It all starts with lipstick, the most basic yet also the most exciting of all makeup products. The combination of waxes, pigments, emollients, and oils is sometimes the easiest way to create a look, to express a mood, or simply to pick you up when you are feeling blue. For both makeup artists and enthusiasts, choosing lipstick can be pretty overwhelming because the options are truly endless.
As with most types of cosmetics, I recommend professionals carry lipsticks in palettes to make room for a variety of color options in minimal space. There are amazing pre-made palettes available (I like Three Custom Color and Cinema Secrets). Or you can customize a palette to meet your personal needs, either putting it together on your own or using a flexible color system, like the Freedom System from Inglot.
Keep in mind that all lips are different. The size and shape of the lip, the undertone, and shade of the skin will influence your choice of lipstick color. So, it’s helpful to have a wide range of lipsticks on hand in case you run into a challenge while on the job. Here are my recommendations for a stellar lipstick collection that will help you complete any task at hand.
Because there are so many different lipstick textures, the thought of having to choose one can be mind-numbing. Instead of blowing your budget on every single type of texture, I suggest you keep a selection of matte options. You can easily change the texture by layering shine or shimmer on top. But I do realize that some artists don't like working with the texture of a matte lipstick, so I’ve listed some of the more basic texture categories that are versatile and nice to have in your kit.
Mattes: Matte lipsticks deliver fuller coverage and lack shine. The pigment is usually higher than other lipsticks, which means longer wear without smudging or smearing. They can also be the best option for women of color because the pigment is so dense it makes the color really pop. The down side: mattes can dehydrate the lips and even age the mouth since they highlight wrinkles.
Satins and Creams: Both of these are great for everyday use because they wear well and, in most cases, deliver medium coverage. Plus, the high moisture level makes application easy.
Frosts: These are more subtle in color because the density of minerals in the formula work to reduce the color payoff in the pigment. Frosts don’t always work on darker complexions; they tend to be so light that all you end up seeing is the texture of the product. Also keep in mind that even though they can be fun to use in creating certain looks, frost can make your overall makeup feel dated.
Sheers: Sheers add a kissable tint to any pout. They last longer than a gloss and are great for when you want the lips to whisper for attention rather than shouting for it.
Of all the colors available, they broadly fall into one of two categories—brights and neutrals. Below see a further breakdown.
Reds: A classic and must-have shade that will never go out of style. Cover your bases by collecting both blue- and orange-based reds. Then, once you know you need a product with a certain undertone, you can look for reds that fit that and manipulate them to fit your needs. Some of my faves: MAC Lipstick in Russian Red, MAC Lipstick in Ruby Woo, Inglot Lipstick in 126 Cream, Inglot Lipstick in 103 Cream, and Revlon Super Lustrous Creme Lipstick in Cherries in the Snow
Pinks: From baby pink and dusty rose to carnation and fuschia, pinks come in a broad range of shades you could describe as soft, pale, deep, or rich. A bright pink can be just as glamorous as a red, so try to include some in your kit! Some of my faves: NARS Semi-Matte Lipstick in Schiap, Inglot Lipstick in 231 Cream, Anna Sui Lipstick in 300, Burberry Lip Mist in Petal Pink, and Anna Sui Lipstick in 305
Oranges and Corals: While a lot of people dismiss orange shades, this color family helps to get rid of blue tones in the complexion while also brightening skin. You can really accomplish a lot with a palette of bright corals, deep oranges, and pale peaches. Some of my faves: L'Oreal Colour Riche Caresse Stick Lipstick in Sunset Angora, Maybelline Color Sensational Vivids Lip color in Electric Orange, Make Up For Ever Rouge Artist Intense Lipstick in Satin Coral, Anna Sui Lipstick in 601, Ardency Inn Modster Long Play Lip Color in Kick
Taupes and Browns: Taupes are very versatile in that they work well with both dramatic or natural looks. And because taupes have more of a rich and deep finish than most nudes, they are great for matching your natural lip color. Browns are similar; they can be bold on someone with a light skin tone or have more of a natural feel on dark complexions. I love them for fall. Some of my faves: Anna Sui Lipstick in 703, Dior Addict Lipstick in Beige Casual, Too Faced La Creme Color Drenched Lip Cream in Naughty Nude, YSL Rose Volupte Lipstick in Sensual, Tom Ford Sable Smoke, and MAC Lipstick in Film Noir
Nudes: Nudes tend to work well on all skin tones and ages. Pink- and peach-based shades are an easy way to complete any makeup look. Some of my faves: Rimmel Moisture Renew Lipstick in Nude Delight, NARS Lipstick in Barbarella, MAC Lipstick in Creme D’Nude, Too Faced La Creme Color Drenched Lip Cream in Naked Dolly, and Inglot Lipstick in 208 Cream
This list should get you started on what to look for when building your lipstick collection. But remember, there really are no limits. The fun thing about gathering your own colors for a palette is that you can combine prestige and pro brands with more ubiquitous, mass-produced products to create your own distinctive color range. A wide range of colors means you can create a plethora of different looks.
As Director of Artistry for The Makeup Show, The Powder Group and On Makeup Magazine, makeup artist James Vincent has touched every facet of the industry with his talent. With specialties in film and theatre, television and celebrity work, editorial and runway work, James is foremast a passionate educator, training for brands such as MAC, Stila, CNN and Lancome. He continues to inspire the next wave of artists with his beauty expertise. Follow James on Twitter @JVincentmakeup.