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Four Fall Lipsticks: Which Is Your Favorite?

Four Fall Lipsticks

If there’s one way to change your whole look in less than a minute, it’s lipstick. So this week, features writer Caroline and editorial assistant Kim tried out four different shades from Nordstrom, perfect for the change of seasons. Here’s what they thought…

ILIA Arabian Knights Lipstick

1. ILIA Tinted Lip Conditioner in Arabian Knights

Caroline: This translucent red lipstick is the best of both worlds — the conditioning of a balm mixed with the build-able color of a sheer lipstick. It’s perfect for those times when you want to look a little polished without rocking a full-on lip. But it’s equally good for special occasions — a friend wore this on her wedding day and it looked absolutely gorgeous!

Kim: I was really excited to try this shade because of the red online swatch. I usually don’t gravitate toward lip tints, because my lips are two different colors, and it’s hard to get the right coverage. I was really hopeful, but it just didn’t turn out as red against my skin as I’d hoped.

MAC Viva Glam III Lipstick

2. MAC Lipstick in Viva Glam III

Caroline: In the tube, it looked like a lovely berry shade. But from the moment I swiped this brownish-plum lipstick on, I felt like I was channeling Fairuza Balk circa The Craft, and not in a good way. I love that every cent of the selling price of Viva Glam lipsticks is donated to the MAC AIDS fund. But this is decidedly not my color.

Kim: As soon as I saw this color, I was instantly excited. There are few things I love more than a dark lip in the colder months of the year. It’s such an easy way to glam things up, and I loved that this one was more matte — my preferred texture in lip colors. I also appreciate how the brown adds depth and makes it look a little more subtle. 

RMS Firestarter Lipstick

3. RMS Wild With Desire Lipstick in Firestarter

Caroline: Orangey-red is my perennial all-year-round favorite lipstick color. In the summer, it adds a punch of brightness. In the fall, it pays homage to the changing leaves. And in the winter, it warms everything up, like a flash of sunshine peeking out from beneath the layers of scarves and coats. This natural one is super pigmented, and does wonders to brighten your whole face.

Kim: This has two things I look for in a lipstick: matte and opaque. Bright reds and orange-y reds are usually my go-to, so this was instantly my favorite of the bunch. I used to think I could only wear a vibrant shade in warm months, but I’m definitely taking a page from Caroline’s book and wearing this year-round!

Kosas Darkroom Lipstick

4. KOSAS Weightless Lip Color in Darkroom

Caroline: A lot of ‘wine-colored’ lipsticks are not actually the color of wine. This one is. Though it looks purple in the tube, it turned my lips a deep, rich red, like a garnet in candlelight. You can blot it to create a gorgeous stain or wear it full-on, for a statement. I’ll be wearing this to any and all holiday parties. And also on errands, because why not?

Kim: I’m a huge fan of a dark wine lip for fall. I wore this color to a dinner party last weekend, and got so many compliments. Even the cashier at Trader Joe’s loved it! I also love that it’s super moisturizing, so my lips didn’t crack and dry out like they do with many lipsticks. I will definitely be adding this to my arsenal of fall colors.

Which one is your favorite? Are there any lipsticks you’re into these days? We’d love to hear.

P.S. 7 great lipsticks and a 30-day lipstick challenge.

(Photos by Christine Han for Cup of Jo. This post is sponsored by Nordstrom, where shipping and returns are always free. Thanks for supporting the brands that help keep Cup of Jo running. Caroline’s top is from Reformation. Kim’s top is from Rails.)

  1. ks says...

    coj community- can anyone recommend a good quiet red- one that’s subtle enough for the office (construction) that still says polished? I look closest to joanna if that helps match skin tones…

    • Cait says...

      Tender lips from Laura Mercier! It’s a bit of a darker red not a brighter red but the sheer-ish color means it’s buildable!

    • Jody Winter says...

