Pros say these mishaps can add years to your appearance, but don't worry; there are simple fixes for each one.

By Rachel Wermager and Jennifer Aldrich
Updated July 12, 2021
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Finding the best smile-brightening shade of lipstick takes practice (and sometimes, expert assistance). But whether you've had the same signature lip color for the last decade or change up the contents of your makeup bag regularly, your lipstick selections should evolve as you age. (Just like your style, right?) If it's been a while since you've changed lip shades, don't worry. Even if you have a beloved hue, you can likely find another option that is just as good. (And maybe even better.) We asked the experts what to do, and not do, when shopping for and sporting a new lip color. Here are five of the most common mistakes they see and how to fix them.

woman wearing lipstick and smiling with her eyes closed
Credit: Javier Sánchez Mingorance/EyeEm/Getty Images

1. Wearing Lipstick That Is Too Dark or Bright

Bold statement lips are fun to wear, but you should be mindful of the intense shades. "Lips tend to become thinner as we age," says Polina Bukovza, beauty expert and founder of Nail Art Gear. "Dark shades of lipstick only enhance this fact by making the lips appear even thinner."

Katelyn McCullough, a beauty concierge for Elwynn + Cass, recommends light-colored lipsticks such as corals, nudes, and pinks because they help lips appear fuller and younger. Try Nars Lipstick ($26, Sephora), which comes in 34 colors. "It's best to avoid anything too bright and loud as that draws attention to any fine lines or imperfections and can make women look older," she says.

2. Not Using Lip Liner

Many of the experts recommended wearing lip liner to help lips look younger. New to liner? Try the top-rated NYX Professional Makeup Slim Lip Pencil ($4, Ulta). "Lip liner serves multiple functions in creating a beautiful, polished look for lips," Bukovza says. "It prevents feathering and bleeding of lip colors into the small creases around the mouth." When lipstick gets into those creases, it can draw attention to areas most women would rather not have attention zoned in on.

Use a lip liner that is a shade darker than your lipstick to help lips look plumper. The key to mastering lip liner: when you apply, blend it in with your lipstick using your finger or a brush. Filling in your lips with liner before swiping on lipstick can also boost its longevity (sort of like a primer for your lips!).

3. Choosing the Wrong Finish

As with eyeshadow and foundation, the lipstick's finish should also be a consideration. Although matte lipsticks are increasingly popular right now, they can also be very drying and make lips appear older. "A creamy lipstick, on the other hand, can be quite nourishing to lips and make them look younger," Bukovza says. Try Clinique Dramatically Different Lipstick Shaping Lip Colour ($20, Ulta).

High-shine finishes can also draw attention to lips, but not in a good way. McCullough says lip glosses and glossier lipsticks are typically made for younger women and can look unflattering on older lips.

4. Picking the Wrong Shade for Your Skin Tone

Knowing your skin's undertone is how you can best understand what kind of shades to look for in the makeup aisle. Rick Dicecca, Creative Director of Makeup Design for Artistry by Amway, says that one way to figure this out is by the jewelry you look best in (as in, which metal best flatters your skin tone, not which one you like better). He says that if you look best in silver or white metal jewelry, your undertone is cool. If gold jewelry complements you best, then you probably have a warm undertone, and if you can pull off both, then you have a neutral undertone.

Your veins can also reveal whether you have warm or cool undertones. Blue or purple veins usually signal cool undertones, while greenish-looking veins mean you have warm undertones.

So how does this lesson translate into lipstick? If your skin has a cool undertone and you want to wear red lipstick, pick one that has blue undertones as opposed to orange ones, and vice versa if your skin has a warm undertone. "Staying within your own undertone will keep your look crisp, classic, and clean," Dicecca says. To identify whether a lipstick has warm or cool undertones, test it out on your skin (a wrist or forearm, for example). Lipsticks with blue undertones will have a deeper, richer color, and lipstick with orange undertones will be brighter and more vibrant.

5. Skipping Hydration and Exfoliation

Just like how skin needs moisture to keep its youthful glow, so do lips! When you apply lipstick to dry lips, it can sink into cracks, which not only amplifies the look of aging but also makes for uneven lipstick application. Bukovza recommends using lip balms and scrubs to combat dryness. Try Fresh Sugar Lip Polish Exfoliator ($18, Sephora). A simple lip balm, such as Burt's Bees Beeswax Lip Balm ($8 for 3-pack, Target), can provide the daily hydration needed to keep younger-looking lips, and a quality lip scrub can encourage blood flow for a plumper looking pout.

Take the experts' advice on lipstick; you'll look younger for it and be more confident in your choices when you pick out a new shade.

Comments (2)

September 24, 2020
I agree with the previous post about wearing lip balm to bed. I too was advised by a former pro model the same thing. Thank goodness for those ladies!
August 29, 2020
A professional model once advised me to use lip balm before going to bed. The waxy kind is great like burt 's bees bee was lip balm. The lips feel fantastic when waking in the morning.