Two-toned lips for summer? How to create a perfect ombré lip (because TikTok made us do it)

Rihanna paired pink and plum lipstick at the launch of her first visual autobiography, "Rihanna," back in 2019. (Photo: Roy Rochlin, Getty Images)

Why settle for just one lipstick shade when you can wear two? Thanks to the latest beauty trend that’s taking over TikTok, you no longer have to.

Ombré lips have made bold and vibrant statement lips trendy again just in time for summer, with nearly 128 million views on TikTok for #ombrelips and 17.7 million views for #ombrelipstutorial. Why?

“It’s essentially double the fun,” InStyle beauty director Maya Allen tells USA TODAY. “We’ve all been wearing masks and cooped up in the house, so trying something a little less conventional with lip color serves as a creative outlet for self-expression that should be celebrated.” 

The latest makeup fad involves using monochromatic shades of lipstick, lip gloss or lip liner to create a seamless, two-toned shade, similar to ombré hair and nails. The lip look can not only add a fun pop of color to your outfit, but also create the appearance of a fuller pout.

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Prepare to turn heads: Allen says the “show-stopping style” creates a “flirty, multidimensional effect that always calls for lots of compliments and double-taps on the Gram since it’s highly photogenic.”

We asked makeup experts and beauty influencers for all tips and tricks you need to achieve this ombré look. And lucky for us, their lips are not sealed.

Megan Thee Stallion pairs plum and pink for a sultry ombré lip at Rihanna's 5th annual Diamond Ball in New York in 2019. (Photo: Steven Ferdman, Getty Images)

Who wore it first?

Whether you’ve seen them scrolling through TikTok or on your favorite celebrities’ social media posts, ombré lips are sure to make you feel pure nostalgia. Like current trends of wide-legged jeans and square-toe sandals, ombré lips are a blast from the past. 

Dark lip liner paired with a frosted lip gloss was a ’90s staple, like the late singer Aaliyah’s signature look that inspired a 2018 M.A.C Cosmetics collection.

“My mind immediately went back to the iconic ‘90s brown lip, a signature ombré style worn by actress Nia Long in ‘Love Jones,’ Janet Jackson, Naomi Campbell and more,” Allen says. “As proven, it’s more of a timeless style rather than a trend.”

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Ombré lips nowadays, however, are a little less harsh in contrast. Top style influencers and celebrities tend go for a smoother look with just the right amount of definition.

“The ombre technique adds gorgeous dimension and depth to any color, especially if you’re into contouring your lips to enhance their natural shape,” Allen says.

Here’s how to create ombré lips

To achieve this trendy look, you’ll need two shades of lipstick in the same color family, plus a lip liner. 

Prep: Make sure your lips are exfoliated and moisturized beforehand. 

Step 1: Lip liner

Outline your lips with your choice of liner, which should be slightly darker than your lipstick. After tracing your lip lines, shade in the corners of your lips with the pencil to add some dimension. 

Step 2: Lighter lipstick

Use a makeup brush (or your finger) to carefully apply the lighter shade of lipstick in the center of the lips for a highlight. 

Step 3: Darker lipstick

Apply the darker shade of lipstick on the outside corners of your mouth that you previously shaded with lip liner during Step 1. 

Step 4: Blend

Use your brush to lightly blend where the two colors meet to create a smooth ombré. Be careful: If you blend too much, you can lose the effect of the gradient altogether and if you blend too little, the contrast can look too harsh. 

Finishing touches: You can clean up the edges of your lips with some concealer.

And voilà! Pretty as a picture. In fact, it’s art.

Color combinations to try 

Want a natural look? Allen suggests pairing a nude with a deep brown for a natural look. 

 “I love the way ombré nude lips look on my deep skin tone. My foolproof way to turn up a basic nude is pairing a dark chocolate lip liner, like M.A.C Chestnut lip liner, with a taupe shade, such as Mented Cosmetics Dope Taupe.” 

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Feeling bold? Romero Jennings, M.A.C’s director of makeup, suggests pairing a red and pink.

“(M.A.C’s) Yeah I’m Fancy, an electric orange, worn on top of Hey, Good Looking, a vibrant fuchsia, is electric. Both colors worn together plays a wonderful trick on the eyes with an effervescent bouquet of pigment.”

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Mask friendly?

Although the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently updated its guidelines, saying fully vaccinated people don’t need to wear masks outdoors, even in crowded settings, some people still feel more comfortable wearing a face covering. But face masks don’t have to wipe away the simple joys of lipstick. 

To mask-proof your ombré lip creation, Jennings recommends that you “apply and blot with a tissue to create a lip stain that won’t feather, smudge or budge.” 

Allen says “long-wear matte formulas are the way to go” when wearing masks because “the texture is less likely to smear and feather throughout the day” and can “hold up against the elements.”

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