This ’90s Lipstick Shade Just Got A Modern Upgrade

Photographed by Eric T. White.
Take a quick scan at the mouths of celebrities, reality stars, and models right now, and you might notice a unified trend: brown lipstick. As we're sure you've heard, the defining shade of the '90s is back with a vengeance.

Now, we're well aware that brown can be an intimidating hue to dabble in — the '90s isn't necessarily known for its stellar beauty trends, after all. However, as makeup artist Matin Maulawizada reassures us, it's a universally flattering color that anyone can pull off, once you find the right shade.

"A lot of people think that brown lipsticks are reserved for really pale girls or really dark girls, but, to me, anyone can pull off the shade," Matin, who professionally goes by just his first name, says. "It just depends on the rest of your makeup, your attitude, and what you wear."

Don't believe him? Well, the proof is in the pictures. We rounded up six beautiful models with a variety of lip and skin tones to help show you the versatility of brown lipstick. Ahead, Matin helps us navigate the hue to find the perfect updated shade for each. And thanks to new technology and formulas, you don't have to worry about the overly thick pigments of yesteryear — provided you ditch the darker-than-your-lipstick lipliner, you can bring modern life to this '90s shade.

Just keep these words of wisdom from Matin in mind if you're still hesitant to pick up a tube: "It’s makeup, there are no rules; if you can rock it, you can wear it."
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Photographed by Eric T. White.
Fair With Pink Undertones
For Sera, Matin went with a very true-to-'90s-brown — think peach-y brown and more latte-hued than cappuccino.

"This look is a nice reminiscence of the times when these colors were just emerging on the market and making their way into women’s psyche to stay away from the brights and pinks and fuchsias," he reflects. "The lipstick that we picked was a neutral and perfect brown for her."

Sera's lips are naturally very pink, so ladies with a similar tint might have to work a little harder to get the brown to project. Matin swiped on Urban Decay's lipstick in the oh-so-appropriate 1993 shade and topped it off with a pale gloss to make the color stick a bit more.

The part of the lip where you have to cheat the color a bit more is the inside "pouty" portion of the bottom lip. "That's where the light catches," he says. "It makes the pigment the sheerest so it picks up the pink color." Matin recommends using a pencil for that particular section and putting the lip color over it.

Of course, no '90s look is complete without a set of gelled-down baby hairs. Sera's 'do is one we're pretty sure even Chilli would be jealous of.

Magnolia Makeup Lipstick in Whisper, $15, available at Magnolia Makeup; Urban Decay Matte Revolution Lipstick in 1993, $22, available at Urban Decay; Topshop Tiny Pleat Top by Boutique, $68, available at Topshop; StvdiobBrooklyn Sofia Ring, $68, available at Stvdiobrooklyn; Stvdiobrooklyn Sofia Midi Ring, $58, available at Stvdiobrooklyn; Stvdiobrooklyn Squiggle Studs, $78, available at Stvdiobrooklyn.
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Photographed by Eric T. White.
Deep With Blue Undertones
The cocoa tint Matin chose for Maryse was, essentially, the same brown as her skin, which made for a super-monochromatic, effortless look. It's what he called her perfect nude.

"It kind of blends her lip with the rest of the skin — that is the chicest color you can possibly do on a girl with her skin color," he says. "To me, it looks so elegant because there’s no color gradation, no separation — you just become one really beautiful color…. It looks heavenly on her skin."

Matin advises not going too light for those with cooler undertones because then it veers into '60s territory. When in doubt, go darker than your skin tone. But if you're a lipstick rebel with a cause and are interested in going a bit paler, he has a workaround: "I would do a lighter tone on the inside — like on top of what she has on," he says. "Pucker your lips into a kiss, take your ring finger, and put just a touch of a lighter lipstick in the middle and blend it in…that gives you the reference of a paler lip without going completely chalky."

Nikki Chasin top

Laura Mercier Crème Smooth Lip Colour in Cocoa, $27, available at Laura Mercier; Stvdiobrooklyn Half Hoop Earring, $148, available at Stvdiobrooklyn; Stvdiobrooklyn Half Ring, $98, available at Stvdiobrooklyn.
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Photographed by Eric T. White.
Medium With Warm Undertones
Although Lily has warmer undertones, her skin is pretty balanced color-wise, says Matin, which gives her the ability to pull off pretty much any shade.

