Choosing a new shade of lipstick sounds simple in theory, but it famously isn't, especially for makeup aficionados with darker skin tones. Sure, legacy brands like Maybelline and Revlon have been stepping it up these days to pioneer universally flattering, super-saturated hues — but that certainly hasn't always been the case. Mere years ago, plucking a pretty-looking lipstick shade off of the shelf resulted in disappointment that took the form of a pale, ashy pout.
So these days, as you scour the bevy of lipsticks lining the shelves of your local beauty supply store, consider the following: “Shades of red and plum are generally good for all complexions,” says pro makeup artist Jonet Williamson, but when it comes to nudes for dark skin tones, she says that you "should be really specific about the shade that you choose.” In this case, both she and MUA Kasey Adam Spickard recommend prioritizing warmer hues to ensure your lipstick adds to the “richness of your complexion" and "doesn't wash you out” (per Williamson).
To pinpoint some of the best lipsticks for dark skin tones, TZR spoke with makeup artist Jaleesa Jaikaran, Williamson and Spickard for their expert insight, backed by literal photo evidence. Their picks run the gamut from double take-worthy shades of orangey-red to glossy neutral, all of which will leave you scrambling to add a backup to your virtual shopping cart. Read on for a comprehensive list of the best lipstick shades for dark skin tones, plus their exact product recommendations.
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“Lisa understood the assignment with these lipsticks,” says Jaikaran, referring to renowned makeup artist Lisa Eldridge’s eponymous line of long-wearing matte lipsticks. “The texture is incredibly comfortable and there are several shades in the line that works for deeper skin tones.” Despite the extensive array of offerings, her top pick is “Velvet Decade,” a color the brand describes as “burnt chocolate” with “blue and lively red undertones.” According to the makeup artist, this hue looks “especially flattering on deep skin.”
One of Spickard’s favorite lipstick shades for dark skin tones is dark brown with warm undertones. In a recent beauty editorial shoot with NYC-based model Nakai, the makeup artist used Smashbox’s Liquid Lipstick in the shade “True Grit,” a “rich” shade he deems perfect for the fall and winter months. “What makes this brown especially gorgeous is how deep and rich the tone is,” the makeup expert continues. “It works for almost all medium to deep skin tones and really makes the lips pop.”
Another shade Spickard loves to use on dark complexions is Maybelline's “More Truffle,” which he says is “a great long-lasting matte” with a rich, warm hue that’s perfect on deep skin tones.” For a recent photo shoot, the pro teamed it with the brand’s Lifter Gloss in the shade “Rust” to give the model’s pout extra dimension — and, of course, a high-shine finish.
“When it comes to nudes, Mented Cosmetics has amazing selections for the fairest of melanated skin to the deepest of melanated skin” says Williamson. Below, she wears the brand’s Semi-Matte Lipstick in the cleverly named shade called NudeLaLa.
“MAC is the OG when it comes to versatility in shade range and lipsticks are no different,” says Jaikaran, adding that one of her faves to work with is the brand’s iconic and universally-flattering beige shade named “Velvet Teddy.” The makeup artist recommends pairing it with Mented Cosmetics Gloss in “Send Nudes” for extra impact.
Another shade Jaikaran keeps in her makeup bag is Revlon’s Super Lustrous Lipstick in the shade “Untold Stories,” a color which the brand describes as a rose-nude. “This lipstick gives ultimate payoff and looks great with a clear or nude gloss.” The creative likes to wear it with MAC’s Chestnut Lip Liner and CoverGirl Lip Oil in the clear shade named “Juiced.”
For a statement makeup look on dark skin tones, Spickard appreciates “a rich orangey-red lipstick” for “how beautifully it pops” and “harmonizes the face.” His go-to shade is another Maybelline best-seller, specifically a poppy shade of the brand’s beloved SuperStay Matte Ink Liquid Lipstick, called “Individualist.”
Williamson suggests MAC “Ruby Woo,” which might ring a bell since it’s one of the brand’s most popular lipstick shades of all time. Believe it or not, this classic shade of red has been a makeup industry staple since its launch in 1999. Its universally flattering blue undertones famously complement all skin tones.
MAC’s “Fashion Legacy” is another one of Williamson’s favorites that the brand describes as an “intense fire truck red.” This bright red shade has a slight orange undertone that makes it pop ever-so-slightly more than Ruby Woo.