WORDS | Colour Theory: The Art of Lipstick And How We Choose the Shades We Do

Take a walk down any makeup aisle, infinity-scroll through any online store, or flick through the pages of any beauty mag, and we can be pretty sure you'll see a rainbow of colours and textures to choose from: a chromatic compilation of nudes, brights and darkened bolds, to crèmes, mattes and liquids. While this might be daunting to some or total heaven to others, how many of us have rushed to buy that vibrant shade of plum or too-bright peach – only to take it home, try it on, and see that it doesn't actually look all that great? Or worse – it does – but you can't shake the feeling that you just don't look like yourself, and instead resign your new purchase to the bottom drawer of bad decisions.

(NB: Real life is not a catwalk; I will rarely* wear glitter) (*never say never)

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Our lipstick colour often goes hand in hand with the creature comforts that keep us in check: the day to day routines that allow us to go about our days feeling confident, somewhat pretty, all adult-y and ready to tackle the 9-5 like the bad bitches we are.  

But are we really as bad a bitch as we like to think we are, if we don't play the part? It's interesting to realise just how much of our personality is defined by our sense of style, what we do for a living, or how we paint our faces. Before we even open our mouths the assumptions are there – stereotypes that have plagued women in our society for eons: red lips are for femme fatales, Hollywood glamours or savvy girl bosses who know how to simultaneously command a man and a room. We’ve been conditioned to think that the women who favour a vibrant red lip are the women who ooze a sense of potency that can either be intimidating or inspiring. We imagine them to be all beemers, botox, and summers in Positano, or high-flying corporates whose plump, scarlet mouths signal like a red flag that they're in charge.

On the other hand, what is it about a good old nude that pales in comparison? Is it ‘basic’ to opt for a more conservative set of smackers? Why? Now, I'm definitely not knocking the subtle shades, as I’m a vanilla girl through and through. But is that where the problem with this colour theory lies, that we’re conditioned to think that nudes are for the not-overly-outgoing, and bright, sultry reds are for the girls who seek adventure? Can I not be adventurous without drawing attention to the one body part I'm probably most insecure about? 

Naturally, our insecurities have a way of shining through more often than the courage to step outside of our comfort zone and try something new. It might be odd to confess that as a co-creator of makeup brand, I’ve only taken to wearing lipstick in the past year; for me personally, I always thought lipstick was more suited to the overtly bubbly, or the girls with big, beautiful smiles who could naturally pull off any colour under the sun (or under the rainbow, for a more suitable analogy). I have a little mouth, a small smile that’s more of a grin than a show-stopper, and lips that aren’t very pillow-y; I accepted these features of mine and steered clear of wearing lipstick for fear that adding colour would accentuate what I liked least about myself.

While I can own this admission now, there are still so many women out there who insist they can’t pull off wearing a particular colour, no matter how much they love it: “I wish I could wear lipstick, I’ve tried it but it just doesn’t suit me.” 

Sound familiar?

(Hello, it's me. Bare-lipped, thin-lipped and actually okay with it!)

 

But I’m not going to bore you with niceties; here at MBL we’re all about the real. We are real women first and foremost; real women who have our own style, comforts, and insecurities just like you. No face is a one-size fits all; we know that, and we own that. Having built our brand on the ethos that every woman deserves to feel beautiful in her own skin, we’re here to educate you on how to wear lipstick with confidence, feel comfortable with how you look, and how to embrace what yo’ mamma gave you.

Because the truth is, they’re right when they say having confidence is the key to loving who you are, through and through. While we know that’s sometimes easier said than done, it’s the same for pulling off lip colour. Any woman can wear a lipstick; the key to rocking it is finding the right shade to complement your skin tone, face shape, or lip size.

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Disclosure: If you're a lipstick virgin, stick to slow and steady. Don't rush into a bold lip if you're not used to having any product or colour on your pout. We are often our worst critics, and it's not always easy to feel confident if you don't feel like yourself in the first place!

Nude and Natural

Those with naturally fair skin tend to suit a nude lip colour that is just slightly brighter or deeper than their skin tone. A slight pop of blush with a hint of gloss on top will add depth without washing you out, and always try to remember that natural highlights come best from moisture and hydration in the formula, not the pigment.

For women like myself who have thinner lips, it’s natural to want to stick to colours that don’t emphasise what you might lack, but rather what you have. A nude liner that matches your natural lip colour can help to identify where your lips begin and end. Paired with this, we find it’s best to apply a pale pink or nude colour to the centre of your lips – creating a kind of ombre effect as you blend outwards – with an overcoat of gloss to give your pout the appearance of a more voluptuous size. This technique also works for women with olive skin or yellow undertones who look best in warmer shades – think sandy beiges, subtle corals and soft peaches. These hues provide a hint of colour without appearing too stark or bold, adding enough depth in just the right place.

 

The Right Bright

When trying to find the right bright, it's best to choose a shade based on your natural lip colour – not your skin tone. Women with pale lips look best in cherry tones, nudes, peaches, and corals, whereas those with naturally reddish or dark lips can pull off shades of berry, a slick of magenta, burgundy or bright orange. It’s important to figure out which colour can really make your lips pop without straying too far from what already suits your face.

Pro-Tip: They say your natural lip colour is most similar to the colour of your nipples, or the inside tip of your fingertip. All too often do we test out colour swatches of the back of our hands or our arms; this will actually give a false representation of the colour as it will appear on your lips, so next time you’re trying out shades be sure to take a swipe with the tip of your finger instead.

Rich Reds

Surprisingly, unlike many other highly pigmented colours, a red lipstick actually works on everyone – we promise! When opting for a bold or bright lip colour like the classic red, you want the rest of your face to be as bare or natural looking as possible. Your smackers are the stars of the show, so be weary of overdoing the rest of your face.

On fair and even porcelain skin, painting your lips red does wonders to achieve a strong, rich, and thoroughly refined look. Regality at its finest that’s paired best with neutral eye makeup (bar a little winged liner!) and a monochromic wardrobe.

Those with medium or darker skin tones can also pull off the classic red, as well as colours that bring an undertone of warmth (like an orange-red), or shades with a deeper base like a burgundy or berry.

Pro-Tip: To give your lips a little shimmering finish, add a sweep of champagne eye shadow or a dust of highlighter.

Style Hint: Pair a shiny red lip with matte skin for a bold, nighttime look, or vice versa: a muted lip with dewy skin for a youthful, glowing freshness.



Line 'Em Up

A little overdraw never hurt nobody! To enhance your Cupid's bow, add symmetry to your lips or subtly accentuate their size, choose a liner that matches your natural lip colour, not your lipstick. Also, a lip liner double as a primer, so you can actually coat your entire lips with the pencil before applying your colour. This will help keep your pout smooth for an even application, as well as ensure a longer lasting colour (because who wants to continually reapply, right?)

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While we could write all day, here's where we'll love you and leave you. Stay tuned for another blog post later this month, detailing The 10 Commandments of Lipstick Application and our favourite industry tips and tricks. X

 

 


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