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How to Wear Dark Lipstick (It’s Not as Scary as You Think!)

5 great tips for wearable vampy lips.

Bella Thorne at a Beyoncé concert in 2013.

Now that winter is officially on its way (eek!), it's the perfect time to switch your makeup to a vampier palette. While you probably can't rock black smoky eyes at the office (at least not in my office), swiping on a darker lipstick can add a little sultriness to your everyday makeup. 

If that sounds intimidating, then I've got some tricks to make dark lipstick so much more wearable. These are my five best tips for pulling off vampy lips, no matter what the scenario (and comfort level!). Whether you're already rocking bold burgundies or just considering trading in your peaches for plums, here's how to do dark right.

1. Go Dark But Sheer

Du Juan at the 2013 premiere of 'American Dreams'.

Dark lipstick is most wearable in a sheer format—a translucent wash of colour that lets your natural lip tone peek through. If you work in a conservative office or are just plain uncomfortable with people staring at your mouth, going dark but sheer is the most subtle way to get in on the trend. 

I think the best sheer formulas are tinted lip balms, like Revlon ColorBurst Lip Butter in Fig Jam or my new obsession, Maybelline Color Whisper in Berry Ready. If you're very fair, Clinique's cult Almost Lipstick in Black Honey is a favourite for its super-sheer, plummy finish. In addition to the understated colour boost, lipstick-wary wearers will adore tinted balms because they're so moisturizing—a necessity given the season.

If you're already smitten with a certain lipstick shade but find it scary-opaque, try just dabbing it on with your fingertip and buffing to make a soft stain. Don't forget to set it with this classic backstage trick (#11!). 

2. Look For Red or Pink Undertones

Selena Gomez at the 2014 Met Gala.

Dark lipstick is the most wearable when it has a bit of red or pink in it. If it's too purplish-black, then you end up on the wrong side of Goth, which just isn't flattering. Instead, look for shades of red-purple, blackened-red and blue-red. Think plums, cherries, and berries! The more red it has, the more vibrant it'll look on your lips. 

For a classic dark lip, seek out blackened cherries like Revlon Super Lustrous Lipstick in Black Cherry (better for warmer undertones), or Hourglass Opaque Rouge Liquid Lipstick in Icon (cooler undertones rock this blue-red shade). These burnished reds suit a wide spectrum of skin tones and are the most office-appropriate, IMO. 

Lily Collins at the 2013 premiere of 'The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones'.

Personally, I think dark berry colours are the most versatile, because they look good on just about everyone. You can play them up or down depending on the occasion, so they'll suit a night out or a regular day at the office. My faves are MAC Lipstick in Rebel, and Milani Color Statement Lipstick in Sangria

Jennifer Lawrence at the 2013 premiere of 'The Hunger Games: Catching Fire'.

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From The Skincare Edit Archives

For the boldest evening look, go plum. Lipsticks in this shade are usually the least red, so they're slightly more risky—but they have the most payoff, too! Try Topshop Lipstick in Inhibition, or MAC Lip Pencil in Nightmoth. Fresh Sugar Lip Treatment in Plum is the sheer daytime version.

PS: If you're truly craving a coal-black lip, Obsessive Compulsive Cosmetics makes a Lip Tar in Tarred, a true black!

3. Fake Fuller Lips

Kylie Jenner at a 2014 DuJour magazine celebration.

Optically, light colours expand and dark colours recede. While this is a good thing when it comes to fashion (hello, flattering dark skinny jeans!), it's not ideal in beauty because dark lipstick can make thin lips look even smaller. 

The fix? Make like Kylie Jenner and use dark lip liner to slightly overdraw your lips, following the curves of your natural lip line, before filling them in. (That's right—big sister Kim Kardashian recently revealed this secret to Kylie's big lip look, though we think injections also played a part.) Kylie uses MAC Lip Pencils in Soar and Spice.

Want a more subtle enhancement? Check out Michelle's tips on overdrawing just the corners.

4. Add Some Gloss

Miranda Kerr at the 2013 Met Gala.

Matte-textured lipstick can look a bit severe (and when it's in a dark shade, a little undead). So try a glossy finish to soften up the look. A high shine against fresh skin looks editorial chic and not the least bit Marilyn Manson-esque. Bonus: a dab of gloss in the centre of your lower lip creates the illusion of fullness.

To get the look, either layer a clear gloss over your dark lipstick or choose a high-pigment gloss, such as Stila Stay All Day Vinyl Lip Gloss in Merlot Vinyl or Dior Addict Fluid Stick in Intrigue.

5. Don't Forget Your Blush

Julianne Hough at the 2013 Cool Earth celebration.

A healthy dose of blush will keep you from looking like you're in costume. Liven up your cheeks with a blush in the same colour family. (So skip the warm peaches and corals, as the contrast with your lips will be too much.)

With a violet or purple-toned lip, wear a cool pink blush like Bobbi Brown Blush in Pale Pink. With a dark reddish-toned lip, choose a cherry blush like NYX Powder Blush in Red.

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