Once Upon a Red

The Best Red Lipstick

Like many of you, I owe a great deal of my childhood to Walt Disney.

As a child, I was able to watch as princesses pranced through forests, elephants found their wings, and dreams came true, spellbound in the comfort of my living room. However, while I was always rooting for the heroes and their respective happy endings, I couldn’t help but admire Maleficent, Lady Tremaine, and the other wicked mistresses of evil. Say what you want about them, but you have to admit: the dark side had some serious style.

It was during Madame Medusa’s beauty regime that I first learned about false eyelashes; the Evil Queen’s eyeshadow technique still impresses me with its majestic multilayered mastery; and even though her fashion wasn’t cruelty-free in the slightest, Cruella de Vil really knew how to accessorize a LBD. Were their deeds dastardly? Undoubtedly. Did they look fabulous while doing them? Undeniably!

Though their fashion statements were varied in their villany, there was one makeup choice that they all had in common: red lipstick. It was a bewitching hue as eye-catching, unmistakable, and powerful as the ladies who wore it. Even though I was little, I equated the crimson cosmetic with strength, magic, and, ironically, good taste. I couldn’t wait to grow up and have Belle’s library, Snow White’s baking skills, and Ursula’s makeup know-how.

Out of those ambitions, only one came to full-fledged fruition, and I bet you can guess which: while my book collection and pie-making abilities are still a work in progress, I can proudly say that my pout can rival a sea witch’s. It wasn’t without trial and error, however: every makeup brand imaginable makes a scarlet shade that promises that you can paint the town red.

But here’s a question: why settle for the town when you can have the world?

During my decade-long search for the best rouge to bring out my inner rogue, I’ve found five reliable and ravishing companies with vegan reds that step up any look, whether it be for business or pleasure. In sharing these products, I encourage you to also take a walk on the wild side, try something new, and emulate your favorite foul fashionista. Trust me - you’ll feel so glamorous, it’s criminal.    


Kat Von D Everlasting Liquid in Outlaw


I was first introduced to this line of lip wear through my gal pal Noel, who gifted me this stunning shade for my birthday a few years back. Out of my list of lip wear, Von D’s applicator is the most sleek in shape, which ensures clean execution. The color dries quickly and without unseemly clumpage, leaving your lips matte and marvelous. I love it so much that I scrape out every last drop when I get to the bottom of the vial!

Top Tip: If you desire dimension, I would additionally invest in a dark creamy lip liner like Kat Von D’s Vampira. I like to put the liner on first and smooth it over the entirety of my lips as a base and then apply Outlaw, because not only do the colors blend together seamlessly, the darkness of Vampira attracts more attention to the mouth.



Milk Makeup Lip Color in O.G. Red


An unsung hero in the makeup industry, Milk Makeup has products that blend for a flawless finish, hydrate your thirsty pores, and gleam with the professional gloss of a brand who knows exactly what they're doing. Case in point: their collection of lip wear lasts months (despite the petite packaging) and slides across lips with glorious ease. They are light, breathable, and last hours, so you can go about your day and know that your lips look as fabulous as you are.

Top Tip: A little goes a long way with this product. All you need are a few swipes!

Lime Crime Matte Velvetine in Red Velvet


Red Velvet was the first non-drugstore red I ever bought for myself, so I have an appreciation for this product and its company, which was one of the first makeup and hair care stop-and-shops on the world wide web. It’s rich in consistency, smells like fresh sugar cookies, and lives up to its soft namesake: it feels like you’re treating yourself to something luxurious.

Top Tip: If you are looking for a gloss that glistens and has the same vibrant scarlet of the Matte Velvetine, you should try Lime Crime’s brand-new Wet Cherry Gloss in Maraschino ($18.00). I’ve actually used both products at the same time using Red Velvet as a base…it’s a powerful super duo!

Sugarpill Liquid Lip Color in Nurse.jpg

Sugarpill Liquid Lip Color in Nurse


I first discovered this Los Angeles-based company via Instagram and its blue-haired founder Amy Doan aka @shrinkle (who I suggest you follow if you’d enjoy a sugar-sweet daily dose of creativity, color, and cats). I always double-tapped whenever I saw her bright smile, glittery eyelids, and wardrobe that would make Barbie and Sailor Moon green with envy. When I realized that Sugarpill was a must-have among drag queens, I knew I had to give her products a try. Out of all the lipsticks in this list, this lipstick has the cutest and most compact packaging, perfect for putting into your pocket or your purse. When you start applying, it may feel dense, but it warms to the touch and injects your pout with a punch of polished high-pigmented red. Just what the doctor ordered!

Top Tip: If Nurse is not enough to satisfy your need for superb shine, I suggest purchasing Sugarpill’s Asylum loose eyeshadow ($14.00) and packing it on top with a small eyeshadow brush for a glittery finish.



Elf Cosmetics Studio Matte Lip Color in Rich Red


In my opinion, Target is equivalent to IKEA: large, in charge, and somewhere you can truly lose yourself in. It's a Wonderland of items you may or may not need; however, if you are looking for a cheap red with superb quality, Elf Cosmetics is a gift that will make you glad that you took a trip down the rabbit hole.

Top Tip: If you want clean and precise application, I suggest purchasing an Elf Cosmetics brush along with your red. To achieve my desired shape, I use the Small Angled Brush ($3.00), a tool so versatile that I own three: one for lips, one for eyeliner, and one for eyebrows.