Get Your Scarlet Pout Out With These Ethical Red Lipsticks

5 mins

From Cleopatra to Cruella De Vil and Marilyn Monroe to Madonna women throughout history have worn a scarlet pout as the ultimate symbol of power and classic beauty. Here’s how to get a cruelty-free version of the iconic look. By Rae Ritchie

It’s not a look for the faint-hearted. Indeed, red lipstick is the epitome of feminine power. Coco Chanel believed a smear of scarlet could transform moods saying: ‘If you’re sad, add more lipstick and attack,’ while Dita Von Teese recently observed: ‘Heels and red lipstick will put the fear of god into people.’ And she should know.

Cleopatra crushed bugs to create a crimson lipstick and royalty throughout the centuries have always worn it as a symbol of social status irrespective of gender – which is why you’ll see all those white-faced Kings sporting a ruby lip in their portraits.

Red Lipstick Queens

Historically, red lipstick has featured prominently. British queen Elizabeth 1 probably died of lead poisoning from her home-made red lipstick containing ceruse, such was her devotion to it, and Elizabeth Arden herself was said to hand out red lipsticks to the suffragettes on their marches. It took on a patriotic twist (literally in 1915 when the first twist-up tube was created) in World War II as Hitler apparently hated red lipstick, and became the colour of choice for movie stars and modern-day celebrities.

It’s now a must-have for all our cosmetic bags and for many of us a party, date or even an important meeting wouldn’t feel right without our favourite shade of red lipstick. It boosts our confidence and adds a flash of colour.

So we need to make sure we’re wearing an ethical red lipstick. These are all cruelty free, meaning neither the product nor any of its ingredients are tested on animals. They’re not sold in China either where the law demands that cosmetics are tested on animals. This legal requirement means that companies who were previously cruelty free sacrifice this status when they expand into the Chinese market, as has happened with both Nars and Lipstick Queen in 2017. Pick one of these lippies and you can go red with pride knowing it’s an ethical as well as a glamorous choice.

Kevyn Aucoin The Matte Lio Colour in Eternal, £27,

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Once described as the Michelangelo of Maquillage, the late Kevyn Aucoin was a much-feted make-up artist who created professional products for the public. This richly pigmented matte is a firm favourite because of the true red colour and its staying power. Once applied it won’t budge for hours.

Charlotte Tilbury K.I.S.S.I.N.G. Lipstick in So Marilyn, 145 AED



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Another brand created by a make-up artist is Charlotte Tilbury’s eponymous line, raved about by users from all walks of life.  Her website is a particularly great place to start if you’re unsure which colour of red to go for as every product is shown on ten models with different skin tones, allowing a clearer idea of what it will look like on you.

Packaged in old school glamour gold tubes, So Marilyn is a classic red while Night Crimson offers a plum red colour. The former is also available in The Perfect Red Kiss gift set (315 AED) along with a co-ordinating lip liner and gloss.

Fonts Beauty Stunna Lip Paint, 126 AED, Sephora 

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Rihanna’s Fenty Beauty red lipstick comes in just one colour: the “perfect universal red”, designed to look good on all skin tones.

It’s semi-matte and formulated to last 12 hours so you can put it on and forget about it – and if it’s good enough for Rhi Rhi, we’re sure it’s good enough for us.

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Illamasqua Glamore Lipstick in Virgin, 111.55 AED,


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Inclusivity is on the agenda at Illamasqua who recently announced: ‘We are not afraid to talk about complex issues that affect our generation, whether they be race, gender, age, or the environment. We seek to create an open, equal and diverse society’.  They put their beauty muscle where their mouth is too – shown with their recent support for The Sophie Lancaster Foundation, which works to stamp out prejudice, hatred and intolerance.

Every purchase supports their stance and when it comes to red lipstick, there’s plenty of choice. The range includes a variety of shades such as Virgin, made with Vitamin E to help nourish your lips.  Illamasqua also offer free delivery to the UAE when you spend more than 200AED.

Kat Von D Studded Kiss Lipstick in Hexagram, 116AED, Sephora 

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Celebrated tattoo artist Kat Von D’s cosmetic range is inspired by the inks she uses in her work, meaning strong colours that are ideal for red lipstick. Kat announced in 2016 that the entire range was being reformulated to be vegan, removing ingredients such as beeswax and carmine (a red dye made from the crushed shells of beetles), and the brand is now on PETA’s (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) approved list.

Take your pick from Hexagram (matte blood red), Archangel (matte burnt red), Countess (hot orange red), Tijuana (vibrant Spanish red) and Underage Red (matte fire engine red).

Hourglass Confession Ultra Slim High Intensity Refillable Lipstick in Secretly, $34, Hourglass

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Hourglass lipsticks are vegan, and refillable. The sleek gold applicator is designed to be used interchangeably, reducing packaging and waste while still looking chic.

The range is highly pigmented, making it ideal for long-lasting wear, and comes in a variety of reds including I Crave (bright red), My Icon Is (blue red), Secretly (classic red), I Can’t Live Without (red currant) and At Night (brick red). If you can’t choose then pick up the limited edition holiday season Confession Lipstick Archive ($650) featuring all thirty Confession Ultra Slim Lipstick shades.

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