Fact attack: One of the most searched lipstick-related inquiries on Google is "What color lipstick should I wear?" The correct answer is, "Whatever color you want!" Our Founding Fathers didn't pull the original Brexit in 1776 so that you'd be resigned to the lipstick shades beauty editors have chosen for you. (Happy almost Fourth, everyone!)
Freedom aside, finding the right shade of lipstick for your complexion, coloring, personal preference, etc. is not as easy as going to your local department store and saying, "That one!" For starters, it's important to know your undertones—those pesky base colors in your complexion that seem to appear only when you're wearing the wrong shade. They usually skew warm, neutral, or cool. If you're curious as to where you fall, consider the following:
- Are you more likely to burn in the sun or tan? If you burn, your undertones are cooler. If you tan, your undertones are warm.
- What does your foundation say? Most foundations/concealers/tints will tell you what tones they best suit, but if they don't, a Google search will probably point you in the right direction.
- Look at the color of the veins on your wrist—blue usually means cool and green usually means warm, but if you can't quite tell, you might be neutral.
- Once you've found your undertone, choose a lipstick with a complimentary coloring. Blue-toned lipsticks (think: deep classic reds) look great on cool faces, for example, while peaches and oranges are better suited to warmer colorings.
It's a journey of sorts—one that requires a lot of trial and error, plus a few hundred swatches, before finding The One. Luckily, Glossier HQ is crawling with people who have put in the time and effort to find their matches. Several conversations about lipstick journeys turned into a definitive roundup of the best lipstick colors of all time, organized by concentrations of melanin for your shopping pleasure. Browse freely, and if you have your own journey, we'd love to hear that, too:
The Best Lipstick Color For Medium Skin
Kim Johnson, Community Manager, wears YSL Ultimate Beige layered over Nars Pigalle.
"My skin tone is pretty medium, and in my mind, I have a mixture of yellow and red undertones. For a long time, I didn't wear lipstick at all because I couldn't find the right one—until I found this perfect shade of mauve-brown. So now, here's my general vibe on lipstick... I want to wear something that makes my lips look like a better version of what they are. Natural, but sexy, very Brandy circa 1998. Right now I like to mix YSL's Ultimate Beige with Nars Pigalle, although I'll wear either on their own, too. Everybody makes fun of me because I'll only wear the same lipstick tone, but it works."
The Best Lipstick Colors For Dark Skin
Umaimah Sharwani, Director of Operations, wears Bobbi Brown Plum Brandy.
"In high school, my friends and I used to go to the MAC store and try on lipsticks. We would try on the hot pinks, but I realized quickly that wasn't my color. When I started working here, I was introduced to these deep berry tones and I love them. I wear a dark lip day and night—people say you can't, but I do! I've tried many, but the Bobbi one doesn't dry out my lips because it's not super matte. I love the shade so much, I'm trying to find a bag in the same color."
Cherie Camacho, Administrative Coordinator, wears Maybelline Midnight Merlot.
"My mother only wore deep brown or dark purple lipstick. Whenever my sisters and I would play around with her makeup, those were our only options. When I grew up I played around with red, but I came back to deep plums and browns. I'm 5'5" with brown eyes, caramel complexion, smile like the sunrise. [Laughs] So darker lipsticks complement my look really well. It's all about this '90s vibe I've got going on."
The Best Lipstick Color For Olive Skin
Adriana Deleo, Head of Design, wears Nars Heat Wave.
"Growing up in Puerto Rico, makeup was bold and bright. I think it’s a Latin thing. My reaction was to go against it—to this day, I usually wear a bare face or very sheer lip color. But lately I've been into wearing bold lipsticks with a t-shirt and jeans...it feels very 'me' and it's a little more dressed-up. In the summer I've got more of a tan, so I wear warmer-toned colors, like this Nars red-orange. It suits my olive skin nicely. But it's very pigmented, so I'll apply it and then blot it away a little bit for a better color."
The Best Lipsticks Colors For Fair Skin
...like, very fair: True Pink
Kelly Mittendorf, PR Coordinator, wears Chanel Conte.
"My skin is paler than a piece of copy paper and bold lipstick does not look good on me. But I like lipstick because I don't like doing eye makeup, and a lip is a much easier easy way to look put together. I've gotten really into true pink colors lately—like, 'my-lips-but-better.' I picked up the Chanel Rouge Stylo because it's easy to use, it's buildable, and it's got some sparkle just because. It feels like a neutral with my skin. Anything more reads too heavy...this is just really fresh."
...with cool undertones: True Red
Emily Ferber, Editor, wears Dior 999.
"I don't know why I have so many true-red lipsticks—but over the past two or three years, I've found myself the proud owner of at least five: Dior 999, the limited edition Dior 742 (a bit brighter than the former), Tatcha's Kyoto Red, Charlotte Tilbury Red Carpet Red, and Sephora's Cream Lip Stain in Always Red. The more I wear them, the more I start to notice the tiny differences in shade—whether it's blue-leaning, or more pink. I tend to like the cooler tones that don't compromise brightness. It makes the rest of my face—and my teeth!—look really bright to the point where I don't need any other makeup. Not even mascara."
...with warm undertones: True Orange
Sandra Sou, Senior Copywriter, wears Make Rust.
"I tend to gravitate towards orange-y shades of lipstick—I'm not sure why they work, but they look really good on Asian skin. People tell me I have yellow tones in my skin, and I'm like, where?? Then, I agree, and I pick out shades that are called Jade, Mandarin, and Dragon Chick. [Laughs] Kidding. I like Make Lipstick in Rust, which is the perfect shade of Elementary school pottery. It makes my skin look brighter and more vibrant. As a bonus, it’s a pop of color to my very neutral wardrobe."
—as told to ITG
Photographed by Tom Newton.
You know what they wear on their lips; now peer inside the makeup bags of Team Glossier.