These Pink Lipsticks Work For Every Skin Tone — Here’s The Proof
It’s time that we finally decide what shade of pink is as iconic as MAC Ruby Woo is to red lipstick.
Listen, I never had to read Moby Dick in high school — my only exposure to Herman Melville was spending five minutes in a cave he once was trapped in during a rainstorm in the Berkshires — but I’ve always been obsessed with the concept of the white whale. You know, the enigma, something you’ve never been able to really get or achieve. I know in the book it’s all one big metaphor for the existence of man and whatnot, but let me tell you: Pink lipstick has always been my proverbial white whale.
It’s not just loving Elle Woods or the fact my entire apartment is a literal Barbie’s Dream House. I’ve just always wanted a pink lipstick that suits my skin tone and undertone as well as The Lip Bar’s red lipstick Bawse Lady does, ya know? And in my opinion, pink lipstick hasn’t really had its moment to shine. But it seems like this fall, every makeup brand I love is breaking into the pink lipstick specialty arena, and now may be the time that we finally decide what shade of pink is as iconic as MAC Ruby Woo is to red lipstick.
Why is it so hard to find a pink lipstick?
One word: undertones. It’s all in the undertone, and given that makeup brands already struggle in the undertone department when it comes to foundation and concealer shades, it’s no shock that pink, which is a secondary color, lacks in the same department. “You need to know the undertones of your skin to find the right shade of pink lipstick that flatters your complexion,” celebrity makeup artist and CATRICE ambassador Lilly Keys explains. “Once you know this, you’ll know exactly which shades of pink to go for that will suit you, and look great against your skin tone.”
You see, it’s simple (read: it’s not simple) — Pink is the combination of red and white, created in all shades and ratios. According to Canva, “Pink has many different shades, intensities, and variations ranging from orange-based salmons through blue-based berry tones, but for most, pink is recognized as a pale red.” Like purple, pink is very much in the eye of the beholder and has kind of been bastardized in our language because everyone has a differing idea of what “pink” is. Makeup artist and esthetician Brittany Whitfield (who believes that just like there’s a blonde for everyone, there’s a pink for everyone) explains: “Traditionally speaking, there aren't different shades of red, only different textures of red. Pink, on the other hand, has such a varying range of shades.” When it comes to a pink lipstick and your skin tone, there’s a lot of color-bouncing and reflecting of shades and tones, which is why a pink in the tube may not appear the same shade on your face. A perpetually disappointing moment, but we survive.
Why pink lipstick, and why now?
If you’re asking me why every brand is doing a pink lipstick right now, I think it’s a multitude of reasons. First off, we literally said Hot Pink Is the Color Of 2022, so there's that. The Barbiecore trend, obviously, is a lateral jump from the Euphoria makeup that dominated the winter/spring of 2021, and those who were too fearful of wearing diamonds on their face may not be afraid of a bright pink lip shade. There’s also the fact that lip liners are better than ever before, and a necessity when it comes to pink lipstick application, explains Whitfield. “People are more confident wearing pinks as long as there is a delineation from skin tone to lip color, and as long as that line is tonal with their complexion. This allows for virtually any color to be flattering.”
And finally, I think pink's rise in popularity is due to the fact that we’re in a bit of a cultural reversion right now. Red lipstick feels very… adult, very committed, very Serious Business Person Doing Business. Meanwhile, pink lipstick, regardless of the shade, comes with a level of freedom and fun, low-commitment vibes. We’re just all out here, dancing to WHAM! in our Barbie Jeeps having gas station fights going beep beep, no thoughts, just vibes. After a really hard two and a half years, we’re allowed to regress just a little. I mean, The Daily Beast recently named a children’s show the best show adults aren’t watching. We’re all going through it, but at least we’re doing it in style. I could write a full essay on how Elle Woods in Legally Blonde wears a bold pink lipstick (she’s often in nudes or glosses throughout the film otherwise) during her most transitional/growth moments — her breakup with Warner in the first act, meeting Emmett in the second, her shining cross-examination in act three — but that’s not what y’all are here for.
What is pink lipstick’s impact on the culture?
