How to Find the Right Lipstick

Crystal Schwanke
Applying lipstick

There are few cosmetic products as personal as lipstick. Selecting the right color or tone is usually the first hurdle, but finding the right formula is also crucial to getting the exact look you want. While some women prefer matte formulas, others reach for high gloss shine. With a few tips and a good understanding of what's available, you'll be able to choose your tubes with confidence.

Selecting the Right Color of Lipstick

The first thing you'll need to do is figure out which color palette flatters and complements your skin tone. Feel free to experiment in every color family, and focus on underlying tones first rather than exact color to find a suitable match. Generally speaking, women look best when the undertones in their lipstick match the undertones in their skin.

Red lips

Fair Skin Tone

Fair skin tones can pull off most shades, including bold, bright, deep, and muted colors, although never "nude."

Try:

  • Bright, crisp, neutral red for retro flair or as a pick me up
  • Hot pink for a spring or summer day
  • Deep berry for fall
  • Wine for a vampy, nighttime look

Cool tones (blue undertones) usually complement fair skin tones, but don't let that deter you from using a fabulous coral pink if it catches your eye. If you want a neutral tone, choose one that has a hint of pink in it; just never go with a totally beige lipstick because it will strip any amount of color your skin has right out of your face.

Nude lips done well

Medium Skin Tone

Don't go any lighter than your skin tone, and just say no to those metallic, pale nudes!.

You can have fun with:

  • Lavender
  • Bubble gum pink
  • Rose
  • Fuchsia
  • All muted shades of red (Bright red may look garish.)
  • Tawny shades
  • Corals

There's really nothing you can't pull off except those excessively light shades that work like concealer on your lips. Always have at least a hint of rosy color in your nude shades.

Dark Skin Tone

Plum lips

You can pull off deep berry shades that would intimidate other girls and make them feel like they were aiming for a goth look.

You can also enjoy:

  • Brown-based reds
  • Brick reds
  • Tawny shades
  • Brown-based nudes
  • Wines
  • Chocolate browns

If you find a shade you're in love with that doesn't necessarily work with your skin tone, experiment with lip liners and glosses to slightly alter the color. Also play around with the blush and eyeshadow colors you wear with it; you may find a way to pull it off anyway. This may not be the color you reach for every day because it takes quite a bit of effort to make it work for your skin tone, but if a lipstick shade makes you happy, there's no reason you can't try to make it work.

Matching Blush and Lipstick

Your blush and lipstick don't have to match exactly. However, they do need to be from the same color family in order to create a cohesive look, and the same is true for matching your lipstick to your clothes. For example, don't pair a blue-based fuchsia with peach blush, or use peach lips with berry blush. Use a light berry or rose blush with fuchsia lipstick, and use a coral or tawny blush with peach-based lipstick.

You can also keep a nude pink or coral pink blush on hand. Both of these shades straddle the line between cool and warm, and they can work with a number of lipsticks. Plus, the nude pink blush may work best with bold or bright lip shades, while the coral pink blush can add some color back into your cheeks when you're wearing an understated shade of lipstick.

A Word on Nude Lips

"Nude" lips have garnered tons of attention in the past few years, and that's because they're generally easy to wear. These shades don't look so obvious when they smudge or make their way onto your teeth, and they're easy to throw on and go without much thought about what colors you're wearing on your eyes or your body.

Keep in mind, though, that "nude" shouldn't be interpreted as "no color." Try matching your natural lip color as closely as possible rather than canceling out the color, unless you naturally have very rosy lips, in which case a slight bit of color will shine through and look gorgeous. Flat beige lips really don't look good on anyone. You can get close to that shade, but make sure there's at least a hint or rose there if you have cool tones in your skin, or some peach if your skin tone is warm. Without that hint of either color, you run the risk of looking drained, fatigued, or sick.

How to Find the Right Lipstick Formula

When browsing cosmetic counters or the beauty aisle in a drugstore, you'll notice a variety of lip coloring products. There are lip stains, lip gloss, and traditional lipstick formulas available in a number of finishes, so it's no wonder making a choice can be so complicated and confusing. As a rule, creams, satins, stains, soft mattes, and glosses look fairly natural on most skin tones. Metallics, glitters, and high-gloss styles, regardless of color, are generally not for everyday wear.

Before you purchase anything, try to determine which type of formula you'll feel comfortable wearing. Here's a look at a variety of formulas and a rundown on how they tend to feel on your lips.

  • Gloss: Gloss lipsticks tend to have a thick and sticky formula, which may bother women with longer hair. There are many benefits to wearing gloss lipsticks. Gloss formulas pack hydration and tend to soothe lips in winter months, and they add a sexy shine. New formulas offer better staying power, so this makes glosses a product worth revisiting.
  • Extended wear: Extended or long wearing lipsticks claim to provide lasting color for up to six hours. Although some brands may live up to this promise, it is rare that the product comes without a dry and flaking downside. Every brand may wear differently on your lips. If you seek an extended wear lip color, it pays to try out a variety of formulas.
  • Lip stains: Lip stains color the lips with a diluted wash of color. They are perfect for the woman who seeks low maintenance lip color. A stain can be applied without lip liner, and it will last for a few hours. The downside is that lip stains come in limited color choices, and they often dry out the lips. The trick to wearing a stain is to top the color with a light coat of lip balm.
  • Matte finish: Matte lipsticks are a tricky category since matte finishes tend to go in and out of vogue, and the finish itself can feel dry on the lips. Topping a matte lipstick with a clear gloss will help add some shine and moisture.
  • Moisturizing finish: Moisturizing and rejuvenating lip colors are the most popular and the easiest to wear. With a bit of shine, hydration, and heavily pigmented color, this traditional lipstick category is perfect in almost every way. The downside? Some brands have little staying power. To combat this, line and fill in the lip with lip liner to increase staying power.

Adding Impact

Once you've discovered you're favorite color and formula, you're free to experiment with different levels of that tone. For date nights, increase the vividness of your selected shade. For daytime, opt for a softer and more casual color. Finding just the right lipstick requires some experimentation. Once you've found your favorite, make it your signature and stock up!

How to Find the Right Lipstick