makeup for red dress

Looking for the perfect makeup look for a red dress when you want to look your absolute best?

We’ll provide you with a multitude of different look options, and breakdown the scientific research that reveals the best makeup looks to enhance your natural beauty!

Plus, we’ll also examine the research into the ‘red effect’ and specifically the power of red dresses over other dress colors.

Just keep reading!

How To Pick Your Makeup For A Red Dress

Normally, it’s best to choose your makeup look to match your personality, the occasion, and stick somewhat within your comfort zone. However, if you like to rock a lot of different looks, you may want some guidance to find the OPTIMAL makeup for your red dress.

That’s where the academic research comes in.

Research into the impact of different makeup looks on others’ perception of you can help you make your decision.

Related: Wearing a black dress instead? Find out how to rock the best makeup for a black dress look here!

Hire A MUA or DIY Makeup?

If you are wearing your red dress to prom, or another really special occasion, consider hiring a professional makeup artist to help you look your best.

Results from Jones and Kramer (2016) suggest a professional makeup application really makes a difference. Women were rated more attractive when they had their makeup done by a professional makeup artist than when they did their makeup themselves.1

Not everyone has the time or money to hire a professional. Plus, some people (myself included)! are control freaks when it comes to our makeup. If you’re wearing your red dress on a special occasion, just make sure you practice your makeup beforehand to look your best.

makeup for red dress
makeup for red dress

The Most Important Makeup For A Red Dress: Eye Makeup, Lips, Or Foundation?

Different makeup products have a different impact on rated attractiveness than others. Mulhern et al. (2003) found that women were rated more attractive when they applied a full face than when they wore no makeup at all.2

In this study, eye makeup was also more significant for attractiveness ratings than just wearing foundation. Both eye and foundation makeup made more of a difference to rated-attractiveness than lip makeup.

Related: Want to learn more about the impact of makeup on the way we’re percieved? Check out our before and after makeup research post.

No matter which look you choose for your red dress; pay careful attention to your eyes, create a flawless base, and think about how the entire full face of makeup will tie together.

Dramatic Look?

Heavy vs Light Application: What’s Better?

makeup for red dress

In another study (Tagai et al., 2016) Japanese women rated other Japanese women based on attractiveness under a variety of different makeup application levels (light, heavy, and no makeup). A light application was deemed most attractive, the heavy makeup came in second, with the no-makeup look behind both.3

However, other research finds wearing more makeup is more attractive. Batres et al. (2018) found that women judged to be wearing more makeup were deemed more attractive than those who appeared to be wearing less makeup.4

A heavy makeup look can tie in beautifully with a red dress when it’s done right. If you decide to rock an intense look, consider hiring a professional Makeup Artist, or take extra time to practice and nail the look at home.

makeup for red dress

Gold eyeshadow looks great with a red dress. Try a winged liner for a sharper, more glamorous look. Or smudge it out to look effortless. Even if you go heavy, tone it down a little on either the lips or the cheeks to avoid overdoing it.

Bolder lip: Keep your cheeks fairly bare with just a layer of highlight and natural-looking contour.

More natural lip: Go bolder on the cheeks. Use a slightly heavier hand when applying the highlight (a gold-tone looks great with a red dress) and contour. Add a touch of blush for some color.

Tip: if want to pair red lips with your red dress, but don’t want to commit fully to the dramatic look, try a red gloss instead.

Red On Red: Red Lips With A Red Dress?

Science Suggests Red Lipstick Is Better

makeup for red dresses

Results from Stephen & McKeegan (2010) found redder lips enhance the attractiveness and perceived femininity of women’s faces to men.5

And it’s not just lips: a pop of red elsewhere can enhance your beauty. Redder faces are perceived to be healthier and rated more attractive (Re, Whitehead, Xiao, & Perrett, 2011).6

Related: Interested in how CARROTS can make your face look more attractive? Learn how in our tanning research post.

Another piece of research by Gueguen (2012a) found women in a bar were approached more by men when they wore red lipstick compared to other shades. The women were also approached sooner while wearing red lipstick than when they wore no lipstick.7

Results from Gueguen and Jacob (2012) revealed that waitresses wearing red lipstick received tips more often than those wearing brown lipstick, pink lipstick, or no lipstick at all.8

All of these studies suggest red lips are powerful when it comes to attractiveness. But how do you pair a red lip with a red dress without looking too try-hard?

