Are Dark Lips Judged Differently? I Experimented

by Melodi Erdogan

On a day-to-day basis, I usually reach for conventionally "pretty" lip colors. From baby pink glosses to light berry stains, traditionally-hued lippies have always been my thing. One day, however, I wondered how avoiding those cute colors and swapping for brooding, dark shades of lipstick would go down.

It's a commonly-held belief among makeup enthusiasts that lipstick is an instant gamechanger. With just a swipe of color, beauty lovers can feel more confident, more comfortable, and more like themselves. However, dark lipsticks (or pastels or blues or greiges) are still fairly uncommon. With the exception of Halloween, it's quite rare to see someone sporting black lipstick on a daily basis.

This is why I wanted to see what kinds of reactions wearing progressively darker lip colors would get me in totally normal environments (from clothing to grocery stores to my place of work to the mall). I stepped out of my own comfort zone to wear standout lip shades and record how I felt in them, in addition to noting the kinds of reactions I got from the people I was surrounded by.

I took five lipsticks to the test over the span of five days, comparing the most natural berry lip color to the most unnatural, almost-black one. Let’s just say the results were quite surprising. After all, a swipe of lipstick can do a lot more than you might expect.

Day 1: Light Berry

Sonia Kashuk Moisture Luxe Tinted Lip Balm in Hint Of Berry , $9, Target

The first day of my experiment, I opted for a light berry shade. Frankly, I think this hue is totally pretty and natural. The balm-like texture turned my lips into a soft berry color that worked well in the office setting I was in that day. I received no comments, positive or negative, on day one.

Because I typically wear similar berry colors on a daily basis, this shade didn't feel new to me. I was quite comfortable wearing it, and it gave me the confidence and encouragement to power through work. I came to the conclusion that this shade was too natural to really strike a reaction from anyone, including myself.

Day 2: Bright Purple

Topshop Lipstick in Inhibition, $12, Topshop

On day two, things started to pick up. As you can see, the Topshop lipstick I wore was a unique purple/red matte color. It really made me stick out like a sore but fabulous thumb. Even so, it made me feel empowered and courageous, like how I imagine Beyoncé feels every time she wears a bodysuit. Plus, the barista at the coffee shop I went to that day wasn’t shy about speaking up about it.

I love your lipstick, by the way. I can’t pull off colors like that, but you pull it off well.

I was quite taken by her compliment, and that feeling of confidence only increased when a friend who I sent a Snapchat to asked me this.

Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, no?

After the day had ended (and after seeing people staring at my lips at a department store), I deduced that this shade was a crowd-pleaser. It was gorgeous and striking without being overwhelmingly dark or bright. It made me feel confident, unique, and different. However, I was prepared for things to take a turn for the worse.

Day 3: Medium Brown

Topshop Lipstick in Sashay Away, $12, Topshop

To my surprise, nothing horrendous really happened on day three. Even though I wore a very unconventional sandy brown shade, I didn’t get a comment, a look, or even a stare to document. The only thing I had to record was my own feelings about wearing this shade: pretty gnarly.

Although I'm obviously a huge lipstick fan, there’s one test I have yet to ace within Lipstick 101, and it's brown lippie. As much as I love the look on Kylie Jenner, this brown hue appeared quite washed out against my olive skin, and made me self-conscious about my face. I didn’t feel comfortable or confident, but rather awkward and confused as to how Kylie does it. More power to her, I guess.

Day 4: Deep Berry

Lipstick Queen Bete Noire Possessed Intense , $27, Amazon

I was really excited about wearing this dark red/brown shade, as I knew it was a definite statement color compared to the rest thus far. Just like day three, however, it didn’t solicit very many reactions from the people I was around.

I felt much more comfortable with this shade than the solid brown one. Personally, I think it simply suited my skin tone and coloring better. Because it was so dark, though, I was really expecting someone to take note. Alas, there was nothing.

Day 5: Basically Black

Topshop Lipstick in Depth, $12, Topshop; Kat Von D Everlasting Liquid Lipstick in Damned, $20, Sephora

When choosing a lipstick on my final day, I figured the darker the better. So naturally, I wore both of my contenders. Layering a Kat Von D liquid lipstick on top of a Topshop one, the resulting color was easily the darkest shade I have ever worn on my lips. Before walking out of the house, I prepared myself for negative feedback. And guess what? That’s exactly what I got.

Although I didn't receive any verbal commentary, I did undoubtedly garner a ton of weird looks. I went shopping at some of my favorite stores — DSW, Target, Old Navy, and Starbucks. Everywhere I went, people looked and gazed for an additional second. Every little kid I crossed paths with also just stared at me... and continued to stare... until I smiled at them, only to have them run away.

I really enjoyed being able to casually wear such a statement color on my lips, though, especially without having to apply tons of other makeup to pull it off. Similarly to the bright lipstick of day two, this shade gave me a boost of confidence, as well as a whole new feeling of empowerment.

So Do People Judge Your Dark Lipstick?

Ultimately, I found that the most unique lipstick shades, from days two and five, solicited the most reactions, whether they were negative or positive. It's possible that the rest of the shades were too familiar or basic to garner any kind of individual attention. It's also possible, however, that people just don't care about our makeup or sartorial routines as much as we think they do.

Maybe it’s superficial to expect strangers to react to your lipstick shade in a way that’s worth noting. But let’s be real: The way you physically present yourself is a chance to display your unique characteristics and interests in a way that is all your own. Experiment or no experiment, one of the ways I do that myself is through lipstick. While the majority of the lipsticks were relatively comfortable to wear, days two and five pushed me out of my comfort zone and forced me to try something completely new. By coincidence or not, those two are also the shades that made me feel the most confident.

What I have learned is that stepping out of your comfort zone to try a new, unique lip color (or anything else) is totally worth it, even if you make children do double-takes. Makeup — like fashion and art and so many other things — is an outlet for creativity and self-expression. Sure, black lipstick might not be your go-to for buying milk at the grocery store. But if you like it, then wear it. Let whatever backlash you receive empower you, although there probably won't be as much as you think.

Images: Melodi Erdogan