Choosing and Wearing a Bold Lip Color

Ironically while the natural, no makeup, makeup look is in so are bold lip colors. I personally tend to wear very little lip color so trying something bold was a challenge for me. When I have worn a darker, deeper color I just couldn’t get used to the way I looked. I actually shocked myself when I looked in the mirror. But thinking back, when I have worn a bold color I got a lot of compliments. So I set out to wear bold colors on my lips for a week to see if people reacted differently and to see if I could get used to it. Test confirmed – now how do I find the best bold lip colors for my skin tone? Sound easy, not so much, it can be tricky to find the best shade for your skin tone.

I wish there were a color wheel (like you can get in the paint store) that could show you the best options for your skin tone. To the best of my knowledge this doesn’t exist so I will try to share some streamlined guidelines.

First you need to define your complexion type.


Role Models: Stars with a porcelain complexion include: Michelle Williams and January Jones. If you have fair skin with warm undertones, you’re skin may look like Emma Stone and Emma Roberts.  The Best Shades: Fair complexions usually have a pink-based undertone. To really compliment your skin tone, use blue-based reds or pink-based reds—think raspberry, peachy-pink or salmon hues. These red lipsticks will pick up the pink tones in your complexion and really make your smile pop. Finding the perfect red is a big challenge but once you find it you have your little black dress of makeup. See more on Secrets from a Makeup Artist: How to Find Your Perfect Red Lipstick. Shades to Avoid: Stay away from warmer, orangey colors if you have cool undertones and shades too light can wash you out.


Role Models: Taylor Swift and Cameron Diaz are good examples of women with medium skin with cool undertones. While Blake Lively and Jennifer Aniston rock the medium skin tone with warm undertones. Olive skin beauties like Bella Hadid and Alexa Chung look amazing in almost any bold shade. The Best Shades: Medium skin tones have amazing versatility. Blue-hued reds will stun along with a deep rose or wine shade of lipstick. Other options include deep rich nudes and copper as well as almost any pink, from reddish to fuchsia. Stick with orangey reds and cherry reds to complement your golden undertones. Shades to Avoid: Corals can be a little tricky.  Finding the right orange-based shades can take some time.  


Role Models:Deep skin tones with cool undertones include Viola Davis and Lupita Nyong’o. Gabrielle Union, Ciara, and Halle Berry represent with deep skin tones with golden undertones. The Best Shades: Bright berry shades — really, most bright shades — pop beautifully against darker skin. You can go in any number of directions, whether you try a magenta, violet, or even tangerine. Try them all! In the crimson family, go for berry reds, plum, Cabernet wine and warm Merlot or chocolaty reds to perfect your bold lip. Deep skin tones provide an amazing canvas where deep rich colors can be showcased. They compliment the skin tone and pick up flecks of color in eyes, hair and skin. Shades to Avoid: Some brown shades can appear pasty so be sure to test them before committing. More details on the best choices from BYRDIE.

Still nervous about selecting the “right shade” here are some additional tips we learned about from the experts:

  1. Seek a professional to help. Department stores, beauty boutiques, Ulta, Sephora, or other… can help. Seek someone whose makeup looks good to you. This way the style is likely to align with what they choose for you. Let’s face it, some women and men have amazing makeup on but it would never be a look you want to mimic. 
  2. Be sure to try a color and see how it looks under different lighting. Many times in the store under the spot light you’ll love the shade but outside in daylight you dislike it. Any professional will recommend or allow you to try different lighted areas in the store or even outside.
  3. Try the on-line and in store apps. You can try shades on without literally trying on the lipstick. You’ll be amazed how quickly you will be able to eliminate colors and see what looks best.
  4. If your still anxious to commit (financially and otherwise) once you know the general shade you like head to your local drug chain and pick up some colors. Since you can’t try on shades in the drug store they have a no question asked return policy. You can try the shades at home and if they just don’t work – take them back for a refund. Note: other, high end stores may have similar return policies but the drug store route in a less costly way to learn what your optimal shades are.
  5. Be weary of variety lip kits with multiple shades. Many times these value kits aren’t designed to be optimal shades for one specific skin type. They may be trying to get rid of slower colors that just didn’t sell. Be sure to verify the shades relative to your skin tone.
Red Berry

So what happened in my test? 

I got over the shock of seeing bright lips. I tried a few different shades but my favorite was Bobbi Brown, Luxe Lip Color, Red Berry. An added perk to using bold lip colors – your teeth look way whiter. A bold lip color also helps to balance your overall face and gives you a polished look. Did anyone notice – yes! Many of my female friends commented that they liked the deeper lip colors and men noticed but couldn’t really define what had changed. They said things like – “you look really nice – what’s different?” or “your teeth look really pretty”. So, am I going to wear bold lip colors every day? No, but I will use them more often especially on those days I want to look special or need a change.

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Dr. Vanessa Rodriguez is a board-certified general practitioner with more than 15 years of patient care experience. She takes an integrative approach to patient care that considers the whole person – mind, body, and spirit – and is deeply committed to assisting her patients in achieving and sustaining optimal health. Dr. Vanessa is also a skilled writer and medical reviewer, specializing in preventive care and health promotion. Her articles are written in an approachable manner that is simple to comprehend and implement in one’s own life. Dr. Vanessa’s mission is to equip her patients and readers with the knowledge and resources necessary to live their greatest lives.

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