If you’ve ever tried out a viral lip product only to realize that it looks very different on you than it did on social media, you’re probably aware that lipstick is rarely one-size-fits-all. The best lipstick color for your best friend (for example) may not flatter you, and vice versa. As such, finding your perfect lipstick shade is rarely as easy as plucking a random tube off the shelf.
Thankfully, if you’re wondering, “what color lipstick should I wear?”, we know a few tricks that can help you narrow down your search. By far the most important one is understanding your skin tone and undertone. In this NYX Professional Makeup lipstick guide for all skin tones, we’ll explain the differences between skin tones and undertones. You’ll also learn why your complexion matters when choosing lipstick. Then, we’ll offer up our recommendations on the best lip colors for cool, warm, and neutral skin. Find your best lipstick color, ahead.
Skin Tones vs. Undertones, Explained
Of the factors to consider when choosing a lipstick shade, your skin tone and undertone are among the most important. The former—your skin tone—simply refers to the actual shade of your skin at any given time. This can change (for example, it may darken with a summer tan and lighten over the winter) but generally remains fairly consistent. Your undertone, however, doesn’t change—it’s either cool, warm, or neutral. You’ll generally find that lipstick colors with the same undertone as your skin will flatter you best (the same rule applies to foundation, concealer—even your hair color).
A good rule of thumb for determining your undertone is to look at the veins on the inside of your wrist. If they appear blue or purple, you likely have cool undertones, whereas green-tinted veins tend to indicate warm undertones. If your veins appear blue and green, chances are good you have neutral undertones. Another way to check your skin’s undertones is with a jewelry test. Silver jewelry tends to be the most flattering on those with cool undertones, while gold jewelry complements warm undertones beautifully. If you look equally great in both silver and gold jewelry, your undertones are likely neutral.
Lipstick For Cool Undertones
When it comes to lipstick and your skin tone, you want to match like with like. In other words, if you have cool skin, seek out a lipstick with cool (read: bluish) undertones. If you’re opting for a red lip, for example, we suggest reaching for a classic crimson, such as our Shine Loud High Shine Lip Color in the shade Rebel in Red. While red is traditionally considered a warm hue, the cooler tones of this shade will complement your skin better than a fiery orange-red.
As for pinks and nudes, you can look for shades that closely match your natural lip color, or reach for purplish pinks, like Smooth Whip Matte Lip Cream in Fuzzy Slippers (it’s the perfect wear-anywhere plum). Cool-toned skin can also pull off fantasy colors well—try Butter Gloss in Blueberry Tart for an unexpectedly cool look.
Lipstick For Warm Undertones
Those with golden, olive, or yellow tones to their skin—in other words, warm undertones—generally look best in warmer-toned lipsticks. Fall colors, like burgundies and berry hues, are a great option for a bold look, but warmer pinks (like coral), chocolatey browns, and oranges are also gorgeous for a more subtle look. Try our Lip Lingerie XXL Matte Liquid Lipstick in En Fuego for a bright yet ultra-flattering look, or opt for a more understated take on warm lipstick with Butter Gloss in Orangesicle. (Pro tip: Pair it with Slim Lip Pencil in Ever for a warm, two-toned pout).
Lipstick For Neutral Undertones
If you have neutral skin, there are lots of shades of lipstick that you can rock well—everything from warm brick reds to cool berries and browns will look good on you. So, we recommend going by your skin tone rather than your undertone. Some of the best lip colors for fair skin include light pink and rose shades, such as Soft Matte Lip Cream in Tokyo or Lip Lingerie XXL Matte Liquid Lipstick in Flaunt It. Those with medium skin tones (or anyone rocking a post-vacation tan) can experiment with a broad range of reds and mauves. We’re huge fans of Suede Matte Lipstick in Brunch Me for a day-to-night lip color. And lastly, if you have deeper-toned neutral skin, berries are a great bet. Try Lip Lingerie XXL Matte Liquid Lipstick in Stamina for a bright, saturated look with up to 16 hours of transfer-resistant wear.
The Final Takeaway
As we’ve explained, the most flattering shades of lipstick for your skin tone will typically be ones with the same undertones as your skin—cool complements cool, warm flatters warm, and neutral goes with just about anything. If you’re still not sure what lipstick shades are best for you, we recommend trying out our virtual try-on tool—it’ll allow you to test-drive a range of different shades and finishes (and all from the comfort of your own home).
With all of that said, at the end of the day, there’s one thing even more important than your skin tone or undertone when it comes to choosing lipstick and that’s your personal preferences. Don’t be afraid to experiment with colors and see what you like best—even if the “rules” suggest it might clash with your coloring. If you like it, and it makes you happy, that’s what matters.