Previously confined to the winter months, dark brown, burgundy, purple and even black lip shades are now seemingly seasonless. From crimson pouts with flirty spring frocks to blueberry lips with summer kaftans, anything goes these days—so dig out those dramatic colours and slick them on with pride. According to Poppy King, the owner of make-up brand Lipstick Queen, dark lips are more subversive and edgy, and can be incredibly glamorous without a hint of goth when done right. The key is choosing the right shade for your skin and your comfort zone.
“You’ll know you’ve found the right shade when it enhances your skin tone, makes your eyes look brighter and gives your face a lift,” says Bobbi Brown. Those of us still searching for the perfect shade need only turn to the mirror for a pointer in the right direction.
“Knowing your undertone is enormously helpful when you’re trying to figure out which lipsticks look best on you,” says Marie McKeever, head of training at Clarins. A quick way to identify your skin’s undertone is to look at the veins on your wrist—if they’re blue, you’ve got pink undertones. If veins appear greener, you have yellow undertones. And if they appear both blue and green, you’re the lucky owner of a neutral tone and can carry any colour.
McKeever advises that those with yellow undertones should stick to shades of red and orange, while those with pink undertones should opt for lipsticks with blue or purple in them. If you’re still not sure, check whether gold or silver jewellery looks better against your skin; gold will look great on pink skin, while silver will enhance yellow skin.
Lipstick colours can be classified into six categories—pink, purple, red, orange, nude and brown. A professional make-up artist will choose your shade using complexion as the primary indicator, then eye colour. Brown eyes will get the most benefit from lipsticks in the red, purple and brown families, while the blue-eyed should pick from the pink and nude groups, and green-eyed girls from the orange, red or brown ranges.
Don’t be afraid to experiment with strong, saturated colours—they will lift the complexion. Priscilla Yu, make-up stylist at NARS, suggests wearing shades of purple that contrast beautifully with yellow undertones such as Charlotte Audacious by NARS, Color Riche RW513 by L’Oréal and Rouge Unlimited in BK099 by Shu Uemura.
Dig out a deep burgundy such as Lipstick Queen’s Possessed Sheer in Bête Noire for a sultry chic finish. For a great all-rounder, look no further than Tom Ford Beauty’s Black Dahlia—a long-lasting cool burgundy with strong red tones. With its semi-matte finish, this little gem will brighten the skin while subtly screaming sophistication.
If you’re daring enough to wear a very dark purple or black lip, it’s important to enhance bone structure and cheek contouring for a dimensional finish, recommends Gabe Ku, senior make-up artist at Shu Uemura. Just be sure to avoid shades of brown, as they can make the skin appear sallow.
4. Colour Out Conserns
A cleverly selected shade can do more than add a little glamour—it can highlight features, divert attention from skin concerns and lift the overall complexion. The secret lies in colour contrast.
Breakouts and rosacea result in reddened skin; therefore, red and pink shades should be avoided in favour of purple and coral to prevent an overall red appearance. Conversely, a sharp shade of red can brighten dull skin and dark eye circles by directing focus to the lips and adding vigour to your total look.
A cool lipstick with blue undertones will make teeth appear instantly whiter. Got slim lips? Give ombre a whirl; simply use two different shades—a darker one on the outer lip line with a lighter one in the centre.
5. Gloss VS Matte
Lip gloss is certainly making a comeback this season; its reflective element is not only eye-catching, but can also make your lips appear fuller. Plus the gloss itself provides long-lasting hydration. According to Ryuko Lau, senior artist at MAC, a dark, glossy shade offers a feminine, elegant finish compared to the strong, rock-chic look achieved with a matte lipstick. However, if you’re going to get glossy, be sure to use a lip liner beforehand to prevent feathering.
6. 24-Hours Darkness
When applying your make-up, always remember the Bobbi Brown rule of thumb—wear colour on only one part of your face during the day and no more than two spots at night.
Keep the focus on the lips with a flawless base and minimal make-up during the day. Lau recommends using a liquid eyeliner with one or two layers of mascara on the upper lashes to define the eyes, and a sheer blush on the cheeks for a balanced look. If eyeshadow is a daily essential, opt for natural skin shades, and be sure to keep your hair relaxed and fuss-free.
At night, up the ante and take your lips a shade or two deeper than your daytime colour, or experiment with a gloss such as Dolce & Gabbana’s Purple Passion for a high-glam look. Sharpen the eye line and cheek contour, and simply pair with a slicked-back updo for a striking finish.