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Find which lipstick color and type works best for you

Learn your way around the maze of lip products

Author: Charlotte Kuchinsky June 4 2008

Reflection of beautiful lips in a mirror

Whether they want to admit it or not, most women look better when they wear lipstick. That single pop of color, done in the right shade, does more to accent a woman’s facial features than any other makeup product. Yet many women decline to wear lipstick; not because they don’t want to, but because they simply don’t know how to find the right color or the type that will work best for them.

On today’s market there are lipsticks, lip glosses, lip balms, lip butters, lip stains, lip creams, and lip gels - no wonder women are confused about which product to choose. On top of the huge variety of lip products available, there are a seemingly endless number of colors. There are hundreds of shades of pink, coral, red, brown, and much more. So finding the perfect color may turn into a lifelong process; especially given the fact that as soon as you find it, the cosmetic company will probably move on to the next big shade.

Forget everything you have heard about lip color. Any woman can wear pink if they find just the right shade and, yes, even redheads can even wear red lip color, if the tone is just perfect. Any woman can wear at least one shade from any color grouping, be it pink, mauve, red, brown, coral, or berry. The trick is in finding the proper shade to go with a woman’s skin tone and natural coloring. While that may still seem a daunting task, let me see if I can offer a few tips that might help.

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The basics – your skin undertone

There are basic points to keep in mind in choosing a lip color. Women must be mindful of their skin’s natural undertones. Skin with a pink undertone does better with lip colors that carry a decided bluish tint. Skin that skews yellow should consider warmer lip colors with an orange tint. Most women can find their proper hue in at least one berry and one red shade, which is ideal since neither of those seems to ever go totally out of style. Pale pink shades really don’t work well for olive skin tones, or women with deeper skin colors, because of their natural yellow skin undertones. Instead, women in that category should look for darker pink shades. Perfect deep corals, on the other hand, are almost impossible to find for women whose skin is decidedly pink in nature. Instead, they need to stick to a more pinky coral shade.

Nude lips

Today, with nude lips all the rage, women are beating down the doors of cosmetic companies searching for the perfect nude shade. Many are simply missing the point altogether. Nude lips are about the sheen and shine that says “take me, I’m yours.” They aren’t about finding a pasty brown color that mimics the natural color of the lips. If that were the case, why would a woman need lipstick at all?

Just as you would do with any other color, in choosing a nude lipstick, a woman must keep the skin tone in mind. Fair women should look for a taupe with a slight kiss of rose color. Olive toned women should look for those that are more of a taupey coral shade. Everyone should stay away from matte bronze colors that do nothing for any woman’s lips. While its okay to seek a killer summer tan on the body, that look doesn’t belong on the lips. Instead women should go for something a bit lighter to make the lips stand apart from the rest of the tan.

Lipstick types

Now that color should be a bit easier to determine, let’s talk about finding the right “type” of lipstick. Much of that will depend upon the age of the woman and the condition of her lips.

Lip gloss: Contrary to popular belief, any woman can wear lip-gloss today. The trick is matching the right color and just the right amount of gloss. Lip-gloss is popular because its add softness, moisture, and sheen or shine to the lips; automatically making them look a bit fuller, younger, and oh-so-kissable! Women of a certain age (over 40), however, should look for glosses that lean more towards sheen than a wet slick shine. They should also search for glosses that contain extra hydrating ingredients. These extra moisturizers will help even dry, parched lips look younger than ever.

Lip balms are perfect for young women who are just beginning to experiment with lip color and don’t want to go to any extremes. They are also good for any woman who just wants to keep her lips looking soft and supple but isn’t anxious to add too much color.

Lip stains can often be drying and should be avoided by older women who already have dry, aging lips. On the flip side, lip stains are perfect for women in their 20’s and early 30’s who want a deep pigment of color that will remain in place for a longer period of time.

