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Ask a Pro: The Do's and Don'ts of Mixing Lip Colors

mixing lipstick colors

Billy Mercer knows a thing or two about personalizing lip color. As a face painter who’s made up everyone from former First Lady Laura Bush to supermodel Christy Turlington to the everyday brides he works with at Lip Service XO (a beauty concierge he co-owns with creative director Jamie Breuer in Austin, Texas), Mercer’s clientele is varied. But one common thread he finds among his clients: They desire custom lip color. So, he opened up XO Lip Bar, a lip color customizing service that fully realizes his clients’ pigment fever dreams. Here, Mercer shares his do’s and don’ts of mixing lip colors to ensure a stellar outcome.

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DO use black when you want to darken and cool a color. “Always start with a small amount, gradually adding black until your desired shade has been reached. If you want to darken and warm a color, add black and brown,” he says.

DON’T go overboard with ochre (green-brown) tones. “They can turn your shade real muddy, real fast. Think baby poop!” he laughs. However, when used in the right amount with the right colors, ochre works to mute the intensity of hues.

DO add large amounts of white if you want to lighten and cool a color. “To lighten and warm up a color, just use peach. Depending on the tone of your peach, however, you may also need to add white,” Mercer says.

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DON’T think you need to scrap a color if it’s not working. “The first thing you’ll want to assess is what you don’t like about the hue. Is it too cool? Too light? Too dark? Adjust accordingly,” he says, noting that adding pinks, reds and purples can really “rescue any color and make it more wearable.”

DO be smart about lighting. “At the XO Lip Bar, we use The Makeup Light during the mixing process. Then, to ensure it’s perfect, we assess the color in natural light while it’s on the client’s lips to make sure it flatters her skin tone,” he says.

DO use a lot of trial and error. “That’s how you’ll learn to guarantee a beautiful color, every time. Use color theory to get close to your desired hue. Then, little by little, add your ‘toner’ colors to perfect the level and tone,” Mercer says. And, he reminds, you can always “rescue a color that got away from you. Just grab your color wheel and figure it out. And when you do, there’s not a more satisfying feeling!”

—by Karie L. Frost

[Image: Courtesy of Lip Service XO]