On Beauty

The Modern Appeal of Black Lipstick

Obsidian shades have a romantic, mysterious allure and are a perfect antidote to the ubiquitous reds of the season.

Clockwise from top left: <strong>Chanel</strong> Rouge Coco Flash in Deepness, $38.00, <a href="http://chanel.com/">chanel.com</a>. <strong>Pat McGrath Labs</strong> MatteTrance Lipstick in Deep Void, $40, <a href="http://patmcgrath.com/">patmcgrath.com</a>. <strong>La Bouche Rouge</strong> Paris refillable leather lipstick set in DSPM Noir, $164, <a href="http://laboucherougeparis.com/">laboucherougeparis.com</a>. <strong>Dior</strong> Rouge Dior Ultra Rouge in #111 Ultra Night 47, $37, <a href="http://Dior.com">dior.com</a>.
Credit...Mari Maeda and Yuji Oboshi. Market editor: Caitie Kelly.

As festive as red lipstick is at this time of year, the shade can feel a little predictable at holiday parties. For those willing to break from tradition, the spring 2020 runways offered a bold alternative: a velvety swipe of black across the lips. “It’s striking, strong and feminine,” says Lynsey Alexander, the London-based makeup artist behind the glossy noir mouths at Courrèges. Similarly beautiful midnight shades could be spotted at Jil Sander and Max Mara, where the tones had hints of merlot and violet plum. While these dark shades are surprisingly flattering, and with the right styling look romantic rather than gothic, applying them requires care. Here, five tips for achieving a subversive-yet-chic effect.

For dark lipstick to sit evenly, you need a smooth surface. Gently rub lips with a dry toothbrush or washcloth to get rid of flakes, then apply balm and “let it soak in, like a mask,” says the Chanel makeup artist Cyndle Komarovski. After 10 minutes, use a tissue to remove any residue — which can make lipstick slip.

“A black lip creates emotion and a reaction,” says Alexander, adding that darker lipsticks can work on any skin tone. “If you have a darker skin tone, then it definitely sits easier,” she says. “The paler your skin, the more extreme it will look.” The adventurous should try a rich, inky matte stain like Dior’s Rouge Dior Ultra Rouge in Ultra Night 47 ($37) or La Bouche Rouge’s DSPM Noir ($41). For a subtler option, consider black with a hint of berry, such as Pat McGrath Labs’ MatteTrance Lipstick in Deep Void ($40). Or do like Komarovski and apply Chanel’s Rouge Coco Gloss in Laque Noire ($30), a plum-colored gloss, over any red lipstick in your arsenal to “instantly darken it.”

Credit...Molly SJ Lowe

No matter the shade, paint it on with a fine-tipped lip brush for a precise finish. Fix any smudges with a Q-tip dipped in micellar water, which is oil-free and won’t destroy the rest of your lip, says Komarovski. “Then, I hold a tissue over my lips and dust with translucent powder — this sets everything in place and takes off that top layer of moisture that can make color travel.”

“Definitely keep the rest of the face perfected but in a minimal way,” says Alexander. “Use illuminating moisturizers to bring back the natural glow in skin — and foundation and concealer where needed.” Finish with a flick of mascara, and that’s it. Or, for a subtle festive touch, add a sheer wash of gold shadow over the lids, says Komarovski: “It’s fresh and effortless.”

If applied correctly, your black lipstick might not require much upkeep beyond a pat of clear gloss to refresh things, says Komarovski, who recently wore a dark cherry stain to a party and claims it stayed on all night. “I did the translucent powder trick,” she says.