Bold, fresh, pretty or play­ful. No other hue is as ver­sa­tile or em­phatic. Bi­ased, us?

Red - - Beauty - Pho­tog­ra­phy MATTHEW EADES Words ALEXAN­DRA FRIEND

There’s no one item of make-up that says quite so much as a red lip. Let’s count the ways: sex in a stick, fire in your pocket, red says come hither but also hands off.

A red lip is for the brave but also for the wa­ver­ing, puls­ing its en­ergy into the world when you’re all out of juice. But wait, what about the days when all you want from your make-up is to look pretty? No sex, no drama, just clear eyes, glow­ing skin and ev­ery­thing pulled to­gether. A red lip can do that, too.

Red is clear-as-a-bell Coca-cola, but also a chic and muted brick. It can be car­toon­per­fect at the cor­ners (cheat’s tech­nique: fi­nesse with lip pen­cil af­ter­wards) or dream­ily kissed off around the edges (press on with a fin­ger or soften with a cot­ton bud). Red is the step change of the beauty world, tak­ing your make-up, your out­fit, even your mood some­where new. Wear it to el­e­vate a Bre­ton stripe, a top knot or a crisp au­tum­nal Sun­day. And be­cause red works sym­bi­ot­i­cally with what­ever you pair it with, a new con­text will make the red it­self look fresher and more play­ful, tak­ing it away from its pow­er­play roots.

The right red is spec­tac­u­larly flat­ter­ing. You’ll know when you’ve found it, be­cause a skin tone that seemed flat and muddy only min­utes be­fore will re­or­gan­ise it­self into some­thing clear and more lu­mi­nous. You’ll need less blush, less lash, even less base – which suits us per­fectly. We love red at Red, but we love it most of all with a sleek brow, min­i­mal mas­cara and naked (or as good as) skin.

It’s a Bri­tish fan­tasy that the French do it bet­ter, but this kind of make-up non­cha­lance is just as much our ter­ri­tory – think Si­enna Miller, Laura Bai­ley, Alexa Chung or Zadie Smith, wear­ing red with a tea dress, rum­pled waves or freshly mois­turised face. And by the way, while Laura Bai­ley loves a bolt of vi­brant poppy now, she had to be ca­joled into it by make-up artist Tania Grier – who hap­pens to be the Sis­ley Paris UK make-up am­bas­sador and the skil­ful hands be­hind the images you see here. ‘I’ve seen women trans­formed by their per­fect red – it’s a to­tal game-changer,’ she says. When it comes to find­ing that shade, Tania has few rules – just play the field un­til you get there, she says (we’d rec­om­mend start­ing with the reds in Sis­ley’s new Le Phyto Rouge, which are matte enough to look mod­ern but still creamy and com­fort­able). ‘My one guide­line would be that a clas­sic English rose should be­ware of too much blue, which can make pale skin look sal­low – in which case, co­ral gives an in­stant lift,’ she adds. So read on, play on… then hold your nerve and leave the house. Red’s got this.

Yves Saint Lau­rent Rouge Pur Cou­ture The Slim, £29

Dior Rouge Dior Ul­tra Rouge in Ul­tra Star, £29

Sis­ley Le Phyto Rouge in Rouge Capri, £38

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