I distinctly remember being a preteen and perusing the drugstore beauty aisle with my mom. My love for makeup started beyond my preteen years with products like royal-blue mascara and jet-black eyeliner. But at one point in my youth, I got lovestruck by lipstick and felt the urge to own one in every shade. However, a quick glance at the limited shades available at my local drugstore made me realize that the quest to find a lipstick that’d look good on my dark skin tone would not be easy.
After examining the shade descriptions and packaging of potential options, which were few and far in between, I finally settled on Revlon Black Cherry ($5). It’s a deep wine-colored red with brown undertones. I walked out of the store praying it’d look good on me since all the other shades didn’t look suitable for my skin tone in the slightest. Unfortunately, this was the reality for many women of color when searching for drugstore lipstick options. The majority of shades available in drugstores were not flattering for a myriad of dark skin tones—especially nude lipsticks, which were a problematic category beauty brands mistakenly thought was one-shade-fits-all for quite some time.
Fortunately, more and more beauty brands have expanded their shade ranges to include colors to compliment all complexions. Recently, shade expansion to promote inclusivity has been prioritized more than ever before. Finally. If you’ve yet to find a drugstore dupe for a shade you’ve been eyeing, consider this article your golden ticket. I reached out to two celebrity makeup artists I admire to share the best drugstore lipsticks for dark skin tones. Mali Thomas, known on Instagram as Mali Magic, a beauty educator and celebrity makeup artist to Justine Skye, Chimamanda Adichie, and more, and Keita Moore, who has a roster of A-list clients like NeNe Leakes, Fantasia Barrino, Dascha Polanco, and Eva Marcille, share their all-time favorite drugstore lipsticks for women of color.
Moore laid out a rule of thumb all women of color should follow when searching for lipstick: “Whether you want to go with a bold lipstick or a more neutral shade, keep in mind the undertone in your skin, the color of your lips, and what you’re wearing to determine which shade will look best on you. When you’re shopping for nude lipsticks, look at the brown tint in your lips. The lipstick you choose should mimic that tint. Once you find the perfect nude, you can rub any coral or pink nude on top to give a nice tint. Also, one of the biggest misconceptions I’ve always heard is that women of color can’t wear bright lip colors. Hashtag not true. Women of color actually have the advantage of wearing more colors because of the rich, warm pigments in their skin tone. Any lip color, no matter how bright it is, will look amazing as long as it’s paired with the perfect lip liner—usually, deep brown or plum liners will do the trick.” Keep reading to make your own shopping list of the best drugstore lipsticks for dark skin tones.
Cover Girl’s Melting Pout Matte Lipstick in Paradise Lost
“This shade is the perfect rosy brown nude that’ll work for a spectrum of dark skin tones—from Dascha Polanco to Issa Rae and more,” says Moore. “It’s long-wearing and won’t come off. Tip: I base the lips with a moisturizing eye cream before applying any liquid matte lipstick so it’s comfortable and doesn’t dry out your lips throughout the day.”
Maybelline Color Sensational Lip Color in Untainted Spice
“This is the perfect flesh-toned nude for deeper complexions,” says Moore. “The shade can be dolled up or dressed down. It’s not overpowering. It’s moisturizing and has a great color payoff, which makes this look the best on my deep chocolate girls. Tip: To doll up this lipstick, swipe a lighter nude in the center of your lips to amplify this shade and make it pop.”
NYX Soft Matte Lip Cream in Seoul
“This shade is a bright purple, similar to MAC Heroine,” explains Moore. “It looks amazing on a variety of dark skin tones. It’s what I like to call a moisture matte because it has tons of pigment. Tip: You can wear this lip matte with a shimmery eye, or pop a gloss on top of it to amplify it and pair with a matte eye look.”
Milani Color Statement Lipstick in Best Red
Moore says, “This is a cool-tone, blue-based red lipstick, which is perfect for deeper skin tones and makes your teeth look like the brightest white. The texture is very creamy, moisturizing, and long-lasting. Tip: If you want to take this red to the next level, pair it with a deep plum lip liner around the contour of your lips and glide Best Red in the center.”
Covergirl Queen Matte Lipstick Port Royale
“I love this color,” says Moore. “It’s a vampy, dark eggplant with great pigment. It has a sheen, but you can press a dark eye shadow on top to make its texture matte. From Tracee Ellis Ross to Lupita Nyong’o, this color works. Tip: I love pairing deep, vampy lipsticks like this with neutral to no eye shadows. If you really want to make a statement, pop a bit of gloss on the lid.”
L’Oreal Colour Riche Lipstick in Brazil Nut
“L’Oréal Colour Riche Lipstick for the win,” Thomas says. “I love Brazil Nut from the nude brown family. This lipstick contains omega 3, vitamin E, and argan oil to hydrate the lips,” explains Thomas. “This shade would look great with a smoky eye.”
L’Oreal Colour Riche Lipstick in Saucy Mauve
“I also suggest Saucy Mauve, which translates to a mauvy-pink on brown skin,” explains Thomas. “Try using a cool-tone brow pencil as a lip liner for soft pinks. It’s much more flattering than pairing a red-brown lip liner with a cool-tone lip shade.”
NYX Butter Gloss in Praline and Ginger Snap
“Nyx butter gloss in Praline and Ginger Snap are my faves,” says Thomas. “This formula is extremely comfortable on the lips. The sheer-to-buildable coverage is great for everyday wear. These brown nudes are lovely, and you do not have to pair them with a lip liner. Just apply and go!”
Maybelline SuperStay Matte Ink Liquid Lipstick in Protector
“This shade is definitely a showstopper,” explains Thomas. “I love this rich brown hue on dark skin. Normally, I prefer balmy glossy textures because some matte lipsticks are so drying. However, I really like this formula. Pair this shade with soft eyes and dewy skin.”
Milani Amore Mattes Lipe Crème in Devotion
“Lastly, I must suggest a gorgeous red for our brown beauties,” says Thomas. “Milani Amore Matte Lip Cream in Devotion is a winner. This red is absolutely fabulous on dark skin. It’s highly pigmented formula dries to a soft matte finish which stays in place for hours on end.”