Lip gels attempt to bridge the gap between a lip stain and a lip-gloss, offering lots of color pigmentation with plenty of shine. Unfortunately, many tend to be too shiny for older women, making them look like they are wearing their daughter’s makeup. However, a few on the market have mastered the art of combining color and sheen for a truly amazing lip product. Be cautious, though; lip gels seem to make their way onto the teeth more often than just about any other lip product. And that isn’t a good look, no matter what your age.

Lipsticks today come in so many forms and colors that there is bound to be one to suit the needs of any woman. There are moisturizing lipsticks, color stay lipsticks, sheer lipsticks, shimmery lipsticks, matte lipsticks, glossy lipsticks and so much more. Moisturizing lipsticks are perfect for women of any age and, although they don’t come in as many colors as some of their sister brands, there are plenty to choose from in the marketplace.

Color stay lipsticks are meant to provide the long-lasting qualities of lip stains without some of the negatives; the most obvious being the fact that they severely chap and dry out the lips. To offset those effects, most of the newer color stay lipsticks provide a heavily emollient topcoat that moisturizes the lips without fading or ruining the lipstick’s color.

Sheer lipsticks contain less pigment than standard lipsticks but more than lip balms, making them the perfect choice for women who prefer a softer, lighter look but still want to add a bit of color. Most sheer lipsticks contain amazing moisturizers that help dry lips look full and luscious. Because they aren’t overt with color, they are perfect for daytime or for nighttime casual dress.

Shimmery lipsticks often look metallic, pearlescent, opalescent, or glittery in nature. Women over the age of 40 shouldn't wear them except as an accent in the center of the lips for the most perfect “pouty” look. They are also more suitable for nighttime than they are for daywear.

Matte lipsticks often contain few, if any, emollients since they would add at least a small amount of sheen or shine. They usually carry heavy pigmentation that adds a lot of color to the lips. However, the matte finish can often look caked on and too artificial without an overcoat of lip balm or gloss.

Lip creams often carry the most saturation of vitamin E and always contain emollients and moisturizers that help to keep the lips looking soft and supple. Some even include a silicone derivative that helps to fill in lip cracks to give the lips a richer, more feminine look. This form of lip product is well suited for women who want the effects of a lip-gloss with a bit less shine and a lot more moisture.

Lip butters contain one of today’s most popular lip ingredients – shea butter – and are quickly capturing the hearts and minds of women all over the world. Although they tend to carry less color pigmentation than stains or gels, they easily match that of most other lip products while also providing a highly coveted natural healing component for dry, chapped lips that women love.

Now go and treat yourself!

Hopefully the above information helps to answer some of the most pressing questions about today’s lip products. If you have a specific issue that wasn’t answered, feel free to drop a comment in the section below and we will attempt to provide you with a timely response. In the meantime, take care of those luscious lips!

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Posted on 02/09/08 12:03 by: Margaret Hodgkins

Any advice for a 63 year old woman with grey hair? Once brunette with brown eyes and dark eyebrows. Skin pale olive. The healthy tan look doesn't apply. I go to the makeup counter, lose heart and come away.
Posted on 12/09/08 13:36 by: Charlie Kuchinsky


First, take a look at any tones in your skin that you don't like. For example, if your olive skin tends to skew a bit too yellow, you will want to stay away from lipsticks that will accent that tone further like rusts, orange based corals, light mochas, etc. Instead, look for colors that will enhance the tones of your skin that you do like. For example, my daughter has olive skin as well. It skews very yellow, so we choose tones that accent the brown tones of her skin instead like deep cocoas and plums. There should be one or more shades of any color that you can wear. The trick is to find the right shade which can, indeed, be frustrating. Certain shades of deep pinks, mauves, berries, and burgundies should work for you if you can locate "THE" shade. To do that, purchase a trial size lipstick that has a lot of colors in those shades and try them out until you find a shade that you like. Then take it with you to match it as closely to your lipstick brand of choice. I hope this helps a bit. I know how frustrating it can be. It seems as soon as I find the perfect shade, the company stops making it and then I'm out there searching once again. That's definitely not fun.

