Going to the dark side with lipstick can be intimidating—and messy. Here the experts reveal their tips for wearing deep tones with confidence.
1. Use your skin undertone as a guide when selecting a shade.
Lily Collins proves that there’s no such thing as being too fair for dark lipstick. When shopping for the right shade, pros recommend focusing on your undertones, rather than on your actual skin tone. Women with cool, or pink undertones should choose a warmer-toned lipstick with red hues. While women with warmer olive or golden undertones should pick shades with a blue base. (If you’re not sure, check the veins in your wrist. Blue veins = cool; green veins = warm; a mix = neutral and rules just don’t apply to you.) This contrast creates flattering balance, explains Theo Kogan, founder of Armour Beauty.
2. You can go matte or glossy.
When it comes to finishes, celebrity makeup artist Clarissa Luna likes both matte and shiny finishes: But, she says that matte lips are more wearable for daytime, and a glossy wine option has a more evening-ready vibe. Going glossy has more of a Seventies feel, Kogan says, whereas a matte lip has a Nineties edge.
3. Exfoliate to remove flakes.
An important tip for getting dark lipstick right is starting with a smooth, even base; if you’re prone to chapped lips or flaking, the super-dark pigments may settle into dry patches, resulting in an uneven look. Kogan loves Tarte Lip Exfoliant (or simply a mixture of sugar and olive oil) to gently exfoliate lips.
4. Moisturize to ensure color goes on smoothly.
Once lips are de-flaked, Kogan follows with a bit of balm to ensure that lips are perfectly smooth. Another genius lip-prepping product that Luna recently discovered is Boots No. 7 Protect & Perfect Lip Cream which sinks in and moisturizes lips much more quickly than balm, allowing you to apply your matte lippie without fear that it will turn cakey within minutes.
5. Application takes a bit more concentration.
Once lips are prepped and ready, it’s time to apply your lipstick—but dark shades do take a bit of work to apply properly. “I like to apply the lip color first, then a matching lip liner, then blot with a tissue, powder lightly, and apply more lipstick,” says Kogan. This process helps keep dark shades from bleeding or feathering, she explains.
If applying a Bordeaux lipstick straight from the tube sounds intimidating, Luna recommends using a lipstick brush to apply the shade in layers—and, don’t be afraid to use your fingers to pat and nudge the color into place until it looks good to you.
Looking for a more natural look? Kogan suggests applying lip color to the center of the lips and blending outward to ensure a lighter finish that follows the lips’ natural shape.
6. Keep the rest of your makeup simple.
To balance out your dramatic, dark mouth, both pros recommend choosing a light, dewy-finish foundation to create a flawless backdrop. A touch of pink or peach blush or a bit of bronzer offers just enough dimension to complement a dark lip, says Kogan.
Luna suggests adding a bit of sheen to eyes with a bronze or golden-toned shadow.
7. But a dramatic eye and bold lip can be a gorgeous evening look.
Going for a strong eye and dark lip also looks gorgeous, but might be too much for the average brunch date. Here, glowing skin provides the perfect backdrop for a statement makeup effect.