There are certain lipstick shades known by sight or name or number alone. 999. Schiap. 400. A very, very matte blue-based red that shows up out on the town more often than the most ambitious Instagram influencer. Although hundreds of lip shades cross our desk every day, the Cut is often drawn toward the cult and classic.
To compile this list, the Cut spoke to celebrity makeup artists like Beau Nelson and Lupita Nyong’o’s makeup artist Nick Barose, scanned MakeupAlley message boards to find the best-reviewed lip shades by consumers, and asked brand representatives about their best sellers. Here are the top 50 lip shades of all time, including colors like the first red ever worn at a Christian Dior fashion show.
999 by Christian Dior
Ruby Woo by M.A.C
This shade is beloved for its ability to look good on virtually everyone. Celebrity makeup artist Beau Nelson explains its appeal: “It’s a vivid, matte, matte, matte red.” (Yes, he said matte three times for emphasis.) “It takes a little effort to get on, but the velvety-red look is worth it.” It’s also known for being virtually indestructible, lasting from morning to night with meals in between.
Black Honey Almost Lipstick by Clinique
A freebie in makeup gift sets in the ’80s, Clinique’s Black Honey Almost became a cult favorite in the ’90s as a lipgloss/lipstick that, in oft-repeated beauty parlance, looks good on almost everyone. It’s now the best-reviewed lipstick on MakeupAlley, with over 1,000 reviews. People buy it in bulk, including our fashion editor-at-large.
Spice by M.A.C
Schiap by NARS
Named for designer Elsa Schiaparelli, it’s one of the brightest pink lipsticks with blue undertones. Maggie Gyllenhaal wore the shade with her Dries Van Noten to the 2010 Oscars.
Pirate by Chanel
A classic red with blue undertones, this was one of six shades formulated to mimic Coco Chanel’s signature red lip. This shade became a cult-favorite, especially after YouTube makeup artist Lisa Eldridge demonstrated its appeal in a video.
Lady Danger by M.A.C
A true red-orange, this is the classic shade always seen on the lips of street-style star and Harper’s Bazaar editor Joanna Hillman.
No. 19 Fuchsia Rouge Pur Couture by YSL
Angel by M.A.C
In 2011, an up-and-coming reality star named Kim Kardashian proclaimed this her favorite lipstick shade. This pink lipstick (with a touch of frost) has been a best seller ever since.
Funny Face by NARS
Russian Red by M.A.C
Fire and Ice and Cherries in the Snow by Revlon
Nelson explains the cult appeal of these two shades: “Cherries in the Snow is a pink-based red that has literally been around for decades and is a timeless classic. Fire and Ice was maybe the first Hollywood-red lipstick (and matching nail color). The ads asked readers questions and warned that you were only bold enough to wear the shade if you answered at least eight of them with ‘Yes.’”
Myth by M.A.C
Bruised Plum by Tom Ford
Quite simply, one of the best plum-colored lipsticks of all time.
Jungle Red by NARS
Nelson explains why this shade is Old Hollywood (and used by him in our GIF tutorial): “In addition to a glamorous The Women reference, this shade of bright, slightly blue-based red is perfect for an Old Hollywood power pout.” Makeup artist Katie Jane Hughes also says that this is another one of those shades that looks good on everyone.
No. 1 by YSL
Lupita Nyong’o’s makeup artist, Nick Barose, calls this is one of his favorite red shades. “It’s a classic red that’s creamy with a hint of sheen, and glamorous and sexy,” he says.
#400 by Armani
Brown by Bobbi Brown
Bobbi Brown started her makeup line with ten lipstick shades and this was one of the originals — a color that helped make brown lips a trend in the 1990s.
Uncensored by Fenty Beauty
Nude Kate by Charlotte Tilbury
Amal Clooney’s makeup artist, Charlotte Tilbury, says that for years people used to beg her for the nude shade that Kate Moss (incidentally, godmother to her children) always wore. Tilbury used to custom-mix it for her, using a mix of concealers. When she finally debuted her own line, she produced Moss’s shade as one of her first lip colors.
