist Pat McGrath's 'Taylor Made' Lip Kit had already sold out (so had McGrath's LiquiLUST, another alleged Eras Tour pick). But, fear not, the internet is on the case: As I type this, the hashtag #taylorswiftlipstick has more than 1.3 million TikTok views, most of which clock NARS Dragon Girl and MAC Ruby Woo as the most viable Eras Tour dupes.
NARS Powermatte Lip Pencil in Dragon Girl
MAC Retromatte Lipstick in Ruby Woo
Lime Crime Soft Touch Lipstick in Radical Red
Best For Warm Skin Tones
MAC Powder Kiss Lipstick in You're Buggin' Lady
Best for Cool Skin Tones
LYS Beauty Moisture Matte Lipstick in Rich AF
A Universally Flattering Red
Urban Decay Vice Liquid Lipstick in Unbreakable
The Internet's Favorite Universally Flattering Red
Maybelline Made for All Lipstick in Red For Me
The Universally Flattering Budget Pick
Kiko Milano Matte Veil Liquid Lip in Color 10
The Beauty Editor Favorite
Jamie Makeup Bloss in The Red One
The Starter Red Lip
NYX Mechanical Lip Liner Pencil in Red
In the world of makeup, a red lip is certainly nothing new. Some historians believe the look dates back to at least 3500 BC when ancient Sumerians would crush red rocks and gems into a powder to tint their lips. The practice of red-lip painting can be traced to at least ancient Egypt, to the bust of Nefertiti and to when servants reportedly created red waxes out of insect parts to shade Cleopatra's pout.
Post-ancient times — and up until the 20th century — red lipstick was worn almost exclusively by performers and sex workers and was considered in bad taste for everyone else. But all that changed in 1912, when young suffragettes began wearing the makeup staple as an act of rebellion while marching for their voting rights. Flappers followed suit, embracing red lips in the 1920s. And by the 1940s, when more women entered the American workforce than ever before, female workers considered red lipstick an essential part of their grooming routines. The look came to signify professional polish.
Since then, we've seen iconic red lips on rockstars, first ladies and even, once again, a queen. Today, the bold color signifies glamour, confidence, sex appeal and a certain kind of French-girl chic. In fact, in 2023, there's just one lingering stigma surrounding this classic makeup trend: that older women shouldn't wear it.
Spend any time googling beauty advice for women over 50 and you'll uncover dire warnings and silly rules about how red lipstick is too harsh for mature skin, how it can appear too clownish, how, if you're over a certain age and try to pull off a red lip, you'll resemble Bette Davis in "What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?"
However, according to celebrity makeup artist Jamie Greenberg, none of this is true. Greenberg — whose client list includes Kaley Cuoco, Rashida Jones, Kristen Stewart, Tracee Ellis Ross and Judith Light — says: "Adding a pop of color to your makeup routine is actually a great way to brighten your features. And when it comes to lipstick, red can definitely be worn at any age." Armed with the right information and a few pro tricks, Greenberg (and I!) believe women can — and should — wear red lipstick in middle age and far beyond.
How to find the right red lipstick for your skin tone
"Red lipstick has the potential to suit any skin tone, hair color and eye color," Greenberg explains. "The key is to find a product with the undertone that works best for your skin." This may sound intimidating (or at least it always has for me) but Greenberg says it's quite simple: "If you have warm undertones, choose a warmer red lipstick, like one with orange tones, to compliment your skin. Same with cooler tones: blue-toned reds are the best option."
Roughly the formula breaks down like this:
Deeper skin tones = all reds
Olive skin tones = warm reds
Light, ruddy skin tones = warm reds
Fair, pale skin = cool reds
There is one exception to the undertone rule. "'True red' is considered a universal color that is flattering for any skin shade and undertone," Greenberg tells me. "The key to a true red is it not having any yellow or blue undertones/tints, that's how you know it will be balanced and suitable for all skin." For those of us who are not professional makeup artists and/or colorists, here are some "true red" picks to start with:
The best way to apply red lipstick if you're over 40
Turns out, you'll need one more element to perfect your crimson look and that is an inexpensive lip liner, of a similar shade to your lipstick.
And the last three tips to keep in mind:
1. Start with a moisturized, non-scaly canvas. Don't attempt to apply lip color over chapped lips.
2. Go for subtlely — at least at first: "Depending on the pigment of the red lipstick, less can be more," Greenberg explains, a rule that can be ESPECIALLY true for older lips with more creases and lines. "If you're dealing with a high pigmented lipstick, start with a light hand and build up the intensity by preference." If the result turns out to be too much, you can, as many a grandmother has before you, blot your lips on a tissue until you have the desired result.
2. Apply lightly but with precision: "I like to start the application towards the center of my lips and build towards the outer edges for a more blurred, undone look that’s effortless," says Greenberg. And I'll add here that the best trick I know for wearing red lips in my 50s is to make the lip-line soft and blend well. Do this and you'll want to rock red lipstick forever.