Finding the perfect nude lip shade can be quite an endeavor, especially if your complexion is very pale or very dark. A too dark nude will make you look like you’re still trapped in the 90s, while a too light shade will suck the color out of your face and make you look like the walking dead. The right nude lipstick will balance your skin tone and give you a healthy glow. It can make you look demure or sexy, depending on its tone and finish.
“Today’s nude lip is sophisticated. Many makeup artists use two to four lip colors, pencils and glosses to create the perfect nude lip,” says Romero Jennings, MAC Cosmetics director of makeup artistry. For the average woman, however, finding the right nude shade doesn’t have to be so complicated.
Determine your true nude shade
An easy way of determining your true nude shade is by simply matching your lipstick to the natural flesh tones of your lips. First, evaluate your natural lip tone to help decide the coverage and color that will work for you. If your natural top lip tone and bottom lip tone are different shades, then before applying lipstick, use a lip pencil to fill in your lips to create a more cohesive base. Next, apply a full-coverage lipstick, such as a matte or amplified satin finish. These full-bodied formulas will even out your lip tone — more so than sheers or glosses — to create a uniformed, balanced lip color. But keep your lips hydrated since nude colors accentuate any dryness. If you want the truest shade of the lipstick to show through, neutralize your own lip color by applying foundation as a base.
Fair and medium skin tones
Your skin’s hue also plays a part in proper color selection. Fair complexions look great with pinkish beige nudes. Gloss can be added for a more 3-D effect if needed. Jennings finds that peachy or coral nudes tend to make fair skin tones look sallow and sometimes unhealthy. “It’s better to shy away from concealer-colored lipsticks that wash out and drain fair complexions.“ On the other hand, according to Jennings, medium–tone complexions look amazing in peachy and coral beiges. “These nudes really emphasize their skin tones and create a fresh, almost sun-kissed nude lip. However, colors that are too orange can overpower their face.”
Olive and golden skin tones
“The best nude lip shades for more olive and gold-toned skins are peachy cinnamons and pearlescent beigey pinks for a subtle contrast. These colors have more life to them and will enhance their complexions,” says Jennings. Caramel-colored skin tones can play with both warm and cool neutral lipstick tones. Cool warm bronzes and deep-toned beiges work well with this complexion. Browns and nudes can sometimes wash them out, so they should be sure to pick one with a sheer moisturizing shine to reflect light off their lips, making them look fuller and poutier. “A toned-down golden satin finish could also work, but a slightly darker, similar shade lip liner, like a muted golden brown, would be necessary so you don’t look washed out,” adds Jennings. Deep neutral mattes or a light beige tone with a hint of rose look great on more golden skin tones since these colors will enhance skin and neutralize lips to intensify features.
Medium-brown, deep-brown and dark ebony skin tones
“With deeper skin tones, nude lips look flattering when deep mocha, red and gold brown tones are present,” states Jennings. Shimmery, coppery browns and reddish-brown satins flatter these medium-brown to deep–brown complected ladies. “These shades are easy for brown women to wear, but they should avoid lipsticks that are too light. If they do opt to use a lighter lip color, then they should use a slightly deeper lip pencil,” urges Jennings. Make sure to blend and diffuse the pencil into the lip after lining so that you don’t have a dark line around the mouth. “Dark ebony brown skin tones look great in deep, rich plum browns, reddish browns or deep chocolates. These lipsticks can be enhanced by pairing with a chestnut brown lip pencil or an intense brown one,” explains Jennings.
Finding your best nude lipstick
The perfect nude should brighten and enhance without adding impact. “Look into a mirror. Try on your chosen shade without a liner and smile. Look at your teeth (and even your gums) to see if that shade works for you,” instructs Jennings. “Add liner, if you want, to create separation and clear gloss if you feel like the color looks a bit flat.”
And remember, nude lips should look healthy and can give you the freedom to create drama somewhere else on the face. Add a pop of color with a blushed cheek or a super deep smoky eye for an amazingly simple, flattering look. Now that we’ve discussed how to determine your perfect nude, click through to find the shades we chose just for you.