Starting last March, some of the biggest names in the cosmetics industry were forced to shutter retail stores. However, that didn’t mean people stopped buying cosmetics. In fact, makeup sales skyrocketed after the pandemic hit the U.S., and it’s easy to see why. During times of stress, we tend to turn to shopping or eating to make us feel better. It’s just human behavior. Celebrity makeup artist, Gita Bass, said “I think makeup can be a really powerful tool to help lift the spirits and to also make things feel a little more normal.”
Anyone who has ever stood in front of a blush or lip gloss display and fretted over which colors complement their skin tone knows that buying cosmetics online adds an extra layer of frustration. If you can’t see and touch the creams, powders, and potions first hand, you might as well be flying blind. But, here we are. What other choice do we have?
Many retail cosmetics stores have reopened so customers can go back to shopping in person. However, they can’t sample makeup, get in-store makeovers, or even remove their mask at some locations. It’s led more and more people who love makeup to shop for and buy cosmetics online. And there are even some advantages to purchasing lip gloss, eyeshadow and foundation from a website. For starters, you can compare more brands easier than you can in a store. Also, you can compare prices and it’s easier to find deals.
Here are a few tips for buying makeup online, and also, some deals that we found during our research. And note that this is just the first part of a series. In this version, we discuss skin tone, buying lip color and eyeshadow. In upcoming articles, we’ll cover blush, foundation, eyeliner and mascara.
Cosmetics and Skin Tone
Have you ever seen someone wearing blush that’s too bright for her face, or foundation that’s lighter than her cheeks and neck? These are some of the most common mistakes people make when wearing makeup. But the issue isn’t how you apply your makeup, it’s how you determine the right color for your skin. The best way to avoid this these types of makeup mishaps issues is by knowing your skin tone. The number-one tip, according to all the beauty experts, is to never guess! There’s a science to categorizing skin tone and there are specific steps you can take to figure out where your skin tone falls on a skin-tone chart.
Skin tone refers to the amount of melanin (pigment) in the outer layer of your skin. It can range from pale porcelain to dark ebony. An important thing to know about skin tone is that it can change from season to season. Your skin color can easily go from light to medium within a few months. When days are short and the sun goes down early in the evening, your skin is at its lightest. But in summertime, when the sun is out several hours longer and you’re also likely outdoors much longer, too, your skin might be three or four shades darker or brighter.
There are four main skin tone categories:
- Fair: You have a pale, porcelain-like complexion
- Light: Your hue is pale, but not devoid of color
- Medium: You have a mild to moderately olive-hued complexion
- Dark: Any skin color that’s more than moderately olive or tan
And to complicate things even further, after you determine whether you have fair or medium or dark skin tone, there are still several shades of skin tones within each category.
Cosmetics and Skin Undertones
Undertones refer to the subtle hue that emanates beneath the surface of your skin. This shade is usually broken down into three categories:
- Cool: Pink and red with a hint of blue
- Warm: Golden hues ranging from yellows to oranges
- Neutral: Olives and golden tan shades
Here are some tips for determining your skin undertone.
- Hold out your arm and look at the color of the veins on your wrist. According to L’Oréal Paris,“If [your veins] appear blue or purple, you’re cool-toned, while green veins indicate warm-toned skin. If you’re not sure, you very well might be neutral.”
- Stand next to a lamp, hold a sheet of bright white paper up to your face and look at the color of the shadow cast on the page. It will either be a bluish hue (cool) or a yellowish hue (warm). If the shadow is gray, your undertone is neutral.
- Do you look better in gold or silver jewelry? L’Oréal suggests that if gold is a more complementary color for you, then you have warm undertones. But if silver jewelry makes your skin pop, you have cool undertones. Do you look fabulous in both? Then you have neutral undertones.
A Rainbow of Foundations
Once you know your skin tone and undertone, you’re ready to pick a foundation. Experts suggest picking a product that’s blendable, that way you’re not under pressure to find an exact match, but rather, if your skin tone is “warm,” you do want to choose a warm-toned foundation too.
