Finding the perfect nude lipstick is harder than it sounds. Too dark, and you look like you’re trying to make brown lipstick happen, and not in a cool ’90s way. Too light, and you start to resemble the living dead, with any warmth or color drained from your face. However, if you manage to nail the right nude lipstick shade, getting ready will seem so much easier.
According to celebrity makeup artist Sir John, anyone can pull off nude lipstick. “People often hear the word nude and think of one standard color because of what they may have been taught from years of limited advertisement. Nude doesn’t strip your color away—think of it more as a skin-enhancing neutral,” he says. “There is a wide range that is approachable for any skin complexion, just be sure to know your makeup style.”
“To find the perfect nude lipstick, you need to consider your skin tone and undertone,” says makeup artists Fiona Stiles. “Make sure you know if your complexion is cool, warm, or neutral to help find your most complementary shade.”
We spoke to Sir John and Stiles for their tips on how to avoid a beauty faux pas when it comes to a nude lip.
Keep reading to find the most flattering nude lipstick for your skin tone.
If you have a darker skin tone, Stiles suggests using a sheer gloss like MAC Strip Down Nude Lipglass in Dangerous Curves. “For people of color, it’s all about playing with highlights and shadows to build definition,” Stiles says. She suggests picking a nude shade lighter than your actual skin tone to brighten the face and sticking to a gloss formula for a more natural-looking effect.
Sir John likes CTZN NUDIVERSAL in Stockholm because it’s “a great neutral shade for people who have darker lip pigmentation and gives you a touch of color.”
Another Sir John pick, The Lip Bar Liquid Matte in Savage is a deep, rich color for darker tones and the brand’s best-selling lip category. “This is a vegan, Black-owned company that specializes in finding colors that complement deeper skin tones,” he says of the brand.
For folks with tan skin (real or faux), Stiles suggests a glossy, shimmery nude to bring out the sun-kissed look of your skin. Try Urban Decay Vice Pumping Shine Lip Balm in Name Drop for a sheer wash of color.
For a creamy caramel hue nude to match your skin tone, try Hourglass Femme Nude Lip Stylo in Futurist. This shade is still one of Stiles’ favorites!
Nars Lip Gloss in Belize is a rosy-pink mauve with gold flecks, that complements tanned skin. Stiles also loves Stolen Kisses from the brand, which is a caramel rose with silver flecks.
“Use a lip liner. Since nudes are often muted it’s important to create a good base that complements the nude,” says Sir John.
If your skin tone is in the middle, Stiles suggests finding a pink-toned nude shade that’s lighter than your skin tone, like Nars Satin Lip Pencil in Biscayne Park. The best part? It can be used for lining, all-over lip color, or can be paired with another lip color.
A cult-favorite from Charlotte Tilbury, Matte Revolution lipstick in Pillow Talk Medium, is a berry-rose lipstick with a chic matte finish. Sir John appreciates the “perfect balance of pigment without being over-powering.”
According to Sir John, NYX Lip Lingerie Matte Liquid Lipstick in Seduction is a perfect warm peachy brown that has a plush matte finish.
Those with warmer olive skin tones should look for a caramel-tone, beige lipstick that’s darker than the shade of your skin, Stiles says. She recommends finding a glossier formula to play up the warmth of your skin tone, like this Clinique Chubby Stick Intense Moisturizing Lip Colour Balm.
L’Oreal Paris Age Perfect Satin Lipstick in Glowing Nude helps to brighten olive tones. “It’s enriched with oils that are perfect for aging skin,” says Sir John.
Velvet Teddy is Sir John’s pick for a very versatile nude that has a peachy and pink undertone. “It enhances lips that are already flushed, and I also like that it’s super nourishing,” he says.
“With an olive skin tone you have a lot more versatility [when it comes to nude lipsticks],” Stiles says. “You can go with a darker nude, or a lighter nude so your lips don’t disappear.” For a sheer, peach-tinted lip color, try Dior Addict Refillable Shine Lipstick in MimiRose.
MAC’s Crème d’Nude Lipstick is a great pick for lighter olive tones because it adds just the right amount of color to an overall look.
Sir John recommends CTZN NUDIVERSAL in Istanbul because it gives a dusty mauve shade with cool undertones. “It’s a classic color that’s versatile,” he says.
For those who are light-skinned with slightly olive undertones, Stiles says to try a warmer nude shade. “You can go pink, and you can go beige,” she says. “You want more pigment in your nude lipstick than someone who is alabaster or fair with pink undertones.” Try Charlotte Tilbury K.I.S.S.I.N.G. in Nude Kate.
“Nars Audacious Lipstick in Barbara has a cooler tone that often, in my opinion, mimics that natural lip color,” says Sir John of the tannish-rose pick that glides on creamy and keeps lips hydrated.
With a slightly darker brown hue, yet still in the rose family, Sir John also likes Hourglass Confession Ultra Slim High Intensity in I Wish for those with light skin tones. “It’s soft and has a hint of brownish rose. Plus, it’s refillable for all of my sustainable beauties out there.”
If you are fair-skinned, Stiles recommends looking for a rosy-beige nude lipstick like Lancôme L’Absolu Rouge Hydrating Shaping Lipcolor in Si Seulement. “When you look at nude lipsticks in fashion magazines, the skin matches the lips,” she says. “This doesn’t translate well into real life—you want a warmth and separation between the lips and the skin.”
If your skin tone is on the more milky side, she suggests a soft, dusty baby pink. “Avoid super opaque, flat nudes and use a sheerer formula instead like Bobbi Brown Lip Color in Beige, which is a creamy, semi-matte lipstick.”
“MAC is always a go-to for me because their formulas are so reliable,” says Sir John, whose pick Kinda Sexy is a beautiful nude that is sometimes overlooked because of other fan favorites. “This one has a peachy undertone and lasts throughout the day,” he says.
To finish the look, consider the eyes and a good blush. “Eye kohl is a nude’s best friend. It creates a perfect balance consistent with day or night looks,” says Sir John. “The blush depends on your undertone and facial structure, but I tend to lean more towards deeper rosy pigments. For deeper complexions, I use peach undertones.”