As much as we love a good brown lipstick, it can read a bit one-dimensional. For Lily, we decided to go with a more offbeat metallic copper shade that's both fun and unexpected.

Since her lips were naturally very berry, there's still a tinge of red that peeks through. But, Matin says, that's the best part. "The color of the lip shows through so the brown doesn’t read brown-brown…it always has a little life of its own once you put it on," he says. "Which is beautiful to me because that way it doesn’t look dead."

NYX Wicked Lippie in Wrath, $6, available at NYX Cosmetics; Tibi Silk Bodysuit, $375, available at Tibi; Stvdiobrooklyn Tip Collar, $630, available at Stvdiobrooklyn; Stvdiobrooklyn Shape Necklace, $188, available at Stvdiobrooklyn; Stvdiobrooklyn Half Ring, $98, available at Stvdiobrooklyn.
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Photographed by Eric T. White.
Medium With Olive Undertones
Matin notes that with Manuela's medium-tone skin and olive undertones, she can go light or dark on the brown spectrum, depending on the rest of her makeup. To switch things up, he went for a color that was a similar medium shade to her own skin color.

"I wanted to use a color that was really inviting and romantic and flavorful," Matin says about Manuela's caramel color (think Werther's Original candies). "Anything too light or pale can make her look a little flat. It’s nice to have some kind of life color-wise on the skin."

Her natural lip color was almost a mauve-y pink, so the brown was the perfect addition to neutralize the color. "It looks really lively. It works very well with the lip color and undertones that she has," he notes. "It brings her into a warmer space [that] looks very pretty."

Cosmetic Colour Pencils in Penny Royal, $16, available at OCC; Alasadair Knot Dress, $467, available at AltHouse.
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Photographed by Eric T. White.
Pale With Yellow Undertones
For Kayla, the fairest model (skin-tone-wise) of them all, Matin chose a "cappuccino, café con leche" hue. For those on the paler spectrum, he loves a good brown-nude: Think medium to lighter shade of brown.

Similar to Sera, Kayla's lips were also very pink naturally, so Matin had to work a little harder to get the brown pigment to show through. Instead of reaching for a lipstick, he used a pencil to fill in the entire pout. "The pigment [for a lip pencil] is heavier, so it actually covers the entire lip…so you paint that lip pencil like a lipstick all over your lips, then you can just leave it like that," he says. The result: a gorgeous matte effect.

Another trick? Matin says dabbing concealer or foundation onto the lips before applying lip color is also a good way to mute the pink. Or take a page out of Sir John's book and use your sculpting/contouring shade in place of your lipstick altogether.

Tibi sweater; stylist's own rings.

MAC Lip Pencil in Oak, $16.50, available at MAC; Stvdiobrooklyn Marrianne Earrings, $58, available at Stvdiobrooklyn.
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Photographed by Eric T. White.
Olive With Red Undertones
Ending on a very high note, Xu got the boldest and darkest lip of the bunch. It's a common misconception that girls with paler skin can't pull off deeper shades, but Matin says eff your beauty rules. Thinking of going over to the dark side? He advises that the key is to keep everything else — your eye makeup, blush, etc. — super-light, so it doesn't look too vampy. "When you keep everything else soft, it doesn’t look vulgar or heavy; it just looks like a pretty girl wearing a deeper lipstick," he says.

Matin does note, however, that if your skin veers more toward the sallow side (with green and olive undertones), you should avoid colors with too much yellow in them. Instead, gravitate toward more rosy browns to avoid looking washed out.

The liquid lipstick Matin picked up for Xu dries super-matte. And though it looks amazing in person and on camera, it can wreak havoc on your lips if they're not moisturized properly. To counteract this, he recommends doing a lip polish a couple of times a week, applying lip balm before putting your lipstick on, and even mixing a bit of moisturizing lipstick onto the matte formula to help lessen the dryness of the velvet texture.

Nikki Chasin top; stylist's own rings.

Jeffree Star Cosmetics Velour Liquid Lipstick in Dominatrix, $18, available at Jeffree Star Cosmetics; Stvdiobrooklyn Squiggle Cuff, $248, available at Stvdiobrooklyn.
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Photographed by Eric T. White.
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