7 Tricks To Pulling Off Unconventional Lip Colors

by Sandra Roldan

If you religiously follow hoards of makeup artists on Instagram like I do, odds are you frequently find yourself marveling at their many wild and unconventional lip colors. I am always completely inspired, but also well aware that my 9-5 lifestyle doesn't particularly lend itself to rocking neon blue lips on the regular.

Nonetheless, the last time I went makeup shopping, I impulsively skipped my go-to reds, and instead picked up some more unusual, trending lip colors — from pale lavender to dark metallic purple — that I had previously been too intimidated to try. Through trial and error, and armed with some suggestions from my makeup artist friend, Joanna Dee, I realized it is actually possible to integrate bold statement lip colors into your everyday makeup routine without looking like a circus clown.

So you might be asking: Why is trying an unusual lip color such a big deal? Well, as with any fashion statement that seems remotely "abnormal," there's value in stepping outside your comfort zone. There's value in embracing weirdness, be it your own brand of quirk or the neon lipstick's.

Here's how to pull it off:

Author's Note: Though I only used a handful of colors here, these guidelines can apply to just about any unconventional lip color.

1. Balance Your Lip And Eye Makeup

Smashbox Full Exposure Palette, $52, SephoraBite Beauty Luminous Créme Lipstick in Violet, $24, SephoraMaybelline Color Sensational Vivid Lipstick in Brazen Berry, $8, Maybelline

When wearing bold lip colors, you want to keep your eye makeup minimal to keep the focus on the lips and avoid looking overly done up. Dee suggested using soft, neutral eyeshadow shades and a bit of mascara.

I used my Smashbox Full Exposure Palette to create a neutral smokey eye for all the looks in this post. I wanted a strong pop of color for contrast, so I mixed Bite Beauty Luminous Crème Lipstick in Violet and Maybelline Color Sensational Vivid Lipstick in Brazen Berry to create this bright and glossy magenta.

2. Try A Lip Stain

Obsessive Compulsive Stained Gloss in Androgyne, Prices Vary, OCC Cosmetics

Another option is to use a lip stain rather than a more pigmented version of the shade you want. To create your own lip stain, blot your lipstick after applying to eliminate the heaviest layer of pigment, leaving you with a subtle — but still colorful — pout.

Afraid of creating a tangerine nightmare but curious to try a bright orange lip, I picked out Obsessive Compulsive Stained Gloss in Androgyne. The sheer formula made the color instantly wearable.

3. Give Your Skin A Radiant Glow

Obsessive Compulsive Cosmetics Metallic Lip Tar in Technopagan, $17, OCC Cosmetics

Bold colors tend to look less abrasive against deeper skin tones. If you are pale (like me), add some bronzer to keep dark lipsticks from washing you out. Blush helps perk up your face as well, regardless of skin tone.

I fell in love with the dark ultraviolet sparkle of Obsessive Compulsive Cosmetics Metallic Lip Tar in Technopagan, but I feared it would be over the top. When I wore it with bronzer and a creamy coral blush, the result was more feminine and flirty, and less futuristic mutant. Choosing a floral dress in coordinating colors also helped keep the look fresh.

4. Keep Your Outfit In Mind

Smashbox Be Legendary Long Wear Lip Lacquer in Bordeaux, $29, Sephora

Just like fresh and neutral eye makeup balances out a bold lip, so can fresh and neutral clothing. Pairing girly pieces with vampy lip colors keeps your look from going too severe (because even though I love me some goth style, it might not always be quite the look you’re going for).

I love the contrast of Smashbox Be Legendary Long Wear Lip Lacquer in Bordeaux with this pastel pink and black dress.

5. Go Glossy

Bite Beauty Matte Crème Lip Crayon in Cognac, $24, Sephora

Dee recommends sticking to a glossy or pearly finish when selecting a bold lip color, as matte versions tend to be more jarring (and drying). You can also layer metallic shades or shiny lip gloss over matte lipstick if necessary.

Ever nostalgic for the ‘90s, I picked up Bite Beauty Matte Crème Lip Crayon in Cognac. While I personally like the stark matte brown (left), layering a metallic gold lipstick (Makeup Forever Rouge Artist Intense in 17) on top gave it a more refined edge.

6. Blend Colors To Create Custom Shades

Kat Von D Studded Kiss Lipstick in Coven, $21, Sephora

A good pro trick for dialing down the intensity of bold lip colors is to layer them to create more wearable shades. Try softening dark colors with lighter, creamy shades on top; for ultra-pale or chalky pastel hues, using a darker lip liner creates a cool multi-dimensional ombre effect.

Adding deep purple liner to Kat Von D Studded Kiss Lipstick in Coven (a matte, pale lavender shade) keeps the shade bold, but much less ghostly.

7. Own It

Most importantly, and as Dee made sure to remind me, confidence is key when wearing statement lips. The more you own the color you're wearing, the more natural and "you" it will seem.

Images: Author's Own; Giphy