Fashion Week Runway Tips: Achieve a Perfect Dark Lip

Published in: MAC Makeup, Makeup Tips/How To

It’s NY Fashion Week, ya’all, and rich lips and smokey eyes have already made appearances on the runway.



Don’t be scurred to wear a dark lip in real life. With a little help from Gordon Espinet, Vice President of Makeup Artistry for MAC Cosmetics, you can pull it off.

How to get the look…

Begin by lining your lips with a lip-colored pencil. If you’re tempted to use black liner (LOL, like I did in the early 90s), resist. “You’ll have a monster of a time trying to blend it away,” says Gordon. “Use a lip pencil that’s the natural color of your lip but slightly darker. I always recommend something like MAC Spice or Stripdown.” What you want is a neutral, forgiving color that’s easy to work with.

Choose a dark burgundy or brown lipstick like…

  • MAC Photo – Golden brown
  • MAC Film Noir – Intense brown
  • MAC Diva – Intense reddish burgundy

What’s Gordon’s favorite dark lip color? “There’s one lipstick that I absolutely adore,” he says, “and it’s called Paramount. It’s one of those lipsticks that got parked for awhile there because browns and dark lips fell out of favor.” But Paramount is back with a vengeance!


Use a lip brush. The lip brush is your best friend, especially when doing dark lips. Gordon advises against applying directly from the tube because it creates the tendency to over-apply. “If you have on too much dark lipstick it can look, well, threatening!” Gordon’s lip brush of choice? — the MAC #316.

Start brushing from the center of your mouth, right where your lips touch. It’s where you’ll want the strongest color. To avoid harsh lines, spread the product from the center of your mouth, up or down, fading toward the lip line.


Take care not to build an overly dark lip outline, says Gordon. “You know you don’t want to look like a goth vampire. It’s really about having a mouth that may be dark but still sensual.”

Ultimately, the look you want is somewhere between matte and shiny. If you’re struggling with excessive shine, blot with a tissue to take it down a notch.


Straight off the runway! Just kidding… more like straight from my living room!

In the pic above I only used one layer of MAC Paramount. If you want a deeper lip, you can always add more layers to intensify the color.

What do you think? Sexy or scary? Discuss.

Your friendly neighborhood beauty addict,



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So far, 42 people have commented on this article. How cool is that?

  1. Amanda says:

    You did a GREAT job interpreting the look. Yous is very wearable and sexy. I like the look that elie tahari shows, but I don’t like the rachel roy version. I think that one is just too….harsh. The lips look almost black to me. But I guess it *is* runway makeup.

    While I love lipstick, lately I’ve been into more “moisturizing” ones, or shiney ones… will be a little challenge to give up the gloss and shine completely. (But this is my weird caveat-I have no problems with matte RED lips, just other colors!)

  2. Holly says:

    I love it, the Rachel Roy one looks amazing on the model’s skin tone but i think on anyone fairer it would be too harsh. Your interpretation is far more wearable!

    I was playing with darker shades in work a couple of days ago and am loving the colours but i really cant accept how matte the current looks are, im so not ready to abandon my layer of gloss over the top, it just doesnt look finished to me! so I think i am going to be pig headed and keep my gloss!

  3. Glosslizard says:

    I really like a dark lip, so glamorous and vampy! But I have difficulty convincing myself that it’s an acceptable day look! About the darkest I’ve gone is a sheer layer of Smashbox’s Vixen gloss (from the fall Decadence collection), a very flattering berry! I like to pair it with a bright eye and one coat of black mascara. As the dark lip becomes more widespread, however, my comfort level will probably increase and I may just go out and grab a Paramount for myself! πŸ˜‰

    I should add that my typical day has me interacting with mostly people who wear little to no makeup, so I get a bit self-conscious about more dramatic looks (even though I love them)!

  4. Karen says:

    Hi Amanda!

    Thanks. Paramount is a winner! I now have to get my hands on some burgundy lipstick, wheee!

    I don’t think I could ever really give up gloss or sparkle on the lips. Gloss is like 122,545,554,897,229 easier for me. Just slap it on and go, LOL. What’s kind of funny to me, though, is to put matte lipstick on and then completely smother the lips with gloss.

    BTW, I love MAC Lustre formulas because they are very moisturizing and never dry my pucker out. πŸ™‚ Happy Friday!

  5. Karen says:

    Hi Holly,

    I hear that, girlfriend! I never wore gloss in the 90s (really, it was a totally unheard of thing) and don’t think I could give up the habit, either.

    The good thing though about the fall lip is that it isn’t too matte. There *is* a touch of shine, which IMHO is the trend’s saving grace.

  6. Karen says:

    Hi Glosslizard,

    During my weekday I’m surrounded by people who don’t wear ANY makeup! AHHGGHGH!

    I hope you get a tube of Paramount one day. When Gordon said the “it’s back with a vengeance” line I almost fell out my seat! And of course launched into the story of how I wore it all through the 90s and how it was first MAC lipstick love…Funny thing is, I don’t ever remember what happened to that last tube, which I know for sure was still in my possession circa 1998. I think it fell into the void with all my old lunch boxes and missing pairs of socks!

