Great things can come from experimenting with beauty (like rainbow hair, for instance), but playing with makeup doesn’t always yield flattering results. Even if you and your best friend are both porcelain-complected, that doesn’t mean you can share the same red lipstick — her favorite orangey hue makes you look sick, and your go-to red-blue formula makes her appear washed-out.
Not sure why? It all comes down to your skin’s undertone.
This has nothing to do with whether you wear fair, medium, or deep foundation. According to Joel Canales, the director of artistry for Hourglass Cosmetics, “skin naturally has a variety of underlying colors.” He’s right — just take a quick look at your bare arm! You can observe the underlying hues in everything from your veins to your actual complexion. Discovering the dominant shade in your skin is essential in determining which lip colors will best flatter you.
Once you’ve taken this quiz to figure out your skin’s undertone, read on. We had beauty pros break it down for us, and they offered recommendations for three common undertones:warm, cool, and neutral. Warm complexions have a golden cast, cool ones have a blue-pink tint, and neutral undertones are perfectly balanced between the two. Canales explains that you can use these tints as an excellent reference point for buying lipstick — just look for corresponding colors. If you’re still not sure where to start, keep reading — your lipstick soul mate is just a few clicks away!
If your skin is golden in tone, choose shades that are warm and brown-based. Target’s makeup entrepreneur and artist Sonia Kashuk explains, “By keeping shades warm and brown-based, you create a beautiful, monochromatic look. Tone on tone is always so beautiful, and this combination keeps everything super chic and rich. It’s all about enhancing your own color palette.”
Orangey reds and yellow-based nudes are among the top recommendations for those with this undertone (like Beyoncé). The Lipstick Queen herself, Poppy King, describes the ideal hues for this group as “bright, happy shades,” like coral, which will wow on this complexion! Kashuk elaborates, “Coral is a beautiful accent to gold and gives you that pop of brightness without contrasting.”
Blue-based reds are a popular color suggestion for women with cool undertones like Emma Stone, but don’t limit yourself to carmines! Craig-Ryan French, artistic beauty director and global makeup artist for Paul & Joe Beauté, points out that pinks with hints of blue work well, as do hues like magenta and jewel hues, which also tend to have a cyan cast. “Reds, wines, and berries contrast nicely with cool undertones,” King notes. Kashuk explains that this works because of the blue undertone in both your complexion and the lip formulas. “You are matching to color tones — it’s all about coordinating the colors.
Many makeup artists would declare those with neutral undertones lucky. Because this group of women (Jennifer Lawrence included) has a blend of cool and warm undertones in their complexion, it can rock the lipstick recommendations for both categories. Plus, as the experts at VMV Hypoallergenics note, someone with a neutral undertone can often pull off heavily pigmented looks without looking overdone.
Feeling overwhelmed by your truly endless options for lipstick? We went ahead and narrowed down some expert-vetted picks. King recommends “floral and fruity shades,” which she describes as “rose, peaches, and neutrals.”
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