When it comes to lipstick, one size does not fit all. And when you add the fact that lipstick comes in pretty much every color, finish and price point, it can be hard to find the one that works best for you. Not to mention, it can be overwhelming. This guide is here to change that.
The key to finding the best lipstick for you is to break it down into simple steps. Consider the occasion, your coloring, your needs, and the look you want. When those key things intersect, you’ve found yourself the perfect lipstick. By the time you’ve finished reading this article, you will know everything you need to know to find the lipstick of your dreams.
The best lipstick on a budget
As with most products, you do kind of get what you pay for with lipsticks. But you don’t have to spend an arm and a leg either. It’s all about balancing the quality you want with the price you can afford. Remember, you don’t have to break the bank to buy a good tube of lipstick.
Classic makeup brands like L’Oréal and Revlon are really stepping up their game and are putting out lipsticks that make you feel like you’re getting great value but also a better product than what you usually find on the drug store shelves. One such gem is Revlon’s ColorStay Ultimate Suede Lipstick, which you can find here.
For those on a tighter budget, the key is to make sure you stick to brands you trust so that you know that, despite the fact you’re spending less, you’re still getting a decent product. Only try unknown budget-friendly lipsticks if—and only if—they’ve gotten rave reviews from people you trust. Otherwise, you could be wasting money better spent elsewhere.
The best indulgent lipstick
If your budget is bottomless or maybe you’re just looking to treat yourself, nothing says indulgence like splurging on a designer lipstick. For an idea on the variety that’s out there in this category, check out this list of “cult classic” lipsticks from Harper’s Bazaar.
Obviously, if you’re going to dish out some significant dough on a tube of lipstick, you want one that’s actually worth the money. Yves Saint Laurent is a designer brand that’s been around forever. What’s better is, their lipstick is totally worth the higher price. Check out this tube for a glossy, wearable lipstick.
The best lipstick for light skin
If you have pale skin, you’re might feel like your lipstick options are limited. But au contraire; when you have fair skin, you can wear a wide assortment of colors. Think about it. With fair skin, light colors will give you a natural look while darker colors make a bold statement, due to the stark contrast with your skin.
For a daytime look, try out a pink lipstick that has peach or coral undertones, like this one by Ere Perez. For a nighttime look, go for something red. Cool undertones often suit fair skin, so this cool-toned red by Covergirl would be an ideal night time lip look for light skin.
The best lipstick for medium skin
When you have medium skin, it’s important to keep your skin’s undertone in mind. This helps you find the lipstick that compliments you best. (We’ll go deeper into undertones later.)
For medium skin with a warm undertone, go for warm reds, corals and pinks with a golden undertone, like this one by Tarte. Warm colors play up your skin’s undertone to make your skin look more radiant—perfect for a beachy vibe on a sunny summer day.
If your skin is a cool medium, this burgundy lipstick from Rimmel is statement-making and on-trend.
The best lipstick for tan skin
Whether your tan is natural or spray-on, you want a lipstick that shows your bronze glow at its best. When it comes to finding the right lipstick for tan skin, you can’t go wrong by taking a page out of the Kardashian lipstick handbook. Choose nudes that are near your skin and then veer off in a slightly different direction. For instance, a nude that leans towards warm pink or a soft brown, depending on whether you want a sweet or sultry vibe.
If you want a flirtier, edgier look, go for a bright pink or fuchsia lipstick like this Manic Panic creation. Sometimes bright colors may seem too loud on tan skin, but if you match the color to your skin’s intensity, they’ll play together nicely.
The best lipstick for light brown skin
If you have light brown skin, you might be thinking brown lipstick isn’t for you. But according to thatsister.com, the right brown lipstick is totally doable and can even highlight your skin’s natural beauty. Check out this shade by Bobbi Brown. Not only is it gorgeous, it’s subtle enough to double as a nude.
Another great option for ladies with light brown skin is the berry family of lipsticks. Berries can range in intensity from delicate to daring, so they’re very versatile. This berry-toned Jordana lipstick is statement-making in a lowkey way.
The best lipstick for dark brown skin
You can really play around with different lipstick shades when you have dark skin. Contrast is one way to have fun with lip color. If your skin is dark brown, try a warm bright orange-red. It’s an exciting color, that’s still wearable.
