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A red lip is synonymous with French women and their aspirational style. After all, a swipe of crimson on the mouth pairs perfectly with a Chanel LBD or white Petit Bateau T-shirt and a pair of vintage jeans. But it’s not just a beauty strategy; it’s an attitude. “When I wear a red lip, I instantly feel powerful, fiery, and sensual,” says Parisian makeup artist Violette of the look’s transformative allure.
While red lipstick is a classic, it’s also intensely individual to its wearer. Trust that every French woman has her time-tested signature shade. In honor of Bastille Day, a special day in the hearts of Frenchies and Francophiles alike, a slew of impossibly stylish French women divulges their favorite red lipstick of all time.
“I only use lip liners, as you can drink, smoke, and kiss and nothing happens. They stay on! I like the Dior Red Smile 080. It’s both creamy and sticky on the lips, which is rare to find, and the color is so vibrant. Though if you kiss someone passionately, make sure you’ve got it in your pocket to reapply after! It sticks…to an extent. Red lips make me feel like a grown-up woman. I think that’s what happens when you first try it on when you’re three years old, and it’s pretty much the same feeling today!”
Dior Contour Lip Liner in 080 Red Smile
“My favorite red lipstick ever is the Dior Beauty Rouge Dior, shade 999 Velours. I discovered it because my mom always wears red lipstick, so I wanted to find one for me. It’s my favorite one because I only wear it for special occasions, which makes it very special. It’s also dear to my heart because the backstory reminds me of my mom! I feel like this lipstick really puts the whole look together because it adds a touch of color and elegance. A look can completely change depending on the lipstick you put on.”
Dior Beauty Rouge Dior in 999 Velours
“Gucci Beauty sent me some makeup for Cannes Film Festival last year, and the Gucci Red Matte in 25* Goldie Red was there. I love a matte that still feels moisturizing, and the packaging is the prettiest. I also use it on my eyes because I love a good red on my eyes, and this is so long-lasting and deep. I don’t actually wear makeup very often other than when I’m working. I do like playing with gender and dressing very fluid—one day very feminine and the next very tomboy. I like the contrast of a boyish outfit with a red lip and the pop of color against my dark hair and pale skin. It definitely helps me embrace my feminine side and not apologize for it. When I’m wearing red lipstick, it’s like I chose not to hide, I chose to be present, I chose to not feel sorry to be who I am.”
Gucci Velvet Matte Lipstick in 25 Goldie Red
“I love Petal Bouche in Amour Fou and Guerlain’s Rouge G Luxurious Velvet in 880. When I was eight years old, I visited the Jardin Bagatelle in Paris and was immediately captivated by this black rose that was so deep and vibrant. When I saw it, I was immediately enamored by it and knew that this was the color I had to make. Seventeen years later it became Petal Bouche in Amour Fou. Its versatility is what makes it so unique. Because it’s so pigmented, with just one coat you can achieve this very chic look. You can also blur the edge of your lips for a just-kissed look or apply more to achieve a deeper, more dramatic shade of red.”
Violette Petal Bouche Matte Liquid Red Lipstick in Amour Fou
Guerlain Rouge G Luxurious Velvet in 880
“A makeup artist used Lady Danger by MAC on me once, and I had to ask what it was. It leans toward orange, which I love because I’m not a fan of dark lipstick on myself. I feel like this one gives me a bold and sexy look while feeling super young and fresh. Because I don’t wear any makeup most of the time, red lipstick is a way to do makeup with no makeup. It goes with the statement-but-effortless overall vibe that I like to give.”
MAC Lipstick in D for Danger
“Chanel Le Rouge Duo Ultra Tenue in Burning Red is the lipstick I’ve been wearing the most since I discovered it while shopping at a Chanel boutique about a year ago. I fell in love with this transfer-proof red shade and its subtle hint of orange that complements my undertone and the green and grey shadows I gravitate toward for eyes. It’s an ambiguous and complex color, both vibrant and faint at the same time, which serves my personal approach to femininity.”
Chanel Le Rouge Duo Ultra Tenue Liquid Lip Color in Burning Red
“My favorite lipstick of all time is MAC in D for Danger, combined with a lip pencil in MAC’s Ruby Woo shade. I don’t wear red that often as it’s a true statement, but when I do I really want it to pop. I was looking for a true, deep red with blueish undertones, as I feel they complement me more. This one is a true showstopper. It’s sophisticated, powerful, and really attracts the eye. I love to wear it for parties or special occasions! It’s the kind of detail that makes me feel special.”
MAC Lipstick in Lady Danger
“I don’t really wear lipstick often, so I like to experiment and test out new shades, brands, and textures. Lately I really like to wear Violette’s Petal Bouche Matte in the color Coeur Infidèle. What I love about [the formula] is that it dries and turns matte really quickly so once applied you don’t smudge it all over the place or end up with it accidentally wiped on your white T-shirt. The deep fuchsia complements my summer complexion and brightens me up when I feel dull in the wintertime. This particular lipstick makes me feel fresh and sexy, but it’s also very practical, which sounds silly but is a huge selling point for me: It’s comfortable, compact, and doesn’t wear off when my boyfriend kisses me, which means I can wear it whenever I feel like!”
Violette Petal Matte Bouche in Cœur Infidèle
“The Chanel Rouge Velvet Allure in 73 Imperial. It’s the perfect red for all day long and all year long! My mother is a huge Chanel fan, and I grew up with perfumes and cosmetics from the brand. She loves their red lipsticks especially. They’re strong but oh so chic! Red lipstick is a statement, and when I wear it, I usually go with black clothes or jeans and white T-shirt—something quite soft or neutral. I love a good balanced style. It’s so easy also because you don’t need much makeup other than a little bit of mascara, and voilà!”
Chanel Rouge Velvet Allure in 73 Imperial
“Years ago, I remember seeing a picture of Rihanna in a gorgeous red dress and bright red lips on the red carpet. I immediately googled and found a YouTube video that said she was wearing Ruby Woo, part of Rihanna’s own collab with MAC. Needless to say, I rushed to the MAC store to purchase the first of many Ruby Woos in my makeup bag. It’s my favorite because it’s a universal one that goes with my skin tone, whether I’m tanned or not. A red lipstick is my absolute favorite to wear because it instantly elevates any outfit and makes everything very chic and glamorous. When you wear a red lip, all you need is a clean face with flawless foundation, a bit of bronzer, two or three coats of black mascara, and voilà!”