I'm all for a bold lip. In fact, when I'm feeling extra lazy about doing my makeup, I tend to use my flashiest lip product and mascara as an easy out and skip the rest of the other steps. But as much as I love experimenting with daring colors, I still have an appreciation for a barely there lip. It's natural, pretty, and effortless. These days, I've been gravitating toward that particular look, as I've been on Zoom calls for work and FaceTime chats with friends.
Finding the best shade that matches your natural lip color is all about knowing your particular skin tone and undertones. "Skin tone is the color of the surface of your skin: light, medium, dark, or deep," explains celebrity makeup artist and groomer Autumn Moultrie, whose clients include Viola Davis and Kerry Washington. "Undertone is the subtle hue just underneath the skin, and that is different than skin tone. Two people can have the same skin tone with totally different undertones. Undertones fall into four categories: cool, warm, olive, and neutral. Eighty percent of people fall into the warm undertone category. If your veins on the inside of your wrist are blue, then you are cool. Cool undertones look best in silver jewelry, and the subtle color beneath your skin is pink, red, or blue. If your veins show green, you are warm. Warm undertones look good in gold jewelry, and the subtle color beneath their skin is yellow, peach, and golden."
Once you figure out your skin tone and undertone, this is where the fun part comes in: finding and playing around with lip colors. Moultrie and other celebrity makeup artists shared tips for choosing a shade and for applying product:
1. Pay attention to your cheeks: "Natural doesn’t mean nude!" says celebrity makeup artist and groomer Tasha Reiko Brown, whose clients include Yara Shahidi, Lupita Nyong'o, and Tracee Ellis Ross. "Choose a color that's closest to your natural flush in your cheeks. Color should resemble the shade in the center of just-bitten lips. The color just inside the pout of your lips, but amplified."
2. Opt for something sheer: "When mimicking the natural color of a lip, I like to use less pigmented lipsticks," says celebrity makeup artist Lisa Aharon, whose clients include Gwyneth Paltrow and Anna Kendrick. "This way, the color of your lip shines through and combines with the shade. I love Olio e Osso lip products for this effect specifically!"
3. Less is more: "Texture should blend down into the lips like a Popsicle stain," Brown explains. "The best natural lip color textures sit in the lips, not on top of them, so a little goes a long way. Blend a touch of color into the lips starting at the center and moving outward. The best natural lip look has no sharp border or edges. It's more of a wash of color."
4. Look at the inside of your lip: "A good trick to find a great natural lip color is to pull your bottom lip down and match the color of the inside of your lip," Moultrie suggests. "Blood flows close to the surface there, and that color, when applied to your lip or cheeks, makes you look as though you are flushed and the color is coming from within."
5. Gravitate toward certain colors: "As a general rule, cool skin undertones suit more blue or purple shades; warm skin undertones suit more caramel golden tone lip colors," says celebrity makeup artist Naoko Scintu, whose clients include Charlize Theron and Sophie Turner. "More neutral skin undertones suit a mixture of both."
Natural Lip Colors to Try
Ready to shop some lip colors? Check out these recommended products based on your skin tone and undertone:
Deep Skin With Cool Undertones
Generation G is a sheer lipstick that really goes on effortlessly.
This lipstick has a velvety texture and is long-lasting. It's highly pigmented, so go lightly with this one.
"It's great on all deep undertones, but especially great on deep-cool because of its purple undertones," Moultrie says.
Deep Skin With Neutral Undertones
"Because these selections have golden undertones, they look great on deep neutral AND deep warm," Moultrie says. Take a look at the other two she recommends below.
The above from Marc Jacobs and the below product from Lipstick Queen are Moultrie's other picks. "These sheer, gently glossy options are beautiful on deep tones if paired with a lipliner like MAC Chestnut," she says.
This product from Nars and the below from Burt's Bees are two shades Moultrie says look soft and feminine on deep tones, and she uses them a lot on Viola Davis. For the Nars lipstick, she recommends pairing it with a brown lipliner.
"It's a gorgeous wine stain that looks incredibly neutral and effortless on deep AND dark tones," Moultrie says.
Not only is this lipstick a pretty shade, but it's also ultra-hydrating.
This matte lipstick has rich color, but it's super lightweight.
Deep Skin With Warm Undertones
"This shade works as it is a brown/dark caramel color," Scintu says.
Dark Skin With Cool Undertones
"It looks great on dark-cool, dark-neutral, and medium-cool tones because of the blue undertones. I have used this on Kerry Washington," Moultrie says.
The applicator on this lipstick makes it so easy to apply with precision. It's also refillable.
The creamy lipstick is formulated with water lily extract to hydrate.
"This shade works as it is more of a plum/berry color," says Scintu.
Dark Skin With Neutral Undertones
Not sure if you want to do a gloss or matte lipstick? This two-in-one makes it easy to choose.
This waterproof formula can also be used on the eyes and cheeks. It leaves a satin, semi-matte finish.
"So many colors look good on these tones [neutral and warm], but these are a few of my faves," Moultrie says. "When it comes to choosing natural colors, don't make the mistake of always going dark. It is more important to make sure that the undertones of the lipstick are warm. Otherwise, it will look chalky. Not okay."
"This shade works as it's more of a brown nude," Scintu says.
Medium Skin With Cool Undertones
This lip balm gives sheer color and keeps your lips hydrated for eight hours.
Moultrie says that Tom Ford's Sable Smoke "looks great on medium-cool tones, although it works on medium-neutral and warm, as well." The particular shade is no longer available, but this one is a similar hue.
"Technically not a lipstick, Chanel's Le Crayon Lèvres lipliner in Nude Brown and Rose Natural looks über-natural but better!" Moultrie says.
"It works as it's more of a berry tone," Scintu says.
This sheer lipstick has a semi-matte finish and is moisturizing.
Medium Skin With Neutral Undertones
You can't go wrong with Charlotte Tilbury's classic cult-favorite Pillow Talk. Scintu says it works for light skin with neutral undertones as well.
This tinted balm is formulated with plant-based active ingredients to moisturize, plump, and smooth lips.
Moultrie says this one from Kosas is a "nude that is not too yellow and has the perfect amount of pinky-brown to bring life to the face."
Medium Skin With Warm Undertones
This balm is so easy to apply with its squeeze tube. It's formulated with beeswax and cocoa butter to leave lips moisturized.
The peachy-nude is long-lasting and contains hydrating ingredients like shea butter and olive oil.
Scintu recommend's Laura Mercier's lipstick in Spiced Rose, which is currently sold out. This one is a similar shade to the dark pink original.
Light Skin With Cool Undertones
This creamy lipstick is enriched vitamins and SPF.
This sheer lip balm is formulated without parabens or phthalates. It leaves a natural, smooth finish.
Light Skin With Neutral Undertones
This nude-peach is lightweight and matte—it's so easy to wear.
This looks like a regular lipstick, but it's actually a conditioning lip balm. Nourishing ingredients include sunflower seed oil, cocoa seed butter, vitamin E, and orange peel wax.
Light Skin With Warm Undertones
It may look dark in the tube, but this Glossier lip color is actually a light pink. You can build the color based on your preference.
Hennè's barely there lip balm leaves just the right amount of subtle color, and you can add more layers if you want more saturation.