      Ilia does a range of lip stains. I am quite pale and wear ‘Bang Bang’ which is a red but not a full-on red.

  2. Jen says...

    Hi! I followed the link for the Kosas lipstick to the Nordstrom site, but they don’t have the color Darkroom. Do you know if this will be coming out soon at Nordstrom or should I purchase elsewhere?

    • Ellen says...

      You can buy directly from the Kosas website or Credo Beauty. Love Kosas lipsticks and their tinted oils!

  3. Ann says...

    I absolutely LOVE Ilia Arabian Knights. Their Bang Bang is another nice sheer red shade.

  4. Kay says...

    Thanks for showing them on different skin tones :)

  5. Samantha says...

    I love this post!

    I have a lipstick question… whenever I wear lipstick, eventually you can see the lines/wrinkles in my lips and the lipstick sort of gets stuck there and looks funny. Does anyone know what I’m talking about and how to avoid this? I generally stick to ultra moisturizing or translucent lip colors because of this and it makes me sad!

    • Y says...

      Hi Sam,
      I put the same Benefit primer I use on my wrinkled forehead around my lips and it works great. If my lipstick is matte, I put a swipe of lip balm on first.
      Good Luck!

    • Laurel says...

      If the problem is on your lips themselves (not around the lips), maybe try MAC’s Prep + Prime Lip! It’s kinda like a chapstick but also has something magical in it that lets your lip color glide on just as pigmented and makes it last longer. And it’s not drying! I recommend it.

  6. Bindi says...

    I have not read all of the comments so this may already have been said, BUT- to have a woman of color also try on the shades!! YES! Great job! Kim is beautiful and perfection!

    I had given up on reading or taking any makeup recommendations from this site. Once I went to Sephora with the name of a specific eye concealer that was recommended here with grand reviews (It will make you look more awake! You will be so impressed! Trust us, this is worth the money!) and the lady at Sephora was like “Honey, no…this is not for you. This brand doesn’t even bother make our shades.” And I felt stupid for having been excited, and left out, and other.

    This is a great improvement. Thank you, Cup of Jo! You are growing and improving, as we all are!

  7. Emily says...

    Ive been wearing tannin by bite over and over. they call it a poppy red, but theres just something really special about it. its slightly deeper, slightly muted, slightly brown cool toned red. it just makes me feel bright and alive.

  8. Diana Saril says...

    I found it at Makeup Forever, a Paris brand that’s available here in the Philippines. Try it!

  9. Jenny Tzakova says...

    Also what brow product (if any) are you wearing Caroline? Your brows always look amazing but even more so today!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      caroline is out today, but i’ll ask her and report back!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      here’s her answer: “Anastasia Brow Wiz — it’s my go-to and it’s cruelty free!”
      here’s the link: http://bit.ly/31LTP7S

      hope that helps!

    • Jenny says...

      Aw thank you so much Joanna! 🥰🥰

  10. Jenny says...

    Personally Firestarter and Darkroom as those are the colours I normally wear and have been meaning to test Darkroom since I read about it a while ago. And I really think those are the colours suiting the ladies the best, especially Kim! Amazing what lipsticks can do ❤️

  11. Eleanor says...

    I recommend people check out Origin by Live Tinted. I was unsure at first, but it was one of my go-to colors now. I love that I can have different levels of intensity by layering it.

  12. Carrie Jones says...

    Oh my gosh both their skin tones look amazing with all 4 colors- but I think my favorites are Kim with Darkroom and Caroline with Viva Glam III.

  13. Christine says...

    I am searching for the perfect pinky beige. Any good recommendations?

    • Nigerian Girl says...

      MAC Velvet Teddy.

  14. Jojo says...

    Can you PLEASE post an article like this with lipsticks rated highly and EWG’s Skin Deep database????? PLEASE!!!!!

    • Kelly says...

