How to Choose the Best Lipstick for Your Skin Tone
The right lipstick can transform your look instantly. But with so many options, finding the perfect shade can feel like an endless search. Lucky for you, these pointers will make it a whole lot simpler.
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Finding your colors
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, however, that can take much of the guesswork out of finding the perfect color palette, especially when it comes to choosing a lipstick, explains Michelle Spieler, a Hollywood makeup artist with more than 25 years of experience. That’s because the optimal lipstick shade is one that complements your skin tone.
So, how do you choose the right one? “Start by looking for a shade that is slightly deeper than your own lip color,” says Spieler. “[To test it out], swipe it once across your finger and wait to see what color turns—if it turns orangey or warmer, it’s not your color. If it turns too purple, bluish, or plummy, it’s not your color. But if the color on your finger matches the color in the tube and you like it, it’s worth trying on!”
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 to determine your skin tone
Skin shades are typically broken down by fair, medium, olive, and deep—but from there, you want to determine whether your undertone is warm, cool, or neutral. “This will make everything from finding a foundation to your lipstick so much easier,” says Alex LaMarsh, a celebrity makeup artist who has painted the pouts of Kim Kardashian West and Cher. Finding your own skin undertone is fairly simple. Most people just use the tried-and-true vein trick. “Look at the underside of your wrist in daylight or bright light,” she advises. “If your veins look blue or purple, you have cool undertones, and if they look green, you have warm undertones.” If the color of your veins is a mix of the two, your undertones are neutral.
When it comes to selecting a color, it’s more accurate to pick a lipstick in natural light, so you see the true shades, says Nick Barose, a celebrity makeup artist who has worked with Lupita Nyong’o and Gugu Mbatha-Raw. “As a general rule, the lighter the skin, the more color it shows, so the shade will look truer and bolder on your lips than in the tube, whereas darker skin adds more depth to the color,” he explains. No matter what your skin tone is, these are the lipstick shades every woman needs in her beauty arsenal.
The best lipstick for fair skin with cool undertones
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 Barose. Looking for a bolder lip? LaMarsh suggests a baked orange or coral. Try: Lancôme Color Design Lipstick in Poodle Skirt or Wet ‘n’ Wild MegaLast Lip Color in Rose Bud. Once you’ve found your perfect lipstick, here’s how to find the best hair color for your skin tone.
The best lipstick for fair skin with warm undertones
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, Barose recommends a warmer peachy-pink or salmon hue. Or, for a more dramatic look, try LaMarsh’s suggestion: “I love complementing warm fair skin with a bold, orange-red lip that’s a bit on the warm side. It helps liven up the skin tone and makes eyes pop.” Try: Wet ‘n’ Wild Silk Finish Lipstick in Sunset Peach or Revlon Super Lustrous Lipstick in Coral. Find out what your favorite lipstick color says about your personality.
The best lipstick for fair skin with neutral undertones
When 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. Try: Charlotte Tilbury Superstar Lips in Princess Kiss, Nars Audacious Lipstick in Vanessa, Anastasia Beverly Hills Matte Lipstick in Dusty Mauve, and MAC Powder Kiss Lipstick 919 P for Potent. These shades are soft and romantic and can be worn both day and night. Don’t miss these 13 makeup myths you should really stop believing.
The best lipstick for medium skin with cool undertones
For ladies 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. And blue-hued reds wow for evening and special occasions. Try: Anastasia Beverly Hills Liquid Lipstick in Pure Hollywood, Dear Dahlia Lip Paradise Effortless Matte Lipstick in Margo, Urban Decay Cosmetics Vice Lipstick in Hex, Dose of Colors Lip It Up Satin Lipstick in Parfait, or It Cosmetics Blurred Lines Lipstick in Believe. If you love makeup, check out these expert-approved foundations that actually improve your complexion.
The best lipstick for medium skin with warm undertones
Blake Lively and Jennifer Aniston are great examples of medium skin with warm undertones. This 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. Try: Pure Color Envy Hi-Lustre Light Sculpting Lipstick in Tiger Eye, Marc Jacobs Le Marc Lip Creme Lipstick in No Angel 242, or Wet ‘n’ Wild MegaLast Lip Color in Sand Storm. Need some tips for streamlining your lipstick collection and more? Here are some genius ways to organize your makeup bag, according to makeup artists.
The best lipstick for medium skin with neutral undertones
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. Try: Pat McGrath Labs LuxTrance Lipstick in Valletta, MAC Lustre Lipstick in Hug Me, and Clinique’s Chubby Stick in Whole Lotta Honey.
The best lipstick for olive skin with cool undertones
“One of the things I love about ladies with cool olive skin (like Bella Hadid and Alexa Chung) is their ability to rock a deep rose or wine lipstick,” says LaMarsh. These shades bring warmth and flush to the skin while making the eye color more vibrant. “I would pick a pinkish nude with a bit of blue undertone. That looks fresh, like it’s your own color but more exaggerated,” says Barose. Try: Burt’s Bees Lipstick in Wine Wave, IT Cosmetics Blurred Lines Smooth-Fill Lipstick in Love, or Wet ‘n’ Wild MegaLast Lip Color in Wine Room. Dry lips? Blame these 10 mistakes you didn’t realize you were making.
The best lipstick for olive skin with warm undertones
Warm, olive-skinned beauties, like Jennifer Lopez, Jessica Alba, and 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. Try: Rimmel London Provocalips in Play with Fire, Tom Ford Lip Color Lipstick in Contempt, NARS Audacious Lipstick in Catherine, Wet ‘n’ Wild MegaLast Lip Color in Cherry Picking, or It Cosmetics Blurred Lines Lipstick in Believe. Here’s how to find the best eyebrows for your face shape.
The best lipstick for olive skin with neutral undertones
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.” Try: KOSAS Weightless Lip Color Lipstick in Undone, Clinique Almost Lipstick in Black Honey, and Rodin Olio Lusso in Red Hedy. You don’t have to spend a fortune to get the perfect pout. These are the drugstore lipsticks that celebrities love.
The best lipstick for deep skin with cool undertones
Women 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 blue undertone. The intensely pigmented color contrasts and pops against the skin. Try: Revlon Super Lustrous Lipstick in Chocoliscious, Marc Jacobs Beauty Le Marc Lip Crème Lipstick in Vinyl Dreams, or Lancôme L’Absolu Rouge in Jezebel. This quiz will reveal your personality based on your makeup style.
The best lipstick for deep skin with warm undertones
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 cheeks a healthy flush. “I love seeing these luscious colors pop on darker skin,” says LaMarsh. Try: L’Oreal Infallible Le Rouge in Everlasting Plum, Lancôme L’Absolu Rouge in Merlot, Wet ‘n’ Wild MegaLast Liquid Catsuit Lipstick in Video Vixen, or It Cosmetics Blurred Lines Lipstick in Daring. Looking for more beauty advice? Don’t miss the most flattering makeup for every eye color.