How to Choose the Right Lip Color for Darker Skin

bright lipstick at MSGM Fall 2015

image: Imaxtree

It’s true, you can never have too many lipstick shades. But with so many colors and formulas to choose from, it can be daunting trying to navigate the beauty aisles. And when you factor in your skin color and undertones, there are many different things to take into consideration. From picking out complementary colors for your skin to testing out multiple shades before you commit, Janice Kinjo, celebrity makeup artist for SheaMoisture, dishes on how to choose the right lip color for darker skin tones

Know Your Undertones

You may be drawn to certain lip colors on the beauty shelves, but it’s important to understand your skin’s undertones before purchasing anything. A quick rule of thumb: If your skin has green undertones to it, you fall into the warm category and if your skin has blue undertones, the cool category. (Read this for more information on determining your undertone.) This will be a key factor when picking out the perfect lipstick shades. Kinjo recommends blue-hued lip colors for warm undertones and orange-hued lip colors to complement cool undertones. Once you determine where you stand on the spectrum, picking out shades will be super easy. 

Pick the Right Colors

Knowing your undertones is one step in the right direction, but there are still a few more rules when it comes to selecting the most flattering lip colors. While you’re either warm or cool, it’s also crucial to know what works versus what doesn’t. Going too nude could make your lips appear dry, while bright colors pop beautifully against darker skin tones. 

  • Nudes: “When choosing a nude lip color, be careful not to go too light or it will look like [you have] ashy lips,” Kinjo explains. “Tone it with either a plum or raisin color or a dark red-burnt orange color.” 
  • Plums: “You can’t go wrong with plum-colored lipsticks,” she says. “Just like red lip color, plums have a range of bright to dark tones.”
  • Brights: “Don’t be afraid of fun, bright colors,” Kinjo says. They perfectly complement darker skin hues and are also great when looking to create a standout lip look. 

Test Multiple Shades Before Buying

There’s no better way to find the perfect shade than by testing out several different lipsticks first. But before you start testing lip colors, Kinjo recommends applying foundation on the lips to neutralize your lipstick and to “get the most color out of the lipstick.” Testing shades on your actual lips is the best way to find your perfect match. “Lip color will look different on the lips versus testing it on the back of your hand,” she says. “So, clean the lipstick with alcohol and test it on your lips. Trial and error is important to choosing a perfect color.”

If you’re testing out multiple formulas, be weary of lipstick stains left behind. “To avoid staining, apply lip balm that’s not in stick form on the lips after each test and then wipe the balm off your lips with tissue.” This will remove all color and ensure you have a clean slate for the next color.