It's as if the ghosts of Christmas past, present, and future were makeup looks... sort of.
If you are like me—and most American consumers—when you hear the phrase "nude lip," you probably think of a beige-toned pink. Same goes for "flesh-colored" anything. I know the color they’re talking about is probably not the color of my nude flesh.
The implications behind this are deeply upsetting and a symptom of a much larger problem, but that’s a topic for another day. We’re here to talk about lipstick.
There’s a lot of conflicting information about what a nude lip actually is, so let's take a look at a few of the interpretations.
The '60s Fembot Nude
Definitely looks like I shoot lasers out of my boobs, right?
This version of nude is significantly paler than most natural lips. It’s created using a color that has a lot of white in it, sometimes even to the point of shimmer. It’s awesome but not particularly modern and I wouldn’t wear it for an everyday look.
The Gum-Matching Nude
There’s a tip out there that says you can find your perfect nude by matching the color of your gums. Because I have relatively healthy gums, they are pale pink. For a person with pale skin, this might be a good way to find a nude, but for me, it’s just a way to make myself look like a kid playing princess.
The Nips-for-Lips Nude
We talked about matching your nipples for the perfect nude a couple weeks ago. To me (much like the “match your gums” idea), this felt like another "beauty rule" that ignores brown people. When Marci suggested we give it a shot, she was genuinely interested to see how this rule held up for all of us—not just the fairer-skinned folk—but across the board, those of us with dark skin were not having it.
My nipples are dark brown (almost purple) around the edges and fade to a pale pink in the center. As you can see in the above photo, that is not my perfect nude lip. It’s definitely a look, and if I were Pamela Anderson in her Baywatch years, I’d be all about it. However, since it’s 2015 and a nude lip is supposed to be chic and sophisticated, this is not the nude I’m after.
The Makeup Artist's Nude
In the '90s, when nude lips were everything, there wasn't a wide variety of lipstick shades to choose from. So when a makeup artist wanted to create that look, they’d start with a very thin base of concealer to dull down the color and then top with a sheer, pinkish gloss. This allows you to customize a nude exactly to your skin.
I love the way this looks but it’s fussy to apply, and after a while, the concealer starts to dry out your lips.
So if none of these actually work, how’s a brown girl supposed to find her nude? The only truly foolproof method is to try things on, but you can give yourself a head start by paying attention to the undertones of your skin.
I have neutral undertones, so my best nudes are also neutral (think beiges & browns that don’t skew super-red). If you’ve got warm or cool undertones, you can get away with something more peachy (warm) or pink (cool). I’m always drawn to a really peachy nude because I love the color peach, but the second I try one on, I remember that it doesn’t work. I also don’t love the way brown lipstick looks, so I’ll always go for something with a hint of pink in it.
That’s not to say that if you’ve got warm undertones you can’t wear a pinky-nude; it just means you need to pay attention and try not to stray too far from the undertones of your skin.
The Classic Nude
When I picture a classic nude lip, this look is what I see. I love this color because it’s not too pink but not totally brown either. It hits somewhere right in the middle and creates a really polished yet neutral foundation for just about any look.
My other go-to for a "my lips but better" nude is Revlon Lip Butter in Pink Truffle. It’s definitely a pink nude but has enough brown in it to ground it and make it read as a nude. As a bonus, it looks great on literally everyone regardless of skin tone. It may actually be "universally flattering."
Now, for your purchase-planning pleasure, here are a whole bunch of nude lipstick options for dark skin, grouped by undertone.
Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t wear a nude lip because you’ve got dark skin. You’ll have to work a little harder to find the right one, but that seems to be par for the course when it comes to people of color and cosmetics. HINT-HINT, BEAUTY INDUSTY.
- What’s your perfect nude, and how long did it take you to find it?