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August 15, 2016

It was in late 2015 that the first signs of this particular 90s comeback emerged, in the form of brown lips reappearing everywhere from the runway shows, to all over our Instagram feeds. We thought this was a beauty trend that belonged firmly in the 90s, something destined to never make a return – just like tattoo chokers and flared jeans. Then again, those last two fashion trends have already shown that it’s possible to come back from the dead, so when brown started becoming more and more of an on-trend lip colour of late, we decided to just fully embrace the 90s nostalgia.

Still, it can be a tricky colour to wear, one that demands an understanding of your skin undertones and natural lip colour, as well as how certain types of brown work better on you than others. Pick the right shade, and it can become a delightfully nostalgic look, or a modern and edgy interpretation of the colour. We guide you through some of the best browns available out there now, and how you can work the colour without looking old-fashioned.

Metallic brown

urban decay

$29, available at Urban Decay stores and Sephora

A shade that comes closest to how brown lips were like in the 90s – in a metallic finish, with bronzey tones. Urban Decay’s Vice Lipstick in Conspiracy is a plum-bronze shimmer that comes in the Metallized finish, and a shade like this would complement warmer skin tones best. Don’t look too much like you time travelled from the 90s by keeping the rest of your makeup simple – just a light neutral hue on the eyes, for example; no dark eyeshadow, please.


Glossy mauve brown


$13, available at Sephora

This is the easiest way to edge into the brown lipstick trend, since NYX’s Plush Gel Lipstick in Breakup has a formula goes on in a sheer, semi-glossy finish that’s easily buildable. So if you’re afraid of going full-on brown, just dab the colour onto the centre of your lips, and blend outwards to create a stain; if you decide to slick on more, this shade is a lovely warm mauve-y light brown that fairer skin tones can pull off nicely.


Matte pinkish brown

kylie cosmetics

US$17, available on

Ah, Kylie Jenner’s famous Dolce K. Call this the shade that launched a thousand dupes, because this pinkish-brown in a bold matte finish is the perfect Instagram nude – fill in your lips with it for the quickest way to come close achieving Kylie’s infamous pout (with no lip fillers involved, that is). This kind of brown is undeniably flattering, but we think it looks the best on more olive skin tones, where the pink shows better.


Shimmery chocolate brown

kat von d

A photo posted by Marcela Ann (@marcela_ann) on

$32, available at Sephora

Such a dark colour takes guts to wear, we admit. It goes on a deep brown, with flecks of violet sparkle that makes this shade extra attention-grabbing.  On darker skin the red undertones are more obvious, while on fairer skin it appears more blackened. Whatever it is, this colour is definitely a conversation-starter when worn – just remember to keep the rest of your makeup relatively simple.


Matte chocolate brown


A photo posted by Deisy Hernandez (@deissy_h) on

US$6, available on

A lighter take on a chocolate hue as compared to the Kat Von D Studded Kiss Lipstick in Piaf, Colourpop’s Ultra Matte Lip in Limbo also has much stronger reddish hues. It works for most skin tones, but yellow undertones bring out the red tones in the lip colour more. The ultra matte finish is rather high maintenance, though.


Red-brown creme

charlotte tilbury

US$26, available on

With a name like “Birkin Brown”, you know this colour will look super luxe. Charlotte Tilbury has created what she calls a “timelessly elegant soft chocolate cream” for her Matte Revolution lipstick range, inspired by Jane Birkin (not the bags). The red tones are very strong in this one, such that we’d almost consider it a red. On fair skin, it’s especially striking.


Main image: Instagram @kyliecosmetics, via @iluvsarahii