The Best Lipstick for Your Skin Tone, According to Makeup Artists
The right lipstick can instantly transform your look. But finding the perfect shade means first understanding your skin tone. These pointers from beauty experts will make the search for your new favorite lipstick a whole lot simpler.
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Finding the best lipstick for you
While makeup trends come and go (often by the year), some things never go out of style—and lipstick is certainly one of them. Colors and finishes may change, but the concept of gliding that perfect hue over your lips to enhance your look is totally timeless. Makeup artist and founder of Make-Up Therapy, Tara Dowburd, totally agrees. “Wearing lipstick—whether sheer, metallic, matte, creamy, liquid, opaque, long-wear, glossy, or a stain—makes us feel pretty, as well as confident and put together,” she says. But when your options include drugstore lipsticks, natural makeup brands, Black beauty brands, and more, how do you know where to start?
Whether you reach for your favorite nude lipstick or go super simple with a classic lip balm, choosing the right lip shade for your skin tone is the trick to creating a look that works for you. “A lip color should enhance your beauty and compliment your skin’s undertone, so that you are wearing lipstick instead of it wearing you,” says Dowburd. “A lipstick color will look different on various skin tones, because of the undertone of your skin color, so you want to try the lipstick on your lips (nowhere else) and in the best natural light possible.”
How to determine your skin tone
Even though we look at ourselves in the mirror several times a day, most of us don’t actually know what our skin tone is. This is essential information that can take much of the guesswork out of finding the perfect color palette.
So, how do you choose the right one? A great first step that celebrity makeup artist Jamie Dorman recommends is to consider whether silver or gold jewelry looks more flattering on you. Gold, Dorman notes, tends to flatter warm skin and silver tends to flatter cool skin. Another important question: Do the colors red, orange, yellow, or brown suit you; or do you look better in blues, purples, and grays? The former, she explains, tend to be warm in tone and the latter tend to be cool.
You can also check out the veins on the inside of your wrist. “If you have purple or blue-looking veins you likely have a cool undertone, while warm undertones often have a more greenish tint to them,” says Suzy Gerstein, NYC-based celebrity makeup artist. “Neutral undertones usually have a mixture of both and green veins can often indicate an olive undertone.”
Here, makeup artists reveal more tips for how to choose the best lipstick for your skin tone. And if you love a classic red pout, follow up these tips with some genius tricks to apply red lipstick like a pro.
How we selected the best lipsticks for each skin tone
To create this list of the best lipsticks for every skin tone, we reached out to certified makeup artists to better understand what goes into determining individual skin types. From there, we leaned on the experts to guide us towards the best lipsticks for every skin tone—and undertone. We also combed through reviews and ratings to find the best lipstick brands and stains for each recommended hue.
Best lipsticks for fair skin
Best for fair skin with cool undertones: Lancôme Color Design Lipstick
If you have porcelain skin, it’s easy to get washed out—and a more powerful color can overpower fair, cool complexions, like those of Michelle Williams and January Jones. A soft, rosy pink or light mauve with blue undertones are great options for those who prefer a more natural look, according to Nick Barose, a celebrity makeup artist who has worked with Lupita Nyong’o and Gugu Mbatha-Raw. Looking for a bolder lip? Alex LaMarsh, a makeup artist who has painted the pouts of Kim Kardashian West and Cher, suggests a baked orange or coral, like this Lancôme shade.
This hydrating, full-coverage lipstick stays on for hours after applying just one coat. The only time you’ll feel the need to reapply is after eating or exercising. It’s also non-drying so you don’t have to worry about it cracking on your lips or causing discomfort. If you have chronic dry lips, you could be making one of these mistakes that cause dry lips.
- Full coverage
- Non-drying formula
Best for fair skin with warm undertones: ILIA Colorblock High Impact Lipstick in Amberlight
If you have fair skin with warm undertones, you’re in good company with A-listers like Emma Stone and Emma Roberts. To complement your warm undertones, hair and makeup expert Bryan Cantor recommends a warmer, peachier hue like ILIA’s Colorblock High Impact Lipstick in the shade Amberlight. “It is a warm, natural tone that contains organic castor seed oil to condition lips while looking fabulous,” he says.
What you get from this nourishing lipstick is a high-impact color that lasts all day and locks in moisture so you don’t have to suffer from dryness or cracking. The key ingredients include apricot seed oil, castor seed oil, and mango seed butter, which work synergistically to hydrate the lips while maintaining a vibrant hue. It’s free of potentially harmful ingredients like sulfates, parabens, phthalates, oxybenzone, and formaldehydes, which is a huge plus. Speaking of makeup ingredients, don’t miss these makeup myths you should really stop believing.
