It happens to all of us. You spend an hour at the store, glancing over every lipstick color, every shade, and every texture, only to bring it home and discover… well, it just doesn’t look right.
When it comes to makeup, every color doesn’t work for every person. However with a little preparation and experimentation can help you find the perfect shade of lipstick.
What’s your skin tone?
For fair skin, corals and deep reds with blue undertones typically look the best. If you have medium skin, most pinks work well — as well as berry shades. For olive tones, brick red as well as cranberry and wine-colored hues are the best options. Dark complected woman look best with red with a touch of brown in them or vibrant burgundy shades.
What to avoid
- Fair skin – Avoid bright pink and dark mocha brown. The contrast is to your skin is too stark.
- Medium skin – Avoid nude colors and super pale shades of pink. They’ll make you look washed out.
- Olive skin – Avoid any color with an oranges and corals. Bright pink also might look off.
- Dark skin – Also avoid oranges and lean toward a touch of blue.
It doesn’t end with your basic skin tone, you need to know about your undertones too.
What are your undertones?
Is your skin cool or warm? There are a variety of ways to tell but the easiest is to go outdoors in the natural light and look at the veins on your inner wrist. Are they blue? Then, you have cool undertones. Are they more green? Then, you are warm.
Lipstick colors for cool undertones — Light mocha brown, mauve and nude are best if you are fair. Rasberry and plum shades look great on medium cool skin. Brick red and caramel look amazing on olive skin. And dark bluish red lipstick, as well as wine and raise look terrific on dark, cool skin.
Lipstick colors for warm undertones — Fair complected women with warm undertones should pick shades of sand or light beach. Pinkish beige is also a good option. For medium, warm skin, bronze shades are the answer. Olive complexions with warm undertones can wear the same shades as their cool counterparts, while dark skin tones with warm undertones should choose coppers or honey browns.
Fortunately many cosmetic companies also mark their lipstick colors “warm” or “cool” to help you find the right color.
Don’t stray from the basics
The best way to find a lipstick color that works is to look for a shade that is no more than two shades deeper than your natural lips. Other colors that generally work for every woman are medium beige-y pinks and true reds.
It’s all about the undertones
As we mentioned above, the undertones of your skin are very important for picking a flattering shade. Elke Von Freudenberg, makeup artist and hair stylist, says you also need to figure out the undertone of your lipstick before you buy it.
“It’s usually not the color that you saw in the tube that looks bad (otherwise, you wouldn’t have bought it!), but the underlying or undertone color in the lipstick that shows its true colors after you’ve applied it.”
“How can you tell what your undertone color is? “Run a tester lipstick onto a piece of white paper (we do this for photo shoots all the time to find the right color, because on film, those undertones can seem off), and look. What color do you see besides the main shade? It’s easier to see on white paper, but harder to see on skin tone… until it’s too late.”
What are you looking for? For example, let’s take your favorite brown-toned lipstick.
The basic lipstick undertones that you might see would be:
Red/pink – Makes the color seem warmer, but harder and deeper as well. Can also bring out all the red tones in your skin as well, so be careful!
Yellow/orange – Makes the color warmer, and softer. Looks great on warm skin tones, but if you’re really pale, can bring out the green/blue undertones in your skin. To be on the safe side, go towards the yellow side, rather than the orange. Too much orange can make skin look gray and sluggish.
Green/blue – A way to make a lipstick more dramatic — deeper. Try to stay clear of these if possible, they can make you look like you’re still standing under fluorescent lighting.
Silver/gray – Adds shimmer, softness, depth. Easy to spot in those light shimmer lipsticks that are so popular now. Adds light and softness to the lipstick, just make sure that it’s not too much on the blue/gray side — that can make those under eye circles stand out.
Green – Huh? Green? Yep, sometimes. The trendy colors have them, and it’s usually paired with a yellow tone as well. You’ll look cool and hip, but you’ll also feel as if you need more color on your face. (Hint: that’s why the big blush trend is also prevalent… just check out the lip color!)
The lipstick rule
Whatever skin color you have that you don’t like (like blue or gray under eye circles, redness, pink, etc.), try not to copy in your lipstick color or undertone as well. It’s like wearing a red dress with sunburn — it just makes the problem appear worse than it is.