L’Oreal Infallible 24 Hour Fresh Wear Foundation ($11.99) comes in 30 shades — a shade for nearly every skin tone. Colors include, from left to right, Golden Beige, Ivory Buff, Toffee, Pearl, Rose Ivory, and Vanilla.
Cosmetics – Lip Color Buying Guide
Whether you’re looking for a shade that pop with color or you just want a sheer, natural gloss, you still need to nail down your skin tone so that you get a color that matches your skin’s hue.
Skin Tone and Lip Color
Just like with foundation and blush, lipsticks, glosses and stains come in warm, neutral and cool shades. So if you want red lip gloss and have cool-toned light skin, look for one with a blue base rather than an orange base.
Here are just a few tips to keep in mind when choosing a lip color. First, the pigment should be a few shades darker than the color of your skin. If you have fair skin, go for pink and peachy colors for casual wear and bold colors for evenings and dress-up. If you have olive and medium colored skin, opt for nudes and reds. If your skin color is dark, try wearing deep and saturated purples and mauves. But steer clear of pale pigments because they can make your face pop in a way that might not be very flattering.
Lipstick Types and Textures
Lipstick comes in different textures, too, from moisturizing lip glosses to long-lasting stains, and deeply pigmented mattes.
Smashbox Gloss Angeles Lip Gloss, $20, comes in more than a dozen different colors. Hues for “cool” skin tones include Surf Bunny, Obvi Mauve and Sorbet Wat. If your skin tone is “medium,” try Traffic Jam, Celeb Sigh and Sheen Writ. And for “warm” skin tones, try colors like Michelada, Self Promo and Acai You G.
Dior Addict Stellar Lip Gloss, $30, is a plumping balm that hydrates lips. And Sephora Collection Clean Glossy Lip Oil, $12, is a non-sticky gloss with a tint of color. They’re made with hydrating watermelon seed oil. Both shiny glosses come in several subtle shades that highlight all skin tones.
Tarteist Glossy Lip Paint lacquers, $20, are made with concentrated mineral pigments but also contain conditioners that keep lips from drying and cracking. For “cool” skin tones, try Goals (Rosy Nude) or Double Tap (Cool Mauve). Fave (Plum Berry) is for “medium” skin tones. And for “warm” skin tones, go for colors like WCW (Berry) and Poison (Black Plum).
Traditional tubes of lipstick are cream-based with soft-wax or oil-blend pigments. They’re comfortable to wear, long-lasting, and ideal for every skin tone. They make lips look full, shiny and healthy, and keep them from feeling dry, cracked and chapped.
Nars Satin Lipstick, $22.10, comes in a hue for every skin tone. Raw Seduction, Niagara, and Orgasm are not too overpowering for those with a “cool” skin tone. Colors like Tolede, Cool It and Rosecliff are very pretty for those with “medium” skin tones. Warm skin tones look even toastier wearing Afghan Red, Bad Reputation and Heroine Red
Light-weight, dewy-hued gloss gives lips a high-shine finish while also making them look full and healthy. Liquid-based lip color usually doesn’t have much staying power. That’s why some people buy more than one tube when they find a color they adore.
Elizabeth Arden Beautiful Color Liquid Lip Gloss Finish, $22, in Gone Pink helps make “cool” skin tones look rosy and luscious. Rimmel Stay Glossy Lip Gloss, $4, in Flower Power is a great hue for “medium” skin tones. Smashbox Gloss Angeles Lip Gloss, $20, in Self Promo bursts with color fit for “warm” skin tones.
Matte lipsticks have a dry and flat appearance with no reflection. But they’re very popular because the pigment tends to be true, deep and sensual. A lot of matte lipsticks need just one application every few hours. If they make your lips feel too dry, just swipe on a thin layer of gloss.
Wearing ultra-light, sheer lipstick gives the entire face a more natural appearance. They come in lighter pigments and have a translucent tint rather than an intense burst of color.
Stila Beauty Boss Lip Glosses, $14.69, come in tints for all skin tones. Elevator Pitch is just the right pinky pitch for those with a fair complexion. Empowering (Bright Coral w/Blue & Pink Shimmer) is a color that pops on medium and olive skin tones. And Bonus Baby (Deep Plum) is a dark and moody shade that won’t overpower someone with dark skin.
