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A Lipstick to Suit

If you find yourself staring at the myriad of lipstick or gloss colours at a cosmetic counter without a clue where to start, then the following advice should help you make more decisive lip colour decisions.

Determine your skin’s undertone

Do you have a cool, warm or neutral undertone? If you know this, then you’re 70-80% on track to finding your ideal lipstick shade.

Typically a cool undertone is associated with fair to medium skin, warm with an olive or dark skin tone – though very dark/black skin can lend itself to a cool undertone – and neutral undertones with any skin shade, though rarely olive.

If you’re unsure of yours, try one of the following tests to figure it out…

  • Look at the veins on your inner wrist or arm.  If they have a deep blue or purplish hue then your undertone is cool.  If your veins have a greenish hue or are barely visible then your undertone is more likely to be warm.
  • Which flatters your complexion the most, gold or silver jewellery?  Gold looks great on warm skin, while silver enhances cool skin.
  • Hold a white piece of A4 next to your clean, unmade up, face and compare the contrast while in full natural daylight.  Your tone should pop next to it.  If it looks yellow your warm toned, if it looks a little pink or red in comparison your cool toned and if it looks like neither of the aforementioned then you probably have a neutral tone.

Complimentary colours

If you are lucky enough to have a neutral undertone you can pretty much take your pick of shades.

If you have a cool undertone then look to colours with a blue base.  Cool pinks and corals, mauve and berry shades, blue or pink/cherry based reds and nudes with cool pink undertones.

If you have a warm undertone opt for shades with warm – orange or brown – bases. Orange corals, pinks and reds or brick toned reds, gold or bronze based browns and caramel nudes.

Colours that tend to be universal – they usually suit any undertone – are fuchsias and neutral corals (neither overly warm or cool).

When buying lipsticks and/or gloss also take into account your wardrobe and the colours you favour – you want your makeup to compliment what you’re wearing.

Figuring depth and/or brightness

Deciding how dark or bright to go will depend on a few factors…

  • Skin shade.
    If you’re fair, light to medium shades are the most flattering but a dark red or cherry or a bright pink or coral colour can have wow factor if you have fantastic lips.
    Medium and olive skin types suit medium shades best, both in depth and brightness.
    The darker your skin the darker and brighter you can and should go.  Rich plums and raisin shades, fire engine reds and fuchsias will look gorgeous.
  • Your natural lip colour.
    Shades 1-2 tones darker than your own, especially nudes, are  ideal.
  • The size of your lips.
    Smaller lips look best in medium shades, with a lighter colour or gloss in the middle to give them a look of fullness.
    Medium to full sized lips can wear any depth or brightness, as long as the aforementioned is taken into account.
    Large lips should favour dark shades if you prefer not to draw attention to them.

Test before you buy

Now that you know what colours and shade intensity you should opt for, you should still test a product before you buy it.

The best place to test a lipstick is obviously on your lips; colours may differ once your natural lip colour is added to the mix. Use a cotton bud or take your own lip brush to do this. Make sure you wipe the tester lipstick with a tissue before applying.

Before you apply colour directly to your lips you could try the following pre-testing methods . . .

  • Apply it on the pads of your fingertips rather than the back of your hand, as they are a little closer to lip colour. This will also show you the texture and finish of the lipstick (i.e. sheer, matte, shimmery) .
  • Wind the lipstick fully out of its case and place it up against the side of your face.  This will give you a good indication on whether it suits you or not.  A flattering colour will make your skin look ‘brighter’ a not so flattering will dull your skin down.

As a general rule, a matte finish tends to make lips look thinner and it can be ageing, while shimmery shades and glosses make lips look fuller.

Image Credits:

Makeup: Lisa Matson
Model: Nicola (62 Models)
Photography: Mike Rooke