Purple is the ultimate statement lipstick of the decade and those with dark brown skin pull it off better than anyone. Look for a richly pigmented matte lip color like this one from Golden Rose. The deep color is not only trendy, it’s flattering.
The best lipstick for a cool skin undertone
The tried and true way to tell if you have a cool undertone to your skin is to look at the veins on your forearm. If they look blue, that means your skin has a cool undertone. People with cool undertones have skin that leans towards pink or blue.
Lipsticks look best when they complement the undertones of our skin. For skin with a cool undertone, look for lipsticks that share that same undertone quality. For instance, if you’re looking for a pink lipstick, choose one that has a bluish hint to it, like this Clinique option. A great red option is one with deep plum undertones like this one by Jolie.
The best lipstick for a warm skin undertone
Look at the vein on the underside of your forearm. If it’s green, then your skin has a warm undertone. Ideally, those with warm undertones should look for lipsticks with warm undertones. When you match the like undertones together, the overall look is synergistic and complementary.
Warm reds are the ultimate lipstick to pair with warm-toned skin. The look is sassy and bold, but is equally wearable in a casual office setting. Yves Saint Laurent’s Rouge Neon is the perfect warm red to highlight your golden glow.
A warm-toned nude is a more natural alternative to the boldness of red. Just like you want to consider how light or dark your skin is when shopping for a nude lipstick, you also want to think about the undertone as well. Nudes that lean towards a summery golden-pink or peach are great for warm-toned skin. This Kat Von D lipstick is an ideal nude lipstick for warm skin undertones.
The best lipstick for neutral skin
Neutral skin describes an undertone to the skin that falls precisely between the warm and cool ends of the spectrum. Because neutral skin has elements of both warm and cool undertones, people with neutral skin look good in almost any color.
Since the lipstick world is your oyster when you have neutral skin, it can sometimes be overwhelming when you’re trying to narrow down your lipstick choice. In those moments, let your outfit be your guide, according to this article from Bustle. For instance, coral lipstick really brings out the warm undertones of a teal dress, instantly making it pop.
With neutral skin, you can wear many different lipsticks, some of which are surprisingly hard to pull off. One such surprisingly-hard-to-pull-off lipstick is true red, like this one from Revlon. With the wrong skin tone, true red can look a bit flat. But with neutral skin, true red is instantly transformed into a classic shade reminiscent of the glamor of Old Hollywood.
The best lipstick for olive skin
Most people view olive and neutral as the same thing, but they are slightly different. While olive skin generally is neutral in undertone, the undertone tends to vary depending how light or dark the overall skin tone is, per makeup.com. If your skin is darker, it will tend towards warmer while light olive skin may be slightly cooler in undertone.
For a pop of color, try this cranberry-hued lipstick from Clinique. It’s a perfect marriage of berry and pink, making it a great choice for olive skin. For a subtler pink, this shade from Yves Saint Laurent is demure yet won’t get lost in deep olive skin.
The best lipstick for Asian skin
Asian skin can range from light to dark in color and usually has a warm undertone. If you have Asian skin, consider your overall skin tone. If you have light skin, you’re going to want to go for lipsticks that are bright and statement-making. If your skin is darker, go for deeper colors.
For light Asian skin, nothing is more classic than a vibrant red like Smashbox’s Bing. For a more adventurous and modern look, try an orange-based lipstick like Morange from MAC. Orange hues compliment the golden undertones of Asian skin and are unexpectedly chic.
For dark Asian skin, consider your undertone. Darker Asian skin can lean warm, neutral or even cool. Berries look great on darker Asian skin, because they’re versatile as far as undertones go. Check out this berry by Maybelline. It’s lowkey and has a very wearable brown undertone that makes it office appropriate.
The best lipstick for black hair
Black hair provides a great contrast for most lip colors. Because black hair is so intense, and you’re going to want to feature your lipstick, make sure to keep your eye makeup and blush subtle so your lipstick can really stand out.
A great option for ladies with fair skin and black hair is bright pink. That may sound like a scary color to pull off, but your face is the perfect canvas for it. Say My Name by Sephora has just the right mixture of intensity and wearability to hold its own against raven hair.