- Long-lasting formula
- Hydrating ingredients
- Free from sulfates, parabens, and other harmful additives
Best for fair skin with neutral undertones: Laura Mercier Rouge Essentiel Silky Crème Lipstick in Beige Intime
If you have fair skin with neutral undertones, like Adele, Scarlett Johansson, or Kate Hudson, blush-toned pinks and mauves look best, according to beauty expert Lauren Paglionico, owner of LRN BEAUTY in New York City. “Anything too light will wash you out,” she says. Cantor agrees, adding that this beige shade from Laura Mercier is his favorite hue to recommend to fair skin types with neutral undertones. “It’s a pinky brown that is super flattering for a natural shade,” he says.
This lipstick leaves a satin-like finish on your lips and lasts up to six hours straight without losing its luster. It is highly nourishing, thanks to Mediterranean Sea algae extract that helps moisturize and soothe cracked lips. Once you’ve found your perfect shade, find out what your favorite lipstick color says about your personality.
- Satin finish
- Up to six hours of wear
- Moisturizing algae extract
Best lipsticks for medium skin
Best for medium skin with cool undertones: Urban Decay Cosmetics Vice Lipstick in Hex
For those with medium skin and cool undertones, like Taylor Swift and Cameron Diaz, a nude lip looks stunning. “Dusty rose shades make an understated statement while pulling warmth into the skin,” says LaMarsh. She recommends Hex from Urban Decay.
This 100 percent vegan lipstick has impressive nourishing capabilities. It is infused with aloe vera and avocado oil, both of which have antioxidant properties and can help ward off free radicals from the skin, which can lead to premature aging. They’re also highly moisturizing, so you can feel comfortable wearing this lip shade all day long. A tried and true lip color is just one makeup trick to always look put together.
- Made with antioxidants
- Understated elegance
Best for medium skin with warm undertones: Estée Lauder Pure Color Envy Hi-Lustre Light Sculpting Lipstick Tiger Eye
Blake Lively and Jennifer Aniston are great examples of medium skin with warm undertones. This skin tone looks amazing in deep, rich nudes and coppers. LaMarsh suggests going bold with a glossy finish, which will bring attention to golden undertones. Heading into spring, Barose loves a warm, ripe peachy nude like Pure Color Envy’s Tiger Eye.
With a copper frost finish, this lipstick shade is perfect for medium skin with warm undertones. As if the color wasn’t impressive enough, the bullet shape of its design glides right onto pursed lips for a flawless application. It is moisturizing, thanks to the fact that it’s infused with castor seed and lanolin oil, which help prevent dryness.
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- Moisturizing castor seed oil
- Bullet shape for easy application
- Frosted finish
Best for medium skin with neutral undertones: Tarte Color Splash Lipstick in Sunkissed
Vanessa Hudgens, Kim Kardashian West, and Mila Kunis are examples of celebrities with medium skin and neutral undertones. For this skin color, light pinkish-brown and peach tones do just the trick—they give this skin tone a beautiful glow, explains Paglionico. She recommends trying this mauve shade from Tarte that’s neutral with the right touches of peach and pink.
This 100 percent vegan lipstick is made for long-wearing—lasting up to 12 hours! It has a creamy matte finish that doesn’t build up over time and adds moisture thanks to the infusion of marine plants, shea butter, and olive oil to help soothe and restore lips.
- Up to 12 hours of wear
- Creamy matte finish
- Features shea butter
Best lipsticks for olive skin
Best for olive skin with cool undertones: Charlotte Tilbury Pillow Talk Original Matte Revolution Lipstick
Olive skin is the most versatile skin tone to have when choosing a lip color, according to Dowburd, because you have both neutral and warm undertones. “This means you can wear almost all colors of lipstick from nude to peach, orange, pink and red, purple and plum,” she says. Some of her favorite lipsticks for olive skin with cool undertones have a blue base in shades of dusty rose, pink, berry, purple, mauve, and blue-ish red. Her go-to for olive skin with cool undertones is this shade from Charlotte Tilbury.
This matte lipstick builds upon each layer to deliver a hydrating seal that lasts on your lips all day long. The lipstick is enriched with a secret ingredient: orchid extract, which helps ward off fine lines and wrinkles and promotes cell turnover. Once you’ve found your perfect lipstick, here’s how to find the best hair color for your skin tone.