      3 out of the 4 of these lipsticks (MAC is the exception) are excellent clean makeup choices. So excited to see the majority of those tried on as clean options rather than the reverse!

    • Sefira says...

      Just FYI 3 out of 4 of these (RMS, KOSAS and ILIA) are in the EWG database and rated quite well both by them as well as many other non-toxic beauty focused sources. There are very few EWG ‘verified’ lipstick options. Personally I’ve tried each of these brands and find KOSAS is the best for lipstick and RMS is great for foundation. I found the ILIA product drying on my lips over time.

    • Sasha L says...

      Jojo, FYI, I had been a fan a of EWG for years but recently heard that there was a lot of criticism coming out about them. Just a quick Google search turns up several instances from different sources.

      I don’t know where else to turn for this kind of stuff though. Anyone have ideas?

  15. Ceridwen says...

    Just this week, I’ve decided to become a lipstick wearer. I’m 40. I had a rough couple of weeks with my mum in hospital, my daughter with a mysterious condition causing her constant pain, my grandmother passed. I found a lipstick my mum had given me, rolled under my bedside table. My youngest daughter was in the hospital and I was getting ready to go in. I put the lipstick on and I just felt more awake and like, yep, I’m here and I can do this. I don’t know why it gave me that lift, but I liked it and thought, “now I wear lipstick and am just going for it.” It made my strides more deliberate and pulled my shoulders back, head up, smiled into it with painted lips. Why the hell not? Simple joys in a complicated world.

    • Anonygirl says...

      My whole makeup routine is lipstick. I’m excited to try some new shades.

    • Lydia says...

      Sorry you’ve had such a tough time Ceridwen – that’s ALOT.
      Sending strength and positivity your way.

    • It is surprising the impact of a small thing like lipstick can have, but I too have felt the same about it, especially in very hard times. I am sorry about your grandmother, and I wish you and your family strength and your mom and daughter healing.

  16. Nigerian Girl says...

    I love talking about makeup so naturally I love this post. Of the four lipsticks, Kosas Darkroom is my clear favourite. I’ll look out for it. We don’t have spring, summer, fall and winter in my country, which means we pretty much wear what we want when we want. At the moment, Charlotte Tilbury Red Carpet Red is my favourite lipstick. It makes me feel glamorous and powerful. I use it with ColourPop Bitchette Lippie Pencil which is much more affordable and can be worn alone as a lipstick too. MAC Chili is another good one. It’s a warm orangey-reddish-brown shade perfect for those who are wary of full-on reds.

  17. Michelle says...

    If you like Firestarter, try Flight of Fancy by RMS! A little softer, a little more versatile, but brightens your complexion in the most stunning way. I also love the Ilia lip tint Crimson & Clover, which looks like you just ate a cherry popsicle – lovely, lovely shade year-round.

  18. Christina says...

    I was just wondering if anyone has tried the glossier lipsticks (either generation g or the new vibrant play ones they have) – curious to try but I personally find glossier really hit or miss!

    • Angela says...

      I love the Generation G Glossier lipsticks! They were actually the first ones I tried as I started to get more comfortable wearing a “lip” for more than just a special occasion – I love that you can build them to create as deep/vibrant of a color as your own personal preference.

      Crush is my personal favorite – it’s the perfect shade to apply once for a quick every-day tint, but you can layer/build it to create a more vibrant color. I prefer my daytime lip to be nude or a very light tint, and Crush is perfect for that. I also have the Jam and love the berry color – it’s bright, but still a deeper color. Just my two cents! :)

    • Joanna Tsay says...

      I love my generation g lipstick in the color Like. I joke that it should be called Life because it brings the perfect flush of color to my lips and I feel more alive when I wear it. I’m hoping the new packaging is better because my only complaint would be how cheap and flimsy the packaging was when I first got mine.

    • Catherine says...

      None of my I think 600 lipsticks add up to my Generation G in Crush. It’s everything! Truly the most buildable color, feels great on, never dry. Big fan!

