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How to Wear Black Lipstick Like It’s NBD, According to a Makeup Artist

Photo by Christopher Polk / Staff/Getty Images

If you’ve been itching to try the black lipstick trend on a day that isn’t Halloween, you’re in good company. The celebrity-favorite look (Rihanna has been known to rock it from time to time) is fashion-forward, unexpected, and—believe it or not—universally flattering. And while black lipstick is certainly of-the-moment, it’s anything but a flash in the pan. “It’s a dramatic look, and that makes it a classic,” says celebrity makeup artist Mary Irwin. “From goth to anime to Morticia Addams, it’s a look that makes a statement.”

Conventional wisdom may be to keep the rest of the look simple when wearing black lipstick, but Irwin is all about a little adventure. “That’s the great thing about makeup—you can do whatever you want!” says the makeup artist. “If you want your look to be more ‘editorial,’ you can pair a black lip with clean skin and nothing on the eye except mascara, or you can go full face with it and make it dramatic.”

The two things you need to pull off black lipstick? A bit of confidence, and, yes, a bit of extra prep. Read on for expert application tips courtesy of Irwin, along with some gorgeous celeb inspiration and product picks, as well as a few alternative shades if black is a touch too dramatic for your makeup tastes.

About the Expert:

Mary Irwin is New York City-based celebrity makeup artist.

How to apply black lipstick:

A smooth, hydrated pout makes dark lipstick sing. “This is definitely a look that needs some lip prep for the best result,” says Irwin. Here’s the makeup pro’s easy tutorial:

1. Exfoliate. “Start with a lip scrub and let it sit for 5-10 minutes, then scrub it off,” says Irwin. Try HANALEI COMPANY Sugar Lip Scrub (made with ingredients like Maui sugar crystals and pure kukui nut oil), or you can also DIY a lip scrub using ingredients you probably have in your kitchen.

2. Moisturize. When the scrub has done its job, apply a lip balm. “Let the balm sit for a few minutes,” almost like a mask. “Wipe that off, and then you’re ready to do your lip color,” says Irwin.

3. Line those lips. If you’re using a lipstick tube (as opposed to liquid lipstick, which tends to stay put better), liner is key to avoid feathering. “A black eyeliner will work if you can’t find a black lip liner,” advises Irwin. We like THRIVE CAUSEMETICS Infinity Waterproof Eyeliner in Lauren (Matte Black).

4. Fill in! “A black lip is a super dramatic statement, so you want to make sure that the color and shape is even, and that it doesn’t smudge,” says Irwin. “Look for a long lasting formula." Need recommendations? Keep reading below.

Black lipsticks to try:

For a bold style à la model Rihanna (above), you can’t go wrong with an opaque, classic black shade.

NYX PROFESSIONAL MAKEUP Liquid Suede Cream Lipstick in Stone Fox

1. NYX PROFESSIONAL MAKEUP Liquid Suede Cream Lipstick in Stone Fox

If you like the look and feel of liquid lipstick, try this. The waterproof, matte black formula lasts hours without having to reapply, but it won’t dry out lips thanks to added avocado oil and vitamin E.

MILANI COSMETICS Metallic Shimmer Lipstick in Sticks and Spells

2. MILANI COSMETICS Metallic Shimmer Lipstick in Sticks and Spells

This lipstick has a creamy finish (but a similar punch of pigment), and also boasts a flash of silvery shimmer.

HAUS LABORATORIES Le Riot Lip Gloss in Vortex

3. HAUS LABORATORIES Le Riot Lip Gloss in Vortex

An unexpected option to consider? Lip gloss. “If you don’t want to commit to a full black lip, a black gloss over your regular color or even on its own just deepens the intensity of what you’re wearing and adds a little mystery,” says Irwin. Try this one, which has a touch of pearl shimmer for added shine.

4. Hack alert!

Try combining a bit of clear lip balm with black eyeshadow to make your own black lip color in a pinch.

Other dark lip colors to consider:

Consider dark lipstick colors the decaf version of black: all the flavor, less edge. If you love the concept of black lipstick, but want something a little softer, there are tons of dark lipstick shades that offer a similar vampy vibe.

“I love a deep red or a burgundy,” says Irwin. She also recommends this makeup artist’s secret: “With a really deep red, use a black liner for dimension and blend it in really well. You won’t be able to tell it’s black, but it adds a lot to a red lip,” says the pro.

1. Black Cherry

Close-up of Shay Mitchell rocking a deep berry eyeshadow look and deep burgundy lipstick
Photo by Frazer Harrison / Staff/Getty Images

Take a cue from Shay Mitchell, whose shade is about as deep as it gets but isn’t black. BELLE EN ARGENT Auteur Matte Lip Color in Light and Angles is the perfect deep burgundy, and looks gorgeous on nearly every skin tone.

2. Deep and Glossy

Close-up of a smiling Lily Collins rocking a glossy, dark berry lipstick look
Photo by Ian Gavan / Staff/Getty Images

Lily Collins also loves a dark lip, and her glossy version is a fun take on the trend. Try HAUS LABORATORIES LE RIOT LIP GLOSS in Scream, which is both insanely pretty and vegan-friendly.

3. Unexpected Blue

Close-up of Billy Porter rocking a red hat and navy blue lips
Photo by Nicholas Hunt / Staff/Getty Images

Deep blue lipstick is another trend worth trying—and one that Billy Porter pulls off flawlessly. To copy the look, try a rich navy that dries to a matte finish.

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About the author
Lindy Segal
Lindy is a contributor at IPSY, a beauty and lifestyle writer, and Real Housewives aficionado. She was an editor at People and Glamour, and her freelance work has appeared in Harper’s Bazaar, Who What Wear, and Cosmopolitan, among other publications.
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Article Last Updated January 7, 2021 12:00 AM