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How to Choose the Right Lipstick Color (there’s some science involved!)

How to Find the Right Lipstick Color for Your Skin
The other day I received the following text message from a friend of mine.
how to chose the right lipstick color

I started babbling on to her about my typical tricks for finding a suitable lipstick color and then, I got to thinking. Before I was a lipstick wearer, I found lipstick to be the most intimidating product there was when it came to makeup. I remembered how long it took me to finally feel comfortable rocking bold lips and how long it took me to really find the right colors.
I think the main reason a lot of ladies steer clear of lipsticks is that they are convinced lipstick doesn’t look good on them. It’s just not true. While there are some women who are blessed to be able to rock any color, others of us need to learn what kinds of colors look best on us.

Using my experience finding my own perfect lipstick colors mixed with some color science I learned as an Art Major, I came up with some basic guidelines to help you find the perfect lipstick color.  These are meant to be gospel. You may have lipstick colors that don’t follow these rules and look good on you. What they are meant to be are guidelines to help you determine a color that will look good on you more effortlessly.  This will help you decide between a few colors when you’re standing in the makeup aisle or help you find your most suitable shades.  There’s some color science involved that makes it less of a guessing game!

Also, if you’re interested, I have a post just about pink lipstick. How to choose the perfect PINK lipstick.


how to chose the right lipstick color
Firstly, determine your skin’s color. This is a pretty easy task. Are you pale/fair, medium/olive or dark?

Fair skin

Fair skin looks best with true red, red with pink undertones, magenta, and blue-toned pinks. Fair skin often has a hard time wearing a nude lip. Also, note that colors tend to look brighter on paler skin tones.
Fair Skin Lipsticks | how to choose the perfect lipstick color

Medium/Olive skin

Medium to color skin looks best with true pinks, cranberries, and brick red as well as classic nudes.

Lipsticks for Medium Skin Tones | How to Choose the Perfect Lipstick color

Dark skin

Dark skin often is best suitable for reds with burgundy or brown, dark beige, and orange-toned reds and pinks
Lipstick for Dark Skin | How to choose the perfect lipstick color

how to chose the right lipstick color
Take this information, and add in the next layer… determining your undertone. I find this step to be the most beneficial to me and it really helps me guide my lipstick purchases. (It’s also really helpful when choosing foundation, hair colors, and clothing, too!) So, how do you determine your undertone?

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You’re cool-toned if…

your skin appears to have a blue, red or pink tinge to it. If you hold your wrist out, bottom side up, in the sun, your veins will appear blue or purple. If you’re cool-toned, cool-toned lip colors are more likely to look flattering on you.

Find the Right Lipstick Color | Cool-Toned Lipsticks

You’re warm-toned if…

your skin appears to have a yellow or peach tinge to it. If you hold your wrist out, bottom side up, in the sun, your veins will appear green or olive. If you’re warm-toned, warm-toned lip colors are more likely to look flattering on you.

Warm Toned Lipsticks | How to Choose the Perfect Lipstick Color

You’re neutral-toned if…

your skin doesn’t appear to follow either of these rules.Your skin appears neither more blue or more yellow in the sunlight and your veins are blue-green (not one or the other). If you’re neutral, it’s more likely you can wear lots of different colors well.

 photo Untitled3_zpsf307dc84.jpg
Take what you just learned and apply it. I have cool-toned fair skin. So, I can usually wear blue-toned pinks and cool reds. I don’t usually look that great in orange-toned reds or peachy tones. I also can’t pull off the nude lip look that well. If you’re warm-toned with olive skin, a warm beige or fiery red is likely to look best on you while it might be harder for you to pull off a blue-toned pink.

How to chose the right lipstick colors

Head out and pick up a handful of colors using these guidelines and test them out. I suggest applying them to a make-up free face. As makeup Goddess Bobbi Brown said, “If I had to teach someone just one thing about lip color it would be this: Find a lipstick that looks good on your face when you are wearing absolutely no makeup.”

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I suggest picking up your test products from a place with a flexible return policy. Rite Aid, for example, has a Money Back Guarantee with all makeup products! They promise, “any opened or used makeup product of any brand can be returned for a full refund when accompanied by a receipt.” So, grab a handful and try them out risk-free! Understand that often the color shown on the bottom of the lipstick tube isn’t exactly the color inside of the tube itself. Plus, depending on your own lip’s natural pigments, the color may look different.

Additional Notes About Choosing The Right Lipstick Color:

Note One: These are merely guidelines to get you started in choosing the right lip colors more effortlessly. It is NOT to say that if you’re warm-toned you can’t wear cool-toned lipsticks. Once you’ve found some staples and feel comfortable wearing lipstick you can start to play around with colors. There is such a huge variety of pigments with varying transparencies now a day, many colors are becoming available in varieties flattering for all skin types.

Note Two: Please note my consistent use of the word “usually.” There is not tried and true, always going to work method. That’s why step three is so important and you need to really test them out!

Note Three: I understand deciphering between a blue-toned red and a red with pink undertones sounds a little daunting. Hopefully, my graphics helped a little, but know that it takes some time to train your eye. I studied Fine Arts at a Fine Arts college for two years and have had some practice. When in doubt, you can always reference an expanded color wheel.


Prefer to Watch the Color Science?


Let’s Review How to Choose the Right Color (AKA Pin It!)

How to Choose the Right Lipstick Color For Your Skin Tone

how to chose the right lipstick color

Are you a lipstick wearer? If not, why?
What are some of your tricks for picking the right color?
What’s your favorite go-to lip color?
Please feel free to leave any additional questions in the comments. Make sure you’re not a no-reply commenter and I’ll respond asap!

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