January 19, 2015 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

A couple of years ago, my friend and I went out for dinner and drinks Downtown. She was wearing a fantastic red lip color—deep red and super-matte. I admired it throughout cocktails. I admired it through dinner (Indian—rice, curry). There it was on her cocktail glass and on her dinner fork, too. Even with that transfer, her lips looked the same at the end of dinner as they did at the beginning.

“What lip color are you wearing?” I asked, as one would.

“NARS Cruella,” she said.

This was how I met NARS’ Velvet Matte Lip Pencil. Cruella is one of its most popular variations.

“It lasts through anything but soup,” says Anthony Batin, a Beauty Studio captain at Sephora in Village Pointe, where Cruella goes for $25.

Its lasting power is what makes it No. 1 on our list of the five best red lip colors for Valentine’s Day. Whether you need a polished powerhouse of a shade to get you through a romantic dinner or a lighter stain for a casual soiree with friends, we’ve got a shade and formula to get you through every event of the season.

  1. NARS Cruella Velvet Matte: Known for its lasting power, NARS Cruella Velvet Matte “Lasts through anything but soup,” says Anthony Batin, a Beauty Studio captain at Sephora in Village Pointe.
  2. Make Up For Ever, Rouge Artist Intense in color 43, $20: Also known as Moulin Rouge, Make Up For Ever’s 43 is a rich red with blue undertones that make it perfect for cooler skin types. It’s not for the faint of heart—this one requires a liner and a bit of careful application, but it’s a beautiful choice for an after-work cocktail party.
  3. Hourglass, Femme Rouge Velvet Crème Lipstick in Icon, $30: When I asked Batin about his top red-lip picks, this was tops on his list. “It’s the perfect red for every skin tone,” Batin says. “It’s not too orangey and not too blue.” It’s got a creamy, paraben- and sulfate-free formula, too.
  4. Stila Stay All Day Liquid Lipstick in Tesoro, $22: For those like Omaha mom-on-the-go Augusta Wester, who says she’s a little red-shy, a lip gloss or stain formula is a festive, easy-application option. She’s a fan of Sephora’s own Rouge Infusion Lip Stain in Red Essence ($14). Batin chose this Stila Stay All Day Liquid Lipstick in Tesoro, an unexpected orangey-red, as a funky alternative. Both feature an easy-use wand and neither requires liner.
  5. Kat Von D, Studdedkiss Lipstick in Hellbent, $21: Another long-wearing matte red—the claim is 10 hours—this rock ‘n’ roll-ready pick of Batin’s is another intense choice in a classic red shade.

Essential Red Prep Steps

Batin recommends anyone prep for party-red lipstick by first exfoliating and hydrating lips, as matte lipsticks can be drying. Thicker formulas like Make Up For Ever, Hourglass and Kat Von D require a nude lip liner to prevent bleeding and feathering, as well as a good lip brush, which can help evenly deposit color onto lips’ not-always-so-even surface. Batin said a hydrating concealer can touch up any dry areas around the lips, and when the night is over, Sephora’s new oil-in-gel lipstick remover ($9.50) lets ladies wipe color off with minimal rubbing and staining, plus a bit of moisturizing power—perfect for brunch-ready lips the next morning.

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