The second-most mind-boggling part of a makeup look (next to foundation) is lip color. While there are a few products that are basic standards (almost everyone can wear black mascara, for example), lip color is totally confusing. I often hear clients say things like "I can't wear red lipstick," and I believe that everyone can- its just a matter of finding the right shade. Lipsticks also come in all kinds of finishes- matte (flat with no shine), satin (a little bit of shine), frost (metallic shimmer), high-shine and even glitter. To make matters even more complicated, lipsticks all have different levels of coverage just like foundation (lip gloss usually being the least amount of coverage and lipsticks or liquid lip colors typically being most coverage). Thankfully, these are elements that lipstick-wearers can usually identify and communicate to their makeup artist.
That leaves behind one big question: what color is right for you? Everybody has different tastes, and it is important to look at makeup as art and not science. This means that there is no "right" or "wrong" color for you necessarily... the right one is the one that makes you feel great. For those of us who are dedicated rule-followers versus those who like to color outside the lines, the use of color theory can help you select a color that flatters your natural coloring (your makeup artist is also educated in color theory and can do this easily for you).
If you feel overwhelmed, everyday lipsticks can be generally broken down into a few color families: nude, peach, pink, red and plum. It can be helpful to identify which one of these color families appeals most to you, keeping in mind that within those families can be a range of shades and colors. Here is a helpful guide to start exploring lip color:
Nude Lip Color
Nude lip colors are usually meant to be understated and are great for people who have full lips because it helps show off a luscious pout without overpowering the other beautiful parts of the face. People that don't like wearing a lot of makeup but want to feel put-together for a wedding or formal event, really love nude lip colors because they are wearing lip color but don't feel "too done." Nudes can range from pinky, brownish or even peachy, but are easily-recognized because they resemble a skin tone (hence the name "nude"). Finding the best nude for you can be a little tricky, both because nude tones can be sheer and morph to your natural lip color underneath, and because if they're too light or contrasting with your skin they can wash you out. Generally speaking, its a good practice to pick a nude lip color that draws attention up to your eyes and contrasts with them. Green eyes look lovely when paired with a pinky-nude, blue eyes pop when the nude is slightly more coral, and brown- or hazel-eyed people tend to have success with nudes that have a browner hue to them. Play around with a few different nudes. Once you find your favorite, you'll want to wear it everywhere.
Peach Lip Color
Peach lip colors range from a soft coral to almost orange, and are a bolder step up from nude. Peach tones are great for summer weddings, beachy looks accompanied by bronze and shimmer, and for vintage-style looks inspired by the 1960's. They're also great for people with less-full lips that still want an understated look, You can easily-identify a peach lip color because it looks looks fresh, flirty and soft. Those with lighter skin tones can sometimes feel that a peach lip color looks very orange on them, so going lighter or using a gloss so that the natural lip color shows through can help create balance. Dark and deep skin tones can achieve a statement look with so many different peach lip colors, but going too light can sometimes wash out the lip. Peach lip colors that have a little brown or red in them are a great fit.
Pink Lip Color
As seen here, there are a huge range of colors you can classify as "pink." Since makeup lines all have different names for their specific pink colors, finding a standard to express to your makeup artist or to explain to someone working at a makeup store can be really frustrating. For example, terms like "baby pink," "Barbie pink," "hot pink" and "bright pink" are all super subjective. To keep it really simple if you're just starting out, ask yourself if you want a barely-there light pink (like number 17), a medium pink (like number 4), or a bright pink (like number 11). Then, play around from there. If you look closely at some of these lip colors, you can see which ones were made with a little bit of blue coloring versus which ones have red or yellow. The right pink for you can express softness, flirtiness or sexiness, but should make your skin look fresh and well-rested and make you feel like your teeth and smile look brighter than when you don't wear lip color. If you feel like your teeth look yellow or gray, don't give up on pink altogether; try a different shade with an undertone that is different than what you're using.
Red Lip Color
I could write about red lip color ALL day. I am a massive red lipstick fan, and a die-hard believer that everyone can wear a red lip- it is just a matter of finding the right one. Pictured here are three different women with three different skin tones, all wearing a red lip from Tom Ford. Cherry red lips evoke a flirty, pin-up look, deeper reds look glamorous, and burgundy or wine-toned reds look refined and formal. Just like with pink lip colors, red is right next to your teeth and creates a big contrast, so when trying a red lip color, smile big with your teeth in a mirror and observe how you feel about the way your teeth and skin look. Also, red is a great color if your lips are your favorite feature and you want to keep everything else really simple, but it can also be gorgeous if you want to play up your blue or green eyes. With a bold color like red, it can be easy to go dramatic without much effort... but can also be easy to overdo. Depending on what look you're trying to achieve, red can amp up a look that you're hoping will pack more of a punch, or it can sometimes take a look a little further than you intended to go. If you're set on a red lip and want to make it work for you, start by applying your red lip right after your complexion products and before you do anything your eyes. Then, work up from there and stop where it feels right to you. Everybody has a different stopping point depending on their personal aesthetic. One thing is for sure, and that is that a red lip exudes confidence and boldness. If you're looking to express authority, face the world unapologetically and make yourself seen, red lips are a yes.
Plum Lip Color
The plum lip color family ranges from soft mauve to a vampy purple, but usually land somewhere in the middle, as illustrated by this photo. You can tell a color is in the plum family when you see purple in it, but there's usually some pink in there too. This is the hardest type of color for clients to identify, and can sometimes result in a description of something like "its red but deeper and kind of burgundy but not and its bold but it's not too dark." That can be hella confusing, but if you tell a makeup artist or makeup sales professional that you want to try something in the plum range, they'll instantly be able to show you a variety of options. Plum lip colors look powerful, sensual and confident on dark skin tones because they flatter the skin's natural depth. A plum lip can look mysterious, daring and sexy on women with light skin tones because it creates contrast against a more porcelain-looking canvas. Depending on your style, plum can be fresh and bright when applied as a sheer gloss, or can be commanding when front-and-center on a sculpted face. If you aren't quite ready for a red lip, or feel uncomfortable wearing one, a plum lip can be a nice alternative because it rarely looks overdone and can be paired with a bolder eye or cheek color.
Still have questions about lip color or how to apply lip products in a way that feels and looks great? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or hit my contact button to schedule a personalized makeup lesson.