    • Carly says...

      I have them in “cake” and “like” — they’re wonderful!

    • Joaquina says...

      I echo the others’ love for Generation G “Crush”. But, sadly, I had to break up
      with Glossier. The packaging is just too unnecessary and wasteful.
      I’d emailed (twice) the company asking if we can have the option to forgo the plastic bags and stickers. Based on the reply I received,
      I decided to stop buying from glossier. Fingers crossed that in the future, the company decides to become more “green” by letting repeat customers opt out of the plastic.

    • Michaela says...

      Joaquina, Glossier recently added a reduced-packaging option when you order! I just restocked my Balm Dot Com and was glad to see that you can now check a box if you want to opt-out of receiving the pink pouch, stickers, etc. The box my order arrived in seemed to be more basic and hopefully more widely recyclable as well.

    • Allison says...

      Joaquina – Glossier does offer options for minimal packaging now!! I think it started earlier this year, but I was so excited to utilize it when I went to stock up on my beloved Boy Brow earlier this month. No more useless pink bag or stickers!

    • Christina says...

      I know this is a bit late but just wanted to say thanks so much for the advice! I now own almost the entire gen g collection now and so does my sister.

  19. Anita says...

    Kim, I see you have a nose ring. Have you considered a bull-ring/septum horse shoe? I know these are so trendy now but looking at this pics I can’t help but think how awesome one would look on you (with your hair and glasses). Seriously!

    • Kim Rhodes says...

      haha that’s so sweet! I always thought the septum piercing look wasn’t for me, but never say never! ;) Thanks, Anita!

  20. Jenny says...

    Can anyone comment on shades that work for people with “regular” teeth? ie. kind of yellow-ish from drinking tea and coffee all the time, bc I’m trying to survive 5 months of winter. I thought about bleaching my teeth but decided I’ll pass. If I’m not wearing makeup to practice accepting my face as is, why should I put bleach on my teeth?

    • Erin says...

      I don’t have a lipstick suggestion, but I’ve found that Desert Essence’s tea tree whitening mouthwash really helps to lift coffee/tea stains if you swish with it for a couple of minutes! I don’t swish for that long every day because my teeth start to get a bit sensitive, but a few times a week works really well.

    • jane says...

      Go for the blue or cooler spectrum: cool toned nudes, pinks, reds or plums, not the orange/coral/peach/tomato reds.

      Also food for thought: grooming is different from accepting what you were born with. Clean teeth fall into the grooming category. Explore alternatives to bleaching like just getting your teeth cleaned at the dentist every six months as we are supposed to and brushing once or twice a week with baking soda.

    • Sheila says...

      I have yellowish teeth too and I’ve found that Maybelline Barely Brown #240 makes my teeth look whiter. I’ve tried so many other lipsticks but I always come back to this one! I first tried a lipstick from Maybelline based on a recommendation from the Pioneer Woman and then discovered that this is my perfect shade. Fingers crossed it works for you too xoxo

    • CB says...

      I appreciate this comment. I am always self-conscious about wearing lipstick because to me it seems they exacerbate the yellow-ish color from coffee.

    • Laurel says...

      Jane, teeth come in a variety of colors, all of which are healthy and clean. My teeth are still the yellowish tone after a visit to the dentist so it’s not really about cleanliness. They will look white if I bleach them but it makes them really, really sensitive so I don’t do it.

  21. Meredith says...

    Maybelline Super Stay Matte Ink is MAGIC. It literally stays on all day so long as you don’t eat a sandwich or anything too greasy.

    • Celeste says...

      Thanks, just went and bought Lover and Artist. They were on sale at Walgreens so only $13 total!

  22. Love these! Firestarter looks so good on both Caroline and Kim. The wine lip looks great for one of my hobbies – buy new lipstick then leave in a bag full of other unused lipsticks I am too chicken to wear.

