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Skin Deep: Here's how to wear dark lipstick this winter without looking like a goth

Unless, of course, you want to look like a goth, in which case, by all means ignore this advice.


Welcome to Skin Deep with Louise McSharry, my opportunity to put years of obsessing over beauty products and techniques to good use. I won’t tell you something is good if it’s not. I won’t recommend products I haven’t actually tried. As the magical sitar in Moulin Rouge said, I only speak the truth.

As the evenings grow shorter, and the temperatures drop, we all make style adjustments. The opaque tights are dug out of the sock drawer, Penneys scarves are bought by the basketful and coziness becomes top priority. Along with these sartorial adjustments, many of us go for a different look when it comes to makeup. It may be that you simply retire your tinted moisturiser or BB cream in favour of actual foundation, or, if you’re like me, you may dig out your dark lipsticks and prepare to vamp it up for the darker days ahead.


A dark berry or wine coloured lipstick can be the height of sophistication when applied well, but lots of makeup wearers feel intimidated by it. Today I’d like to help you shake of the shackles of intimidation, and get on board the TRAIN OF DARKNESS (muah ha ha ha… sorry, bit of a Halloween-hangover.)

The first thing to acknowledge about dark lipstick, is that it requires a reasonable amount of upkeep. If you’re going for an intimate dinner, for example, it may make you self-conscious because of its need for reapplication. Eating while wearing it can result in a ring of naked lip where they meet, resembling a cat’s bottom. No one wants that, so you need to keep an eye on it.  If you’re going to be kissing someone, you may need to wipe it off ahead of the face-wearing. If the night is going to be long and drunken, you’ll have to take certain steps to ensure it doesn’t smear all over your face (liquid lipstick is your only man). However, if you are willing to put in the bit of effort required, then you will be richly rewarded via your strong look.


Any heavy lipstick requires an exfoliated lip, so when you’re brushing your teeth ahead of applying your makeup (I never, ever remember to do it, so always end up making a mess of my lipstick – don’t be like me), run your toothbrush over your lips as well. This will scuff off any dead skin and give you a smooth foundation for your lipstick. If the idea of rubbing your lips with your toothbrush freaks you out, try L.O.V.’s Smoothing Lip Scrub, which both exfoliates and soothes with mango butter and vitamin E. You’ll find it in selected pharmacies nationwide.

Speaking of foundation, a dark lip looks best with excellent skin, so spend some time on your complexion smoothing out any blemishes or patches. Unless you naturally have perfectly clear, dewy skin, I think this look requires a bit of skin work. Having said that, once you’ve neutralised your actual complexion, don’t go crazy with contour or blush. Obviously your face still needs some colour, you don’t want to look like a blank slate, but a little goes a long way here. Your lips are going to provide a significant pop of colour, and you don’t want the rest of your face to be competing with it.


Next, consider your eye makeup. Some people like to follow the rule which says you should have a strong eye or strong lips. I don’t 100% believe in that, but I reckon if you find the prospect of a strong lip intimidating then it is probably best to keep a relatively natural eye. If you’re going for a matte lip, try something with a shimmer or sheen to balance it out. A wash of copper or silver works beautifully, with lots of mascara to give the eye a touch of drama. I sometimes like to use a Mac eye pencil in Powerline right across my eyelid (blending it out well, of course) for this effect. Avoid too much dark makeup if you also want to avoid looking like a goth. If you’re a goth, then you probably know what you’re doing already.

Finally, to the lips. Whenever you go for a dramatic lipstick, it’s best to use a lip liner to keep the look clean and prevent the colour from bleeding. I like to apply it first before filling in with my actual lipstick (a bit like colouring for adults), but I read recently that Gigi Hadid puts hers on after her lipstick. Do whatever works for you, but be careful of too much over-lining of the lips. Sometimes going slightly outside the natural line of your lips can work well for those who want to fake a bit of fullness, but too much can look clownish. It’s hard out here for a natural lipped makeup wearer in a world full of lip injections, but trust me when I say that nicely lined natural lips will always look better than massively overlined ones. If you’re concerned about your lips looking thin while wearing dark lipstick, lash a bit of gloss on the centre of your lips, which will give the illusion of fullness.


When it comes to colour, there are lots of options. While we used to be limited to purples and wines for this effect, modern brands offer blacks, navys and even dark greens if you’re feeling brave. Like most things, what works for you really comes down to trial and error. Test a few options on the inside of  your wrist to get an idea of what might work (this spot will give a more accurate comparison to your face than the back of your hand). If your skin is cool toned, then you’re want to look for shades with a blue base. If you’re warm toned, then a yellow base is best, while neutrals will suit brown undertones. If in doubt, try a slightly sheer berry coloured product like Clinique’s Chubby Stick Intense in Super Strawberry or Revlon Colourburst Matte Balm in Fiery. These berry tones suit most people, and the sheerness will ease you into the dark colour, and help you get used to what it looks like on your face. Then, if you want to, you can step it up to something matte for the full vamp effect.

A well applied dark lip can be the epitome of Autumn/Winter glam, and I promise it’ll suit you if you give yourself a chance to get used to it.

New Product


Victoria Beckham’s beauty line for Estée Lauder ain’t cheap, but it doesn’t look cheap either. Its luxe packaging and expensive looking tones make the products the kind of thing you’d like to put on a dressing table simply for decoration. As it happens, the products themselves are great too. The newest release includes a cream blush in Blonde Mink (I told you, expensive sounding!), and it is gorgeous. VB herself says it reminds her of when her mother used to rub some lipstick on her cheeks before sending her off to school if she looked ‘a bit peaky’. My mother never did that, but I love the natural looking flush this product gives if you simply dab some delicately on your cheeks.

Psst. We’re giving an Essence goodie bags to five lucky Skin Deep readers. Get over to our Instagram to find out more.

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