How to choose the perfect lipstick

by Emma Peters December 16, 2014

lipstick color

It may seem like a daunting task, but once you learn how to choose the perfect lipstick, there’s no turning back!

The process of deciding on the right color seems to be one of the most confusing and often expensive parts of makeup shopping. And who hasn’t got a drawer full of colors that have only been used once?!

Women have used lipstick, in various forms, for thousands of years to enhance their lip color. Lipstick was mainly some sort of red pigment applied as a stain to give the alluring appearance of more blood circulating in the lips. So the color choice was usually pretty limited to say…what sort of beetle was available to crush (in the case of Cleopatra)… or which poisonous crystal could be ground up (Queen Elizabeth I).

These days, with technology and diverse fashion trends, there are hundreds of thousands of lipstick colors available.

This makes it really quite hard to choose the perfect lipstick color. The best way to get the right color is to try and try again. Everyone is different and everyone has so many different variables to consider. So I am going to break it down as best I can to give you a good place to start.

Think about what you want your lipstick to do for you. Do you want it to moisturize? Do you want to make your lips look bigger, or smaller? Do you want your lips to stand out and be the focus of your makeup? Do you want your lips to look natural, like “what do you mean- this is the color they are naturally!”? Or do you want to look like you have just stepped off the catwalk?

There are so many factors to consider!

First, look at the texture- matte, sheer, cream, gloss, iridescent or a combination of any of these.

  • Matte is longer lasting, is high in pigment but can be drying, so not ideal for dry or chapped lips.
  • Sheer has less color pigment, is more moisturizing, good if you have dry lips and want a less intense look. Not so long lasting.
  • Cream usually highly pigmented, creamy texture, has a slight sheen.
  • Gloss High shine, can be clear or pigmented, can be worn on its own or over a lipstick color. Makes lips look bigger. Needs to be re-applied often.
  • Iridescent – has a shimmer, best used with a lip liner to avoid losing the lip shape.

Next, consider the shade – light, medium or dark. It is really up to you as to what you prefer, but think about these factors when deciding. Dark lipstick will make lips look thinner. Light lipstick will make lips look larger and gloss will add more dimension, making lips appear fuller. In saying that, if you have a darker complexion, stay away from light shades, it will just look out of place and unnatural.

So, some general guidelines for choosing color are:

To find a neutral color, one that will look totally natural and give you a “no makeup look”, choose a lipstick color that is the same color as your lips but a shade or two darker. Notice what colors appear in your lips naturally and look for something to match.

Get used to examining color. Look closely at what colors your skin is made up of. It’s actually lots of different layers of different colors.

If your skin has a pink undertone, stick to lipstick colors that have a cool base i.e. blue based pinks, mauves and reds.

If your skin has a yellow or olive undertone, go for lipstick colors with a warmer base, such as warm browns, orange-based reds, bronzes or warm pinks.

To confuse you even further, lots of lipstick colors on the market today aren’t obviously cool or warm. That’s because, they may be made up of both cool and warm pigments.

A good way to see how the color works with your skin tone is to apply it to the inside of your wrist. This area is usually a true indication of your skin tone because it hasn’t been exposed to the sun.

And last but not least, consider your own personality; wear what makes you feel comfortable and confident. Don’t forget that makeup is an art so it’s ok to be creative, just be prepared to try on quite a few colors before you find “the one.”

Emma Peters
Emma Peters

Emma Peters, organic makeup artist, creative director and founder of Belle & Sage, is committed to leading the conversation around beauty and wellness. With over twenty years of experience as a make-up artist, she knows you don’t have to sacrifice quality for clean.

She’ll help you find the what, learn the why, nail the how, and everything in between.

Letting you know more, wear better, and start making beautiful choices: from the inside, out.

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