Personal Care

Choosing the right lipstick color

By Nancy Livingstone
Info Guru,

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Closeup of woman applying red lipstick
Choose a color that complements the natural shade of your lips and skin.
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Lipstick can be glamorous, subtle or seductive; it adds the final touch to your day or evening makeup.

If a woman was given the option of only one make up item, she would probably select a lipstick as the one cosmetic she couldn't live without. Lipstick accentuates a usually very nice feature and enlivens the face in short order with a touch of color.

Lipstick is an instant pick-me-up for most women because it provides maximum beauty for minimum effort. As an added bonus, women have a lower incidence of skin cancer of the lips - scientists speculate that this is due to the fact that many women wear lipstick. That doesn't mean you should forego sunscreen - but apparently lipstick is better than nothing at all.

Tips for choosing the right lipstick color


When choosing a color, take into account your lifestyle and what situations you would wear this particular lipstick. Will you be wearing it to work? If so, a deep purplish burgundy may look scary and out of place. By the same token, if you want something for a night on the town, a neutral that looks fabulous during the day may not have the same dramatic impact you'd like for evening.


You should also consider your skin tone when purchasing a lipstick. Women of color can better carry off dark, bright or dramatic shades that may look garish on women with fairer skin. Women who have yellow undertones to their skin should stick to shades that are correspondingly warm toned because they will look flattering. Plums, wines and deep reds flatter a dark skin tone, while light-brown beiges with pink or orange undertones complement a lighter skin tone. Olive skin looks good with brownish reds, light browns and raisin shades of lipstick.

Lip size

Also remember to take the size of your lips into account. If your lips tend to be less full than average, you should consider lighter shades rather than darker ones because dark colors tend to make lips look smaller. Conversely, light colors, especially if they are on the glossy side, tend to make lips appear fuller.

Time of day

Keep colors lighter for daytime and darker for night. Matte and cream finishes offer a subtler daytime look, while a high-gloss finish adds glamour for evening. A sheer, natural-looking color with a little shine also works well for day.


You also should consider texture. Do you want a long wearing matte? But, If you find mattes too drying, then get one with a creamy texture, Or, if you would prefer something more sheer and/or slightly iridescent, consider whether or not you would mind reapplying a glossier lipstick several times versus once or twice with a more durable one.


Head to your local department store and ask a makeup artist to test different shades on your lips; however, we strongly advise you not to use a tester tube that has been used by others! If necessary, test it on your wrist. Whenever possible, check in natural light to see how the color really looks with your complexion. If the shades you find don't completely satisfy you, create your own shade by combining colors. The easiest way to do this is by applying each color to your lips with a lip brush, then blending with the brush on your lips.

Lip liner

Choose a lip liner that is a shade darker than your lipstick and in the same color family. Line lips after applying lipstick, not before. That way you won't end up with a dark circle of lip liner after your lipstick has worn off.

More tips on choosing the right lipstick color

1. Try a colored gloss or lip tint for a sheer hint of lip color. 2. Buy the colors that look good on you; not the ones that look good in the tube. 3. Deep or bold lip color complements light eye makeup, while light or nude lipstick flatters heavy eye makeup. 4. Where possible, consider a lipstick with a good sunscreen with both UVA and UVB protecting ingredients. 5. If your favorite lipstick does not have sunscreen, then be sure to apply an appropriate sunscreen before you prep and apply lipstick. Of course, this is not of critical importance if you're going out for a night on the town!

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