Coral lipstick… A lot of people associate this hue with the summer months. For me, it’s a year-round style signature! Nothing lights up your face or manufactures a sudden glow quite like a swipe of coral. I first discovered the color back in my on-camera TV news days. An image consultant urged me to try it on the anchor desk. Little did I know it would become a lifelong obsession! Ready to give coral a try yourself? This ultimate guide to the best coral lipsticks will explain how to find your perfect shade.
Let’s begin by correcting a common misnomer—that coral only works on tan or darker skin types. Wrong!
Who does coral lipstick look good on? Short answer – Everyone! Whether you have an olive complexion, fair skin, or you’re fall somewhere in between (like me), there’s a coral for you. In fact, I’d argue it’s one of the easiest colors to pull off. Like classic red, it exudes a sense of happiness and playful elegance. However, coral is even easier to wear. While a red lip can feel a bit “evening,” coral is suitable day or night. Wear it with jeans… or that fabulous dress you snagged for a friends wedding.
Coral lipsticks range from orange to pink. They also come in different saturations. That means you have a wealth of options to choose from. Consequently, the trick to finding the best coral lipsticks for your particular complexion is understanding your undertones.
For example, fair skinned beauties with warm undertones should seek out corals leaning in the light peach range. While fair skinned women with cool undertones look best in pink-leaning corals. Knowledge of your undertones, plus the various formulas and finishes of lipsticks is hugely helpful. Not only will you have better luck shopping online, but you’ll also know what to ask for when visiting the makeup counter or a store like Ulta.
P.S. – Ulta’s 21 Days of Beauty (featuring 50% off best sellers) runs through Sept. 17
Before you go searching the shelves for flattering coral lipsticks, there are three easy tests to help determine your undertones. Need more help? Click here for my full blog post about finding your most flattering shades.
For instance, based on the steps below, I would classify my fair to medium skin as having primarily cool undertones but also fitting into the neutral category.
Now that we understand our undertones, we need to comprehend lipstick language. By that, I mean how to define the various formulas and finishes you’ll encounter at the beauty counter. If there is a formula or finish on the list below you haven’t tried yet, I highly encourage you to experiment. We all have different preferences and needs. It’s hard to know if you prefer a sheer, stain, or matte, if you’ve never tried that finish before.
When it comes to lipstick, matte is a power player. I believe every woman should have a matte lipstick in their beauty kit. It offers pure, powerful color and a smooth texture on your lips. Unlike gloss, it does not have a shiny finish. Instead, it offers highly pigmented, long lasting color. Laura Mercier’s Petal Soft Lipstick Crayon in 320 Amélie is an example of a coral matte. This type of lipstick has very little oil, so be aware it can dry out your lips if you do not prep them right (excellent tips here). Choose wisely and you’ll find your lips cushioned with a buildable color.
These lipsticks offer softness and hydration. They provide a light wash of color that is ideal for casual days or those who want a less “done” look. Typically, sheer or satin formulas boast moisturizing ingredients to keep your pout feeling hydrated through the day. The downside? They’re not as long-lasting as matte formulas and require frequent touchups throughout the day. For instance, cult favorite Nars Orgasm is a satin coral lipstick.
You’ll find a few creamy formulas on this list of best coral lipsticks because they fall in between a satin and a matte. Call them the best of both worlds! You get the hydration of a satin with the appearance of a matte. Creams have more staying power. FLOWER Beauty’s peachy pink “Tiger Lily” is a good example.
Want a flush of color without the feel of anything on your lips? Enter the lip tint! Stains are interesting in that they can be both sheer and bold depending on the shade you choose. It’s a very low maintenance lip color with little need of reapplication. It can even double as a cheek tint. However, like matte formula’s stains can be drying.
One of my personal favs, glossy formulas have come a long way since the sticky lip feel you recall from middle school! Several glosses make my list of the best coral lipsticks because they keep your lips hydrated all day long. They also layer very well. Yes, you need to reapply throughout the day. However, glossy lipsticks are often so divine you want to do that! For instance, Dior’s Lip Addict Maximizer Gloss in 004 Coral or Maybelline’s Lifter Gloss in Peach Ring (a glorious peachy coral hue).
