sealed with a kiss

The 50 Most Classic Lipstick Colors of All Time

Photo: Photo Illustration by Stevie Remsberg/Photos Courtesy of the Retailer

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

Rumored to be the lip color worn at the first-ever Christian Dior runway show (then known as 9), this is Dior’s best-selling, classic red. It’s often referred to by its other name: “Iconic.”

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

This cinnamon-brown lip color, which Linda Evangelista once publicly praised, was sold out for most of the ’90s. Nelson explains: “No iconic products list would be complete without this ’90s supermodel favorite.”

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

The first shade created by Monsieur Saint Laurent in 1979.

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

Named after the Audrey Hepburn film, this is a fuchsia that looks either more purple or pink depending upon your skin tone.

Russian Red by M.A.C

One of the three best-selling reds by M.A.C (the others being Ruby Woo and Lady Danger), this is a cherry red that leans the slightest bit toward orange.

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

On internet message boards, you often see the acronym MLBB — meaning “My Lips But Better.” This is one of the best-reviewed MLBB shades on MakeupAlley of all time, praised for being a nude that isn’t too nude. It’s a frequently sold-out best seller.

Bruised Plum by Tom Ford

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

Photo: Roger Cabello

This classic red is what is known as the Armani Red, and the same shade as seen in the brand’s signature red lipstick case.

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

Photo: Courtesy of the Vendor

This is Rihanna’ s version of a universal red and some already think it’s a replacement for M.A.C’s Ruby Woo. In its liquid form, it’s lighter and easier to apply than a typical tube of lipstick.

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

In every beauty range, there’s a classic red that’s a best seller, and a second best seller that’s a more quirky red. This red has a jolt of orange through it — no less pigmented than the 999, but just as vibrant.

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

One of the most famous nude shades of all time. Makeup creator Francois Nars once said it was his single, most-used beauty product of all time because it’s a “perfect, warm nude” with just “the right amount of yellow and pink.”

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

Barose explains why this bronze should be a classic: “I love that it gives a sheer bronze glaze for the mouth. It’s perfect for darker skin because it’s not a nude but a bit more interesting and glam.”

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

Originally conceived as a highlighter blush for lips, this is a classic, polished, peach-based nude.

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

Although he’s best known for his more vibrant color choices, this is Tom Ford’s most commercially successful lipstick shade.

Lasting Kiss by Lancôme

This pinkish-brown is the current best-selling Lancôme shade.

Addict Lip Glow Color Reviver Balm by Dior

Violet Femme by Tom Ford

 Barose explains why this shade is a favorite: “It’s a bright color that’s unique with purple undertones; it’s bright but deep, so it’s easy to wear.”

No. 311 by Clé de Peau Beauté

This is Clé de Peau Beauté’s best-selling lipstick color by far. This shade is frequently worn by the brand’s face, Amanda Seyfried.

Fairest Nude by L’Oréal Paris

Described as a perfect nude (especially for those with olive complexions) on MakeupAlley.

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

Photo: 12 months, US Only, all media

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

By Terry’s best-selling shade worldwide, a pink-based nude that glides over the lips, with a blend of moisturizing hyaluronic acid and something called “filler spheres” (which promises plump, moisturized color that won’t settle).

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.