Master A French Classic – The Perfect Red Lipstick


Le Bon Marche

I must admit that I’ve never been great at applying my own makeup. Don’t ask me to try a ‘smoky eye’ or a ‘cat eye’ – neither ends up looking right. And I find the French woman’s ‘no makeup look’ just plain hard.

But the one thing I can do is a perfect red lip.

A French classic, seen regularly on the streets of Paris, red brightens the face like nothing else. And a fabulous red lip doesn’t need much else in terms of makeup. A good base and lightly made up eyes and you look polished and good to go. Ready for anything, day or night.

It took me years of practice but now I find wearing perfect red lipstick easy. And I believe that anyone can master this French staple with just a few basic tips.

  • Start with lips that are in good condition. Red obviously draws attention so smooth lips are a must. Choose another colour if your lips are dry and chapped.
  • Choose your right red. To be honest, this is the only trick to wearing a red lip – you can’t just choose any old red. I know that if I try anything brick toned I just look dreadful and can’t get it off my lips fast enough. For a red to look good on me, it must have a blue base. There was one piece of advice that helped me sort out which red was best for me. In the daylight, look at the veins in your wrists – if they look bluish go for a blue base. If they are greenish, go for an orange based or brick red. The assistants at makeup counters can then point you in the right direction.
  • Use a lip brush for the first application. Using your lip brush, line your lips first then colour in the gaps. Blot, then repeat. Blot again. Voila – the perfect red lip. You’ll note that I don’t use any primers, liners or top coats – but that’s entirely a matter of personal preference.

There are heaps of red lipsticks out there – every brand has at least one – but here are my favourite blue based reds:

  • Icon by Hourglass. More a stain than a true lipstick, this is my current favourite. Once applied, it doesn’t budge.
  • Mise à Mort by Serge Lutens. This one is smaller and more expensive than your average lipstick. But the texture is just right and it is packaged in a cute hexagonal case. This lipstick is perfect for your cocktail bag.
  • Heart by Bobbi Brown.

You might also like to try Ruby Woo by Mac or Chanel Rouge Allure in Pirate. These lipsticks don’t work for me but I know others of different colouring who swear by them.

By the way, I love shopping for red lipsticks in Paris…and you can do worse than starting your search in the cosmetics department of Le Bon Marché pictured above.

Do you love a perfect red lip? Do you have a favourite shade of red lipstick? If so, please share in the comments below.

Until next time – au revoir.


About Janelle

I believe that every woman can bring French style and joie de vivre to her life, no matter where she happens to live in the world. She only needs to know a secret or two to be on her way. When you join the Distant Francophile community, you’ll learn the style and grooming secrets that will help you to dress with the confidence so many French women seem to have.


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