Since my last article was about my primary beauty love, my hair, I figure it'd be good to make my second about my primary beauty addiction: lipstick. I don't particularly like shopping on the high street because it tends to be a really stressful experience for me. Shopping online means that I don't have to take off my pyjamas and I sit back with a cup of tea and some toast (with peanut butter and avocado). However, it seems that no one wants to show lipstick swatches on anyone darker than Penelope Cruz. So I have ended up with more than one complete tragedy over the past few years and I want to save some of you that same distress. But that doesn't mean you should automatically take my word as gospel. First and foremost, you need to wear what you think looks good and what makes you feel comfortable (or beautiful or sexy or fierce or other-worldly or whatever feel you're going for). But, if you want a hand in finding something more conventionally flattering then read ahead.

Know Your Undertones

Through all this, and with everything to do with makeup, you absolutely must know your undertones; they have at least as much to do with determining how colours will look on your as how dark/light you are. Your undertones can be yellow, gold, red, pink and a whole myriad of other colours and are generally grouped into warm, cool or neutral. I have warm, golden undertones. To begin with, it's okay to just know if you're cool-, neutral- or warm-toned. An easy way to do this is to think about what kind of jewellery looks best on you. If you look awesome in silver, then you're probably cool-toned. If gold is more your speed, then you're probably warm-toned. If you look equally killer in both, then you might have neutral undertones which just means that you have twice as many options as everyone else.

The world of lipstick can be really confusing. There are more shades out there than you can count. Shade aside, there a different finishes, chiefly: matte, satin and sheen. And if that wasn't enough to contend with, 'lipstick' (as in the solid thing that twists out of a tube) isn't even your only option; there are glosses, pencils, crayons, stains, lacquers, lip crèmes and probably other stuff I've forgotten or haven't even heard of. All this choice is awesome because it means that everyone can find something they like for every conceivable occasion, but can be really confusing. To keep things simple I'm gonna focus on choosing a few starter shades.

Lipstick shades

I believe that every makeup kit should contain at least three lipsticks: a neutral, a red and another colour (I'm a big fan of purple). When you have these three bases covered, expanding your collection instantly becomes so much easier. Using the magic of MS Paint and I have created shade suggestions for each category for both cool- and warm-toned people.

Neutrals (a.k.a. Nudes)

What kind of neutral (generally referred to as 'nude') lip colour you pick depends on your skin tone, when and where you plan on wearing it and, most importantly, your personal taste. Picking a neutral can be really tricky for those of us with darker skin. It seems like every guide to neutrals decides that Alek Wek and Lupita Nyong'o cover the full range of dark skin, which is not very useful to a lot of us. Darker skin doesn't automatically mean you have to reach for the darker, browner neutrals; you just need to find one that won't clash unpleasantly with your skin tone. I generally opt for a subtle, brown neutral with hints of red.

[Image description: two images showing my lips bare (left) and wearing my favourite neutral lip (right)]

As a general rule of thumb, warmer skin tones should opt for similarly warm, beige neutrals whereas cooler skin tones should opt for something cooler and pinker. Here's a great video on wearing neutrals that has helped me out a whole bunch [CW: gendered (feminine) language] And below are a couple shade suggestions for cool- (left) and warm-toned (right) folk.

shade suggestions for cool and warm-toned folk

The Classic Red

The one look that will never ever go out of style is the classic red lip. It is the easiest, quickest way to look glamorous. But choosing the right red for you is deceptively difficult. After many false starts and minor disasters, I figured out that my deep golden brown skin looks best with a deep, warm, brown-based red.

[Image description: bottom half of the face of my lips in  a deep red lipstick]

Cooler skin tones (left) do well with a truer red or a pinker red, though a lighter pink-red could look a little clownish on dark skin tones. Warmer skin tones (right) do great with orange or coral-based reds, and darker skin tones do especially well with a slightly browner base.

classic red lip colours

Being adventurous

If you're looking to make more of a statement, then a bright colourful lipstick is right on the money. This is where you can really let your creativity run loose. Pinks, purples, oranges and corals (and even more outlandish colours like white, black and blue) are waiting to be tried. Those of you who share my warm, dark skin tone will look awesome in plum and fuchsia lip colours.

alt-string for the image

For those with cooler dark skin, I would recommend darker purples for a very glamorous, slightly gothic look. You'll also look great in mauves and bright pinks. Below are some colour suggestions for cool- (left) and warm-toned (right) people.


Picking the right product

Once you've got colour down, what product to pick becomes much easier. . If you want a subtle hint of colour for long period of time, then lip stains are right up your alley. They won't give you much colour payoff but will not shift for love or money. If you want a slightly less subtle wash of matte colour, then lip pencils/crayons are a great option. Lip gloss is, of course, very glossy, and will generally provide sheer to moderate colour payoff, though there are more pigmented products coming out all the time. Lipsticks can run from very sheer right up to completely opaque. They also give the most finish options, with pretty much any finish you can imagine though they are rarely give as much shine as a gloss. Lip crèmes are a pretty recent development, being (generally) matte 'liquid lipsticks' that are very highly pigmented. Lip lacquers are also relatively new. They're a fusion of a lip stick and lip gloss, giving the opacity and longevity of a lipstick with the high shine of a gloss.

Armed with this information, go forth and experiment! Go into high street shops and department stores and swatch different lip colours. Be as bold or as subtle as you like, follow some rules and break others. Try new things; you never know what you might like.


Second generation British-Nigerian fat agender person. Style enthusiast, decent baker and lazy poet.

Find me on instagram @mazisahedgehog