Posted on 12/10/08 21:26 by: diane

I am fair skinned almost 60 yrs with roseacea (red skin). If I am warm, my face is very red. I probably have gray hair, but I color it honey/ash blonde. I have blue eyes. What color lips would work for me?
Posted on 12/10/08 22:29 by: Charlie Kuchinsky

Sherma wrote in with the following: "I am 20 yrs old and now beginning to get interested in makeup, though my definition of it is eyeliner only. I would like to extend into the world of lipstick, my problem is the shade that is right for me. I'd like to know the exact shade of lipstick on the person in the picture. My complexion is the same as hers but its difficult to find a shade that I like. I've gone madly in love with that shade just from seeing that picture... any help will be appreciated."

In answer to Sherma's question, that picture is a stock photo, so I can't tell you exactly what shade the lipstick is. However, my daughter has the same skin tone almost exactly and she tends to lean toward the dusty mauve and berry shades. It took us a while to find a shade that she really loved too, but here is what we did to accomplish that. We decided on a type of lipstick that she wanted to use. In her case, she wanted something that would moisturize her lips and add a touch of shine. Then we examined colors in brands of lipcolors that fit within those parameters; choosing two or three possible shades. Next, we emailed the cosmetic companies that made those shades, asking for samples. One company didn't provide samples but the other two did. She used the lipsticks both day and night for a couple of weeks until she was certain which shade and brand she liked best. Then she made her purchase. I hope this idea helps. I, too, have a problem finding lipcolor that I like. It can be frustrating but it shouldn't have to be both frustrating AND expensive.

Posted on 21/10/08 00:43 by: Charlie

Diane, it sounds like you sort of have my coloring except that my hair skews a bit more strawberry red. One thing that is important is to stay away from most fire engine red lipstick colors. They will only call attention to the rosacea that we don't want anyone to notice. I find that light berry tones with a slightly brown mauve tint and corals work well for me. I can also wear most peach tones. Women our age probably don't want to do the deep burgundies and browns. They are just too harsh. I hope that helps a bit. Try to find some samples in those tones and see if one of them strikes your fancy. In the end, we just want to wear something that makes our complexions "pop" a bit, without washing out the complexion or highlighting the bad stuff. Good luck finding your perfect shade.
Posted on 23/02/09 21:32 by: Iwona

I am a 23 year old brunette, fair skin with rosy undertones (I get flushed and my cheeks tend to flush), blue eyes. My lips are in good condition, moisturized. I would like to find a red color lipstick for daytime. I've tried many shades and now after reading this article I don't know what tones would work for a fair skin with rosy tones. Maybe berry red?
Posted on 24/02/09 12:50 by: Charlie Kuchinsky

Your skin tone and mine sound similar in many ways; I can't wear a lot of reds either. However, I can wear those with a little more "blue" in them like the berry you mentioned. Go online to your favorite cosmetic company's site (like L'Oreal or Cover Girl). Some of them offer free trial size samples. Get one or two that you think might work for you and give them a try before investing in a full tube.
Posted on 30/04/09 03:56 by: Sarah

I have dark hair, dark eyes. I have a nice lipstick that looks almost pink. I tried on a bunch of lipsticks/lipglosses yesterday and have decided that I must have a lot of pink pigmentation in my lips as everything looked completely different when I put them on. So what to buy with a yellowish undertone in my skin and lots of pink in my lips? I want a natural look but to still look like I have something on my lips. Thanks!
Posted on 04/05/09 20:02 by: Charlie Kuchinsky

Sarah, the question might be: would you like to play up the pink in your lips or work against it? It sounds like you may have the perfect color lips already - most women would die for what you have! If, however, you want to play against your natural color, then use a lipstick base that neutralizes your natural shade. Foundation or powder often works well too. Then try on the color you want - red, berry, purple - and see if you get the difference you desire.
Posted on 17/12/09 12:18 by: julia cheseman