- Anti-aging orchid extract
- Matte finish
- 3D glow pigments for plumping
Best for olive skin with warm undertones: Tom Ford Soleil Neige in Balm Frost
Warm, olive-skinned beauties like Eva Mendes can really pull off a deep red, berry, or warm, orangey-nude. These shades enhance the golden honey tones of this skin color, making it look its most radiant. One of Dowburd’s favorite shades for this undertone on olive skin is this frosty neutral from Tom Ford.
The laundry list of ingredients this lipstick is made without is impressive—you won’t find any sulfates SLS or SLES, parabens, formaldehydes, phthalates, or mineral oil. But the ingredients it does contain are also impressive, such as nourishing cocoa butter and Monhoi Tahiti butter for lasting moisture.
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- Subtle shimmer amps up the classic neutral
- Lightweight and balm-like
- Hydrating formula
Best for olive skin with neutral undertones: Smashbox Be Legendary Prime & Plush Lipstick in Unbridled
According to Paglionico, olive skin with neutral undertones is the most versatile of all. Just look to Jennifer Lopez and Jessica Alba for proof. “This undertone can wear a wide range of colors, but reds are especially striking,” she says. “This skin undertone looks great in either blue-based or orange-reds.” So go big with this bright and bold shade from Smashbox.
Cruelty- and peptide-free, this lipstick is made with ceramides to leave you with a moisturized finish that carries you through your day. It’s primer-infused, so you don’t have to apply a lip primer before use. (If you still want to use a lip balm beforehand, however, our editors recommend Dr. Pawpaw multipurpose soothing balm.)
- High-impact color
Best lipsticks for deep skin
Best for deep skin with cool undertones: Revlon Super Lustrous Lipstick in Choco-Liscious
Those who have deep skin tones with cool undertones, like Viola Davis and Lupita Nyong’o, can pull off so many shades. Barose favors a plum color with a blue undertone. The intensely pigmented color of this chocolatey Revlon shade contrasts and pops against the skin.
Revlon uses microfine pigments so that each shade pops and stands out boldly on its own. This lipstick is infused with vitamin E and avocado oil, which both promote long-term hydration and prevent a cakey appearance. Revlon is a cult classic, much like this all-natural Burt’s Bees lip balm.
- Extra-bold color
- Infused with vitamin E
- Lustrous finish
Best for deep skin with warm undertones: Lancôme L’Absolu Rouge in Merlot
Women with deep skin and warm undertones, like Gabrielle Union, Ciara, and Halle Berry, look absolutely stunning in cabernet and warm merlot. The colors bring out the gold in the skin while giving the cheeks a healthy flush. “I love seeing these luscious colors pop on darker skin,” says LaMarsh. That’s why this Lancôme shade is a knockout.
This lipstick is infused with Lancôme’s Satin Color™ Complex, which evenly deposits color from the moment you apply it. It’s long-lasting for up to eight hours and doesn’t cake or give a crepe-like appearance like so many lipsticks do. It comes in 44 shades and three different finishes: sheer, cream, and matte.
- Doesn’t cake or crease
- Lots of shade options
Best for deep skin with neutral undertones: MAC Lipstick Matte in Sin
If you have deep skin with neutral undertones, you’re in the company of the Ciara, Vivica A. Fox, and Jennifer Hudson. Bronzes, burgundy shades, and deep oranges and peaches will flatter you in the best kind of way, according to Dowburd. She recommends a deep shade like Sin from MAC.
If you’re someone who loves a matte finish, this lipstick will impress. There’s absolutely no shine or sheer, yet the lipstick stays on for hours without fading or smudging. It comes in 34 colors, so if you find one that you like, there are always more shades that you can rock.
Your lip color isn’t the only thing that should highlight your natural tones. Check out the most flattering makeup for every eye color.
- No-shine matte finish
- 10-hour wear
- Full-coverage color
- Tara Dowburd, makeup artist and founder of Make-Up Therapy
- Jamie Dorman, celebrity makeup artist
- Suzy Gerstein, celebrity makeup artist
- Bryan Cantor, celebrity makeup artist and beauty expert
- Lauren Paglionico, beauty expert and owner of LRN Beauty
- Nick Barose, celebrity makeup artist represented by Exclusive Artists
- Alex LaMarsh, celebrity makeup and hair artist
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