Elson by Pat McGrath
Legendary makeup artist Pat McGrath, the most famous makeup artist in the world, developed a pure red of her own. Elson is named after the model Karen Elson, and a crimson blue-red shade that had everyone asking, “What is that shade?” at Prada’s resort 2018 show.
Trafalgar by Christian Dior
Heroine by M.A.C
Originally launched as part of M.A.C’s Reel Sexy collection, it quickly became a fan favorite (multiple internet message boards devoted threads to documenting their love affair of the lipstick). M.A.C heard their cries and brought this violet shade into its permanent collection this year.
No. 52 Rouge Pur Couture by YSL
A new cult favorite, this shade sold out everywhere worldwide after its appearance on a Korean TV drama. It now goes for up to $100 on eBay.
Honolulu Honey by NARS
01 Always Red by Sephora
Don’t sleep on the house collection by Sephora. I found out about this shade through makeup artist Benjamin Puckey, who found out about it on set. The bright red has become an internet favorite, and is one of the best-reviewed reds on MakeupAlley.
Amande Sucrée by Lancôme
Exaltée by Chanel
This pink-red is a new favorite of celebrity makeup artists and has been worn by Emma Stone and Emma Watson.
Airy Fairy by Rimmel
This shade is praised on MakeupAlley for being one of the most foolproof “My Lips But Better” shades of all time with over 500 five-star reviews.
Grege 1947 by Christian Dior
Viva Glam by M.A.C
Nelson explains the historical significance behind this color: “The first makeup product ever to be promoted by a drag queen. RuPaul Charles made history by declaring ‘I am the M.A.C girl’ in the advertising for this life-saving lip shade.” Every single penny of this lipstick and its successors goes to AIDS research.
Casablanca by Tom Ford
Lasting Kiss by Lancôme
Addict Lip Glow Color Reviver Balm by Dior
This sheer, moisturizing lip balm magically changes color on everyone and is one of the most positively reviewed lip products on MakeupAlley.
Violet Femme by Tom Ford
No. 311 by Clé de Peau Beauté
Fairest Nude by L’Oréal Paris
Kate Moss 01 by Rimmel London
Kate Moss and Rimmel London teamed up to create a line of lipstick shades — and 01 is billed as the perfect red, worn by Moss in the ads. It’s one of our favorite drugstore lipsticks of all time for its intense color payoff and hydration. Amazon reviewers agree — there are over 600 great reviews.
Kate Lipstick 111 by Rimmel London
A balanced red lipstick that’s the second best seller in Kate Moss’s collection, Rimmel. Some also see this as a stand-in for M.A.C’s Ruby Woo.
Red Revival by Maybelline One
One of Maybelline’s best-selling shades, it’s seen as the drugstore version of M.A.C’s Russian Red.
Dare to Bare by by Terry
Hot and Enchantress by CoverGirl
These two are CoverGirl’s best-selling shades. Hot is often seen as a stand-in for either M.A.C’s Ruby Woo or Russian Red. Enchantress is a purple-based pink.
Hevyn by Surratt Beauty
This shade is Troy Surratt’s homage to his late mentor, Kevyn Aucoin. Called a Lipslique, this product’s texture is akin to what would result if lip gloss and lipstick had a baby. It’s Surratt’s current best seller and another My Lips But Better shade.
Strange Magic by Marc Jacobs Beauty
Intense Nude by Estée Lauder
Pure Color Envy Lipsticks is Estée Lauder’s line of ultrahydrating lipsticks, formulated with hyaluronic acid and intense pigment. (Each tube clicks closed with a satisfying magnetic snap.) This balanced nude has emerged as one of the line’s best sellers.
Tulip by Shiseido
A true pink with the slightest undertone of blue, this light and moisturizing lipstick is a best seller.
Medieval by Lipstick Queen
Exposed by Tarte
This article was originally published June 4, 2018. It has been updated throughout. If you buy something through our links, New York may earn an affiliate commission.