elegant vintage lipstick styles
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Elegant Vintage Lipstick Styles

When we think of vintage lipstick styles, we often think of red shades, maybe because our grandmothers wore them, or we think of other older celebrity photos. But red seems to stick to our memories, even though I remember my late grandmother only wearing red lipstick and dresses.

Our vision of vintage may not always be historically correct. We gravitate to vintage red shades instead of nudes or pinks, which were also popular and seen perhaps as less vulgar in some areas or situations. Before the 20th century, people applied lipstick with a brush. In the west, it bordered inappropriate for women to do so daily. The rules were different for theater and drag as those are methods of artistic expression.

Lipsticks feel like they have been with us since the dawn of time, but the famous tube lipstick style that we know today became a worldwide hit because of Guerlain. So many lipstick lovers gravitate to Guerlain lipsticks today if they want a high-end working product.

When it comes to beauty and makeup, we want to revamp our looks, whether for daily use, soul searching, doing something fun for an occasion, or simply trying something new for once.

Bottom Line Up Front

The world of vintage lipsticks is a door to many beautiful styles. Finding the right one is about picking the era you like the most. Pick from the all-rounder red, the dark tones of the 1990s, or mid-century berry colors for the right vintage feel!

The Classic Vintage Red

It is hard to pinpoint the classic red and which would be THE red for you. Many reds evoke different emotions within us, so a bright red is the red, maybe a cherry-colored one or a slightly darker red?

But we usually associate singers, pop culture, movie stars, and others when it comes to wearing the classic red. Be it Marilyn Monroe, Kate Moss, Gwen Stefani, Madonna, or even Marilyn Manson or Robert Smith for the more goth crowd. Red was always a statement.

MAC Russian Red

MAC Russian Red

I find the most iconic vintage red to be the MAC Russian Red, which was created for a Madonna world tour, as she would wear the color throughout. It is a stunning matte red from the 90s, which still holds up to its gorgeous color standard and statement. And why not choose some classic lips which Madonna wore?


  • High pigmented
  • Not drying
  • Artistic history


  • A bit hard to apply like most reds
  • Very matte

Berry Purple 40s

Berry shades and different ranges, which could still be called natural, were all the jazz in the 20th century. Berry was a wild yet great color to make the skin give out a glow, and it looks breathtaking on darker skin tones. These days we tend to gravitate to berry colors when the fall comes, but why not take it on a spin any time of the year?

Soft Matte Lip Cream in Madrid by NYX

Soft Matte Lip Cream in Madrid by NYX

The Soft Matte Lip Creams by NYX are a long-loved classic, which is very tried and true. The shade Madrid would be the perfect berry if I had to choose one. It is always affordable, a staple, and an easy shade to find in your nearest NYX retailers. It may not be lipstick in bullet form, but it will fulfill your vintage fantasy with more durability.


  • Good on the wallet
  • Well trusted
  • Gorgeous on most skin tones


  • Not very long-lasting on the lips
  • Small packaging

Orange With a Red Flair

This color came into fashion back in the 1940s. I had a long phase where I could not get enough orange lipsticks. I spent years trying to find the perfect orange. Sheer, matte, glossy, they had to be the right orange with a hint of red. Eventually, I ended up with a box of oranges with different variations of red, and now I only have a sheer orange these days.

Smashbox Always On Matte Liquid Lipstick – Thrill Seeker

Smashbox Always On Matte Liquid Lipstick

If I had to choose the perfect shade of red and orange, I would get the Smashbox Always On Matte Liquid Lipstick in Thrill Seeker. The lipstick is easy to find on Asos, which delivers nearly everywhere, but you can buy it in your local Sephora. The Always On is drying to matte lipstick which will last with all your thrills.


  • Easy to buy/find
  • Easy application
  • Stunning shade


  • Some find it allergic
  • Drying

Sweet with Coral Lips

Want something less sultry and softer? Coral lipstick never really goes out of style, as it gives a dreamy vibe to piece any look together and leave you looking all polished.

Coral may not be everyone’s go-to, but I have seen certain people rock it more often than others. This lipstick is a universally great shade for most people. So why not dabble into it as well? I love a good coral as well.

Pat McGrath Labs Mattetrance in Candy Flip

Pat McGrath Labs Mattetrance in Candy Flip

When it comes to quality and makeup extravaganza Pat McGrath and her makeup line are hard to beat. Many makeup lovers say they can never return after trying a Pat McGrath product, and I feel the same way.

Her lipsticks are truly divine, and this coral choice makes no exception with its luxurious and soft finish. Given how good this lipstick looks, I hope it will let you forget the hefty price tag.


  • Not drying
  • Worth the investment
  • Long-lasting


  • Not hydrating
  • Costly

80s Vintage Colour Love

The 80s do not feel vintage enough for some of us, but with y2k being a trend, the 80s are officially in the vintage pile with their wild colors, patterns, and style choices! We had so many icons bring out the color and stand out, even if the choices made were too risqué and belonged in old photos.

The bright-colored lipstick stayed and passed on through indie starting brands like Lime Crime or Jeffree Star or helped Urban Decay create wild looks. For a good while, the leading brands were the ones that gave us color.

NYX XXL Lip Lingerie Liquid Lipstick in Pink Hit

NYX XXL Lip Lingerie Liquid Lipstick in Pink Hit

It is hard to choose an accessible bold color for daily use. This bright pink is in your face, but it captures the essence I want to give as a suggestion.

For a full 1980s revival, I choose the NYX Pink Hit from the XXL Lip Lingerie Liquid Lipstick line. Its items have a great formula that they went further to make even better than it was with the original release of the Liquid Lingerie line. NYX Cosmetics did a great product and ran with the name, which many brands do these days. Pillow Talk? Orgasm? Naked? Yeah.


