Take a look through your lipstick collection. If you’re a beauty junky like me, you’ll pretty much find every color in the rainbow and then some. With the exception of black. Don’t get me wrong: I love me some black nails (so chic, so elegant). And I’m actually old enough to remember when dark, vampy nails were a really major statement—as in, you were an edgy groundbreaker if you could get your hands on a blackish burgundy shade. Well, now is that moment for black lipstick. It’s avant-garde and elegant, and It girls from Rihanna to Gigi Hadid have been rocking it. Pinterest is blowing up with it, and I just heard “black lipstick” is one of the most googled makeup terms out there. But I’ll be honest: Even an OG beauty writer like me finds it a little, shall we say, intimidating? I mean, I get it—the whole “little black dress” for your lips thing. There may very well be no color as classic as black (rumor has it Egyptian babes were making up their mouths with it back in the days of Cleopatra). But it’s one thing to look insanely hot on Instagram, and a whole other to be wearing it IRL as you’re picking up a loaf of bread at the grocery store, am I right? Admittedly, my greatest association with raven lips is Robert Smith of the Cure, the pied piper of Goth. With all due respect, that is not the look I’m going for on date night with my hubs. Unless that date night falls on October 31st.
But after being told by oodles of makeup artists that it’s surprisingly wearable for women of all complexions and on all occasions, I finally succumbed to its siren song and decided to try it out on different occasions—the grocery store, a girls night out, a picnic, on a beach trip to Costa Rica, and date night. It was a very, very slow start. At first, I dipped my toe into the black sea by just staining my lips or topping with a gloss for a sheer effect. But eventually I took the plunge and went full-on black. And you know what? It looked pretty amazing. So I did it again.
But first, a few tips and one word of warning: Black lipstick definitely makes your teeth look more yellow than they do in any other color. That’s probably why you rarely see a Pinterest photo of someone looking stunning in black lipstick smiling. I thought it was because a smile doesn’t really go with this seriously I’m-sexy-but-I-can-also-slash-you look, but in reality, it just doesn’t make your teeth look all that good. So stock up on teeth whitening toothpaste or don’t go full-throttle if there’s any tinge of yellow in your smile.
As for the rest of your face, easy does it. What keeps this look fresh and trendy instead of Halloweeny is minimal makeup everywhere else. I’m talking dewy skin (I used tinted moisturizer since you want to make sure your imperfections are covered—any dark lipstick will play up dark spots or redness on the face); a touch of sheer blush only on the apples of your cheeks, or a wash of bronzer all over. A little bit of black mascara keeps eyes from looking washed out. At night, clean black eyeliner was the perfect complement (no smoky eyes here), as was pearly highlighter on the cheeks and brow bones for a slightly pearly, beautiful glow that contrasted with matte black lips. But definitely steer clear of color anywhere else on the face. Believe me, no one will see anything other than your lips anyway.
As you can see by the different complexions on the models and celebs who wear it, black looks good on everyone. But, I was definitely able to wear it darker and heavier after my skin got some sun at the beach (I know, I know—I hope my dermatologist isn’t reading this). That’s to say that the lighter your skin tone, the more shocking black will look. So you may want to consider toning it down by blotting or starting out with a stained version of it first.
Look 1: Stain
Where I wore it: To the beach
I’ll admit it now: Black lipstick at the beach sounded as appealing as sticking a chocolate bar in my bathing suit and waiting for it to melt. Besides, isn’t the whole point of beach makeup not to wear any? I wanted to go full-blown RiRi here, but I just couldn’t. Despite the old adage that you can never wear too much black, I feared wearing too much black. So I used the faintest amount of NYX Wicked Lippie in Cold Hearted as a stain. Because of the matte formulation and dark color, I exfoliated and moisturized my lips like a mad woman to make sure there wasn’t a flake in sight. This is easier than it sounds, as I simply took my tooth brush and spent some time brushing my lips after I was finished with my teeth. Then I applied lip balm so the surface was soft and smooth. I dabbed some of the black lip color on my finger and then pressed it into my lips. Then I topped it with a bit more balm. Done and done. Nothing to stare at here. The color was totally wearable, even in bright daylight. It gave my lips an almost berry hue by mixing with their natural color. Another plus: The staining effect wore off slowly and evenly in the heat so I didn’t end up looking like a hot mess.
Look 2: Over pink gloss
Where I wore it: A picnic
Still nervous about going full force, I applied my usual pink gloss to my lips, then dabbed Maybelline New York Color Sensational The Loaded Bolds Lipstick in Pitch Black over the entire lip. The effect? A more burgundy tone to my lips. A good reminder that black can be used to darken any color you already have without needing to purchase more lipsticks.
Look 3: Ombre black
Where I wore it: Girls’ Night Out
Ok, here is where I decided to start getting serious about black with Urban Decay Vice Comfort Matte Lipstick in Perversion. I started by lining lips with a clear, matte lip liner (Maybelline New York Color Sensational Shaping Lip Liner in Clear) to keep color from spreading. Not only did I line the outer lip line but went in a bit as well (just avoided the middle). Then I used a lip brush to apply the heaviest amount of color at the center of my lips (almost a circle, with half on bottom, half on top). I then took a lip brush and blended out the color to the outer edges. The look was actually very pretty—dramatic and edgy, to be sure. But also elegant. When it started to wear off, I applied a glossy super-sheer red-tinged gloss (Yves Saint Laurent Gloss Volupte Lip Gloss in Rouge Shantung) and it looked pretty fabulous. Several of my friends commented that they couldn’t believe black could look this good or be so versatile.
Look 4: Satin black
Where I wore it: Date night
Fact: Black lipstick will make your lips look thinner, especially if it’s a flat matte formula. I am not looking for thinner lips. I am also not going for a look where your lips are lined with black with nothing left in the middle. Oh no. So, I started by lining my full lips (outer lip line and inside) with a black eyeliner pencil ( I used Lancome Le Crayon Khol Smoky Eye Liner in Black Ebony, because it goes on super smooth and doesn’t pull). I actually lined just outside my natural shape to give myself a little bit of extra fullness. After blotting, I painted on the Urban Decay Perversion with a lip brush, then dabbed it again just to the middle of my mouth straight from the tube. Allover opaque coverage is a must-have here. I finished with a dab of highlighter in my cupid’s bow to make my lips look puffier, and a dab of clear gloss in the center of my lips for the same effect. I thought it looked pretty amazing—like Pinterest amazing. My hubby, not so much. He thought it was way too much and had zero desire to have it smudged anywhere on him or near him. I have a feeling that this is a look women may generally appreciate more than men, unless said men read Vogue.
Look 5: Straight black, from the tube
Where I wore it: Grocery store
I’m not going to spend much time on my makeup if I’m just running to the store, so wearing just bronzer and mascara, I applied NYX Macaron Lippie in Chambord color directly onto my lips, taking care to outline my lips as precisely as I could with a lipstick bullet (instead of a brush or liner). After blotting with a tissue, I reapplied. And I put on gold reflective sun glasses, this time really doing my best to channel RiRi’s casual black lipstick Instagram pic from a while back. And I loved it! Since I’m convinced the sunglasses made the look, I kept them on as I ran in and out of the store. I may very well have looked like a crazy person, but I didn’t care. I felt cool and edgy and like I was on my way to Coachella instead of a check-out line. And isn’t the whole point of makeup to make you feel that way?