How To Choose The Right Lip Shade

how to choose the right lip shade
a collection of Tom Ford lipsticks

There are literally hundreds of different lipsticks out there in varying tones and finishes, so finding one that you like best can be overwhelming. 

Truthfully, many shades will probably look good enough on you (which is how you end up unwittingly collecting a dozen red lipsticks), but knowing your skin’s undertone can help narrow the field.

How to define your skin undertone?

It gets a little personal when it comes to lipstick color. There is no perfect lipstick for everyone; the results are determined by selecting the appropriate lipstick shade for your undertone. 

Cool Undertone

You’re cool-toned if you have a pink, red, or bluish hue to your skin.

If the veins in your wrist look blue, if silver jewelry complements your skin, or if your skin burns in the sun before getting a tan, your undertone is cool.

Warm Undertones

You’re warm-toned if you have a yellow, golden, or olive hue to your skin.

If the veins in your wrist appear green (rather than blue), if gold jewelry complements your skin, or if you tan easily, your undertone is warm.

Neutral Undertones

You’re neutral-toned if you have a mix of pink and yellow in the base of your skin.

Those with neutral undertones look good in both silver and gold jewelry.

Choosing lipstick based on your skin tones

Cool undertone

Blue or purple undertoned lipsticks are the best for cool undertones (not to be confused with an actual blue or purple lipstick, though that would be equally as stunning).

When it comes to red lips, for example, go for deep bluish-reds (think cherry red) rather than ones that lean more orange. For nude lips, a rosy, pink nude can be used to enhance the natural flush of your lips, or a taupey beige for a more subtle look.

When in doubt, a tinted balm can adjust to your lip’s color and suit a variety of looks (plus it’ll hydrate, too).

The Best Lipstick Shades: Go for lip colors with blue or purple undertones.

Warm undertone

If you have warm or yellow undertones or olive skin, look for a lipstick shade with warm undertones: orangey-red, brick-red, and terra-cotta will complement your skin.

Neutral undertone

Fortunately for this undertone, a wide range of colors are complementary. Pink tones suit fair skin, mauve tones suit medium skin, and berry tones suit dark skin.

The Best Lipstick Shades: It’s a free-for-all—anything from light nudes to deep wines will look good.

How to choose nude lipstick

Choosing nude lipstick according to skin tones

Finding a good nude lipstick can be difficult because the tone and shade can either enhance or detract from your natural lip color. Nude lips do not always imply “skin color.” It’s not so much about finding a lip color that matches the color of your lips as it is about emphasizing them in a tone that looks natural to you.

Finding one that matches or is one shade darker than your inner lip is a good starting point for determining “your” nude lip tone.

Tinted balms and glosses add a bit of color to your lips, working with the lips’ natural shade to enhance them.

How to choose bright lipstick

how to choose bright lipstick

Bright colors (pink, orange, and red shades) may be easier to select than the ideal nude. However, with so many options available, it’s easy to become overwhelmed at the makeup counter. Here are some pointers if you’re new to finding a flattering bright:

  • The finish of a bright lip dramatically alters its appearance. Sheer formulas are youthful and fresh, a saturated satin or cream finish is classic, and a matte finish is very modern and adds strength.
  • Choose a color based on your tastes: Cooler tones are often brighter, whereas warmer tones are softer.
  • Keep in mind that the sheerer the lip color, the more forgiving and versatile it will be. Sheering out a bright lipstick with lip balm is one way to make it work for you.

The final word

If you’re having trouble finding the right lipstick for your skin tone, keep in mind that your undertone will correspond with the shade you choose—cool undertones look best in cool lipsticks, warm undertones look best in warm shades, and neutral undertones can go either way.

It’s important to understand that skin tone and undertone are not the same thing. The depth of your skin (fair, medium, dark, or deep) can vary depending on the season (fairer during the cooler months, deeper during warmer seasons).

The takeaway: Choose a lip color that makes you feel good. If a coral color gives you confidence but does not conform to the “rules,” go ahead and wear it.

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