I am a 59 year old woman, going grey but color it golden blonde, blue/green eyes and a fair complexion (goes red after a glass of wine). What lipstick color would you recomend?
Posted on 21/12/09 14:54 by: Charlie Kuchinsky

Julia, I am 59 as well and find that anything too stark or dark works against me. As we age, dark colors tend to call attention to the very things we don't want highlighted. Stick with softer berry colors or even dark pinks. You will have to play around with shades to find the best one. Try getting some sample colors from your favorite cosmetic line (like Avon or Maybelline). Once you find the perfect shade then you can risk spending the big bucks for a full tube.
Posted on 07/06/10 00:09 by: Mary

I am in my late 40's, dark brown hair, brown eyes, olive skin tone... am looking for a natural, nude lip... what would be a good lip product to use?
Posted on 11/06/10 12:53 by: Charlie

Mary, since lips begin to lose moisture and collagen after we hit 40, I would look for a lipstick that provides either or both. Joey New York Collagen Boosting Lipstick is a good option for that collagen infusion. Clinque's All About the Lips hydrates while delivering perfect color.
Posted on 03/07/10 04:58 by: Riko

Hi, I am a teenager, I have dark chestnut brown hair with almost black eyes. My face shape is round and chubby, my skintone is beige with slight pink undertones. I find red makes me look scary (all red), gloss (especially pink) makes me look like a barbie doll and more bluish, purple colours make me look... odd. I am going out of my mind trying to find a suitable colour for my lips! Is there anything you can recommend for me?
Posted on 26/08/10 06:31 by: Glynn

No one needs beauty advice. Wear what you want and if it makes you feel good then it is good. The whole idea of beauty advisors and a "right and wrong" list came from the cosmetic companies as a way to get you to buy more product. Don't be a sucker.
Posted on 17/10/10 04:57 by: Bonnie

I am 75 years of age.  I have a beautiful pink lipstick that everyone says looks good on me. I have a medium complexion, and silver hair (natural). I am looking for a shade of lipstick to go with reds. Totally confused.
Posted on 01/12/10 03:23 by: eva steele

I have tried different colors of lipsticks but not happy yet... I am 70 but fashionable, fair skinned, wear glasses. Veins in my wrists look blue i guess. I need some advice.
Posted on 12/01/11 15:04 by: Whitney Jackson

I am 22 yrs old. I have dark brown hair and big dark brown eyes and I have tan skin. I've tried shades that are more nude tones but I like the idea of bright reds and pinks. However I'm not sure what colors would go best with my features. I would def love some advice. Thanks, Whitney
Posted on 09/03/11 20:32 by: Michelle Gannon

How about for an 18 year old? I have brown hair and dark brown eyes that get lighter in the sun. I'm not tan or anything but my skin isn't really pale. I don't have a lot of yellow undertones in my skin, mostly pink before I put on makeup. After the makeup it's usually pretty even.
Posted on 13/03/11 19:23 by: Amy

I have vibrant red hair, green eyes and olive skin. What type of lip gloss should I use and what foundation would go well? Thanks!
Posted on 20/03/11 14:54 by: Sandy

I have red hair and green-grey eyes.  I have big lips, too.  My red hair is not copper, it's more eggplant - dark.  I don't know what shade of lipstick will suit me best. My skin is fair (not too pale but nowhere near dark).  It's so difficult!!  Thanks for any tips you can provide me :-)
Posted on 22/03/11 19:10 by: Charlie K

Are the undertones in your skin pink, blue, or yellow? That will help me make better suggestions.
Posted on 14/06/11 06:14 by: Michelle

I'm 18, My hair is a dark brown and in the summer some red and blond highlights show through. My eyes change from green to silver and almost turquoise to gold. My skin tone isn't pale, but its definitely not tan. In the summer I get freckles under my eyes and nose. Which lipstick color do you recommend for work (bartender) as well as formal interviews and occasions?
Posted on 09/07/11 02:44 by: Mary

