Brown lipstick had its ultimate hey-day in the 1990s, with a major revival delighting us in recent years. We’re not talking pinky nudes or gold-flecked beige, we’re talking brown lipstick. Think matte chocolate, deep cocoa, stone-grey brown. Intimidated? No way!
Sure, brown lipstick can be ever so slightly draining if you don’t quite get the tone or combination right, but that’s where we come in.
Here’s how to wear brown lipstick.
Find your undertone
First things first, get to know your skin’s undertone.
One of the best ways to check if you have cool, warm, or neutral skin is to check the veins on your wrist. If they’re green, your skin is likely warm. Purple-blue veins? Likely a cool tone.
If your veins are hiding, then think about how your skin reacts to the sun. If you tan easily, your skin is probably warmer. Those who burn quickly and don’t tan are generally cooler-toned.
Lastly, you can hold your skin against a pure white sheet of paper or wall. If your skin appears yellowish, your skin is warm. If it appears reddish, you’re a coolie. If both red and yellow are showing up, you’re likely neutral.
Now you can narrow down your brown lipstick choices:
Cool tones: go for mauve, purple, or grey-based browns
Warm tones: go for brick, orange, or red-based browns
Neutral: try them all!
Note: your undertone isn’t a hard-and-fast rule. You can and should try any lipstick you like, as the complexities of lipstick colors are vast, just like skin. Use your discerning eye to figure out what looks best, then simply choose what you like.
Pair it up with a liner to adjust the color, texture, and wearability
For all-day wear, lock that color in tight with a long-wearing brown lip liner and lipstick combo.
Lip liner is a fantastic way to adjust the texture and application ease of your lip look. For example, you can soften the look by layering a sheer gloss over a long-wear matte liner for a more low-key approach. By adding a pinkier or peachier gloss over a more neutral brown, you can adjust the color to suit your skin tone and to add a little more life to the face.
Lip liners also allow you to play with ombre effects or to hark back to those glory days of the 1990s when dark liner and pale lipstick were the best of pals.
For saturated, statement lips, fill in the entire lip with a matte liner before adding a layer of long-wear liquid lipstick. This helps to keep those lip lines tidy, sharp, and shaped just the way you like. Plus, it adds extra “insurance” to ensure your color won’t fade or become patchy.
Product suggestion: Muffin lip liner is a beautiful matte brown with slightly mauve undertones.
Play with texture
If brown lipstick is a little intimidating to you, you can always play with texture to make it more wearable.
For example, a flat, matte, saturated brown lipstick may be too much for someone used to a clear balm or glossy lip. In that case, you could choose a creamy bullet lipstick in a pink-based brown shade and dab a little clear or nude gloss into the center of the lip. Or, dab the color onto your lips with your finger and blend it out for a stained look.
Product suggestion: I can’t speak highly enough of our bullet lippie in the shade ‘Papi’.
If in doubt, go for soft, neutral eyes
Even though we think of brown as the ultimate neutral shade, it can make quite an impact. If you’re unsure of how to balance out a statement brown lip, go with a simple-yet-soft eye look.
Try a chocolate kohl eye pencil smudged into the upper and lower lash lines, a little taupe shadow in the crease, and plenty of mascara. This will soften and accentuate the eyes without competing with your brown pout.
This look is really reminiscent of 90s supermodels and TV stars during the time when brown and neutrals were key, without compromising on that high-glam beauty. Check out any photo of Cindy Crawford in the 1990s and you’ll see exactly what I mean.
To up the ante on the 90s glam even further, choose cooler eyeshadow shades like charcoal and grey, and get heavy-handed with the black kohl.