Decoder :: The Best Bright Lips For Every Skin Tone

By Tara Thompson Rasmus

Despite the fact that I love makeup and embrace trying new products with possibly too much vigor, I absolutely sympathize with women that shy away from wearing bright lipstick. First of all, poppy lipstick shades undoubtedly make a big statement — one that can make some women uncomfortable if they’re used to neutral makeup looks. Furthermore, with so many shades and finishes on the market, it can be difficult to find a lipstick soulmate that works with both your style and your skin tone. While I’m afraid that no article I can write can replace the benefit of a good old try-on session at a beauty counter or boutique, I have tried out a fair amount of lippies in my tenure as beauty writer — and, being the makeup obsessive that I am, I’ve gotten a good sense of which shades look best on which skin tones. (Thanks for being my guinea pigs, lady friends!) To help you get started on your own Quest For Lipstick Greatness, I’ve rounded up some of my favorite brights and organized them by skin tone: Fair, Light, Medium, Medium-Dark, and Dark. Take a look through these must-have shades, and let me know which ones you try. Trust me when I say that there’s something about wearing a bright lipstick that somehow makes summer frolicking even more fun!



If you’re nervous to make a major lip statement as a fair maiden, try a rose lipstick with a hint of coral for a subtle pop of color, like this pick from Marc Jacobs. The coral tones will contrast nicely with the cool undertones in your skin.

Marc Jacobs Beauty Kiss Pop Lip Color Stick in Wham

If, however, you really want to go for it, nothing looks more stunning against snow-white skin than a fluorescent pink, such as Watermelon by Bobbi Brown.

Bobbi Brown Crazy For Color Lipstick in Watermelon

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This tinted balm from organic beauty brand Ilia has been the most important member of my lipstick wardrobe this summer (what, you don’t also coordinate your lippies with your outfits on the daily?). As the name suggests, it’s the perfect mix of orange, pink, and red — and, it’s super-moisturizing to boot.

Ilia Beauty Lipstick in Perfect Day

When lighter-skinned lasses really want to go for it, I find that an orange red is one of the most universally flattering brights out there. I love this pick from Gucci Westman’s Rio Rush collection for Revlon.

Revlon Super Lustrous Lipstick in Carnival Spirit

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Despite the fact that many women with medium skin have olive (a.k.a. “warm”) undertones, I’ve found that my lady friends with medium-toned skin look absolutely smashing in hot pink or fuchsia lippies with blue undertones, like this pick from Ardency Inn.

Ardency Inn Modster Long Play Supercharged Lip Color in Twist

Another great shade for ladies with medium skin tones is a reddish coral with a hint of pink, such as this super-luxe formula from Tom Ford.

Tom Ford Lip Color in Slander

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My best friend has medium-dark skin, and she looks incredible in many shades of bright lipstick. One of my favorites on her is a very pigmented orange-red, similar to this punchy shade.

Givenchy Le Rouge Lipstick in Mandarine Boléro

On deeper skin tones, a true cherry red can also be lovely, especially for dressier occasions (what could be more glamorous?). This affordable pick has a matte, long-lasting formula that’s developed a cult following.

NYX Matte Lipstick in Perfect Red

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Love the high pigment of MAC’s classic lipsticks, but hate their slightly dry, matte texture? Then you’ll adore the iconic brand’s Mineralize Rich line of lippies — they combine high-octane pigment (love this poppy red shade) with a creamy, super-wearable finish.

MAC Mineralize Rich Lipstick in Fashion Trip

Lime Crime is a new and noteworthy arrival to the makeup scene — its products are so bright, they’re almost neon, creating a major statement on any skin tone. This screaming pink would look incredible against deep, dark skin; plus, the liquid formula is totally transfer proof (meaning that you won’t be leaving behind hot pink marks everywhere you go).

Lime Crime Velvetine in Pink Velvet

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