Pearl and Metallics
These lipsticks have a shiny, reflective finish or flecks of silver or gold glitter in the tube. Metallic lip balms also have gold and bronze undertones.
Cosmetics – Eye Shadow
When it comes to eye shadow, it’s not just what color you wear, it’s also how you apply it. While there are infinite ways and styles for applying shadow, which anyone can learn from their favorite influencers, you can’t really do anything if you don’t have the right tools. So here’s a quick cheat sheet on what different eye shadow brushes are for.
Makeup Brush Cheat Sheet
- Large shadow brush: Use this to sweep on shadow across the lid and dust a light color under the brow as a highlight. The full and rounded Bobbi Brown Eyeshadow Brush, $31.45 and Anastasia Beverly Hills A30 Pro Brush Domed Kabuki Brush, $24 are designed for blending and applying full-lid coverage.
- Precision brush: Add pigment around the eyes using Anastasia Beverly Hills Precise Conceal Brush, $18.
- Blending brush: Soften, blend and diffuse the colors on your lids and in the crease. These brushes can be blunt, rounded or angled, like the Lancome Round Angled eyeshadow brush, $29.
- Blending tip brush: Use this to get smoky eye and smudge your eyeliner. It’s also for applying dark powder near the lash line. Try Lancome’s Blending Tip Eyeshadow brush, $25.50.
- Angled liner: For a tight line under the eye. Try Bobbi Brown Angle Eyeshadow Brush, $31.45, or Anastasia Beverly Hills Brush 7B Dual-Ended Angled, $19.69.
- Precision liner: For precise line. This brush handles gel liner really well, too. Anastasia Beverly Hills Brush 3, $18 is tapered for creating steady lines along the lash line.
- Smudge brush: The smudge brush is for diffusing and softening lines and shadow at the lash line. Try Smashbox Precise Smudger Eyeliner and Eyeshadow Brush, $22.
Cosmetics – Eyeshadow Color
For some people, a single, simple eyeshadow is all they need while others swear by the palette. For newbies, using a quad can help you learn eyeshadow application basics. It’s really a personal preference. But you still need to keep in mind what shades look best on your face. Here are some tips for buying the right eye shadow for your complexion and eye color.
Go for: Bright and warm colors, metallics and rose gold
Avoid: Very light, pale or ashy colors. Blues, pinks and greens can make your face look dull.
Pro tip: According to Makeup.com, “Jewel tones like purple, bright blue, emerald green or a deep burgundy stand out against your complexion.”
Fenty Beauty is known for formulating eye shadow palettes that complement dark complexions. Rihanna Snap Shadows Mix and Match eyeshadow palettes, $25, come in many different color combinations, including wine, cadet, cool neutrals and smoky.
Go for: Sheer colors like taupe, pink, even light greens.
Avoid: Smokey eyes and gray tones, as well as highly pigmented colors. Neutral shades can be too subtle while dark pinks and reds can make you look as if you’re under the weather.
Pro tip: For lighter complexions, the experts at Makeup.com suggest using Maybelline Nudes of New York, $12. It’s a 16-pan eyeshadow palette that “can help you create pretty much any makeup vibe from a light, shimmery nude eye to deeper, smoky brown looks.”
Go for: Neutral and warm shades, like bronze, cranberry and deep reds, such as plum and burgundy.
Avoid: Pinks and reds may mute the gold undertones in your skin.
Pro Tip: Soft Glam Eyeshadow palette by Anastasia Beverly Hills, $45, is an everyday selection of colors, including mattes and shimmers. The shades formulated for this palette were chosen to make medium skin tones look amazing.
Olive & Dark Complexion
Go for: Deep and shimmery bronze shadows make dark eyes look brighter.
Avoid: Blue shadow can make your skin look dark and weigh down your eyes. Pale colors can make you look ashy.
Pro Tip: Huda Kattan is the founder of Huda Beauty. As a woman of color whose complexion is deep olive, she wanted to design eyeshadow palettes for people with medium to medium-dark skin tones.