How do women with medium to dark complexions taste the rainbow when
what’s in the tube isn’t always what shows up on our lips? Kick “playing
it safe” to the curb, and dare to wrap your mouth around colors that
whisper, sing or shout.

Opening statement

Moisturize first for a smooth canvas—chapped lips spoil the party.
Rub lips twice a week with a clean, dry toothbrush or a mild exfoliator.
Moisturize at bedtime to send dead skin packing. Before using color,
apply eyelid primer (yes, to your lips!) or concealer to even out any
lip pigmentation (which alters the true shade you’re aiming for).

Bottom line

The key to versatile lips for women of color is using a lip pencil—an
absolute must when you want to tone down brights and transition
smoothly from your face’s complexion to unforgettable lips. Good news: A
brown and a purple lip liner are all you need to conquer a world of
colors! A basic brown close to your complexion will be your ticket to
setting off reds, neutrals, pinks, corals—almost any color. Purple liner
will highlight mauves and plums. Feel free to mix, match and play. For
darker skin, darkest-brown and deep-purple liners give you the last

To apply: With the side angle of the pencil, lightly
line and fill in the lips, or dot a bit inside the outer line of the
lip for an even blend and longer wear. Apply lip color, then blend it
with the liner using a lip brush. For an added boost to fuller lips or
darker skin, line on top of the lipstick without filling in. Just be
sure to blend the edges with a brush to avoid that dated 90s look.

The declaration

With a strong foundation in lip know-how, the stage is set! Have at it with this wisdom in mind:

Colors. When choosing a nude color,
beware of pale shades with yellow or beige tones. They may look powdery
and yellow your teeth. Pinkish or brown tones are more natural. After
applying deep or red lip color,
run a brush dipped in foundation around your lips. This will erase
bleeds, creating a flawless lip line. Bold colors will require more
frequent reapplication to look picture-perfect, while neutral colors
will be more forgiving between touch-ups. Not sure which colors look
best on you? Check out “Understated artistry” to get help figuring out your undertone and the colors that complement it best.

Creams & glosses. Formulations like creams and
glosses have higher moisture content, which make them wear off in a
relatively gradual, subtle way. Glosses work great on their own or with
liner. You can also layer light shimmery gloss
in the middle of the lower lip to take lipstick to the next level.
Gold, champagne or bronze glosses give that sun-goddess glow.

Going on a date? Wearing a cream or gloss leaves room for a kiss—they
stain less, moisturize and won’t leave him with a telltale collar. Try jumbo gloss balms for shine without the sticky tack.

Matte lipsticks. These last longer and give that
sophisticated look, but they tend to be more dry, so keep an eye on your
pout and touch-up as necessary.

Lip crayons. Apply to the entire lip for a defined
look without liner. They also intensify both the color and the staying
power of glosses and creme lipsticks.

Balance. Bold lips beg for understated eyes. Subtle lips scream for dramatic eyes.

Clean swipe. Remove lipstick, especially deep colors, with a mild soap or makeup remover so they don’t stain you or your pillow.

A smile is the sexiest accessory on your lips. With these tips, you
can have your say and are on your way to lips as powerful as the words
coming out of them!