If you have darker skin and black hair, choose purple-based lipsticks. They complement your hair color while having the depth to accentuate the natural beauty of your skin. Eton Moi by Christian Louboutin is a great option for black-haired ladies looking for a dark lipstick that doesn’t overwhelm.
The best lipstick for brown hair
More.comhas some great quick tips for choosing the right lipstick for brown hair. Brown hair can vary in shade from slightly darker than blonde to near-black. So, it’s important to note the depth of your hair color when shopping for lipstick.
If your hair is almost black, the advice for black haired ladies will work for you. If your hair is more of a dark chocolate color, a great everyday option is a pink-leaning coral like Diorkiss by Dior. For a bolder look, go for an intense blue-based red like this one from Anastasia of Beverly Hills.
Light brown hair looks great with summery lipsticks. They bring out the natural blonde highlights in light brown hair, illuminating the skin. Try something like this shimmery apricot lipstick from Revlon. It’s versatile enough to go from the beach to the office.
The best lipstick for auburn hair
Since auburn hair not only falls in the middle of the hair color spectrum, but is also a red that can lean warm or cool, finding the right lipstick for this hair color can be a real challenge. The key is to stay away from lip colors that are too similar to your hair color. Avoid orange, brown and russet shades and opt for cool-toned berries like Berry Kiss by Mary Kay. For a more natural look, try this mauve-nude hybrid from L’Oréal.
The best lipstick for red hair
Many red heads are afraid to wear red lipstick, fearing they’re unable to pull it off, because it might be too similar to their hair. However, the right red lipstick can look amazing on red hair. There are two rules to keep in mind when looking for the right red lipstick for a redhead:
- Keep skin undertone in mind
- Avoid reds that are too similar to your hair color
Many redheads have neutral skin and look great in bright neutral reds, like Ruby Woo by MAC. This lipstick has a matte finish that is a great textural contrast to the shinning copper highlights of red hair.
Pink is a great softer option for redheads. It balances red hair while giving the lips a subtle pop of color. Try this pretty pink lipstick by Sephora for a classic look almost any redhead can pull off.
The best lipstick for blonde hair
Blondes have a lot options when it comes to lipstick, because they may have warm, cool or neutral undertones to their skin. Anything from plums to reds to corals look great on blondes. The key is to keep your skin’s undertone in mind and go from there.
Pinks are a natural go-to for blondes, but be weary of anything too bright. It can overwhelm blonde hair. Try a soft pink that’s like a pinker version of your natural lip color, such as this shade from Bobbi Brown. It gives you a subtle flush of color without overwhelming blonde hair.
For blondes looking for the perfect red lipstick, keep your skin’s undertone in mind. Since many bloods have cool undertones, look of red with a blue tinge to it, like this one from Nyx. The effect will be very dramatic on a cool-toned blonde. Just remember to pair with subtle eye makeup for the perfect blonde bombshell look.
The best lipstick for brown eyes
Purples bring out the earthy beauty of brown eyes. Often, women with brown eyes will wear purple eyeshadow to achieve this effect. But wearing purple lipstick paired with a neutral eye look can really make your brown eyes pop. Try a magenta lipstick like this one from Maybelline’s matte collection.
Alternatively, if you plan on bringing out your brown eyes with some purple eyeshadow, try going for a pale lip to balance out the look. This NARS mauve-nude hybrid is a great choice, because it leans towards purple in a very subtle way. The overall effect is a nude lip, but by having that tiny hint of purple, it pulls the look together.
The best lipstick for green eyes
Not only are green eyes a rare eye color, green-eyed ladies have the ability to pull of lipstick shades that may be a little difficult for those with other eye colors. For instance, orange-based lipsticks work surprisingly well with green eyes. This shade from Revlon is an orange that is subtle enough for daily wear, but with warm undertones strong enough to bring out the bright notes of green eyes.
Because green eyes are so intense on their own, they can stand up to bright colors. If you’re feeling adventurous, try a bright pink like this Jem and the Holograms-inspired shade from Sephora. Not only is it a fabulous eighties throwback, it’s also very now and a great lip look for green eyes.
The best lipstick for hazel eyes
Hazel eyes are eyes that typically contain a combination of brown and green hues in the iris. Sometimes there can be flecks of gold and red in hazel eyes as well. Since these are all warm tones, warm-toned lipsticks are a good fit for those with hazel eyes.
