On the Improvement of Black Lipstick

October is upon us, the ookiest and spookiest and scariest of the months. ‘Tis the season for wearing black lipstick and cackling in your most sinister manner. Of course I love it. But I think what i really love is the idea of black lipstick.

See, I’ve tried a few. Yeah, they usually have a few problems like feathering, or a weird inner lip line that makes you look goofy. But the real issue is this: they are just too black.

Now, I know what you’re thinking. TOO black? what the devil is she talking about? And I get it, it makes no sense, I’m a fool, et cetera. But give me a moment. The think about black, in the true sense, as in #000000, printer ink, and activated charcoal – it lacks pizazz. There’s no dimesion, no oumph, no life in it – it’s flat. I think we have a place for black lipstick that isn’t really black.

If you’ve ever tried a hand at painting, you know using that forbidden tube of Ivory Black is akin to heresy. It sucks the life from your painting, dulls it. You should be mixing your own black paint from the other colours you have on hand. This is a common exercise in beginner painting classes, to try to mix the truest black you can without actually using black paint. It’s challenging, but the results are often beautiful – they’re in the ballpark of black, so to speak, but they’re not only black. You see life and dimension and nuance in these lovingly mixed paints.

In makeup, we often apply similar principles to those of classical painting. We understand that skin is not simply brown or beige, we have undertones and shifts to take into account. We use colour theory to create illusions like the sculpting effect of contouring (which we do with varying shades of brown) or to bring out and complement our natural colouring – like the way a green eyeshadow gives an otherwordly glow to hazel eyes, or how a blue smoky eye makes brown eyes appear luminous and jewel-like in contrast.

So then, if we engage our creative little brains the way we do with makeup and oil painting alike, it makes little sense for the only black lip colour available to be that shade of Ivory Black. Bring me an off-black. Black, but a little to the left. Black that leans red, or blue, or brown. I think it’d look fabulous. Now tell me your favourite black lipstick in the comments.

Header image: Fenty Beauty Stunna Lip Paint in Uninvited. A very cool looking black lipstick to be sure.

6 thoughts on “On the Improvement of Black Lipstick

  1. Laura

    I personally love plum shades that are edging on black, and the shade Shadow Self from Rituel de Fille is also something I’ve admired for a long time.


    1. Saffron

      Oooohhh that sounds like something up my alley! I’ve been meaning to try their lipsticks…


  2. DJ

    My favorite black is Kat Von D Everlasting Liquid Lipstick in Witches. It’s a drier formula, so you can put eye shadow over it to give it dimension without it pilling like more moisturizing formulas do. I like to dust it with gold, but interference/highlight shades look nice on it too.

    Wet n’ Wild just put out a metallic black (Shady Witch) in their Fantasy Makers collection that’s off-black and unlike the one from their previous Goth-O-Graphic collection (Death to Unicorns), it doesn’t need three coats. I like both of them, but a lot of people didn’t like that you had to layer Death to Unicorns to get the advertised opacity. Wet n’ Wild also carries a regular matte black as well, which I’ll wear if I’m not planning to use a lip topper.


  3. DJ

    Also, Bite Beauty in Kale and Squid Ink for “blacks” that are actually blue and green. Pretty sure they have a purple and probably a red in that vein too.


    1. Saffron

      oh my god. listen. i am DYING. D Y I N G to try bite. I’ve seen those. I forgot they existed until you mentioned them just now. Bite needs to launch in europe, because we’re dying over here.


      1. DJ

        They do feather a lot though. The formula is very slippery. Color payoff is good though.


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