We’ll kick off this list with a pro-makeup artist favorite, Nars Lipstick in Orgasm. This peachy pink satin finish lipstick is particular stunning on fair complexions, but is favored by industry insiders because it works on everyone. Its slight golden shimmer really livens up your skin, giving you warmth even in the dead of winter. The shade also comes in a glorious blush and “multiple stick” which you can use as blush, shadow, and lip color. I have wear both the satin lipstick and the Afterglow Sensual Shine Lipstick in Orgasm. Afterglow combines color with care, offering hydrating ingredients like shea and mango butter as well as antioxidants to help protect your lips. Those looking for a more intense coral will love the Truth or Dare colorway. It’s a bit punchier – and has more orange undertones.
I’d classify this one as a great entry point for those who haven’t dabbled in coral before. Dove by Hourglass earns its spot on our list of best coral lipsticks because the satin crème is a rather natural and unassuming shade. This soft pink peach is a great option for daily wear. More importantly, it feels amazing too. I swear my lips felt softer ad smoother after a single wear. This lipstick uses vegan wax and a conditioning formula. Looking for more vibrancy? Those with darker complexions may favor Reef, a coral pink with a bit more pigmentation.
This warm coral lipstick is moisturizing while offering a vibrant, satin-finish look. Equally gorgeous on fair, medium, and dark skin tones, it deserves a place on our best coral lipsticks list because of its subtle brightening ability. If you like a natural look, but want more than a nude lip can offer, “coral kiss” may be your perfect shade. It leans toward the pink side, so if you’re not a fan of orangey corals, this one’s for you. Charlotte Tilbury has a really handy “See it on your skintone” tool on its website (scroll down to the area listing product details). I also love this one because it feels creamy and hydrating – not at all drying like so many lipsticks can be. This one leans toward the pink side, so if you’re not a fan of orangey corals, it’s a great bet.
Where to buy: Charlotte Tilbury | Sephora | Nordstrom
Of course, I couldn’t forget to share my original coral crush! It all started with Ambrosia from Colour Basis. Colour Basis an image consulting company that specializes in preparing on-camera talent for HD cameras. The hyper-realism of HD (and now 4K) shows every detail, so on-air makeup must be precise. At the time, I was anchoring morning shows and looking for a refreshed, awake look. Ambrosia delivered! It is a soft coral shade that looks amazing on lighter skin tones. This lipstick has a nourishing, velvety texture with tiny bit of slight metallic glimmer. I wouldn’t call it frosted, but there’s a faint hint of that. Cons? This one can be a smidge drying, so I recommend adding a lip balm or hydrating gloss on top.
Where to buy: Colour Basis
Bobbie Brown’s Bare Melon Lip Tint is another favorite because it offers instant plumping and hydration. If you’re looking for sheer color that adds extra “oomph” to your makeup look, this moisturizing balm is a good pick. When my lips feel extra dry, this is one I reach for. Unlike many of the balms or glosses out there, it is not sticky. Be aware this is a sheer wash of color. While you can certainly rock it alone, or layer for more saturation, you’ll need to layer with your favorite lipstick for highly pigmented color. You can also wear this on your cheeks.
No list of the best coral lipsticks would be complete without a lip crayon. Why? They’re super easy to use and offer hydration that sticks with you throughout the day. I love Laura Mercier’s Leonie shade because it’s an orange coral, but doesn’t come across as overly intense as this is a sheer matte lip color. Perfect for daily wear, it’s non-sticky and self-sharpening. While it’s advertised as 12-hour wear, I found you do have to reapply to keep your color strong. I’d still label it long-lasting though. If you have cool undertones and want a coral with more pink in it, try the Agnes or Amelie shades.
Where to buy: Laura Mercier | Sephora
Unlike red, which almost always requires liner, coral is a pretty low maintenance shade to wear. When you’ve found your ideal shade, you can swipe and go. That said, there are a few makeup artist tips to keep in mind when rocking the shade.