Hazel eyed ladies have the distinction of being able to pull off beige lipstick. As with other eye colors, it’s important to keep your skin tone in mind with choosing a lipstick. But if the skin tone works, beige is ideal for hazel eyes, because it allows the natural vibrancy of hazel to steal the show. This beige by Bobbi Brown is a great option because it has a subtle hint of pink, which makes it extra wearable.
The best lipstick for blue eyes
As with the other eye colors, red is a go-to staple for blue eyes. Just be sure to keep it in the right color family for both your eyes and your skin tone. For a more daytime-friendly option, muted pinks, like this understated NARS find, are great for playing up blue eyes.
The best lipstick for grey eyes
A beige that matches your skin’s undertone is a great office-friendly look for grey eyes. But if you’re looking for something more daring, try plum. Plum and grey play great together. Go for something cool-toned like like this vivid shade from Smashbox. It will make your grey eyes stand out.
The best lipstick for oily skin
The hallmarks of oily skin are blackheads, pimples and visible grease. Often, oily skin will be confined to the “T-Zone”, which primarily encompasses your forehead, nose and chin. However, sometimes the area around the mouth can also be oily which can make finding the right lipstick a challenge.
Skin Care Beauty Mag says that matte lipstick works best on oily lips. It makes sense, if you think about it. Glossier lipsticks not only visibly increase the overall shine of your face, but some may even contain more oil to get that glossy look. A matte lipstick on the other hand will have a less greasy formula, which will improve the overall appearance of your makeup look.
The best lipstick for dry lips
Flaking skin, cracked and bleeding lips are all a sign of dry lips. Dry lips are not only painful, they can be aging, so it’s especially important for dry lip sufferers to find products that are highly moisturizing. Stylecaster.com has put together a list of lipsticks that promise to keep your lips saturated with moisture. Check it out here.
Applying lipstick to cracked lips can be tricky. And making lipstick look good on cracked lips can be even trickier. Check out this quick video tutorial for tips on how to make lipstick look good on cracked lips:
The best lipstick for aging skin
For aging lips, you want a lipstick that nourishes and moisturizes to keep lips looking more youthful. And on top of that, you also need to protect your lips from the sun with a sunscreen-containing lipstick to avoid further damage which can increase the signs of aging. The ideal lipstick for aging lips has both of these features, like this one from Lancôme. Two-in-one products not only give you more bang for your buck, they also make it easy to treat your lips with the care they deserve.
The best lipstick for allergy sufferers
As longtime allergy sufferers know, you can be allergic to just about anything, and lipsticks aren’t exempt from that. If you already know that you’re allergic to certain ingredients, make sure to read a full list of your lipstick’s ingredients and check them against your known allergies.
How do you know if you might be having an allergic reaction (sometimes called contact dermatitis) to lipstick? Look for these signs on and around your mouth:
If you have any of these symptoms, discontinue use of product until you speak with your doctor.
Sometimes, allergic reactions to lipstick (or any other products that you use) can be more severe. This is a rare medical condition called anaphylaxis, which is very serious. Symptoms of anaphylaxis include (but aren’t limited to):
- Swelling of face, lips tongue
- Swelling of the throat
- Inability to breathe
Anaphylaxis is fatal without medical treatment. Always get emergency medical attention if you think your makeup or anything else may be causing you to have this serious medical condition. If you are already prone to anaphylaxis, be sure to stick to the emergency plans your doctor has given you. To learn more about anaphylaxis and for more information on its symptoms, check out this page from the Mayo Clinic.
Now that we’ve covered how to know if you’re having an allergic reaction to your lipstick, let’s talk about lipsticks that are suitable for allergy sufferers.
If you suffer from a lot of allergies, the best thing to do is to look for lipsticks with very few ingredients. That way, the ingredient list is more legible, so you’re able to check for stuff you know you’re allergic to; also, the fewer the ingredients, the less likely you are to come across one that irritates you.
Look for lipsticks that say they are hypoallergenic, which basically means they’re devoid of ingredients that commonly cause allergies (like perfumes). These are products specifically designed to be safe for most with allergies and sensitive skin. VMV Hypoallergenics is a brand that specifically caters to those with allergies. This lipstick by Mary Kay would also be a great choice for those with ingredient sensitivities.
