Dark makeup has been a persistent look since at least the ‘90s, and for good reason. Black lipstick—like black clothing—is universally flattering, if only people gave it a chance. Luckily, the black lipstick trend isn't escaping us in 2021. From a simple matte formula to a chic ombré, there are plenty of ways to rock a dark lip color, and we have tips from the experts to prove it.
Meet the Expert
Keep scrolling for some gorgeous and totally wearable ways to rock black lipstick.
A matte liquid formula is usually best for beginners for its ability to be precise. You can line your lips first, with either a separate liner or the tip of a brush, to minimize bleeding and streaks. Fill in the rest for a cool, pigmented look.
Some benefits of using a brush: "[It] will keep the edges of the lip crisp and precise," says Bartlett, whose favorite lip brushes are actually concealer brushes from Body Shop ($10) and Rae Morris ($40). "When applying, be sure to check your balance and symmetry by taking a step back and evaluating in a mirror. You can clean up the shape with a clean brush dipped in remover or saturated with a makeup wipe," she says.
Look for a matte formula with a moisturizing element, to keep your lips hydrated.
This long-wearing formula packs a strong punch of pigment.
Add a bit of luster to an otherwise matte charcoal formula with a glossy, iridescent finish. All you need is a holographic formula (find our favorite wearable ones here), ideally with hydrating components, so your lips stay flake-free.
We love this for its subtle glittery effect that can be worn over a bold black lip or on its own for a barely there look.
Opaque and Architectural
Not afraid to go bold? A luxe, matte formula lends itself to show-stopping lips. You can even try overlining to give the illusion of a bigger pout. Another idea: Pair your black lipstick with bold pink brows, courtesy of another liquid lipstick formula. Brilliant, no?
Several years ago, KVD Beauty was created in Kat Von D's tattoo shop. Today, tattoo artists and makeup lovers have grown fond of the line's high-quality products and clean approach to formulation. The brand's Everlasting Liquid Lipstick is gentle and long-lasting, without appearing harsh or feeling drying on the lips.
Outlined—And Not Fine-Drawn
There's a '90s revival, which means wearing lip liner that's darker than your lipstick is not only accepted but encouraged to make a statement. Overdraw your lips using a liner for a super-defined look, or try a modern twist on the decades-old trend is called ombré. To get the look, pick up a black lip pencil, two similar moody lipstick shades, and a lip brush. Apply the lightest lipstick in the center of your lips (avoiding the liner) before applying the darker shade near the lip pencil. Then, blend where the shades meet. It’s interesting yet simple and makes your pout look bigger.
For liner with a saturated pigment and precise application, we love Retractable Lip Liner. Since it's mechanical, there's no need to sharpen it, and it's really creamy, which makes it easy to glide on.
Matte lipstick is a statement because a dry finish will always look a little more saturated than a glossy one. So, if you’re trying to ease into the trend, opt for a black gloss you can glide on—or wipe off—with ease.
For a full look, Dorman recommends pairing it "with a simple glossy eye, possibly with a very small amount of black liner. When you prepare the lip for this look, be sure to line the lips precisely and fill them in to create a lasting base for the gloss. I like KVD Beauty Everlasting Lip Liner ($19) in Skully. If the liner on its own is not enough pigment, you may want to top it with a black lipstick or cream makeup before applying a gloss. I like Wonderskin Wonder Blading Supreme Shine Lip Gloss."
This formula by Wonderskin will send you into high shine territory. Fans love it because it's hydrating without feeling sticky and lasts for hours. It's also vegan, gluten-free, and cruelty-free.
A soft black matte lipstick—one that’s not entirely opaque, but still has a flat finish—is another great way to ease into the trend. It's all the proof you need that a black lip can be just as striking, subtle, and gorgeous as a classic red one, especially when paired with simple, toned-down eye makeup, as Bartlett suggests. "Neutralize the lid with a natural or skin tone primer, then add a dab of gloss in the center of the eye. Add tons of a black mascara, and you are done," she says.
To perfect the lip, "[hydrate] the lips and [blot] the balm off to create a smooth base for the lipstick," says Dorman. "You can exaggerate the size of your lips with liner with this look because light won’t reflect from the matte surface and reveal your natural lip line."
Revlon's Super Lustrous The Luscious Mattes Lipstick is the ultimate budget pick and perfect for a soft matte approach to black lipstick. It's lightweight and non-drying, which can be hard to find in a matte formula. In terms of ingredients, it contains a blend of agave, moringa oil, and cupuacu butter to help keep the lips hydrated.
Black lipstick isn't all serious business. While you can’t go wrong with a matte-black formula, you might be remiss to skip a good gloss with a sparkly finish that can add dimension to your look. We’re all for the shiny, but not sticky, formulas that last all day.
When Haus Laboratory founder Lady Gaga set out to launch the beauty brand, she wanted to make sure consumers understood that she was creating a line to breed confidence and self-exploration. The extreme high-shine gloss takes any look to the next level by offering shimmer and mirror-like shine. Use it on its own or as a topper to your lipstick for an added layer of shine.
Full Matte Finish
Looking for an easy way to look like you’re using an Instagram filter on your face IRL? Try matte black lips and a perfectly powdered face. And, contrary to popular belief, you can rock a bold lip and a bold eye at the same time. Black eye makeup may complement black lipstick without looking matchy-matchy or too jarring.
To keep your lipstick in place all day long, start with a lip primer. "Primers are problem-solvers," explains Bartlett.
To get the job done, she recommends Prep + Prime Lip by MAC. The color-free base adds light moisture, smoothes the lips, and improves the appearance of lip products applied over it.
If you’re into lip art, consider turning your pout into a masterpiece by applying black lipstick and a silvery metallic hue. A dual-color lip kit works well for this endeavor, and you can use a lip brush to paint a subtle design.
Maybelline's Python Metallic Lip Kit is your key to creating a textured finish. Apply the colored base (left) to the upper and lower lips. Then, using your finger, swipe the lip shadow (right) over the base. Layer the product as you like to create your look. Draw on some lines for strips using a lip liner brush.
With both black lip liner and black lipstick, you can go extra edgy. For an ombré look like this, pick a much lighter color or a concealer to apply to the center and create contrast.
For a more subtle ombré, Dorman suggests the reverse. "Apply concealer around the lip line and into the middle of the lip. Choose a [black] lipstick that has a buildable coverage. I like Rituel de Fille Enchanted Lip Sheer in Black Locust. Tap lipstick in the most opacity at the center of the lip with a finger or a brush. Blend it gently into the concealer as you work out towards the lip line. You make want to use a fluffy brush to blend smoothly," she says. Either way, Dorman says it's important to exfoliate and moisturize the lips before adding product.
To finish the look, add a clear, iridescent, or glittery gloss to the lips, and if you opt for the softer ombré lip look, pair it with a smokey eye.
Dorman recommends Rituel de Fille's Enchanted Lip Sheer for its semi-matte and semi-sheer finish, which makes it an easy product to manipulate for an ombré look.