    Unrelated, would you ever do a post on natural makeup products? I have weird skin allergies that prevent me from using a lot of the brands out there and would love to see what’s great aside from the same 5 items I use every day. *There are a lot of brands that say they are natural/organic – but they are NOT, I have found out the hard way :(

    • KC says...

      I also have weird skin allergies, but many of my reactions are to “all-natural” ingredients (certain essential oils, etc.), so… that is obnoxious. Trying to find someone with allergies like yours and then getting product recommendations from them works the best, if you can find someone?

    • Lauren says...

      Oh my gosh, Nora, I love the line “one of my hobbies- buy new lipstick then leave in a bag full of other unused lipsticks I am too chicken to wear.”

      I do the same thing. I’m always convinced the new shade will be the one that gets me to start wearing lipstick and alas, it doesn’t

  23. Amy says...

    Kim, I disagree! Arabian Nights looks GORGEOUS on you!! Oh such a pretty shade for you 💕 It’s my favorite :)

    • Marie says...

      Agree! So pretty on you, Kim!

    • Kim Rhodes says...

      Thanks, ladies!! I think I’ll revisit it at a later date!

    • Catherine says...

      Arabian Nights is my favorite of the four on Kim!

  24. LIsa says...

    I love the Kosas lipsticks. They are so moisturizing and they all fade so well to a stain look. I’ve been so impressed with their entire lineup of products. I’ve never been a huge makeup wearer, but their products (1) take no time; and (2) feel like I’ve got nothing on my face.

  25. jen says...

    Ilia and Kosas are my go to brand for lipstick. Thank you for featuring them!

  26. Sarah says...

    I have to ask where both of their cute tops are from!

    • Heather says...

      Hi Sarah, I went looking for it too. :) This is at the bottom of the post: “Caroline’s top is from Reformation. Kim’s top is from Rails.” There are links in the text – under the P.S.

    • Sarah says...

      Yes please! I’ve been searching for cute tops!

  27. carole says...

    I don’t wear any makeup… BUT once in a blue moon i’ll wear a fun darker red lipstick and I love it so much… I wish I was more brave to wear everyday!! you girls both look amazing in ALL those colors :D

  28. Eve says...

    Looooove lipstick posts! (Just pretty please add a blonde :)
    I so want that Kosas Darkroom to work on me, but I fear with dark blonde hair and an easily blushing complexion it won’t. Damn rosy cheeks! However, the Kosas formula seems right up my ally, and if anyone wants to recommend to me a different shade, have at it!!

    • Heidi says...

      Try Kosas Royal! It’s a berry color but not as deep as Firestarter.

    • Eve says...

      Thanks, Heidi!

  29. Calla says...

    A word of warning about Ilia lipsticks. I’ve bought a few and every single one, without fail has broken off within a few days. I’m not sure if its something to do with the consistency or if I just had bad luck and got several from a defective batch.

    • Carlene says...

      I’ve never read that it happened to anyone else, but Arabian Knights broke on me, too! I put it in a little pot, and I’m just scooping the rest out with a brush. Kind of a bummer, yes.

  30. Jessie says...

    So happy you featured brands like Ilia, RMS, & (my personal favorite) Kosas!

    • Jennifer says...

      Agree with Jessie! Knowing what I know about what’s in our cosmetics and personal care products in the US I could never in good conscious use or promote a brand that isn’t “clean”. Thanks for featuring some clean lip colors!!

  31. RoseMarie London says...

    MAC reissued Marrakesh. It’s the perfect red/brown.

  32. Dienesa says...

    Random lipstick question: Is there any way to get around wearing lipstick then smudging it when kissing? I always want to finish my look with a bright lip for date night, but then I can’t smooch my boyfriend hello because he will get lipstick on him!

    • Abbey says...

      I like the tissue & powder trick. After I’ve finished applying and blotting I take a single-ply tissue, place it over my lips, then powder my lips *through* the tissue with translucent powder. This will get it through the greeting kisses at least!

