Kiss the soft shades of summer goodbye and say hello to bright, bold, beautiful color this season. Like a bountiful harvest, lipsticks come in a cornucopia of complimentary and contrasting tones, from warm to cool. With so many choices, finding the perfect color that’s perfectly suited to you isn’t rocket science but it can be confusing – unless you know a few tricks of the beauty trade.
Anyone who knows my work as a professional stylist knows that I take my cues from nature and the inherent beauty around us everyday. To me, autumn is alive and spirited. The air is crisp. The leaves are turning. The holidays are approaching, and nothing says festive like the many splendid shades of red. Reds make a statement. However, making the right statement means choosing the right shade of red for your skin tone.
Get to know your complexion. This is the most crucial factor in determining your ideal lip color. Skin tone in general ranges from fair to dark, but selecting a complementary lip shade is not (pardon the pun) black and white. Take a moment to identify your skin’s subtle undertones. Can you detect a blush of pink, a hint of yellow, or a bluish hue? A good skin care professional should be able to help if you are not sure.
Fair skin: Dish up a deep plum, berry or wine red. Reds with blue undertones as well as light browns or beige’s carrying pink undertones flatter fair skins nicely. However, stay away from those pepto-pink colored lipsticks.
Olive or yellow skin: Choose rich, deep-brown reds and dark berry shades. Stay away from orange-reds. They add a jaundice tinge to the skin. Avoid pink entirely.
Medium skin: Use deep pinks, deep reds, velvety caramel, and creamy coffee colored lipsticks. Medium-toned browns with yellow or pink undertones work well, too. Stay away from pale browns or beige that make medium skin look ashen and washed out.
Dark skin: Try reds with blue undertones. Deep plums, wine reds, almost any shade of rich, dark browns like coffee or mahogany flatter the skin. Avoid orange undertones.
Now, let’s talk sheen.
“To gloss or not to gloss?” While the current trend touts matte finishes, I find them flat and drying. I steer my clients away from lackluster and toward lipsticks with a silky, luxurious finish.
Remember, even with the best products, ‘more’ doesn’t make a good thing better. I propose you invest in a few high quality products and use them in an extraordinary way. Approach the shape and contour of your lips just as a painter would ready a canvas.
Read my lipstick: “ It’s all in the application.”
One essential tool to stash in your paint box is lip liner. Select a firm pencil as close to your natural lip color as possible, slightly darker if you wish your lips to appear thicker. Note: I’m not opposed to using colored lip pencils, even red pencils, so long as you are careful to select a shade that blends deliberately and gradually with your chosen lipstick color. That way, should your lipstick wear or fade over the course of the day, you won’t look like you’re wearing a clown mouth. The purpose of the lip liner is to lend definition and contour the mouth, not serve as a distraction.
Ready, set, apply.
Step 1: Prep with foundation
Pat your lips with foundation to fill and smooth any cracks, soften the surface and extend wear.
Step 2: Line the lips
Line lips with your pencil starting near but not exactly at the corners along the top lip (the cupid’s bow) and repeat along the bottom lip (or bottom bow).
Step 3. Blend and Fill
Use the same liner to flesh out the lips. Remember to blend, blend, blend the pencil color with your lip color.
Step 4: Apply finishing color
Now you’re ready to apply your bold new lip color. Smack. Dab. Check you teeth for lipstick overspill. Beautiful. Go boldly forth into fall.
For staying power, here’s a simple tip: Drink from straw.
Once you’ve narrowed your color selection down to your top three favorites, experiment. Try them in different light. One tone may work better than another depending on the time of day.
While there are a few hard and fast rules, whether in beauty or in life, my advice is always do what feels right for you.
Editor’s Note: Paul Podlucky is the owner and creative director of the exclusive hair and make-up studio, founded in 2001, that bears his name. It is known by a roster of stylists, magazine editors, and clients as one of New York City’s best-kept style secrets. “So much of what I do involves hearing a woman’s needs and translating them into the desired outcome,” he says. “It is less important how I see them, but how they see themselves and how they want to feel.” Paul is currently working to spread his passion for perfection through a hair care and make-up product lines.