How to Choose the Best Lipstick for Your Skin Tone, According to a MUA

Woman with warm undertones wearing a red lip

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Imagine this: You're roaming the lipstick aisle of your favorite retailer and despite your sea of options, you're still stuck thinking, "What color lipstick should I wear?" There are so many different lipstick undertones, consistencies, and finishes that can make your makeup shopping trip seem more like a mission than a fun jaunt. Even for me, as a pro makeup artist, it’s no cakewalk digging for a fresh new shade. But here’s the thing: It doesn’t need to be daunting. Lipstick skin tone charts can be handy (we're even sharing one with you below), but truth be told, all you need are a few key guidelines and you'll see that it’s actually quite easy to choose a lipstick color for your skin tone.

First and foremost, it's key to identify your skin's undertone (bonus tip: this can help with choosing a foundation, too). Most people fall into one of two categories: warm or cool. Those with cool undertones tend to have fairer skin, while those with warm undertones typically have a golden or olive hue. If you're having trouble deciphering your undertone, you could be neutral (a mix of both warm and cool).

The Best Lipstick Shade for Every Skintone
Michela Buttignol / Byrdie

Below, check out a few tips that can help you find the best lip color for your skin tone.

Cool Undertones

How to Identify Cool Undertones: You're cool-toned if you have a pink, red, or bluish hue to your skin.

You can tell your undertone is cool if the veins in your wrist look blue, if silver jewelry complements your skin, or if your skin tends to burn in the sun before getting a tan.

The best lipsticks for cool undertones have blue- or purple-shaded undertones (not to be confused with an actual blue or purple lipstick, though that would be equally as stunning). For example, when going for a red lip, veer more toward deep bluish-reds (think cherry red) versus ones that lean more orange. For nude lips, you can enhance the natural flush of your lips with a rosy, pink nude, or opt for a taupey beige for a more subtle look. When in doubt, a tinted balm can adjust to your lip's color and suit a variety of looks (plus it'll hydrate, too).

The Best Lipstick Shades: Go for lip colors with blue or purple undertones.

Keep scrolling for a lipstick that's perfect for those with cool undertones.

Chanel Rouge Coco in Etienne
Chanel Rouge Coco in Etienne $38
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This moody wine shade flatters cool undertones and boasts a hydrating formula as an added bonus.

If your lips are severely dry yet you crave a rich lip color, apply a hydrating lip treatment beforehand to avoid flaking—try the Anokha Lip Butter ($20), which features a blend of beeswax and essential oils that serves as the perfect pillowy soft base for any lip color.

Warm Undertones

How to Identify Warm Undertones: You're warm-toned if you have a yellow, golden, or olive hue to your skin.

You can tell your undertone is warm if the veins in your wrist appear green (versus blue), if gold jewelry complements your skin, or if you tend to tan easily.

The best lipsticks for warm undertones are lip colors in warm shades. Think bold oranges, brick reds, and terracotta browns. Going for a nude? A good rule of thumb is to correspond your skin tone with the lipstick shade. For instance, if your skin is light, go for a paler nude, if your skin is deeper go for a richer nude.

The Best Lipstick Shades: Fiery reds and oranges pop beautifully on warm undertones. If you're feeling bold, coppers and golds are your best bet.

Keep scrolling for a fiery lipstick that's flattering on warm undertones.

Charlotte Tilbury Matte Revolution Lipstick in Lost Cherry
Charlotte Tilbury Matte Revolution Lipstick in Lost Cherry $34
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This bright fuchsia shade will is the perfect complement to warm undertones.

Neutral Undertones

How to Identify Neutral Undertones: You're neutral-toned if you have a mix of pink and yellow in the base of your skin.

Those with neutral undertones look good in both silver and gold jewelry. Luckily for this undertone, a wide spectrum of colors are complementary. Try pink hues for fair skin, mauve shades for medium skin, and berry colors for deep skin.

The Best Lipstick Shades: It's a free-for-all—anything from light nudes to deep wines will look good.

Keep scrolling for a lipstick that's flattering for neutral undertones.

Nars Lipstick in Cruising
Nars Lipstick in Cruising $26
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This sheer satin can be paired with a subtle no makeup-makeup look, or layered with another lip color for more coverage.

Grey-toned lipsticks have the misconception of washing out the face, but the key is to go for a cool-toned one (like the Melt Cosmetics Lipstick in Space Cake)—it's flattering on most undertones and can even make teeth appear whiter.

The Final Word

If you're stuck finding the perfect lip shade for your skin tone, remember that your undertone will correspond with the shade you choose—cool undertones look best in cool lipsticks, warm undertones will look flattering in warm shades, and neutral undertones can go both ways.

It's important to note that skin tone and undertone are two very different things. Skin tone refers to the depth of your skin (fair, medium, dark, deep) and can vary according to the season (fairer during the cooler months, deeper during warmer seasons). Then there's undertone, which reflects the base of your skin. This means that the common misconception that fair skin can't be warm or deep skin can't be cool is just that: a misconception.

The takeaway: You should choose a lip color you feel the best in. If a coral evokes confidence in you but doesn’t align with the "rules," rock it.

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