Red Lip Tips: How To Pull Off Red Makeup With A Red Dress

red lips red dress
makeup for red dress

Even if you want glamorous makeup to match your red dress, you don’t have to go heavy on the eyes and lips. Red lipstick looks great with a simple eye look: mascara or false lashes (and maybe some liner) with a flawless base and a touch of contour or bronzer.

If you do choose a red lip, try to find a tone that complements the shade of your red dress. A matte formula looks great but mattes are often drying. Go for a satin texture if you experience dry lips.

Tip: blue-toned reds help your teeth look whiter!

Heavy Eyes On The Prize

smokey eyes red dress

As explored above, eye makeup makes the most individual difference when it comes to the impact of makeup on attractiveness. So why not bring all the attention to your peepers with a classic smokey eye?

Gold and brown-toned, earthy shades work great with a red dress. Avoid a black smokey eye, because unless the application is perfect, you risk looking clown-y. Keep the base flawless (without going cakey, add contour and highlight, and top the look off with a natural, understated nude or subtle nudey-pink lip.

Natural Makeup: Let The Red Dress Do All The Talking!

red dress makeup

Tagai et al. (2016) study found that facial recognition was easier when a woman had no makeup on, followed by a light application, and hardest with a heavy application of makeup. The authors of the study suggest heavy makeup look outshines the individual’s face in terms of memorability, while a lighter application of makeup brings out and enhances a woman’s natural beauty.3

It’s important, even when you wear a statement red dress, that your makeup matches your personality as well as your desired look. If you usually don’t wear much makeup and want to look more like yourself, keep it natural.

The natural look is great if you don’t have the best makeup skills and want to do your own makeup on the day. You will avoid the embarrassment of looking back years later, and thinking you look like a clown with unblended eyeshadow and bleeding red lipstick!

Keep it really simple with some natural-toned shadow, a little bit of liner and mascara, contour, highlight, and nude lips.

Tip: For a modern look, try the glossy-eyes, glossy-cheeks, glossy-lips combo!

The Power Of The Red Dress | Context For Your Makeup Look

makeup for red dress

There’s something that captivates us about red. Louboutin’s heels were recently the subject of a successful legal battle to trademark the famous red sole.9

The impact of red in romantic relationships could have both an evolutionary and cultural basis. Red appears to be significant for certain primates in a reproductive sense, and for humans in a cultural sense. For example, red is a standout symbol for Valentine’s day. 10

Humans (especially women) have used red lipstick and blush to appear more attractive for Millenium, at least since the 10,000 BCE era of ancient Egyptians.11

The Red Dress: Is It More Attractive?

Does a red dress really make you look more attractive than other colors? Multiple ‘red effect’ studies have attempted to find out!

Rated More Attractive In A Red Dress Or Shirt

One study (Elliot and Niesta, 2008) found that when a woman wore a red shirt she was rated as more attractive, more desirable, and men were more willing to date and spend money on her than when that exact same woman wore a blue shirt.10

Roberts, Owen, and Havlicek (2010) conducted three separate experiments to examine the way women in photographs were rated by men when they wore a red shirt compared to black, white, yellow, blue, and green shirts.12

Results from the first and second experiments revealed the same woman in a red shirt was not rated significantly more or less attractive by the men than when she wore black, blue, or green. However, women were rated significantly more attractive in red than when they wore yellow or white shirts.12

The third experiment showed that the color of the shirt had an impact not only on other people’s perception of the wearer, but also a positive psychological impact on the wearer themselves. The authors suggest it’s possible that women feel more desirable in red than other shades, and this impacts their behavior on a subconscious level.12

Gueguen (2012b) conducted a similar study. Here, participants were shown a photo of a woman wearing a red, white, blue, or green shirt. Although there was no significant difference in rated attractiveness between the woman when she wore red or white, she was rated more attractive in red than green or blue. 13

Pazda, Elliot, and Greitemeyer (2012) found a similar result to Gueguen. Here, men expressed stronger desire and rated a woman higher on the attractiveness scale when she wore red compared to when she wore green.14

Sometimes a woman in red clothing is rated more attractive than when she wears white. In a further study (Pazda et al., 2014) a woman wearing a knee-length red dress was rated significantly more attractive than the same woman in a white knee-length red dress. However, there was no significant attractiveness rating difference between the woman when she wore a red or black dress.15

Black Is The New Red?