Hi, I am a natural strawberry blond with very fair skin. My skin is yellow toned and I have light blue eyes. Here is my problem - I have a drawer full of lipsticks that are too dark, I look like a goth, bright, I look like my 2 year old niece has drawn all over my face, or pale my lips disappear into my already pale face. HELP!
Posted on 13/07/11 00:05 by: Charlie

Mary, I have the same coloring as you. I find that if I stick to medium corals, peaches or pinks they look best on me. I'm with you. Anything too dark doesn't work and neither does anything too light. I don't know if this helps but I hope it does.
Posted on 16/07/11 03:44 by: Lola

Very informative. I am 11 years old and I was wondering if I would be too young to wear colored lip gloss or lipstick. and I also wanted to know what lip products would be good for me. My skintone is between chocolate and dark chocolate.
Posted on 16/07/11 08:34 by: Eileen

Thanks for these beauty tips.
Posted on 09/09/11 16:31 by: Lydia

Hi, I am 18, blonde, dark eyes and tanned. I've been looking for 2 shades, one that is good for lunch dates and another that is bold and long lasting for nights out. I am not olive skinned, as when I tan it has a pinky shade to it so I have pink pigmentation, thanks! Lydia x
Posted on 12/09/11 15:17 by: Charlie

Lydia, you can never go wrong with a pink for lunch dates. However, be careful of the shade you choose since you have a lot of pink in your skin already. Look for something that compliments, not matches your skin tones. For a bolder night look, try a deeper berry tone, again being careful to avoid anything with too much pink in it; a rich berry will work better. Lipsticks used in the day should be relatively light in coverage as well. If you want to maintain good color, though, try a lip stain with some lip gloss over top. For long-lasting color at night, try one of the newer long-lasting lipsticks. There are several good ones on the market today. Hope this helps somewhat. It is hard to recommend exact colors without being able to see your skin tone, coloring, etc.
Posted on 05/01/12 17:21 by: I Amanda

Hi! I am fair skinned with very yellow undertones (think Simpsons!) with dark brown hair & dark green eyes. I would like to get a red, but I'm attracted to the red/blues, but I'm suppose to stay away from them. I saw a red lipstick from MAC called Lady bug, would that work for me? Thanks for any input.
Posted on 15/01/12 15:17 by: Charlie

Amanda, try to find a beauty store like Ulta where samples are sometimes available to help you find the right shade. If you don't have one nearby, go to a large department store that has cosmetics and ask for help. People at the cosmetics counter are often trained in helping you. They also sometimes have samples of colors you can try. I'm not familiar with that MAC color myself. I'll try and do some research and get back to you.
Posted on 25/05/12 08:07 by: divi

I look light yellowish and have dark eyes and dark hair. Problem is with my lips which are a bit darker, can you help me to find a good lip color?
Posted on 02/08/12 19:32 by: Jessica Torres

I am 19 with olive skin black hair blue eyes and I have full lips... what color, brand, and type would you recommend for me?
Posted on 24/01/13 02:28 by: j0lly

Hi! I'm Angy :) I have dark brown hair, rounded face, sorta big eyes and childish face, yellowish undertone, I would like to try pink, but scared it would make me look like a fool who doesn't know what she's doing! I used to use dark tones of red and not too much dark purples, I adore purples, redish-purple and such, tried dark tones of oranges tones as well and liked 'em.. but I really desire to try pinks and light tones.. would that be good for me?
Posted on 16/02/13 20:06 by: Anisha Soni

I wanted to ask whether the shade of the lipstick has to match the shade of the lipgloss?
Posted on 01/03/13 08:58 by: IPatty

I will be 65 next year and my current lipstick seems a little harsh.   I am of Irish-Norwegian descent, so I am quite pale; normal hazel eyes and my hair is blondish brown. Dishwater actually.  Can you help me?
Posted on 07/06/14 20:09 by: Charlotte

Hi, I am a 17 year old. I've got an olive complexion. Love pink shades of lipstick but I discovered that light pink doesn't look good on me. Any suggestions?

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