Turn A Regrettable Lip Colour Purchase Into Your Own Custom Shade

How to transform ANY unflattering lipstick or gloss into an awesome personalised shade. (It's actually really easy!)
Publish date:
April 25, 2013
nars, lipsticks, mac, lip glosses, How-To, maybelline, Dior, Lancome, Too Faced

How many times has this happened to you?

You pick up a lipstick that you’re convinced is your dream colour. It looks perfect on you in the store or in the tube, the salespeople gush, and you fork over your hard-earned dollaz feeling really awesome and confident in your choice.

And then you get it home, try it on in your bathroom, and you realise it’s... wrong.

The degree of wrongness may vary on a scale of “This is OK, but isn’t something I’ll wear” to “Oh god, revolting.”

Do you:

  • A) Return it. (Unless the store is more than 45 minutes away, or you bought it online, or you don’t feel like putting on pants, in which case it’ll sit in the bag in your kitchen until the end of time.)
  • B) Give it away. (Can you give away used lipstick?)
  • C) Burn it in the backyard and salt the ashes.

You’re all answering “C” right now; I see you, xoVainers. But ritual cosmetics sacrifice isn’t the only option!

You can fix ANY unflattering lip colour by custom-mixing it into an awesome personalised shade. And turning a terrible colour into an INCREDIBLE one is way easier than you think.


First, identify the problem: What’s wrong with this colour, other than you don’t like it? Is it too light? Too dark? Is it too warm (too much yellow or orange) or is it too cool (too much purple or blue)? Is it too vibrant? Too dull? Too matte or too shiny?

If you’re not totally sure what’s bugging you about it, don’t worry--lots of this is going to come down to experimentation anyway.

In my case, this lipstick is too pastel of a pink with a pale purple undertone. I know this colour is super-popular right now, but I don’t think it’s right on me.

When it comes to custom-mixing lippy, a lot of people will tell you to scrape off little bits of your lipsticks and glosses and mix them up on a palette. Like dragging a freaking palette around with you in case you need a touchup is something that people do. IMPRACTICAL.

Forget that noise. We are going to mix these colours straight on our lips, so all you’ll need are some tissues, as many lip colours as you have available, a mirror with good lighting, and a piece of paper to write down your “recipes.”

Start with the most obvious negative feature of the lipstick. For me, it’s that this is too light of a pink. So I’m going to use a darker pink overtop of it (Maybelline ColorSensational Vivids, Vivid Rose) and see what I end up with.

Always start with the lighter shade and add darker colours a little at a time. I learned that in art class. Thanks, Mr. Patterson!

This isn’t bad! The dark pink has a bit of a rosy, warm undertone, which has helped minimise the weird lilac in the original. But I still think it can be better. I’m going to put some pale pink glitter gloss (MAC Dazzleglass, Steppin’ Out) overtop for some sparkle…

And then neaten up the edges with a reddish-pink lip liner: Sonia Kashuk Lip Definer in Petal.

I always do my liner afterwards because then you don’t have to be perfect right off the bat.

And here’s my fabulous custom lip colour. I’ll throw these three products in my bag and reapply as needed. Once you have the combination down, it really doesn’t take that much longer to throw on a couple of layers of lipstick as opposed to just one.

So what happens if your lipstick is too dark?

I bought Dior Addict Lipstick in Fireworks because I thought it was a close match to my favourite discontinued red. It was not.

Easy fix! First blot your lips with a tissue until there’s less product on your mouth, then add a clear gloss to dilute and lighten it.

I’m using a gloss with a slightly pink tint--Nars Lip Gloss, Easy Lover--to counter some of the yellow tones I don’t like.

Much better! And beautifully glossy.

I think this particular mistake lipstick has a lot of potential, so I’m also going to turn it into a neon coral--basically the same colour as my manicure--which I’m already feeling for warm weather.

I took off some of the colour, then layered a vivid orangey-pink--Too Faced La Creme in Juicy Melons--over the red.

I’ve used all bright colours here because I love me a bright lip, but it works exactly as well with neutrals. Here’s a brown so gross I didn’t even take a “before” photo mixed with a cool red, MAC Red, to give glamorous silent movie star realness.

And here’s my personal ultimate mistake purchase: a light beige--MAC, 2N--that I have not touched since I bought it. I mixed it with a light red gloss--Smashbox Lip Enhancing Gloss in Starlit--and now it has a new lease on life!

It’s also easy to change the finish. If your lipstick is too matte, throw some gloss over it for shine. If it’s too shiny, brush some pressed powder over it.

Use a brush you can easily clean or a sponge you don’t mind throwing away, because you WILL get lipstick on it.

If you don’t get an awesome colour right away, no big deal. Wipe it off, clean the lipstick or gloss applicator with a tissue so you don’t get unwanted transfer, and try again. It’s not like you’re losing anything--you’re hardly going to make an unflattering shade any WORSE--and besides, it’s fun! Like a science experiment!

If you doubt that it’s this easy, here’s proof: I even taught my mum how do it.

My mum is awesome. She dyes her hair pink and purple and right now it’s bright red, but she’s been in kind of a reddish-berry-with-a-little-shimmer lipstick rut. She accidentally bought a VERY purple lip colour and freaked out when she saw how bright it was.

I tried mixing it with a few reds because I knew they’d give a result similar to the lipstick she ALWAYS wears. But then I layered a dark pink overtop (Maybelline The Vivids in Vivid Rose again) and got this awesome deep magenta colour…

... which she totally loved.

And now I’ll never see that pink again. Curses!

That’s it!

Have you guys ever done this? Are you going to try it? What should we name the shades we invent? Do you think you’ll feel like a wizard when people ask you what lipstick you’re wearing and you say “Oh, I mixed it myself”? OH YES YOU WILL.