  • Doesn’t fade
  • Good payoff
  • Easy on the wallet


  • It can get chunky, so apply quickly
  • A bit sticky feeling

Deep Matte Lipstick in the 90s

Sure, we didn’t all look grunge in the 90s, many of us were rocking goth styles, but we all loved grunge bands like Nirvana and the last strides of massive rock bands, which we miss greatly today.

Dark lipstick colors were a uniform, not just for women but also for men. It made a statement and was a loud one, letting people express their dark makeup fantasies that still lead up to the subcultures of today.

Kiko Milano Instant Colour Matte Liquid Lip Colour in 15

Kiko Milano Instant Colour Matte Liquid Lip Colour in 15

I was asked for my best black lipstick recommendation the night before writing this article, and I said the Kiko Milano Instant Colour Matte Liquid Lip Colour in 15. I live and breathe this matte lipstick line. Their names may not be as creative, but the quality is outstanding. I have lost count of how many times I have rebought some lippies from this line. Black is essential for me.


  • Very light-weight
  • Durable
  • Good price


  • After a while can wear off in the middle of the lips
  • Not so innovative packaging

90s Nudes on the Runway

Do you remember actual supermodels? Naomi, Kate, Gisele, Claudia, and others. They were iconic with their signature looks which would change on the catwalk with their struts.

Everyone either loved them or wanted to be them. They made modeling look stylish and effortless, making a splash with nude lipstick. Nude lipsticks come in different tones, just like our skin.

KVD Epic Kiss in Womankind

Everyone has their favorite nude, which they swear by. My skin tone is very light, with a hint of a pink undertone. I enjoy highlighting this from time to time, whether with a blush or lipstick. Remember the Sephora rumor that you have to match it to your nipple a few years back? Well, some people still do.

As a frequent wearer of different nude shades, I struggled to choose only one to recommend to you, but the KVD epic kiss in Womankind will be my choice of the day. They are moisturizing and have a beautiful finish.


  • Nourishing
  • Very soft on the lips
  • Great pay off


  • Weird packaging, which feels like the product is always going to run out

Shout-out: A Brand With a True Vintage Feel

Black Cake Mascara

Besame Cosmetics came from a makeup historian who is very keen on showing us different product styles from 1920 to the 1970s. These are not just lipsticks and include other types like mascara products as they evolved through time. Many people know Besame Cosmetics for their cute Disney collaborations.

Their products are not as widely available, but the quality speaks for itself with its vintage quirk and good quality, which would be a beauty finding for any beauty lover.


  • Gorgeous vintage packaging
  • Cool gimmick brand
  • Stunning performance


  • May be costly
  • May not ship everywhere or ship only

My Favorites

Finding favorites in vintage trends goes beyond individual items. The whole attitude and the fashion sense of the era you look up to matter.

Sure, you can dress up in all black and go ham with the face as the focus, but one of my favorite ways to approach vintage style is what Dita Von Teese once said about never hiring a stylist after her ex stylist paired vintage heels with jeans. Think about what will suit you, what makes you look elevated or artistic, or highlight your favorite features.

I love my Epic Kiss in Womankind by KVD because it is a very flattering color on me, so I gravitate to the line. But I will not wear cargo pants with it unless there is a wild artistic combo I want to do. Vintage-style lipsticks require some thought to wear well.

Another favorite is the Russian Red by MAC. I love Madonna, so the fact that MAC created this shade specifically for her makes my day. When I first bought my Russian Red, I planned to give it away as a gift, but I loved it so much that I kept it to myself.

I do not use it as often as I would like to because I have a sizable lipstick collection, but I treasure it and feel beautiful every time I use it.

These two would be my favorite ones as I own them and love them dearly. Not to mention that I believe we all gravitate to a shade of nude and a red these days, the other colors being complementary. Trends come and go, but we need a good nude and a classic red.


Question: How Can I Make My Makeup Look Vintage?

Answer: With every passing year, we have a different perception of vintage. Now, even the 00s are vintage, technically! Choose a decade you feel like channeling or opt for a great red lip paired with a classic smoky eye or some eyeliner, which most of us gravitate to when talking about vintage makeup. Do not use a highlighter as it is more of a recent creation and trend. Blush is necessary.

Question: What is the Oldest Lipstick in the World Today?

Answer: We can’t exactly know which one is the oldest lipstick we can find today, but most sources point towards a lipstick found in Ancient Egypt as one of the longest-lasting ones, well, no one has applied it to their lips, but it sure survived for us to marvel at it now!

Question: What Does Red Lipstick Symbolize on a Woman?

Answer: A red lipstick means attraction and sensuality, but it also goes hand in hand with being more classic.

Question: How to Make Lipstick Look Vintage?

Answer: You can use vintage techniques for applying lipstick. You can apply it straight from the bullet or choose a lip liner with nearly identical coloring as your chosen lipstick. This technique is an aid and an extra vintage step. Back in the day, many would opt for blotting their lips after applying to keep the color minimal and press it in for more durability.
When it comes to shapes, you can go for a more heart shape, thinner lips, or plumper, or do a completely different style that you have seen as a reference from long ago.

Answer: Plum, mulberry, and cranberry shades were all the rage back in the 70s!

Elegant Vintage Lipstick Styles: Final Thoughts

Vintage lipstick has a unique and attractive flair. Maybe we did not experience some specific decade, but we have seen it in movies, on our grandmothers, moms, and relatives. We can always add a dash of nostalgia to our looks for any occasion. Makeup is always to make us feel better, and vintage lipsticks are no exception.

I enjoy choosing many of these in my daily life and perk myself up no matter what the day is or how it is going. There are plenty of my favorites here, which I hope will help you on the lookout for your next vintage lipstick fling!

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