The scarlet waxcap is has a bright red cap that start off convex but then becomes bell-shaped, as it ages the cap fades slowly from red, through to orange to yellowish starting from the outside edge. It is 2-5 cm in diameter and is always moist when it first emerges becoming drier as it ages.
The gills start reddish orange with pale yellow edges but then fade to yellow orange keeping the yellow edges. The stem is red near the top changing to through orange to yellow at the base without a stem ring. It grows in clumps often with similar species. The crimson waxcap is similar but it is bigger and a darker red and less common than the scarlet waxcap.