The Red Lip Olympics

The Sweet team has experimented to determine the secret to the perfect red lip. Here, we tell you what we found.

A swipe of red lipstick is one of the oldest, and trustiest, beauty tricks in the book. But between stains, balms, pencils, lipsticks, sheer finishes, shiny finishes, matte finishes, and opaque, there are a million options, and trying to select the right one could force you to start paying rent at Sephora. Here, Sweet's editors test the gamut, and report on our 11 favorites.

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Chantal Strasburger, editorial coordinator @chantagold

By Terry Baume de Rose Nutri Couleur in Cherry Bomb, $56,

My most frustrating issue with lipstick is that it tends to make my lips look as if they're cracked and peeling—no matter how much pre-exfoliation I do. But this formula is made with healing shea butter and softening essential rose wax—a tinted version of the brand's cult favorite Rose Balm. While it doesn't impart a show-stopping, head-turning hue (my personal preference when it comes to reds), I would highly recommend it for anyone looking for a more subtle approach.

Tanya Weston, project manager @imtanyaweston

RMS Beauty Lip2Cheek stain in Beloved, $36,

I've always been curious about lip stains, since lipstick wearing off over the course of the day is the bane of my existence. This color comes in a pot and can be applied with a brush (or a finger, if you're like me). The effect is soft, much more like a balm than a traditional lipstick. If you're thinking of trying a red lip but aren't fully committed, this is a good starting point. As an added bonus, it also works beautifully as a blush.

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Laurel Pantin, senior fashion editor @Lapantin

VMV Hypoallergenics Lip Gloss in Cabaret, $27,

Silky and lovely! This gloss is really moisturizing, and is fragrance-free, so it has a natural kind of lipstick smell, which I love. VMV Hypoallergenics is one of my favorite beauty brands, period, so I was excited to try their gloss. As soon as I put it on, I was immediately into it. The color is sheer, but buildable. I'm generally not a makeup wearer at all, but this doesn't really even feel like makeup. The color looks bright in the tube, but it's totally subtle once applied. A win.

Maia Schoenfelder, social media editor @maiaschoenf

YSL Lipstick in Rouge Volupté Shine in Rouge Tuxedo, $37,

This lipstick looks fancy—the tube is gold, shiny, and has the iconic YSL logo stamped on it no less than four times. It also smells like Starburst. So far, so good. I like lipstick that is as easy to apply as lip gloss; anything too permanent or too pigmented scares me. This was easy to apply, and also easy to fix (if you happen to have a less-than-steady hand). The color wasn't perfect for my skin tone, but with the right shade, I'd use this one over and over again.

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Louisa Holmberg, editorial producer @Louissssa

Marc Jacobs Le Marc Lip Créme Lipstick in Oh Miley, $30,

To be honest, I'm wary of red lipstick. The only lipstick I wear is light pink, so this bright red freaked me out. Since high school, my beauty icon has been Grace Kelly—so seeing that this lipstick was named after Miley Cyrus didn't exactly soothe my nerves. As you'd imagine, it's certainly bright! But it's also surprisingly easy to apply and has a luxe, creamy texture. Plus, I liked the way the pop of red contrasted with my blonde hair. It's definitely new for me, but I was actually excited once I had it on, and I'm still wearing it now.

Tanya Weston, project manager @imtanyaweston

Bite Beauty Amuse Bouche Lipstick in Tannin, $26,

I wear the same red lipstick every day so I was excited to try something new. I loved Bite's packaging right away—its sleek design and smooth texture felt luxurious. I need a blue-based red to flatter my skin tone and this delivered. It's somewhere between a wine color and a classic red, but it doesn't cross over into burgundy territory. It also stayed on all day, which is huge. Now, I'm finding myself reaching for this every morning, instead of my old faithful.

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Laurel Pantin, senior fashion editor @Lapantin

L'Oreal Paris Colour Riche La Lacque Lip Pen in Lacquerized, $10,

I like how fine the point of this product is—I'm kind of lazy and sloppy when it comes to makeup, but the pencil-like tip made it easy. The fine point of this pencil let me draw in those two fun peaks on the top of my top lip without getting lipstick everywhere. The formula is really pigment heavy, so a little went a long way: I like that I could apply just a tiny bit and spread it with my finger for more of a stain, or go back in with a heavy hand for opaque coverage. Overall, it's really versatile, and it also stayed on pretty well, especially considering I snack and sip constantly throughout the day.

Aimée Hunt, art director @amh_hunt

Benefit BeneTint Lip and Cheek Stain, $30,

This being my first real exploration of lipsticks, I wasn't at all familiar with lip stains, even though this one is, I am told, a cult-favorite. I was a little intimidated by the bottle—it looks like nail polish, and applying it with a nail polish-style brush felt weird at first, but it's surprisingly easy to use and to control. It also smells like fresh roses, which is delightful, and the color is subtle on me, but in a nice way. It gives just a hint of color, so it looks just like the natural color of your lips: you basically can't tell that there's anything there. It does soak into your lips quite a bit though, so don't forget to exfoliate and moisturize!

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Biya Haq, editorial intern @Biyahaq

Clé de Peau Beauté Extra Rich Lipstick in Vivid Red, $65,

At first, the architectural shape of this lipstick was kind of daunting. It was like one of those products that are too pretty to actually use, but it turned out that the octagonal shape of the stick actually helped me to apply it—the angles made everything more precise. The texture was super moisturizing without being too glossy. Somehow, it's the perfect shade to wear out at night, but also didn't feel like too much during the day. I'll definitely be wearing this more.

Molly Elizalde, associate editor @mollyelizalde

MAC Cosmetics Retro Matte Liquid Lipcolor in Feels So Grand, $20,

It took a few tries to put this stain on the right way, and I quickly realized that, with this one, less was more. Once I had a few dabs of color on each lip, it was easier to spread with my finger than the applicator—just be sure to wash your hands immediately if you do that because it will stain your clothes. Overall, I've been looking for a good stain for a year now and I'm really happy with this one. I applied it in the morning, had coffee, and didn't need to reapply until after lunch. I have a feeling it would've lasted longer if I wasn't so addicted to lip balm.

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