    • Maybelline SuperStay 24 Color works the best for me. And the one Super Stay Matte I have is good too. I have not yet had luck with other “regular” lipsticks. I get it everywhere.

  33. Court says...

    MAC Cremesheen lipstick in the shade Bosom Friend (worst name??) but it’s the perfect nudey pink.

  34. ANNA says...

    Love this, and so glad you featured some great clean beauty brands!

  35. Marie says...

    Super fun challenge! You both look amazing. Interesting how the wine colors (#2 and #4) look almost the same in pictures, but Caroline loved #4 and hated #2. I also wonder how the orangey-red looks in person…. its almost neon in the photo (and I’d rank it my least favorite of all the looks), but I feel certain its not in real life! But seriously, you both look gorgeous!

  36. Nan says...

    Kosas Darkroom looks phenomenal on Kim! Pray they don’t discontinue that color because it’s happened to me several times with shades that really suit me.
    :-(

  37. Ruth says...

    Love all of these! I’m working on trading in all my makeup for natural lines and these are a great start. Thanks!!

  38. Julie says...

    That last color is gorgeous on both of you!

  39. Julie says...

    i love this, so fun!

  40. Tara says...

    I don’t wear makeup so whenever I try on lipstick I feel like I am SHOUTING but I have to say, you both look so beautiful in these colors! Maybe I just need to get out of my own way. :)

    • Caroline B says...

      I feel the exact same Tara! Maybe we could make a lipstick-trying pact :D

    • Calla says...

      If you want to ease yourself into it I really recommend finding a shade you like and wearing it around the house so you get use to seeing it on yourself. Other people don’t notice as much as you think they do so it’s more about getting use to it yourself. I don’t know what your skin tone is but these two always make me feel put-together without screaming “I am wearing lipstick!”
      This one in “original pink” (can sometimes find it at costco a little cheaper)
      https://www.sephora.com/product/no-lipstick-lipstick-spf-15-P386606
      And this one in “dolce vita” really smooth and sheer, does not dry my sensitive lips out
      https://shop.nordstrom.com/s/nars-sheer-lipstick/5350024

    • Abbey says...

      Hahaha :) I recently tried a couple of the Ilia tinted lip conditioners and I gotta say they are perfect for color without feeling like you’re shouting. And they are actually moisturizing. My new fave.

    • Catie says...

      I feel this way, too, Tara. I recently heard someone talk about putting lipstick on with their finger instead of directly, because they wanted more of a stain look than a super concentrated one. This has totally changed my game and made me feel much less like SHOUTING when I wear it :) (She also talked about mixing colors on your lips and that also blew my mind, so….two game-changers that make me feel like I can get a much more ‘heightened-but-natural’ look than before)

    • Jay says...

      I feel the same way about makeup. Have you tried Marble and Milkweed’s Rosy Lip Tint? It’s so subtle and lovely.

    • Em says...

      Tara, I felt the same way when I first wore bold lipstick. I looked in the mirror and felt like “oh lord no way I can pull this off.” What I eventually realized is that everyone feels this way at first! You just have to pull the trigger, go out in the world feeling like you are SHOUTING, and soon that feeling goes away. Now when I put on bold lipstick, I feel like I am owning it and like I look chic af.

    • Kim Rhodes says...

      Hey, Tara! I almost NEVER wear makeup, but I will wear lipstick, with a bare face sometimes! Sometimes it’s a little scary, but if you rock it once in public you can own it from then on! Good luck!

    • Tara says...

      Thank you ladies and thank you Kim! I am going to try and take the plunge and own it! I appreciate the recommendations, too. Have a great week one and all!

  41. Sara says...

    You both look amazing in all the colors! I think my favorite is the final, wine colored one.

  42. lisa says...

    the orangey red looks fantastic on both of you! this was fun to read.