I was out picking cranberries late the other night and I was struck by their intense crimson hue. The berries grow best in dry, mossy patches--and they practically glow against the forest around them, like rubies scattered along the moss.
Their tart flavor will brighten my winter, but their color is wild, deep, and witchy. Paired with a bare face, a rich cranberry lip is appropriate for any fall occasion, whether cruising the farmers' market or hitting an art opening.
When we’re talking about lip color, especially reds, it can be tough to really tease out the differences between berries, wines, and burgundies--even then, one company’s berry is another’s wine.
A good cranberry is a deep, true red, with no trace of pink or purple undertones, and it’s surprisingly hard to find at a drugstore price point. So many colors that read deep red in the tube swatch to shades of magenta. The horror.
To take out the guess work, I’ve dutifully examined a plethora of lip colors and hand-picked five of the very best true cranberry hues.
NYC Ultra-Moist Lipwear in Sheer Red
At less than $2, NYC is by far the cheapest option. Delivering a sheer, muted cranberry, it's perfect for people who hate lipstick. It’s not highly pigmented and the thin formula feels more like lip balm. Bonus: I blended some on my cheeks for a dewy glow.
L’Oreal Infallible Le Rouge Lip Color in Refined Ruby (#337)
With a deep, traffic-stop red color and a silky longwear formula, this $7 tube is worthy every penny. It's moisturizing, highly pigmented, and requires minimal re-application. The pigment got even stronger when I blotted and reapplied.
Wet 'N' Wild MegaShield Lip Color in That's Berry Beautiful
One thing you can say about Wet N Wild, is that their product is ubiquitous. Like a lot of extremely affordable lipsticks, this isn’t very pigmented, but it has an old-school mauve undertone. The formula is on the slick side, but when blotted it’s an almost natural color that lasts surprisingly long. The SPF 15 and low price--and surprisingly unique shade--make it recommendable.
Rimmel London Lasting Finish Lipstick by Kate Moss in #11
I’ve recently fallen hard for Rimmel lipsticks. I picked one up on a whim and now I own five different shades, which, you should know, is weird for me. The formula is light and moisturizing and the color fades gracefully. There aren't many shades to choose from, but I managed to find a lovely red that isn’t too bright. I was bummed it wasn’t violet-scented like some of Rimmel's other colors, but it still smelled lovely.
NYX Retractable Lipliner in Sienna
This is really the pick of the litter if you want to bring the drama. It's a teeny precision lipliner that's so pigmented it stains everything it touches. Don't screw up the application, though! The color is rich and it doesn't move for anything. It adheres so well I topped it with some lip balm.
What's your go-to drugstore red? My feeling on budget lip color vs. beauty counter lip color is this: if Hedy Lamarr and Audrey Hepburn could make the very low-tech formulas of yesteryear work, I can work a circa 2014 $3 lipstick.
And here’s a festive cranberry cocktail recipe, just because.
The Cranberry Blush
Fresh, crisp, and fruity--without being too sweet--this is my go-to cocktail to trick people into thinking I’m refined. You can make a mocktail version by swapping the vodka for fresh-squeezed juice and exchanging the cider for club soda or any sparkling beverage.
- 2 oz. cranberry juice (fresh is best!)
- 1 oz. Svedka Clementine Vodka
- 4 oz. Crispin Brut Hard Cider
- frozen cranberries and fresh rosemary for garnish
Drop frozen berries into a highball glass. Fill the glass with ice, pour in cranberry juice and vodka, and top with hard cider. Add a sprig of rosemary for a fragrant garnish.