Makeup and Beauty

How to choose the right lipstick for your skin tone

How to choose the right lipstick for your skin tone

Lipstick can be really confusing, right? I’ve heard a lot of women say makeup is just scary in general, because how do you choose the right colors for you? How do you know what’s good and what’s not? How do you know if you’re a cool or a warm, a summer or a winter, a red-lip or a pink-lip? And how the heck do you even apply any of this stuff?

So, prompted by Mrs_French on Instagram, I’m hoping to help you be a little less afraid of choosing lipsticks, and figure out what color is perfect for your skin.

Disclaimer: I am not a makeup guru or trained in ANY way. What I know is from research, trial and error, and YouTube.

How to choose the right lipstick for your skin tone |

First up, figuring out your skin tone! I’ve always been a bit confused by this. I have heard a lot of different ways to figure out what you are — whether your veins look blue (cool) or green (warm) on your wrist, whether, when you squeeze your skin, it gets more pink (cool) or yellow (warm), whether you look better in blue-based reds (cool) or orange-based reds (warm), whether you’ve got more pink in your skincolor (cool) or yellow (warm), and my skin gives me mixed signals. My veins look blue, but I have pink cheeks. My skin squeezes yellow, but I can wear silver AND gold jewelry. Online quizzes tell me I’m warm and should wear earthy tones, but earthy tones don’t look that great against my skin.

So, how the heck do you figure this out?

Well, apparently there is such a thing as a neutral skin tone — that is to say, I have warm undertones, but I have light skin and look better in bright jewel tones, and can wear more varied colors than your average person. However, for most of you, if you aren’t aware whether blue-based or yellow-based colors will look better on your lips, the easiest way to figure it out is to see whether bright, sunny yellow looks better on you, or whether you’re better complimented by pastel yellow (or none at all.) The former, you’re probably warm-toned, and will look best in yellow/orange tone shades. The latter, you’re probably cool toned, and will work well with blue-based colors.

On to picking out a few lipsticks! I chose colors I had on hand to illustrate the better of the two and why, and while there aren’t HUGE differences in any of these colors (and I could still wear the less-flattering of the two just fine), hopefully it will help when you’re choosing your own shades!

1. Reds

How to choose the right lipstick for your skin tone |

On the left, I’m wearing an orange-based red (Nyx Eros) and on the right, a blue-based red (Maybelline Red Revolution.) I was able to see the difference better in real life, but hopefully you can see it too — the orange-based Nyx lipstick makes my whole face brighten up, diminishes the pinks in my skin, and even goes so far as to make my eyes stand out more, while the blue-based Maybelline tends to blend in a bit more, make my skin appear more sullied (and pinker in real life, but it didn’t show up here), and generally makes my whole face look a bit duller.

A great question that helps when shopping for reds is: do you look better in bright colors, or deep colors? If bright, go for a red that is similarly bright (think poppy-red for bright, or Merlot-red for deep).

2. Pinks

How to choose the right lipstick for your skin tone |

These pinks are pretty similar, but I thought I’d show how a very, very alike shade can look super different just by going one shade down and losing some pastel. On the left is the darker Milani Matte Diva, and on the right is the more pastel Maybelline Fucshia Fever. I was going to contrast a deep pink with a bright pink, but sometimes I think it’s easier to learn based on similar colors. The one on the left is more flattering to me, as a warm-tone neutral, because it has no pastel and is much more of a bright, true pink. The one on the right has a lot of pastel in it (it’s very, very barbie) and is one or two shades lighter, which tends to bring out more pink in my skin and make my teeth look yellow. It would look great on a cool, pale complexion though! One thing I also noticed is that in the left, my whole face looks warmer, while on the right it all looks cooler (no color correction here!).

For me, pink is almost the hardest color to be satisfied with aside from nudes. Darker pinks tend to blend in with my skin, much like the blue-based reds, while pastel pinks just make me look very washed out. The question that helps the most while searching for a good pink is: would this color look good on me as a dress? If yes, go for it! If not, pass. Or, if the color makes your lips look like they belong on a different face, it’s probablyΒ  not a good color for you. Haha!

3. Oranges

How to choose the right lipstick for your skin tone |

Believe it or not, you can probably wear an orange lipstick even if you’re cool-skinned. The trick is choosing a coral rather than a bright orange, and going for something that’s a bit pink or blue based rather than redder or yellow based. On the left is my favorite orange, a very red-based Wet’n’Wild Purty Persimmon, while on the right is the pinker Maybelline Coral Crush, which looked much better on me back when I was blonde. Orange can be very wearable if you know what to look for. On dark skin, tanned skin, or warm-toned neutrals (who are pale but warm-toned, like me) look for bright, true oranges with more of a red base than a pink one. On pale skin or more ashy toned dark skin, pink-toned oranges and corals tend to look better.

Once again, it’s the “bright yellow, or pastel yellow?” question. If bright, go for red-based oranges. If pastel (or none), go for pink/coral based oranges!