The best lipstick for thin lips
When you have thin lips and are thinking of overdrawing your lip line, go for shades that aren’t too far off from your natural lip color like pinks, nudes and beiges until you become more comfortable with the process. Bright colors can look conspicuously painted on if your hand isn’t quite deft. Also, since you’re probably going to use matte lip liner to over draw, make sure your lipstick matches the liner. If it’s a lot lighter than the liner, the look comes off very fake.
If you want to make your lips look fuller but are unsure of the techniques involved, check out this video tutorial:
The best lipstick for full lips
When you have full lips, you have a wide range of color options. The key here is to go for the right finish. Avoid glossy and shimmery finishes and look for a cream or matte finish. The look is fresher and has a more classic starlet feel. This natural lipstick is pure elegance and will flatter fuller lips.
The best matte lipstick
Matte lipsticks are more intense than shimmery lipsticks. Not only is the flat, precise finish of matte enough to give your lips some extra intensity, the colors matte lipsticks come in tend to be more vivid as well. They tend to be richer than their shiny counterparts, so keep that in mind when shopping. Revlon’s Ultra HD Matte Lipcolor is a great choice when looking for a matte lipstick because even though their colors are bold, they’re a very wearable bold, so it’s a great lipstick to try if this is your first time delving into mattes.
The best shimmery lipstick
Lipsticks with a shimmery finish are perfect for a night on the town or a special occasion like New Year’s Eve. For a natural look, choose a subtle shimmer with a basic lip color you would wear on a normal day, like this Estee Lauder shade. For a party look, go wild and choose something that shimmers daringly like this tube from Manic Panic.
The best moisturizing lipstick
If you have dry lips or just want to make sure your lips look extra gorgeous, your best bet is to try a lipstick that is already imbued with moisturizer. That way you don’t have to pretreat your lips and you can get a quick lipstick look in one easy step. Burt Bee’s 100% Natural Moisturizing Lip Crayon is a great option because it’s moisturizing, natural and it’s highly pigmented so you can get color that nourishes. A good sheerer alternative would be this balmfrom Clinique.
The best plumping lipstick
Lip-plumping lipsticks have ingredients that give your lips a temporarily poutier look. You can buy separate lip plumper that will work with a variety of lipsticks, but sometimes convenience is best. If you want a one-step lip-plumping routine, look for a lipstick that already contains lip plumper. A great affordable option is Avon’s Beyond Color lipstick in Divine Wine.
The best liquid lipstick
Liquid lipstick is a great alternative to traditional lipstick in a tube, because it handles with a wand much like lip gloss. But unlike lip gloss, liquid lipstick has the same opacity as traditional tube lipsticks and comes in similar finishes as well. xovain.com has put together a comprehensive list of the best liquid lipsticks, including several matte options.
For a tutorial on focused on applying liquid lipsticks (which can be a little tricky), this video will show you how it’s done:
The best natural and organic lipstick
Did you know that you can find lipsticks that are natural and organic? They contain popular, every day ingredients like avocado oil and coconut oil to give your lips the perfect level moisture. Check out this page on Axiology’s website to learn more about the different types of natural ingredients you can find in their lipstick line.
A lot of people think that organic lipsticks aren’t as good as traditional lipsticks, or that they aren’t as colorful because they’re made of natural pigments. But that’s simply not true. Check out this vivid pink by Skin2Spirit. The color is just as rich as traditional brands—and it’s all natural.
The best lipstick that doesn’t bleed
When lipsticks “bleed”, it means the color moves outside the lines of your lips and onto the rest of your face. This leads to messy lines and a sloppy look. Avoid this dilemma by choosing lipsticks, such as this one from Dior, that are long-lasting. They’re less likely to bleed, keeping your lip line flawless.
The best lipstick that lasts
The same advice for avoiding lipstick bleeding is the same to follow when you want a lipstick that lasts. Look for keywords like “long-lasting”, “long-wearing”, “24hr”, etc. These buzzwords clue you in that those are lipsticks meant to stand the test of time (or perhaps last perfectly through a very important dinner date). For a long-lasting lipstick that is also natural and cruelty-free, this tube from Lotus is a great choice.
