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The Pros Tell All: The Key To Choosing A Lip Color That Complements Your Skin

Hannah Frye
Author:
October 30, 2022
Hannah Frye
mbg Assistant Beauty Editor
By Hannah Frye
mbg Assistant Beauty Editor
Hannah Frye is the Assistant Beauty Editor at mindbodygreen. She has a B.S. in journalism and a minor in women’s, gender, and queer studies from California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo. Hannah has written across lifestyle sections including health, wellness, sustainability, personal development, and more.
October 30, 2022
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If you've ever bought a lip color just to realize it doesn't complement your skin as expected it would post-purchase, you're not alone. This is a universal experience for lipstick wearers everywhere—and it's frustrating, to say the least.

Lipstick shopping sounds like a walk in the park until you realize that navigating the vast world of a million different shades of pinks, peaches, berries, reds, wines, and browns isn't easy—like at all.

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To narrow down the search a bit, you can call on the undertone matching method—something plenty of makeup experts and wearers do on the regular.

But just remember, makeup should be fun! When you overthink the shades and second-guess all your choices, all of a sudden it becomes belabored. Life can be stressful enough, let's not add "lipstick undertones" to the list of things that may give you pause.

So even though the following are great pointers to help you on your shopping journey, the best advice is to just go with what makes you feel the best in your skin.

Undertones 101

Skin tone has to do with the richness of your skin color (fair, medium, and deep for example). Undertones are the colors shining through under your skin.

Each skin tone can have different undertones—the main four being cool, warm, neutral, and olive. When lip color doesn't match the undertone, there may be a clash.

"It does matter, because when people wear pink lipstick, the pink lipstick can look completely different for each individual person," celebrity makeup artist & SHEGLAM Partner Allan Avendano tells mbg. "Some pinks can turn orange, some can turn bubblegum pink…It all depends on your undertone."

However, like everything in beauty, the end-all-be-all is personal preference, as makeup is an art and not a science. If you like a shade of lipstick and it makes you feel good, that's all that matters, undertones or not.

So while identifying your undertones can be helpful, don't stress about it too much. Ultimately makeup should be fun—not a chore.

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Identifying your own undertones.

There are a few ways to figure out what undertones you may have. Here, a rundown:

  • Paper test. "Take a piece of red paper and a piece of blue paper, and put each next to your face to see what looks more flattering," natural makeup artist Amber Talarico once told mbg. "If you look best with blue, you have cool undertones, and if you look best with red, you have warm." And for those people who look radiant with both? You likely fall somewhere in the middle and have neutral.
  • Jewelry test. Look at what you prefer wearing, or what you think looks best on you. Golds flatter warm tones, while silver flatters cool. (Of course, if you prefer either metal over the other, just wear what you want—again, this is an art, not a science.)
  • Vein test. This is simple: Look at the veins on your wrist. If they appear more blue or purple, you have cool tones. If they look more green, you're warm. And if they look like a mix of both, you have neutral.
  • A quiz! Lucky you: We developed an easy quiz to help you figure out your own undertones. If you need to pop on over to take the quick assessment, please do. We'll meet you back here ready to help you find a lipstick.
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Identifying undertones in lipsticks.

You may have figured out what undertones your skin has, but what about the lipsticks themselves? Yes, makeup has it's own undertones too. For example a red may have more blue undertones (making it a cool shade) or more coral (making it warm.)

One way to figure out if the lip color is more warm or cool is to default to the paper test above: Compare the shade to red paper versus blue paper, and see which one it better blends with.

However, a word of warning: Identifying undertones in reds and pink lipsticks can be a bit easier than doing so in nudes.

"When it comes to finding the right nude lipstick that matches your skin tone the key is to realize that nudes have undertones too. Some nudes have a pink undertone or an orange undertone," celebrity and editorial makeup artist Delina Medhin tells mbg.

Pro tip:

"One tip that may be helpful is to look at your foundation color and mix a red or pink lipstick into it so you can see what the color would look like & keep adding to it, get the color to where you want it. Then use this mixture as a benchmark for matching a potential nude lipstick too," Medhin says.
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Cool undertones.

Cool undertones give the skin a pink, blue, or red hue. If silvery jewelry complements your skin best, you just might have cool undertones.

This can show up more significantly under the eyes for some (yep, even if you have warm undertones otherwise). As the rule goes, you'll want to pull from those colors to find your perfect lipstick shade. Here are a few base colors you might be drawn to:

  • For brown or neutral shades: Purple, mauve, taupe
  • For reds: Cherry, wine, berry, purple
  • For pinks: dusty or nude rose

Warm undertones.

Warm undertones have a base of yellowish, gold, and peach hues sneaking through.

If gold jewelry complements your skin better than silver, you may have warm undertones.

You'll want to pull from generally warmer colors for your lip. A few hints to keep an eye out for:

  • For brown and neutral shades: Caramel 
  • For reds: Brick, terracotta, candy apple
  • For pinks: Peach, coral, orange

Lipsticks for warm undertones

Neutral & olive.

Neutral undertones have the luck of the draw, as most colors will complement a neutral undertone.

This means you'll have both yellow and blue undertones, so you can pick from a wide variety of colors without worrying about clashes.

Olive undertone is different from neutral (though they're often confused for the same). Olive undertones have a green, gray, and sometimes ashy undertone.

When it comes to lip color, warmer and deeper colors tend to complement olive skin best, a few examples include:

  • For brown and neutral shades: Chestnut, hints of gold, chocolate brown
  • Reds: Deep corals, cranberry
  • Pinks: Light to deep shades of peach

Lipsticks for neutral & olive undertones.

The takeaway. 

If you've been hunting for the perfect lipstick for your skin but haven't had any luck, hopefully, this guide will serve as a road map. At the end of the day, whatever lip color makes you feel beautiful and confident is the one you should choose, regardless of the undertones. If you want a larger selection of dreamy lip colors, use this list as a launching point.

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Hannah Frye
Hannah Frye
mbg Assistant Beauty Editor

Hannah Frye is the Assistant Beauty Editor at mindbodygreen. She has a B.S. in journalism and a minor in women’s, gender, and queer studies from California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo. Hannah has written across lifestyle sections including health, wellness, sustainability, personal development, and more. She previously interned for Almost 30, a top-rated health and wellness podcast. In her current role, Hannah reports on the latest beauty trends, holistic skincare approaches, must-have makeup products, and inclusivity in the beauty industry. She currently lives in New York City.