How to Wear Lipstick: Lip Color Tips for Beginners

Rachel Krause
lip color tips

Photo: IMaxTree

We almost can’t believe it ourselves, but once upon a time, we were intimidated by lipstick. It’s true—we’d look at other women rocking their bold statement lips and wonder, “How does she do that?” We in DIRE need of some serious lip color tips. With time and effort, we overcame our fear; but we understand that if you’re not in the habit of wearing lipstick regularly, it can feel really scary to start.

But you should definitely start—because there’s something truly magical about an amazing lipstick. It can make you feel confident, gorgeous, sexy and powerful. It can compliment your outfit, your complexion and your eyes. Plus, it’s so much fun to wear—and life is too short not to have fun with makeup!

So if you’re a lipstick novice, we are here to guide you on the path to perfect lipstick. Here are our very best lip color tips.

Do your research.
Given that the market for lipstick is so vast, it’s not unheard of to become overwhelmed by selection alone. A good place to start is with brand and pricing—do you want to invest in a high-end lipstick right off the bat, or do you just want to sample something more affordable and see how it goes before putting money into it? There are great options at both ends of the pricing spectrum, so hit the web before venturing to the nearest drugstore or Sephora. If there’s a brand you already know that you love, check out their lip colors and formulas to find the right one for you.

Look to celebrities for inspiration.
Not every complexion can pull off every lip color, but think of celebrities who have similar coloring to you and looks they’ve worn that you’ve liked. It may sound silly, but liking a color on someone else who has, say, dark hair and light eyes like you is a good indicator of something that will not only look good on you but something you’ll enjoy seeing on yourself.

Start sheer.
Rome wasn’t built in a day, and the prospect of diving straight into the deep end of the pool lipstick-wise can be terrifying. A sheer, glossy formula that has some decent pigment but doesn’t feel or look “lipstick-y” is the perfect way to get comfortable with wearing color on your lips. Even just a tinted lip balm can be a great starting point, so try a bunch of them on to find one you love—and wear it all the time. Whether you’re running errands, going to work, or lounging around the house, wearing color on your lips frequently is the only way to actually get used to seeing it on your face without feeling hyper-aware.

Application is key.
Not every lipstick can just be swiped on straight out of the tube. If you’re going for a matte or opaque color, arm yourself with a good-quality lip brush for precise application, as well as a lip liner in a universal or corresponding shade. Clean up any mistakes with a q-tip, or use a concealer brush and a small amount of concealer as an “eraser” if you’ve strayed outside the lines. This creates a sharp, defined look that seems well-done and professional, not amateur (so no one will be the wiser that you’re just starting out).

Think about the rest of your makeup.
If you want a lipstick that you’re going to wear daily, think of the other makeup you wear daily. If you enjoy a dramatic eye or winged liner on a day-to-day basis, opt for a lip color that’s more understated so that it doesn’t compete with what’s going on on your eyes. If you keep things low-key without a bold eye look, you have a little more flexibility, and can choose something bolder and brighter for emphasis or complement your natural look with a similarly natural lip color. We love the no-makeup look worn with a super-bold lip color—and once you get comfortable with lipstick, so will you.

Read more: Find Your Perfect Red Lipstick