    Happy Friday, girlfriend!

  7. Holly says:

    Hi Glosslizard,
    I absolutely know the feeling about wearing deep colours during the daytime, i could never wear anything other than my neutral glosses for university, mainly because most of the people im around consider washing in the morning an occasional luxury let alone makeup!
    The great thing about my job at Chanel though means i can try out any look and i get feedback from customers and the girls from the other counters to decide if it would work for evenings! Also working with incredible makeup artists means i get the best tips ever!

  8. Vanessa says:

    Sexy no matter what!

  9. Mrs. Lynne says:

    I think it looks great! There’s been so much switch-up in wearing nude lips that it’s almost the standard and to look back on this is almost foreign. But I think it still rocks despite those that side with pinks, corals and nudes. It’s lovely!

  10. Kelly says:

    My darkest lip is Rougette from the Mattene line and I have to apply it like a stain with a brush, blot, and use a bit of gloss over it to not feel like my lips enter a room before me. I’ll have to start eyeballing some lip colors for fall.

    And is it just me, or does the Rachel Roy model look like she’s got lobster claws the way she’s holding her hands with the gloves on? Looove the color of that dress and her blush… not so in love with lobster hands!

  11. Baby Girl says:

    Paramount was the my first MAC lipstick in 1997. I still love this color. I’m going to pick up another this weekend.

  12. Karen says:

    I had a feeling you’d be the type to rock the dark, vampy lip Vanessa! Have a good weekend πŸ™‚

  13. Karen says:

    Hi Mrs. Lynne,

    You know what’s kinda funny to me? How the 90s are now “retro.” πŸ™‚

    I am a big pink and coral kinda girl so while I embrace this vampy lip whole heartedly I’m not quite ready to let go of my bright, happy lip colors.

  14. Karen says:

    Hi Kelly,

    Rougette is a good one. I like wearing that color when I really don’t feel like doing much with my eyes (just two coats o’ mascara and I’m good to go.)

    And LOL, yeah, I didn’t notice the weirdness of those gloves until I took a closer look. They do look warm though!

  15. Karen says:

    Hi Baby Girl,

    Awww! Paramount LIVES! Seriously, once you get it on your lips you’ll feel a weird, but happy familiar feeling.

    I bet there are droves of us out there who came of lipstick age in the 90s who have a special place in their heart for this lippie.

  16. Sophie says:

    Bonjour Karen,

    “Bravo” for this look.
    It’ s funny ’cause in the 90’s i used to wear a Dior dark lipstick like paramount color’s…I liked it very much. Next week i’ll try to go to a mac store in Lyon to hunt the paramount one.

    Thanks a lot for your congrats for our wedding.
    And yes,we do have planned it…
    We will get married at town-hall and church,in the town where we grown both of us (another coincidence!!)(near the Loire river).
    After church,we’ll go to a reception at the racecourse of this town,and in the evening, we’ll have diner in a village where some of my husband-on-the-go family lives.
    I just hope it wont rain on this day…
    How did you feel yourself on this great day Karen?? And what make-up did you wear ??

    Your french friend beauty addict,

  17. Mrs. Lynne says:

    I’m right there with ya’ sis! I can rock it if need be, but on my own I probably wouldn’t, lol.

  18. Sandy says:

    that’s a very sexy look. i like it!! =) i usually use darker colour lipsticks during winter time =) btw karen, what is the staying power of the laura mercier eyebasic or something like that, it was in ur past entries. could that be used as eye primer just like mac’s paint pot? =)

  19. Angela says:

    Paramount looks gorgeous on you. πŸ™‚

    I wonder if they’ve tweaked the color since the 90s? I remember it as a shiny brown, with no tones of burgundy in it. Maybe I’ll give it another try, though it did look horrid on me back then. LOL

  20. Glosslizard says:

    Hi Holly!

    I definitely envy your job! I even glam up to go to the makeup counters sometimes, just because I know that those people will understand me!! πŸ™‚

    Amusingly enough, after all this talk of dark lips, I went out yesterday afternoon and caved on MAC’s 2N lippie! Gotta have it all!

  21. Glosslizard says:

    Oh yeah, new (to me, anyway) TJ’s product alert! Frozen chocolate croissants! You leave one out overnight to thaw and rise, and then just bake it for 20 minutes in the morning! Instant chocolatey goodness with your coffee!

    The only hitch is remembering the night before, but it keeps the consumption down to a reasonable level! πŸ˜‰

  22. Holly says:

    Hi Glosslizzard,
    I know im just trying to enjoy my job while it lasts because after next year at law school im gonna be working as a lawyers in offices for the rest of my life looking conservateive lol!

    ooh those frozen croissants sound amazing im so jealous, although is probably good we dont have them here, im trying to remain a safe distance away from sweet things after Christmas!

  23. Glosslizard says:

    Hi Holly!

