Go bold and brighter: Tips for using wild neon colors of makeup


Spring and summer bloom with a vibrant array of indulgent color: a fanfare of fuchsia, sunshine-yellow, neon-orange and bright purple in wildflowers, lilies, agapanthus and more. But see all of those fantasyland hues in a makeup tube and you might think only someone living in a fool’s paradise would wear such lively colors on her face.

You’d be wrong. Makeup masters know how to use wild colors as tools to camouflage and enhance looks. You don’t have to be an art major (or Mother Nature) to figure out how to use them too. And don’t worry: often what looks bright in the tube appears much more neutral when applied to the skin.

“Yellow can help conceal a bluish bruise or mild red tone on the face,” says celebrity makeup artist Nick Barose, known for working with Lupita Nyong’o. “Sometimes on brown-golden skin that’s not too dark I use it to brighten up under eyes.”


Other tricks: “Use green to neutralize redness,” he says. “If you have redness from rosacea or sunburn, dab a bit over the redness to neutralize it, then add foundation on top. I love using orange to kill off a bit of blue cast in the skin, especially on darker skin that sometimes has a dark cast around the mouth or under the eyes. Purple neutralizes yellowness — sallowness in the skin — to help brighten up the complexion.”

In general, be light-handed with bright, color-correcting products and, unless they’re specifically meant to be used all over the face, only use them on the specific areas that need it. “And they’re meant to be worn under foundation,” says Barose.

“Really bright blush can be blended down using a sponge to get a sheer pop of color,” Barose says. “But in general, the darker the skin, the brighter the color you can use. The key [is to] be light-handed when using bright colors to create a subtler look. On lips, instead of applying it full-on, dot it on the lips, then blot to create a stain effect. On the cheeks, for example, sometimes I’d use bright orange like Nars Blush in Exhibit A [$30,], but tap part of it off from the brush before applying it to the face, and then I use a shimmery liquid highlighter on top to make the color less bold.”

Nars has a whole makeup collection this season, developed in partnership with fashion designer Christopher Kane, called NeoNeutral — bold, neon colors such as the Nars Illuminating Multiple in Violet Atom ($39, that the company says look “shockingly neutral” on the skin.

Smashbox and Make Up For Ever both have rainbow-like selections of colorful concealers and color-correcting primers. The season is also full of nail colors in pale yellow, lilac and vibrant peach that you can wear as modern neutrals. Consider, for instance, Essie Nail Polish in pistachio-green Chillato or St. Lucia Lilac ($8.50, and MAC Studio Nail Lacquer in To Dye For ($12,, a bold peach tone.

Lip colors that look bright in the tube don’t have to be avoided. Remember that deep, raisin-y Clinique Black Honey Almost Lipstick ($16, that went on not at all as goth as it looked?


“Definitely never go by what [a lip color] looks like in the tube,” says Barose. “Oftentimes it [looks] brighter than it goes on, and you can manipulate it too. Most lipstick, unless it’s matte with rich pigment, will go on lighter, sheerer — especially formula that’s more transparent, like lip balm. I’m loving the new Lancôme Shine Lover Lipstick [$30,] that comes in various bright shades but goes on sheer so you can make red, fuchsia and plum easy to wear. A hint of brightness that’s not too in your face.”


Some neon products to try:

Smashbox Photo Finish Primers and Color Correctors (about $36 to $42,

Make Up For Ever 12 Flash Color Case, 5 Camouflage Cream Palette and Step 1 Skin Equalizer ($99, $40, $36,

Too Faced Light Filtering Photo-Enhancing Selfie Powders ($36,

Bobbi Brown Creamy Concealer Kit in Cool Sand/Pale Yellow Powder ($35,


Le Maquillage Pro Fard Creme Palette 10-Color 14 ($53,

Nars Illuminating Multiple in “Violet Atom” ($39,

Nars Blush in “Exhibit A” ($30,

Essie Nail Polish in Chillato and St. Lucia Lilac ($8.50,

MAC Studio Nail Lacquer in To Dye For ($12,

Lancôme Shine Lover Lipstick in “Fuchsia in Paris” ($30,