Playing Femme Fatale : Red Lipstick and Perfume

by Suzanna

Red lipstick is a force to be reckoned with.  No other lipstick color can be so right…and so wrong.  Pick the wrong red and your skin and teeth might take on an unbecoming yellowish hue.  Pick the right red and watch your face (and teeth) light up.

I started wearing red lipstick at the dawn of the blog age, around 2005.  It seems like ages ago now, but blogger swatches made it easy to see colors in various lights and understand how they might work for you.  Red lipstick made my makeup routine easy:  I wear it and little else.  Nothing should compete for attention with red.

Pairing cosmetic color and scent came naturally to me since I’ve always paired clothing color and scent. Many people “see” fragrance in color (for instance, to me vetiver is always dark green and vanilla is a pale, warm yellow), so it was a natural extension from clothing to lipstick.  Carnation is always red, or red-brown depending on the amount of clove.  A red pepper note is also always red: bright!

My suggestions are meant to introduce you to some great red lipsticks, and also to show you a new way to “wardrobe” products.  Much as you might match a fragrance to a color of clothing, you can apply the same technique to lipstick–often with dramatic results!

Dance ‘Til Dawn

Chanel sales associates often recommend Rouge Double Intensite Ruby Lite as the perfect lipstick for evening. It’s a bright ruby, an unapologetically jazzy red that demands a seriously sexy, Jazz Age fragrance like Caron Tabac Blond.  Launched in 1921, Tabac Blond was created to mimic the smell of tobacco used by flappers. It smells of a fine-grade leather and tobacco leaf, with a hot carnation as the heart-note floral.

Fairytale Red

Makeup artist Ellis Faas created her eponymous “Ellis Red” to “reproduce the colour that Snow White’s mother wished for the lips of her child:  blood-red.”  I wear Ellis Red in L101 (Creamy Lips formulation) and while it is brighter than blood on me, it is a clear neutral red one might wear with the fairytale forest evoked by Ormonde Jayne Woman.  OJ Woman is deepest green Grimm Brothers’ forest with more than a hint of mystery in its violet-twilight depths.

An Everyday Note of Glamour

Victoria and I both adore the deep coral-red Habit Rouge from Guerlain’s Rouge Automatique series.  If there’s such a thing as a neutral coral-red, Habit Rouge is it.  It’s a terrific everyday red that pairs just as well with a suit and it does with a cocktail dress (or jeans!).  For an additional note of glamour in the everyday, try Annick Goutal’s exuberant Quel Amour!, a fruity rose that bursts with red notes.

Hot Tamale

Le Metier de Beaute is a chic high-end cosmetic line that connoisseurs say is among the very best.  Moisture Stain Lipstick in color Sydney is hot tamale of a warm red that works great with the spicy jasmine of  The Different Company Jasmin de Nuit.

These are just a few suggestions.  The truth is, anything goes.  From theatrical and dramatic colors and fragrances to demure and barely-there ones, the possibilities are beautifully diverse and are not just limited to red.  Do you match your lipstick to your fragrance? If not, why not join the fun and suggest a fantasy pairing?

Image: Guerlain Habit Rouge from Rouge Automatique collection by Bois de Jasmin, all rights reserved



  • Pyewacket: You really have the best posts. Thank you, I really appreciate them. My mornings wouldn’t be the same without them. May 22, 2012 at 9:32am Reply

    • Suzanna: Pyewacket, I’m sure Victoria will love to read your comment! May 22, 2012 at 10:10am Reply

  • nikki: Important to know is whether one’s skin tone is yellowish or pink, that is the real secret here. While the above reds are ok, some very important ones are left out: Revlon’s Cherries in the Snow is a great and less expensive alternative to blue reds by Chanel, the color is great on lips as well as on nails, classic French inspired blue red, a knock-out. Revlon’s Fire and Ice is a true red, medium with some yellowish undertones and looks great on “olive” skin. A lighter color of red which is amazing on women with blue eyes (yes, one should match one’s eye color to the red as well) is Rouge d’Enfer by Guerlain. If one wears red lipstick, it is essential to have one’s eyes made up, red lipstick and not much else is not the way to go. A well defined eyebrow arch, at least a brown or black eyeliner or khol with some brownish eye shadow and lots of mascara is the backdrop that one needs for red lipstick. Otherwise, don’t even try, red lipstick is not to be worn because one doesn’t know what to wear! Blonde women have to do more in terms of makeup, at least a little blush in the same tone as the lipstick, and yes, you can use the lipstick as blush but be careful. Red lipstick can be instant glamour but please: wear it well and the face needs to be made up, don’t skip on mascara! Isabella Rossellini wore red lipstick for the reason that she didn’t like to wear full make-up but then look at her: those cheekbones, that skin, that hair, anything is beautiful on Isabella! May 22, 2012 at 9:45am Reply

    • Suzanna: Nikki, thanks for your summation. The reds I listed are ones that work on me and are mentioned because of my personal experience with them. As you point out, each person is different. I’m sure readers will learn much from your pointers. May 22, 2012 at 10:07am Reply

  • Zazie: Some of your pairings really make a strinking combination! the fairytale is my favorite (though I don’t enjoy OJ woman myself, I see the point! And I love Ellis Faas makeup).

    Usually I don’t match my clothes/make up with my perfume, as my perfume “moods” are much more varied than my make up styles/colors… besides, red lipsticks don’t work for me, unless they are sheer, which misses the point of the statement red!

