How to Choose the Best Lipstick for Your Skin Tone

Most of us have a bunch of lipsticks in our beauty bag, some that we wear all the time, some that never get touched.  There's a reason for that. You may have fallen in love with a lipstick in the store or on Beyonce’s face, but when you put it on yourself? It just doesn't work. 

That's likely because the lipstick color clashes with your skin tone. We spoke to celebrity makeup artist Kindra Mann, whose clientele includes Vanessa Hudgens and Rosario Dawson, to suss out tricks for finding a lipstick that works with your complexion.

1. Identify Your Undertone

First, the basics. Everyone’s skin has undertones of either yellow or pink. Yellow is warmer, pink is cooler. Knowing your undertone is enormously helpful when you're trying to figure out which lipsticks look best on you. 

A quick way to identify your skin's undertone is to look at the veins on your wrist. If they are blue, and you also tend to gravitate towards wearing blues, whites, and grays, you’ve got pink undertones. If your veins appear more green, you have a warmer yellow undertone. If they appear to be both blue and green, you are the lucky owner of a neutral skin tone (meaning equal pink and yellow tones), and you can wear any color.  

Still unsure? Hold a piece of gold jewelry and a piece of silver jewelry up to your face. Ignoring your personal preference, assess which looks better with your skin — cooler (pink) tones go better with silver jewelry, whereas warm (yellow) skin tones work better with gold.

2. Know Which Shades Work With Your Undertone

You want to focus on shades similar to your undertone when choosing a lipstick, says Mann. “For yellow undertones, stick to warmer colors and for pink undertones, look for shades with blue or purple tones in them.” 

And everyone should avoid lipstick colors with a gray, ashy or overly pale feel, Mann says. “These can often make the skin look sickly or unhealthy and are universally unflattering.”

3. When in Doubt, Pick Based on Your Skin Tone

To simplify the process, you can also stick to shades that typically suit olive, fair and darker skin tones.

Olive Skin Tones  

Olive skin tones are generally neutral, so it's hard for you to go wrong. “Most nude, pink, orange, and red shades are going to look good on you,” Mann says. “Look at what you are wearing to determine your lip shade. For an outfit with warmer colors, you’d stick to a warmer, bright lipstick.”    

Try: Stila All Day Liquid Lipstick in Beso, $24, Amazon

Fair Skin Tones 

“The great thing about really fair skin is that bold reds and deep colors can be a fun way to play up your makeup and can look fantastic,” explains Mann.  “Avoid anything too light or with too much of a yellow undertone so you don’t look washed out.”

Try: City Color Perfect Shades of Red Matte Lipstick Set, $10, Amazon

Darker Skin Tones 

Deep plums, berries and reds look fantastic,” says Mann. “Unless you are going for a retro feel or a statement bright lip, avoid anything too light or pale on the lips — deeper shades look more naturally flattering.” 

Try: Laura Geller Love Me Dew Moisturizing Lip Crayon in Plum Freeze, $17, Amazon

Of course, regardless of your tone and undertone, it’s up to you to decide what looks best and most flattering on yourself: “If you love bright orange lipstick and it makes you happy, of course you should wear it!” Mann exclaims. Hear, hear.

Want more beauty tips? Check out the videos below and subscribe to Bustle on YouTube!


FYI, Bustle may receive a portion of sales from products purchased from this article, which were added independently from Bustle's sales and editorial departments after publication.

Must Reads