Can The "Red Lip Effect" Help You Attract Love? Psychologists Weigh In

Behind the power of a bold pout.

Originally Published: 
What is the red lip effect? Psychologists weigh in on the power of a bold pout.
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If you’ve noticed that you get a few extra glances whenever you wear red lipstick, then you’ve already witnessed the red lip theory in full effect. Just like the red nail theory from TikTok that claims that color nail polish attracts men’s attention, possibly by reminding them of their mom, the red lip effect is said to be another quick ticket to love and adoration — or maybe just a few extra matches on Hinge.

Whether you wear a light cherry tint or a deep blue-red, the red lip effect theorizes that wearing the hue on your pout will help you turn heads, boost your career, and generally take over the world. And according to Dr. Holly Schiff, Psy.D., a licensed clinical psychologist, there’s actually something to it. “Red lips are universally appealing possibly due to the perceived association with sexual arousal,” she tells Bustle. “This can be because it mimics vasodilation.” And as a result, people naturally associate red with lust, passion, and heightened sexual interest, adds Dr. Carla Marie Manly, a clinical psychologist and author.

Countless studies have linked wearing the color red, whether it’s in the form of a red dress or manicure, to romance and attraction. But red lips, specifically, send a subconscious signal that you’re, um, ready to mingle. That’s because blood rushes throughout your body when you’re in the mood, Manly says, which is why red lips and even pink cheeks send a subconscious, biological signal that love is in the air. “Red tones tend to suggest passion, power, and sexual virility to men,” she explains.

While it isn’t clear if seeing red has the same effect on anyone else, wearing the color can still make you feel more attractive when you put it on, Manly says, which in turn can affect your self-confidence — and maybe even put you in a sexy mood.

The extra attention you get might also stem from the fact that red is a bright, attention-grabbing power color. “Red lips are also linked with confidence,” Schiff says. And according to relationship expert Sameera Sullivan, it’s a good shade to slick on before a date, an important Zoom meeting, or whenever you need an extra boost. “Simply said, red lipstick draws attention to your mouth,” Sullivan tells Bustle. “It conveys the message: Pay attention to what I have to say.”

Of course, a red lip is fun to do for no real reason at all. A bold pout can perk up your mood, even if you plan to stay home. The scarlet hue is having a major moment in other ways, too, from Hailey Bieber’s red French tips to shimmery copper-colored hair, so there are plenty of ways to play around with it and see how it makes you feel.

Studies referenced:

Elliot, AJ. (2008). Romantic red: red enhances men's attraction to women. J Pers Soc Psychol. doi: 10.1037/0022-3514.95.5.1150.

Niesta Kayser, D. (2016). Strategic Sexual Signals: Women's Display versus Avoidance of the Color Red Depends on the Attractiveness of an Anticipated Interaction Partner. PLoS One. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0148501.

Kuniecki, M. (2015). The color red attracts attention in an emotional context. An ERP study. Front Hum Neurosci. doi: 10.3389/fnhum.2015.00212.

Stephen, ID. (2010). Lip colour affects perceived sex typicality and attractiveness of human faces. Perception. doi: 10.1068/p6730.


Dr. Holly Schiff, Psy.D., licensed clinical psychologist

Dr. Carla Marie Manly, clinical psychologist, author

Sameera Sullivan, relationship expert

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