    Yeah, but you’ll be able to put your talents to good use rockin’ the polished, professional makeup look! And you can indulge your passion for Chanel with your suits! πŸ™‚

  24. Holly says:

    Haha thats true, i have already decided that my graduation present should be a classic Chanel quilted handbag!

    By any chance have you (or anyone else for that matter) tried the Mac brow kit?? Im needing a new brow powder and was thinking about giving it a try??

  25. Glosslizard says:

    I’ve only tried Anastasia’s kit, which I like! It works when I need it but I don’t use it every day! I consider myself fairly inept at eyebrows, so (a) it’s easy to use and (b) I’m pretty sure it looks good! Of course there could be people out there that I don’t know about saying “OMG, look at those horrible eyebrows! Who does she think she’s fooling?!?” πŸ˜‰

  26. Lilan says:

    Hi Karen,

    I love Paramount on you! But it’s definitely a fall/winter look for sure. I wouldn’t do this for spring too often. Well, since we’re in San Francisco I might because it’s always so dreary here during the spring months!

    I love the brighter colors on you as well – keep rockin’ the coral girl!!

  27. Lilan says:

    PS – Love the skin look you’ve got goin’ on too! Another trend I’ve been noticing on the runways right now. Thank goodness the face and dark lips aren’t as severe as the 90s this time around! πŸ™‚

  28. zoe says:

    Wow it looks gorgeous on you but unfortunately id look very goth on me because it is so dark and brown lipsticks always tend to make me look ill, so i may have to skip on this trend.

  29. Karen says:

    Bounjour Sophie,

    I hope you find Paramount! I had a really great makeup artist introduce me to a few new MAC things this past weekend…Kid eyeshadow, Cream Color Base in Pearl and Eye Kohl in Powersurge! I have to wait a week to get these (I went a little nuts at the MAC counter last Wednesday after a stressful day) but plan on getting these on my next trip. I know you mentioned you have a similar skin tone to mine so you might want to check those other things out.

    Your wedding sounds like it’s going to be a busy and fabulous day full of family. I hope it doesn’t rain, too, and that everything goes smoothly.

    The makeup I wore today…hmmm, there were a few things! I tested a few new products – a new Dior Anticerne concealer, Prescriptives foundation, some creme Lancome blush and a swipe of Lancome Color Fever Gloss. I really didn’t do a lot with my eyes because I was too lazy (ha ha ha).

    I hope you had a great weekend!

  30. Karen says:

    Hi Mrs. Lynne,

    I got a funny feeling the dark lips will catch on in Oahu though. Give it a few years and you’ll see it all over the place. πŸ™‚

    Happy Sunday!

  31. Karen says:

    Hi Sandy,

    LOL, girl…thank you for reminding me about that tube of Eye Basics! I totally forgot I had it! It has decent all day staying power. I think it’s a bit more user friendly than the Paint Pot in that it’s easier to apply and to blend shadows on. I really like it – I just sorta forgot I had it in my makeup arsenal. I totally recommend you get it. It’s great for easy eye makeup days or when you are in a hurry!

  32. Karen says:

    Hi Angela,

    It doesn’t seem that much difference in color to me. I did notice, though, that the formula was much more moisturizing than I remember it being.

    Back in the day I always used it with Mahogany liner, which made it a touch more red.

  33. Karen says:


    Girl, why do you torture me so? I loves me some chocolate in the morning, argh!!! πŸ˜‰

  34. Karen says:


    I haven’t tried the brow kit but I do like using an eyeshadow with the 266. I visited with a really faboo makeup artist who worked with MAC for years and she still just uses a MAC eyeshadow (Cork) with her 266 brush. πŸ™‚

  35. Karen says:

    Hi Lilan,

    Thanks πŸ™‚ I hope to see you in some burgundys and browns! πŸ˜‰

  36. Karen says:

    Hi Zoe,

    Aww, try it at least once at the counter. If ya hate it you can always wipe it off if you don’t like it. Paramount is worth a try πŸ™‚

  37. Mrs. Lynne says:

    Are you kidding? I see it already around here, lol. Mostly on the ones that probably never even knew the trend changed πŸ˜› Hah.

    Happy Sunday to you too!

  38. Karen says:

    You know what hasn’t changed, either? The high, arched, thin brow. El Hub calls them “Hawaii Eyebrows.” All of the old school aunties have them.

  39. Carla says:

    Hey sexy
    I don’t know why do people think that dark colors such as ( blood red and brown ) scary and goth?
    me and mom see it as a ( beauty idol ) not gothic. I’ve very soft pouty juicy lips by nature and I’ve used many of them ( dark lippies ) for a while. They look really nice and sexy with my full big lips. I see that you look fabolous in the red lipstick specially though you’re beautifull without any thing on.
    with all my love and respect (:

  40. Karen says:

    Hi Carla!

    I guess some folks think of dark colors as goth-y because it pushes ’em out of their lipstick comfort level. I personally like dark colors on full lips, too, and think it looks really lush and sexy if done right.

    I hope your weekend is off to a good start, girl!

  41. Lydia says:

    Hi Karen,
    I love dark lips!

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