When I think “pink lipstick”, I think Barbie dolls, of course, because who doesn't? But then my mind goes to the Barbz, and I would be remiss if I didn’t give Nicki Minaj her props when it comes to the pink lipstick evolution. Remember the pink shade on the cover of Pink Friday? I do, because it’s taking up a tiny bit of space in my brain. Remember her MAC Cosmetics Viva Glam campaign? I don’t believe we’ve seen a satin pearly pink with yellow undertones on the market in a bullet or a gloss since, because it was over for us.
Speaking of Viva Glam, they’ve pretty much had the market covered when it comes to iconic pink lipstick looks, including the original from RuPaul in the 1990s, and Miley Cyrus’ edition. Of course, Rihanna never lets us down, ever, and I still haven’t recovered from the time she invented Valentine’s Day with an all-pink red carpet look, my true dream and goal accomplishment. (Don’t take me seriously, I have bigger goals than that, but not much bigger.)
But of course, the one that doesn’t get mentioned enough (other than my obvious Elle Woods/Legally Blonde obsession) is the pink lipstick on the stars for the 2004 posters for Mean Girls. Whatever shade of pink this is walked just so millennial pink could run.
Experts Pick The Best Pink Lipsticks Based On Undertones
I asked both Keys and Whitfield their choices for pink lipsticks to try based on the undertone, because, well, I selfishly wanted to know. In terms of their personal preferences, Whitfield prefers MAC Matte Lipstick in Please Me, Shiseido Lip Liner Duo in Magenta, and Anastasia Beverly Hills Liquid Lipstick in Kathryn, while Keys is a fan of more nude and sheer pinks, such as Charlotte Tilbury’s Pillow Talk (a strong contender for the most “iconic” pink shade for a lot of beauty experts), MAC Cosmetics’ Velvet Teddy Nude, and CATRICE Power Plumping Gel Lipstick in Strong Is The New Pretty.
For those warm undertones, you’ll want to reach for a pink lip with a yellow or peach undertone such as Glossier Ultralip in Vesper, Catrice Power Plumping Gel Lipstick in My Lip Choice, and Nars Lipstick in Orgasm (yet another “iconic” pink lip contender.)
And for those of us who fall completely neutral, a.k.a. me, keep reading: We're going to test some new fall pink lipstick shades to see if I finally made pink my personal prize.
So, What Pinks Did I Wind Up Really Loving?
For this high-end, black ops-style investigation, I chose four lipsticks: Super Stay Ink Crayon Birthday Edition Lipstick in Throw a Party from Maybelline, Urban Decay’s Vice Lip Bond Glossy Liquid Lipstick in No Restraints, Bossy Cosmetics’s Power Woman Essentials Liquid Lipsticks in Bravery, and Violette_FR’s Petal Bouche Matte in Cœur Infidèle. When in doubt, I paired each with a lipliner just to be safe — the Patrick Ta Monochrome Moment Precision Lip Crayon in She’s Bold with the Violette FR, No Restraints with Kosas Hotliner in Supreme with Urban Decay, and Urban Decay 24/7 Glide-On Lip Pencil in Blackmail with the Bossy lipstick.
I’ve never really felt more like Goldilocks than during this application, but it really was like “Too berry,” “too light,” “too red,” “just right.” For me, the Maybelline lipstick read more “popsicle lips” than lipstick, and was far too… berry / purple, not pink. The Urban Decay was far more pastel than the tube implied, and it grew on me over wear, especially when I added the lip liner. Would it be my everyday pink? Nah. But did I hate it? No.
The Violette FR shade has been in my rotation since I received it earlier this summer, and I like it, but I do find it pulls far more red on my skin tone than it did when, say, Taylore Glynn wore it in her review for Allure. (See, undertones and skin tone, baby!) But I really love the formula, and I love it as a red option for me, not necessarily a pink one.
And finally, here comes Bravery, which is not what I had when I first tried to apply it. I was absolutely terrified of this shade, despite the actual literal CEO and founder of Bossy Cosmetics, Aishetu Dozie, picking it out for me and forcing it into my hand during CosmoProf. She insisted it would work, I was skeptical. But y’all: She gave pink. The hot, electric, magenta-pink of my dreams. When Myra said “miracles happen once in a while when you believe” on the Princess Diaries soundtrack, she was talking about this exact moment. The sun shone down on me on that day when I trusted the process and the insight of others, and I got what I wanted. The Barbie pink shade of my Barbie Dream House fantasies.