Finding the right lipstick color can be difficult, especially for women with darker skin tones. Darker-skinned women can have cool or warm undertones, which can affect the way the lip shade plays against their coloring. According to Nhu Le, founder and CEO at Finding Ferdinand, a custom lipstick company, one quick way to determine your skin’s undertone is by peeking at the inside of your wrist to see if you have blue or green veins. “Blue indicates cool undertones, while green indicates warm,” observes Le. She suggests that medium brown-hued women with cool undertones try brighter reds with a bluish cast and that those with a warm undertone experiment with orange and coral shades.
Dark burgundies and deep browns are a safe bet for mahogany-skinned ladies, but for those looking for an extra pop of color, cooler skin tones should switch it up with a bright red or orange, while those with warmer skin tones should give wild orchid a whirl. And though women with dark olive to caramel complexions can pull off a variety of lip shades, browns and nudes can sometimes wash them out, so they should be sure to pick one with a sheer moisturizing shine so it’ll reflect the light off their lips, making them look fuller and poutier.
But undertone isn’t the only factor women of color need to consider when purchasing lipstick; pigment quality is important, too. “No matter how bright the color looks on the stick, if it is of low pigment quality, the color payoff won’t be great or worse, it’ll look gray against your skin,” says Florence Adepoju, a cosmetic scientist and founder of the British-based lipstick brand MDMflow. Titanium dioxide, often used to dilute the color, is the culprit and can render dark skin ashy. Look for lipsticks with low amounts of the compound to ensure high pigment quality. Here, we found 15 of the most flattering lip shades that’ll look absolutely amazing on diverse skin tones.
Neon orange electrifies ebony complexions.
MAC Morange, $21.45 at Amazon
A warm brown nude that doesn’t wash out caramel complexions.
CoverGirl Colorlicious Lipstick in Coffee Crave, $5.31 at Amazon
Magenta tinged-plum is a universally flattering shade, no matter what your undertone.
Clinique Long Last Soft Matte Lipstick in Matte Plum, $16 at clinique.com
This semi-matte purple adds playful drama to coffee-rich complexions.
Iman Luxury Lipstick in Taboo, $10 at imancosmetics.com
For those who want to stand out, this bright cherry red will do the trick.
Dior Rouge Dior lipstick in Rouge Favori, $38.70 at Amazon
Creamy with no shimmer, this brownish-rose serves as a great neutral lip color for olive to pecan-brown skin.
Tom Ford Lip Color in Casablanca, $50 at tomford.com
Make a bold statement like Nicki Minaj with this super-saturated pink.
Maybelline Color Sensational Vivids in Fuchsia Flash, $4.97 at Amazon
Layer this satin-finish raisin shade to take you from day to night.
Stila Color Balm Lipstick in Ali, $22 at stilacosmetics.com
Encapsulated red pigments cause the pale pink shade to get brighter when lips are rubbed together. Simply adjust the color until comfortable with the outcome.
MDMflow Lipstick in Milkshake, £18 at mdmflow.com
Deep, rich burgundy looks regal on mahogany queens.
Lipstick Queen Velvet Rope Lipstick in Entourage, $50 at Amazon
Yves Saint Laurent
A gorgeously sheer, wet luminous gloss with a slight tangerine tint.
Yves Saint Laurent Volupté Tint-In-Oil in N. 7 Crush Me Orange, $36.99 at Amazon
A warm metallic shade that glimmers against honey-hued skin.
Gucci Audacious Color-Intense Lipstick in Iconic Copper, $39 at Neiman Marcus
Liquid demi-matte color in a vibrant violet shade adds a playfully, bold contrast to dark skin.
Laura Mercier Paint Wash Liquid Lip Colour in Fuchsia Mauve, $28 at Amazon
Enriched with jojoba and sweet almond oil, this peony pink packs a powerful punch without drying your lips out.
Circa Beauty Color Absolute Velvet Luxe Lipstick in Elizabeth, $15.55 at Amazon
This rich, plum rose shade is the perfect neutral color for darker skin tones.
Bite Beauty Butter Cream Lipstick in Rosewood, $28 at sephora.com