The best lipstick for work
When choosing the right lipstick for work, you want to first and foremost keep your workplace’s dress code in mind. Some companies have very strict policies when it comes to their employee’s dress and style. And aside of that, you also have to consider the type of place you work: Is your workplace more laid back or is it more conservative? The answer to that question determines how far you push the lipstick boundaries while you’re on the clock.
If you work in a conservative corporate office, go for a lipstick that isn’t too bright in color or too shiny in finish. Go for a subdued matte look that fits in with the clothes you wear to work every day. Go for berries or mauves, colors that have punch without looking over-the-top. If you’re worried about pushing the boundaries too far, look at what the other chic women in your office are wearing and let that be your guide.
Ladies who work in more laidback settings can have a little more fun with their lipstick choices, but don’t go crazy. Once again, avoid anything too shiny. You want to look grownup and be taken seriously in your profession. If you’re feeling a little adventurous, delve into pinks and nudes for a business casual look.
The best lipstick for school
Chances are, if you’re looking for the right lipstick to wear to school, you’re a younger girl who wants to try out some new lipstick looks without looking like you’ve overdone it. Think of school like your workplace and refer to the dress code when choosing lipstick. Lipstick is not worth getting detention over, as awesome as it is.
If you’re young, you can pull off just about any shade that suits your skin tone. But for school, choose something along the lines of business casual and take the demure route. Try lipsticks in nudes or roses, such as this Nyx Matte Lipstick in Tea Rose.
The best lipstick for a party
A night of partying is the perfect time to try out daring new lipstick looks. Go for shades you would normally deem too wild to wear at work or on a date. Choose bold colors like intense purples or bright-orange reds to make your lips pop and standout in a sea of faces. If you’re hardcore enough, try something wild like this Midnight Plum lipstick by Maybelline.
On the flipside, you may decide party time is the time to play off your eyes with a smoky look. If you’re doing smoky eyes, choose a paler lipstick like this one. Nude lipstick is the perfect way to make your eyeshadow pop and it’s a classic yet edgy look.
The best lipstick for prom
Prom is a great opportunity to try out new and exciting lipstick looks. The important things to keep in mind when choosing a lipstick for prom are:
- Go for long-wearing smudge-proof lipstick
- Keep the color of your dress in mind
Smudge-proof lipstick is a must. No one wants to look sloppy at prom and precise lipstick lines are key for taking red carpet-worthy prom pictures. Not to mention, smudge-proof is synonymous with kiss-proof.
Have fun with color, but make sure to choose a lipstick that compliments your dress and your skin tone. If you’re looking for fun ideas, Makeuptutorials.com has put together a list of on-trend prom lipstick looks to try.
The best lipstick for a date
As with any other special occasion that may involve kissing, smudge-proof lipstick is a necessity for any date-worthy lipstick look. Also, go for a lipstick that is moisture rich, like this one by e.l.f. Soft lips are crucial for the perfect date lipstick look.
As far as color goes, there are a lot of supposed dos and don’ts when it comes to what you lipstick color is okay to wear on a first date. Really, the best lipstick color for a date (especially a first date) is the lipstick color that suits you and puts out the vibe you want to put out.
If you’re feeling fiery and bold, go for a blazing red like this moisturizing red that has a subtle shine finish. For a more girly look, go for a warm pink.
The best lipstick for brides
On your wedding day, the main thing you want is a lipstick that stays in place. Look for lipsticks that are long-wearing and don’t bleed. Mattes are a great choice because they highlight the beauty of your mouth and won’t detract from your dress.
You can do a pale lip in nude or pink for a more traditional look. This is great for daytime weddings. But if you’re a dramatic bride who needs a dramatic lipstick, what is more classic than red? Just be sure that your lipstick is long-acting and smudge-proof so you don’t get red all over your white dress. This red lipstick by Rimmel is long-lasting and richly pigmented—a great choice for a bride who wants a vintage makeup look.
Jen Miller is a former electrical engineer and product specialist with more than 20 years of product design and testing experience. She has designed more than 200 products for Fortune 500 companies, in fields ranging from home appliances to sports gear and outdoor equipment. She founded Jen Reviews to share her knowledge and critical eye for what makes consumers tick, and adopts a strict no-BS approach to help the reader filter through the maze of products and marketing hype out there. She writes regularly and has been featured on Forbes, Fast Company, The Muse, The Huffington Post, Tiny Buddha and MindBodyGreen.