How to Color-Match Your Lipstick to Find Your Perfect Neutral Shade

Photo: Getty Images/ Caroline Tompkins
When I hear "color matching," I think of finding the just-right foundation shade, looking for shirts that match my ugly nail colors, and wearing shoes that correspond to the hues on the rest of my outfit (just me?). Then, as I gazed upon the hundreds of lipstick hues one day while browsing beauty shelves, I thought: Shouldn't we color match our lipstick, too?

Color matching your foundation involves choosing the shade that matches your skin undertones, which, of course, makes your formula blend as seamlessly as possible with your complexion. With lipstick, it's the same idea: You pick colors that match your undertones and lip color. "It's important to color match your lipstick so the color flatters your skin tone and brings out your best features," says celebrity makeup artist Jamie Dorman. "If your lipstick is the wrong match, it can make skin look sallow and detract from your eye color."

This is actually why Clinique just launched their Even Better Pop Lip Color Foundation ($20), which is a line of 28 shades of lipstick, from which you can find your perfect neutral. The brand uses "shade-match science," which guides you through your foundation color match (there are 56 foundation shades), then uses an algorithm to get you the best lip options to go along with it.

The whole idea's particularly helpful when looking for a more neutral lipstick, which is probably the hardest one to find. "Neutral shades can be very tricky, because the way the tone complements your complexion is so important," says Janet Pardo, senior vice president of development at Clinique. "It's easy for the wrong color to wash you out. The right shade will enhance your complexion, not detract from it—it'll make your face and eyes look brighter."

With lipsticks though, it's not like you're looking for your exact skin tone when you color match, as you do with foundation. Perfecting your lip shade match can be a little tricky, so here are Dorman's tips for finding the one that works for you.

1. Use natural light: When you're in the process of finding your ideal lipstick color, avoid poor or harsh lighting. "Color match your lipstick in natural light," says Dorman. If you're not somewhere where you can swatch or try it on, she recommends putting the product on your fingertip and holding it up to your face (in natural light).

2. For light skin tones: "These skin tones look great in peach colors like Bossy Cosmetics Velvet Lip Liner in Queen ($14)," says Dorman.

3. For medium skin tones: Dorman recommends sticking with rose-toned deep nudes, like NYX Suede Matte Lipstick in Dainty Gaze ($8).

4. For deep skin tones: Her pick? "These look dreamy in berries," she says. We like Bite Beauty Amuse Bouche Lipstick in Sour Cherry ($13).

If you're looking for more makeup intel, here's why wearing blush makes you instantly look more awake and put together. And this is how to apply eyeshadow, from makeup artists who know. 

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