Personally, we don’t leave home on any given day without a minimum of five lip colors in our purse, but we understand that some people prefer a more minimalist makeup wardrobe. Even if you’re not a daily lipstick wearer, or simply prefer a touch of mascara on the go, you shouldn’t neglect to keep a few shades around just in case. These five lip colors are all you need to get you through any situation (well, as far as beauty goes). We can’t make promises for any other variables, but armed with a great lipstick, everything should go just fine.
This one should be a no-brainer. Nothing changes a look—or a face—like an attention-grabbing red lipstick. Red comes in all different shades and tones, so the best way to find your ideal red is the old fashioned way: Try them on! Orangey red shades feel fresh and slightly edgy, while a classic deeper red is more elegant. If you want something bright, trendyand youthful, you can’t go wrong with Topshop Lips in Rio Rio ($16, topshop.com). For a true red that looks great on most everybody, try NARS Semi Matte Lipstick in Jungle Red ($26, narscosmetics.com).
Nude shades are definitely not one size fits all. What looks perfectly neutral and understated on one person could be positively corpse-like on the next. The idea of “nude” isn’t to match the skin, so depending on the undertones in your skin, the right nude will lean pink, mauve or beige. Fair skin generally looks best (and least washed out) with a peach-leaning pinkish shade, while deeper skin tones have more options and can experiment with darker and lighter colors.
Worn on its own or to add shine to matte colors, a clear gloss is indispensable. Choose a non-sticky formula with moisturizing ingredients, like Obsessive Compulsive Cosmetics Lip Tar Primer ($18, sephora.com), for a hydrating finish that can be used in place of lip balm or as a base for lip color.
A Your-Lips-but-Better Color
For a natural look or to offset more dramatic eye makeup, a color just a few shades deeper or brighter than your actual lip color is key. More often than not, these colors contain mauve or pink undertones, but a great (and slightly strange) way to find your perfect shade is by matching it to the inside of your lip. The Perricone MD No Lipstick Lipstick ($30, sephora.com) was created with this exact idea in mind. The difference between this color and a standard nude is that this one should be slightly more pigmented and look “natural” rather than muted.
Berry or Plum
You don’t have to go all-in on that dark lip color—try using your finger to blot it on as a stain. A berry or plum lipstick is versatile for that reason, and because it often looks great pressed onto cheeks as a blush, too. Though deeper colors are intimidating, it’s hard to go wrong with rich reds and purplish shades, because they’re super-flattering and mimic the skin’s natural “flush.”