Why Lipstick Color Matters

Have you ever seen the optical illusion with rows of gray squares, each framed by different-colored boxes? The center squares all appear to be different shades of gray, but when the surrounding colors are removed, you see that every center square was exactly the same shade all along. The way we perceived that shade, though, was influenced by the color of the frame around it.  

Lipstick can create a similar optical illusion with your teeth, making them appear lighter or darker depending on the shade. That’s why choosing the right color of lipstick to frame your teeth can make your smile appear so much brighter. But what color is that, exactly?


Lipstick, Undertones, and Your Teeth

To choose the best lipstick for whiter teeth, first you need to know what undertones the lipstick has. If the base color, e.g. red, is the overtone, the undertones are the subtle colors that go into creating the shade. For white teeth, you’re looking for a lipstick with cool undertones – think blue or purple hues. These color pigments cancel out yellow or brown tones in your teeth, giving a whiter appearance. On the other hand, warm orange, brown or gold undertones can cancel out the brighter tones in your teeth and accentuate yellow or brown, making teeth look dull and discolored.  

But this lipstick just looks red, we hear you cry! Undertones can be hard to detect, but here’s an easy trick to figure it out: simply swipe some of the lipstick on your wrist or the back of your hand and then wipe it with a tissue. Look at your skin – if the lipstick has left behind a blue-ish or purple-ish stain, it has cool undertones. If the stain is orange, gold or brown, it has warm undertones.


Lipstick Colors for Whiter Teeth

Now that you know the theory behind lipstick colors and white teeth, here are some pointers on choosing teeth whitening lipsticks in the colors you love.


You can’t beat a classic, bold red. For maximum impact, look for red lipsticks with cool blue undertones – shades like ruby, crimson and red wine are perfect choices. If you want something a little less dramatic, pink-toned lipsticks are a neutral option. But whatever you do, steer clear of red lipsticks with orange undertones.


Pink lipsticks tend to have either blue, purple, orange or yellow undertones. For paler pinks, you’ll find the blue and purple undertones you’re looking for in shades like light mauve or blush pink. For a bigger pop of color, you’ll find those whitening tones in hot pinks and raspberry shades. Avoid coral pinks, though; as pretty as they are, they’re packed full of warm orange undertones that will cast a yellow glow on your teeth.


The contrast of dark, vampy lip colors can really make your teeth pop. The best options are deliciously deep berry and plum shades, which are full of rich purple and blue undertones. Skip the darker brown-infused colors though, as they can really emphasize yellow teeth.


Nudes or neutral lip colors can be tricky as many have brown or peachy tones. For best results, look for lighter browns and pinky shades, and stay away from oranges and golds. 


Lipstick Finishes for Whiter Teeth

When it comes to lipstick for whiter teeth, the finish matters too. Matte lipsticks are increasingly popular these days, but unfortunately they can have a dulling effect on your smile. Instead, look for colors with a touch of shimmer or gloss, as these reflect light and make your teeth appear whiter. Silvery shimmer or glitter is best, as gold can make your teeth duller.


Lip Gloss for Whiter Teeth

Lip gloss is a great way to make your smile sparkle, whether worn alone or over your lipstick. Keep in mind, though, that the color rules of lipstick apply to glosses too: 

  • Choose cool blue, purple, or pink tones. 

  • Avoid browns, oranges, and golds. 

  • For shimmery or glittery glosses, go for silver over gold.


Completing the Look

You’ve chosen the perfect lipstick that makes your teeth whiter, but what about the rest of your makeup? Make sure your eye makeup isn’t undoing the brightening effects of your lipstick by keeping the following tips in mind: 

  • For mascara, consider a dark navy to cancel out any yellow or brown tones. 

  • For eyeliner, look for deep navy, plum, or other blue/purple shades over brown.

  • For eyeshadows, skip the golds and browns and opt for blush pinks, smokey charcoal, or deep berry shades instead.   

Not getting that perfect selfie smile from lipstick alone? Whether you’re looking for instant whitening results, a daily brightening boost, or anything in between, you have lots of other options for whitening your teeth. But whichever route you go, brushing twice a day with a whitening toothpaste like Colgate® Optic White® Pro Series Toothpaste can do wonders. Combine that with the right lipstick, and your pearly whites will look even better than those shoes!


This article is intended to promote understanding of and knowledge about general oral health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your dentist or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment.


What's behind your smile?

Take our Oral Health assessment to get the most from your oral care routine


2.3 billion

people worldwide suffer from tooth decay


What's behind your smile?

Take our Oral Health assessment to get the most from your oral care routine


2.3 billion

people worldwide suffer from tooth decay