4. Nudes

How to choose the right lipstick for your skin tone |

Nude lipstick is by FAR the hardest of the lipsticks for me to choose. On the left is the first nude I’ve ever liked, Milani’s Nude Creme, and on the right is one of the first nudes I tried, Revlon’s Soft Nude.Because the nude on the right is more pink/pastel and in real life, my lips disappear and my skin gets pinker. I used to think I would never, ever find a nude lipstick that looked good on me. I had tried quite a few, and they all seemed too pale, too cream-colored, to washed-out, or too pastel to look good with my pink skin. I figured maybe I just wasn’t the right person for nude lipstick.

Then, I found the Milani lipstick, which is a nice brown-toned nude that is about the same shade as my natural lips, just browner. And I fell in love. So I have realized, the best way to choose a nude lip: rather than going for the palest nude you can find, such as a color that is close to your foundation or concealer, choose a nude that is one or maybe two shades darker than your foundation or your natural lip color. It will still work wonderfully as a nude, but it won’t wash out your whole face by making your lips invisible.

I mean, I still think I might be able to find one better than the one on the left, but overall… I can live with it.

So, hopefully that helps! I mean again, I’m not an expert. I just get asked for makeup help a lot, and thought I’d put in my best tips for finding a good lipstick shade. Don’t be afraid to try new things — you may just have to experiment with a few different shades before you find your perfect color! And hey, if it makes you happy, who cares whether you technically shouldn’t wear that color. Find the colors that YOU love the most, and just… wear them.

If you have any additional things to add, go for it in the comments!

Also, day two of the lipstick challenge has me wearing the nude, which will be up later with an outfit post.

Happy Lipstick Wearing!


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  • Deborah

    I am loving this post. However, my husband is anti-lipstick because he doesn’t want to kiss it… so in that case maybe I am anti-lipstick as well- but just for myself!
    So… since I understand lipstick better now, maybe it’s time to convert the hubby?

      • Deborah

        Oh my gosh we’re such newlyweds. I was like ehh he hates it… it’s OUT. I could totally wear it at work!

  • annebeth

    I think you definitely pointed out the most flattering shades here, but I’m not sure whether your idea on warm vs cool is totally accurate all the time (f.e. the most flattering pink on the left of the collage is definitely a cool toned pink, whether the other is lighter or not). Which is normal – as you said, you (and I!) are not a professional color/season-person (haha), so we just sort of guess as we go along. I definitely think the whole warm vs cool thing is way too simplistic to apply to real people in general, for several reasons. I think I’m somewhere between cool and neutral (probably like you), and when I wear cool lipstick colours, the whole end result is subtle and subdued, but I don’t necessarily like it. I sometimes prefer punchy, warm colours exactly because they pop against my skin rather than harmonizing with it, I think that’s what you meant in the lipstick comparisons as well πŸ™‚

    Cool toned people generally look better in super bright yellow btw, while warm toned people look better in dusty/muted/soft yellows. It’s not necessarily about pastel vs bright πŸ™‚ that has more to do with how much contrast your colouring has. F.e. a person with light brown hair and pink skin probably looks better in soft pinks and aquas than cobalt blues and fuschia’s, while we look great in bright, saturated colours because of the whole fair skin/dark hair thing. The colour doesn’t overpower us but underlines our colour story. If it makes any sense πŸ˜€

    The best indication of cool vs warm toned that I’ve encountered is: do you look better in bright, stark white, or in beige? I definitely look better in stark white, so there’s that πŸ™‚

    • Eccentric Owl

      Haha, and this is what happens when I rely on internet research. You definitely put it much better than I did, and I agree with all that you said! I have a hard time giving advice on lipsticks because I CAN wear more colors than is normal and I’m one of those in-betweens who gets diagnosed as cool, pale, tanned, olive-skinned, pink-skinned and everything else by makeup experts (er… whatever) so I’ve never been sure of how to really figure out what you are. Thus, relying on the internet to tell me. Which, as we know, is not always reliable.

      The white trick is a really good tip!

  • Lublyou

    This is such a good visual guide! I’m still shocked how every single shade looks perfect on you! πŸ™‚ But you’re also right, the brighter colors do tend to lighten your face more, which is so pretty!

    • Eccentric Owl

      I think like Annebeth said above, better than I did; finding colors that really compliment the rest of your coloring (so, in my case I’m dark haired and pale skinned, so contrasting colors work better) is the best way to go! Someone with less contrasting coloring might look better in softer shades, while darker skin looks great with bright colors, etc. It’s really just about playing with colors and finding what makes you feel best. πŸ˜‰ Thank you!

  • Tonette Fornillos

    Oh, this is beautiful Kristina. I can try everything I’m tanned-skin, though, lol. I like the looks of dainty pink to cameleon red on me :-), orange yellows my teeth. But like you said — if the color makes my lips look like they belong on a different face, haha… time to think — good point! I’ll take that tip! Thanks for this!