    But your lovely post inspires me to play with a red lipstick again:
    maybe my neglected tom ford cherry lush with a dab of fracas parfum to match. That might go under a “take no prisoners” tag!!!!

    p.s. Love Victoria’s picture! Must get my hands on one of those rouge automatiques! May 22, 2012 at 12:15pm Reply

    • Suzanna: Zazie, the Rouges Automatiques are, as they say, “da bomb.” There are many reds or red/pinks in the line.

      Tom Ford lipsticks I have wanted to investigate, but they aren’t sold w/in a 100-mile radius of me :–(

      Glad you enjoyed the post, and yes, V’s picture is fabulous! May 22, 2012 at 12:55pm Reply

  • Alexandra: Suzanna,
    Your post is lovely, as always! And your recommendations so irresistible. I love Ellis Faas reds, and I have a couple- one in cherry (L 303) and the snow-white bloodstain effect (L 301); lips have never looked better… Now I guess I have to buy Ormonde Jayne Woman for the full attire!
    Many thanks for sharing, and best wishes from London! May 22, 2012 at 12:15pm Reply

    • Suzanna: Alexandra, I’m glad to find that you, too, love the Ellis Faas line, and Ellis Red, as well! What a great clear red it is.

      Glad you enjoyed the post, and yes, you probably need to go visit Linda at Ormonde Jayne! May 22, 2012 at 12:58pm Reply

  • Elizabeth: With my very warm complexion, the best red lipsticks for me are the warm, orange- or brown-toned reds. This past holiday season, Nars came out with a shade called Joyous Red, which is the perfect red lipstick for me. Nars calls it “amber red.” I never thought of what perfume would go well with it. Perhaps Sonoma Scent Studio Nostalgie? It’s a classic rich floral with an ambery base. May 22, 2012 at 12:30pm Reply

    • Suzanna: Elizabeth, thanks for adding “Joyous Red” to the mix! I like amber reds also. Perhaps Chanel Attitude is another in that category.

      Might pair amber/red with a cinammon-redolent frag, or clove. But SSS is a great idea-Laurie’s Fireside fragrance is another terrific choice (don’t know Nostalgie, yet). May 22, 2012 at 1:00pm Reply

    • Erin: Darn, Elizabeth, I’d just about forgotten about that Joyous Red! I see the NARS website still has it as an “exclusive” – I guess that means online only. And nice scent match: I’ve never tried Nostalgie, but it sounds just right. I’m a warm, brown/orange red girl myself. My favorite is Lipstick Queen Saint Rust. I like MAC Hot Tahiti, Guerlain Rouge Automatique in Vol de Nuit and Clarins Rouge Prodige in Redwood, too. May 22, 2012 at 1:50pm Reply

      • Suzanna: Erin, thanks for adding to the conversation! This is turning into bonanza of wonderful suggestions.

        I am lamenting some older Dior reds from the early 1990s. Occasionally they turn up on eBay. May 22, 2012 at 2:10pm Reply

  • minette: love red lipstick with the makeup nikki way up above describes. but i don’t want to draw that much attention to my mouth, so i don’t wear it. you’ll find me in plums, pinks and shades closer to my natural lip color, with more emphasis on my eyes (my better feature).

    have never matched perfume with makeup, but then, i don’t match it with what i wear, either. my perfume is more a reflection of my mood, or of a sudden inspiration, or sometimes a response or antidote to the weather. and sometimes it is about how i want to “appear” in the world.

    it’s another way to paint my story. since my story changes and evolves, i like to have lots of scent crayons/paints in my arsenal. keeps me from being stuck. May 22, 2012 at 3:40pm Reply

    • Suzanna: Minette, the perfume/lipstick pairing for me is just a fun extension of color pairing I do with my clothing and perfume. I’m so glad you shared your reasons for selecting perfume! It brings another dimension to the discussion! Thanks! May 23, 2012 at 10:26am Reply

  • Vanessa: I would love to wear red lipstick, but my never ending quest goes on. There is skin colour to consider (mine is quite sallow), age, and also crucially, thinness of lips. I look like a rather ailing Cruella de Ville in most shades – hey-ho! May 22, 2012 at 6:40pm Reply

    • Suzanna: Vanessa, thanks for the smile your post just gave me. For the record, I can also be sallow (and tan) and the secret is a light application. I like the Chanel Ruby Lite (or Rose Alexandrite) applied lightly over balm, and then gloss on top. I never was a balm-wearer, but I am now.

      Check out MAC Retro. It can be a YLBB red when applied with caution. May 22, 2012 at 11:11pm Reply

  • Undina: I have just one red lipstick. It’s Dior, don’t even remember from which collection – something from a couple of years ago. I do not have too much of a wear for the red lipstick but if I were to pair it with one of my perfumes it would probably be Coco Chanel. May 22, 2012 at 10:39pm Reply

    • Suzanna: Undina, Coco is made for red lipstick! You’ve made me remember those Coco ads from the Eighties! May 23, 2012 at 10:26am Reply

  • Little Red: If I’m going all out with the red lipstick, then I go all out with my perfume, Patou Joy parfum. May 23, 2012 at 1:04am Reply

    • Suzanna: Little Red, thanks for adding Joy to the list! It’s perfect for red! May 23, 2012 at 9:23am Reply

  • September Gurl: An additional thought. A discussion of red lipstick and fragrance isn’t complete without mentioning Paloma Picasso and her
    signature red lips. Personally, I like to pair her fragrance with M.A.C. Russian Russian Red. Paloma and I share similar coloring so I think it is a natural go-together. July 15, 2012 at 7:20am Reply

    • Suzanna: September Gurl, what a great pairing! Paloma certainly is an inconic “red lipstick role model” and I’m glad you have found a signature of your own. July 15, 2012 at 8:46am Reply

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