Expert Tips For Finding the Perfect Nude Lip for Your Skin Tone

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Expert Tips For Finding the Perfect Nude Lip for Your Skin Tone featured image
Getty Images / Brandon Lundby
This article first appeared in the Summer 2020 issue of New Beauty. Click here to subscribe

If you have a hard time finding your perfect “barely there” shade at Sephora, you are not alone. For anyone with a skin tone darker than medium, finding the “perfect nude lip” can seem like an impossible feat. Although beige shades labeled nude are abound, one person’s nude is another’s too opaque.

Making huge strides in foundation shade ranges over the last few years, cosmetic brands are at the forefront of shade inclusivity. So much so, that when Crayola released its Shades of the World collection this spring, it called on CoverFX cofounder Victor Casale to make sure it got its skin tone– inspired crayons just right. Ironically, the color-creators looked to beauty for help with shade diversity. And, while we may have more options for our complexions, advancements are limited when it comes to a good old-fashioned nude lippie.

The Pink Problem
Celebrity makeup artist Ermahn Ospina, whose clients include Rosario Dawson, Jordana Brewster and Sarah Shahi, says the labeling is what’s really misleading. “A lipstick or lip liner labeled nude doesn’t mean ‘one shade fits all’ unfortunately, so it can be harder to identify what will complement your skin tone without doing a lot of homework.” Beauty content creator Jackie Aina says the default nude is always pink. “Pink is one of my favorite colors, but for my lips? I’m tired of only seeing variations of nude pink. That is not the nude I always want to wear.”

For Live Tinted founder Deepica Mutyala, finding the perfect shade has always been a struggle. “Seeing a ‘nude’ that doesn’t fit my skin tone is frustrating and leaves me feeling overlooked by the industry,” she says. “For the longest time, it felt like brands didn’t realize that ‘nude’ can mean a plethora of beautiful shades, rather than what you see on display in stores.” “It’s like buying panty hose,” explains In the Heights actress Dascha Polanco. “Matching a nude to my skin tone is extremely cumbersome. I don’t want to put on a pair of opaque stockings that don’t blend into my skin tone. That’s what it’s like to shop for a nude lipstick when yours is not the universal shade.”

Naked Ambition
Ospina says don’t despair if you’re struggling to find your go-to nude, as things are slowly getting better on the diversity front and lips are the next frontier. “Back in the ’90s, it seemed like the only option we had for nude lips was the color Spice by MAC Cosmetics. Now, MAC and other brands offer a great variety of nude shades and formulas to choose from.” So, how do you find your perfect nude? “Some people prefer a slightly-lighter-than-your-complexion ‘nude’ so there’s a little contrast and depth in the lips. Others may like a nude that completely matches and blends in with their complexion,” explains Aina.

“You’ll also want to identify whether you like warmer or cooler tones. I love warmer nudes, so anytime I see something peachy, or a yellow-based brown nude, I go for it!” If all else fails, Aina says you can get practically any nude to work on darker shades by pairing it with a dark brown lip pencil. “Because dark brown is nude on me, it works as a buffer shade to get any color to flatter my skin tone and not stand out, as opposed to when I wear that same lip color alone.”

Bare Necessities
Polanco says filling her lips in with Charlotte Tilbury Lip Cheat in Pillow Talk Intense ($22) gives her lips that “my skin, but better” look. For a warm, light-brown nude with a bonus of added fullness, try GrandeLIPS Plumping Liquid Lipstick in Butter Rum ($25). Pat McGrath Labs LuxeTrance Lipstick in LaBeija ($38) is the perfect peach-tone nude with a creamy finish, and complements warmer skin tones. For the ultimate barely there look, Aina says Mented Cosmetics Mented #5 ($17) is one of her go-tos, and delivers a semi-matte finish.

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