Discovering the best nude lipsticks is quite an undertaking. What’s nude for one person isn’t always the same for the next as there are endless skin tones and undertones to account for. Because the term is so nuanced, it’s clear why so many of us struggle to find the right shade.
“The most popular industry definition for a nude lip is one shade above your natural lip tone; this is how you avoid looking washed-out and choosing a shade that is too pale for you,” says Aleena Khan, cofounder of Ctzn Cosmetics — the beauty brand founded by a trio of sisters who sought to create products inclusive to people of colour, inspired by their own South Asian heritage. She continues that beyond understanding your complexion and undertones, you must take your lip tone into consideration. “Our chief creative officer, Sir John, refers to a nude lip as a ‘lip enhancing neutral’!”
However, picking the primary lip product is only half the battle. Although you can certainly choose a sole shade that perfectly matches your lip tone, you may find that it makes your make-up seem flat or one-dimensional — especially for lipsticks and stains. To solve this, make-up artist Erika La’ Pearl, the pro behind Cardi B’s glam, adds a liner to amp up the lip, recommending a shade slightly darker than the lipstick shade. “It also helps define the lips,” she says.
Khan agrees: “Adding a liner really completes and seals the look by adding definition, creating a plumper lip appearance if you blend a darker lip liner with a paler nude lipstick, and allows cleaner application within the lines.” If that’s not enough, a liner pairing can make your lip make-up last longer.
With this guidance in mind, we’ve curated this list of the best nude lipsticks and complementing liners for a classic, complexion-enhancing look for any skin type.
Soft pinks and light rose shades will do well for fair complexions. For a dusty rose with cool undertones, try Ctzn’s liner in the shade Deux — or for something a bit warmer, consider MAC’s liner in shade Oak for a soft brown. To achieve what make-up artist Tae René describes as “a touch of luminous colour” to complement neutral undertones, wear Tom Ford’s shimmering lip balm. Otherwise, Lancôme’s creamy pigment in shade Tendre Mirage is a classic cool-warm pink.
Those with lighter skin tones might rely on classic, covetable lip liners, such as Charlotte Tilbury’s buzzy Pillowtalk liner, which is a versatile, medium-toned pink, or Make Up For Ever’s pencil in Rosewood for something a bit rosier. Top that with Gucci’s satin lipstick in shade Carol Beige for a coral-y beige great for cool undertones, or Nars’s lipstick in shade Barbara for a tannish rose.
Medium skin tones can work with lips that skew more peach or more pink. For a lip look more on the peachy orange side, line with Makeup By Mario’s pencil in shade Tan with MAC’s matte lipstick in shade Honey Love. Conversely, pair Armani Beauty’s satin liner in shade two with its Lip Power Lipstick in shade 104 for the ultimate mauve lip combo.
Those with olive skin with cool undertones might love a peachy pink lip by combining Patrick Ta’s liner in shade She’s Strong with Charlotte Tilbury’s moisturising formula in shade Yes Honey. Or for olive skin with warm undertones, consider brown with a tan hue, starting with Mented Cosmetics’ liner in shade Dope with a high-shine, shimmering lip by Chanel.
Those with caramel skin should look at warmer hues that bring out sun-kissed undertones. There’s Ctzn’s liner in shade Chaar, described as a dusky mauve with brown undertones, or similarly Chanel’s long-lasting liner in shade Nude Brun. Either of these would pair well with Fenty Beauty’s semi-matte formula in shade Motha Luva (the lip worn by model Joan Smalls to the 2022 Met Gala) or Mented Cosmetics’ lipstick in shade Brand Nude.
Darker skin tones should look to rich, chocolaty liners as the base of any nude lip — think the beloved MAC liner in shade Ground Control or Pat McGrath’s creamy-gel formula in shade Deep Dive. Then, top either of those with Uoma’s matte lipstick in shade Nina for a more rosy hue, or Ctzn’s lip in Stockholm for a cool-toned brown.
This article was originally published on Vogue UK.