Black clothing also influences attraction. Black is often perceived to be a fashionable color to wear, and therefore more attractive. 12 15

makeup for red dress

Treated Better in Red Clothing?

In one experiment, Hitchhiking women were offered more car rides from strangers when they wore red shirts compared to when the same woman wore a different colored shirt (Gueguen (2012c).16

Gueguen and Jacob (2013) found women received more online dating responses when they wore red over five other colors.17


Does ‘The Red Effect’ Hold Up To Scrutiny?

A 2016 study and replication involving 3 separate experiments did not find support for a red effect on mate attractiveness compared to white or black clothing (where colored t-shirts were used to examine the effect).18

However, the authors note a number of limitations in their analysis and call for more research into the topic with larger sample sizes.

Plus, they suggest based on (Roberts et al., 2010). that it’s possible the red effect does exist outside the lab due to the psychological impact of wearing red. The color could make people feel more desirable and alter their behavior in a more attractive fashion.18

However, that was just one replication study.

A more recent 2018 meta-analysis looked in detail at a large number of ‘red effect in attraction’ studies. Overall, they found the red effect had a statistically significant positive impact (small, but with a lot of heterogeneity) when men rated a woman’s attractiveness. The red effect had a very small impact on women’s ratings for men.19



1. Facial Cosmetics and Attractiveness: Comparing the Effect Sizes of Professionally-Applied Cosmetics and Identity, by Jones and Kramer (2016) 

2. ‘Do cosmetics enhance female Caucasian facial attractiveness‘, by Mulhern et al. (2003)

3. ‘Faces with Light Makeup Are Better Recognized than Faces with Heavy Makeup‘, by Tagai et al. (2016)

4. ‘Evidence that makeup is a false signal of sociosexuality‘, by Batres et al. (2018)

5. ‘Lip colour affects perceived sex typicality and attractiveness of human faces.’ by Stephen and McKeegan (2010)

6. ‘Oxygenated-blood colour change thresholds for perceived facial
redness, health, and attractiveness
.’ by Whitehead, Xiao, and Perrett (2011).

7. ‘Does red lipstick really attract men? An evaluation in a bar.‘ by Gueguen (2012a)

8. ‘Lipstick and tipping behavior: When red lipstick enhance waitresses tips.’ by Gueguen and Jacob (2012)

9. ‘Louboutin’s red sole mark and the logics of fashion‘ by Teilmann-Lock and Brun Petersen (2018)

10. ‘Romantic red: Red enhances men’s attraction to women‘ by Elliot and Niesta (2008)

11. ‘Read my lips: A cultural history of lipstick‘ by Regas and Kozlowski (1998)

12. ‘Distinguishing between perceiver and wearer effects in clothing color-associated attributions‘ by Roberts, Owen, and Havlicek (2010)

13. ‘Color and women attractiveness: When red clothed women are perceived to have more intense sexual intent.‘ by Gueguen (2012b)

14. ‘Sexy red: Perceived sexual receptivity mediates the red-attraction relation in
men viewing woman
.’ by Pazda, Elliot, and Greitemeyer (2012)

15. ‘Perceived sexual receptivity and fashionableness: Separate paths linking red and black to perceived attractiveness.‘ by Pazda, Elliot, and Greitemeyer (2014)

16. ‘Color and women hitchhikers’ attractiveness: Gentlemen drivers prefer red.‘ by Gueguen (2012c)

17. ‘Color and cyber-attractiveness: Red
enhances men’s attraction to women’s internet personal ads.
‘ by Gueguen and Jacob (2013).

18. ‘Revisiting the Red Effect on Attractiveness and Sexual Receptivity: No Effect of the Color Red on Human Mate Preferences‘ by Peperkoorn, Roberts, and Pollet (2016)

19. ‘Meta-Analysis of the Effect of Red on Perceived Attractiveness‘ by
Lehmann, Elliot, and Calin-Jageman (2018)