Lipsticks That Stun Against Deep Skin Tones

Pound Cake's Camille Bell on how to find your next favorite.

Lupita Nyong'o attends the World Premiere of "Renaissance: A Film By Beyoncé" at Samuel Goldwyn Theater on November 25, 2023 in Beverly Hills, California
(Image credit: Amy Sussman/WireImage for Parkwood)

Finding the right lipstick shade can be tough. Not only do you need to consider what color matches best with your outfit and the rest of your makeup, but you also need to assess your skin and lip tones to determine which colors will show up best and complement your natural lip tone.

"When it comes to picking your perfect lipstick shade, think about where you typically apply lipstick—your lips!" says Camille Bell, founder of inclusive lipstick brand Pound Cake. "So, get comfortable with understanding your lip tone just as much as you have come to understand what your skin tone and undertone are when picking your best lipstick shade."

With so much to consider, and with so many options available, it can be difficult to understand which lipstick shades are best for you. This is especially the case for people with dark skin tones, considering the longstanding lack of diversity within the beauty industry that fails to make premium, pigmented lip colors made with dark skin in mind.

Below, Bell taps into her personal and professional experience to advise shoppers with deep skin tones on how to find the best, most flattering lip colors money can buy.

What to Look for


First of all, it's important to note that everyone should feel good wearing whatever they want, regardless of others' opinions or traditional notions of beauty.

"I try not to enforce what 'looks good' and what 'doesn’t' on shoppers, just because I feel like everyone has their opinion on what looks good on them," agrees Bell. "However, most folks with deeper skin tones feel comfortable wearing colors that have hints of blue and/or yellow undertones, as it complements our deeper skin tones. That doesn’t mean folks with deep skin tones don’t look good in or should fear wearing bright, bold colors like orange and pink lipstick."

Still, many people with deep skin tones stay away from shades with orange or green undertones, fearful that such colors may look "washed out on us if not produced correctly. Green is a color that’s more earthy, and when applied to deeper skin, rather than make our skin tone pop, it can have the opposite effect."

Lip Tone vs. Skin Tone

"I notice shoppers typically swatch lipstick on their wrists as a means to understand what the color will look like," says Bell. "However, one should try to always swatch the lip color in the middle of their bottom and upper lip."

In other words, your lipstick's compatibility with your skin tone isn't telling the full story. The natural color of your lips can impact the way your lipstick of choice shows up on you, especially if the formula isn't as highly pigmented and is therefore mixing with your own lip color.

"Folks with deeper skin tones sometimes have two-toned lip colors," Bell adds. "Perhaps the top lip is a light pink, whereas the bottom lip is a dark brown, or vice versa! Sometimes, your skin tone is very deep, but your natural lip tone is a bright pink! Regardless, whatever your natural lip tone is, it can vary from your actual arm or wrist skin tone, which ultimately determines how the lipstick shade is going to show up."

Some brands, including her own, offer lip quizzes and virtual try-ons so that "shoppers can accurately pick out their perfect shade"—a great solution for anyone who wants to be sure they test before they invest.

Best Lipsticks for Deep Skin Tones

Meet the Expert

Camille Bell
Camille Bell

Camille Bell is the founder of Pound Cake, an inclusive makeup brand dedicated to creating lipsticks that look good on everyone, regardless of skin tone or identity. She is currently based in Philadelphia.

Gabrielle Ulubay
Beauty Writer

Gabrielle Ulubay is a Beauty Writer at Marie Claire. She has also written about sexual wellness, politics, culture, and fashion at Marie Claire and at publications including The New York Times, HuffPost Personal, Bustle, Alma, Muskrat Magazine, O'Bheal, and elsewhere. Her personal essay in The New York Times' Modern Love column kickstarted her professional writing career in 2018, and that piece has since been printed in the 2019 revised edition of the Modern Love book. Having studied history, international relations, and film, she has made films on politics and gender equity in addition to writing about cinema for Film Ireland, University College Cork, and on her personal blog, Before working with Marie Claire, Gabrielle worked in local government, higher education, and sales, and has resided in four countries and counting. She has worked extensively in the e-commerce and sales spaces since 2020, and spent two years at Drizly, where she developed an expertise in finding the best, highest quality goods and experiences money can buy.

Deeply political, she believes that skincare, haircare, and sexual wellness are central tenets to one's overall health and fights for them to be taken seriously, especially for people of color. She also loves studying makeup as a means of artistic expression, drawing on her experience as an artist in her analysis of beauty trends. She's based in New York City, where she can be found watching movies or running her art business when she isn't writing. Find her on Twitter at @GabrielleUlubay or on Instagram at @gabrielle.ulubay, or follow her art at