Mixed Chicks, Rejoice: The Search for Cool-Toned Pink and Nude Lipstick Is Over

"Send nudes," I have prayed to the lipstick gods. Finally, they've answered.
Publish date:
August 18, 2016
makeup, lipstick, Biracial

2016 is, unequivocally, THE SUMMER OF ULTRA-COOL GOTH MOUTH. Praise be, of course. The ultra-cool goth mouth is a look that allows you to neglect all other beauty routines and be incredibly lazy (dulled as we all are by the immensity of summer heat) and still look like you're killing it. I am lucky to be able to participate fully in this beauty trend. My summer tan goes perfectly with lip colors in sex-bruise hues of blue and green. Which is rad! But not what I'm coveting beauty-wise right now.

What I want floats on the opposite end of the spectrum.

I want a nude statement lip. I grew up on Weetzie Bat and Brian Froud. Good faeries, bad faeries, and greyhound-lithe dreamy teens are all defined by their pallor. They practically aren't human in their delicacy. Their lips are lilac petal pale. I love that look. Always have. But up until now, you know what I look like when I go for that pale, nude mouth? Chalky. Stark. Not statement-y in a good way, but statement-y in a well-dusted jelly doughnut way or Pam from the tail end of Archer: Vice way.

This fall, though, the "cool-undertoned, deeply tan, biracial babe who desperately wants to rock a peony-pale mouth" riddle has been solved by one of Stila Cosmetics Stay All Day MATTE-ificence Lipstick. But before I dazzle you with the product, we're going to take a slight, important detour because, as is often the case here at xoJane, this article isn't just about lipstick.

This years-long hunt for a true pale nude that doesn't clash with my skin tone is probably tied up in the fact that pale lipsticks haven't been accessible to women of color like me — darker skin, cool undertones — in a ready-to-wear way.

While doing some light research on why I can't seem to pull off a pale pink or nude lip, I stumbled across many sites (wonderful sites too, by the way) that suggested women of color should set aside pale pixie nudes in favor of warmer, deeper hues "closer to what a woman of color's nude lips actually look like."

This is perfectly valid advice, but the suggestion (if you're looking for a nude lip, finding a true natural match is an excellent suggestion) only pricked my have-not-want-real-bad impulse. Every article that featured gorgeous women of color stripped of "chalky" desaturated pinks and unveiled in their #winning "after" shot with a rich, toffee-looking satin finish made me that much more determined to find a pixie, chilly tone that works for me.

I've been this way, wildly wanting in no small part because I can't have it, since high school. Like many teens, I would squeeze myself, panting and victorious, into too-tight, low-rise jeans that bit into my skin and cut off my circulation, when that was the "thing to do" (fuck you, early aughts; fuck you, music videos). That the jeans and the trend actively (LITERALLY) rejected me made me want to wear them more. And I did, for three weeks, right until the button popped off. The same goes for the blonde highlights, the blue contacts, the innumerable ways I forced myself into shapes and styles that weren't "for me."

I learned to like when things were off, the way you learn to like the burn of liquor, or cigarettes, or a taboo. It wasn't always about wanting to be thin or white, but it was always about claiming something I didn't have access to: pleated tennis skirts like the preppy girls wore, but over fishnet stockings, stuck through with dozens of safety pins. Bright pink polo shirts under studded leather jackets. Eventually, I stopped directly stealing and began subverting. I spelled my name in rhinestones on a pair of decidedly goth platforms and laced my brutal combat boots with pink and purple ribbon.

In adulthood, the impulse isn't so pathetic or obvious — now it simply informs my aesthetic in ways that are on point, instead of off. It's why Caitlin affectionately dubbed my winter style "Gwee" (goth twee) and why my Time Inc. smoking buddy calls my summer wardrobe "punk glam Betty Crocker."

Still, though, at the base of it all, is the willful disruption. At the bottom is an uncomfortable truth: If I were a willowy white girl, there would be no mashups, no imagination. I could dress like a mannequin without looking like an imposter, could wear the white tennis skirt with ballerina flats instead of Doc Martens, could pick up the perfect shade of pale pink lipstick without swatching it first.

Forget all the burnt-orange, scarlet, plum shades that work with my deeply tanned but cool-toned skin. I am not grateful that I can wear fuchsia, blood-blister blue, or any variant of fever-colored lipstick.

Now, thanks to Stila, I am getting exactly what I want.

Anyway. Here I am in all my faerie queen glory, courtesy of Stila's Fall 2016 Stay All Day MATTE-ificence Lipsticks ($22) that offer a range of violet-tinged nudes and pinks in a true matte finish, thank you very much.

MATTE-ificence Lipstick has six shades in particular that really work for me, cool undertones and all. These colors — Papillion, Jolie, Mon Ami, Palais, Étoile, and Brûlée— are everything I want in a nude lipstick, but a bit difficult to describe. Here is my best attempt: cool, but saturated. Across the range of pink to nude, the violet-toned shades deepen and the base shifts into from lavender to cardamom, cinammon to aubergine.

You can't call them muted because each shade (yes, there are bright ones, too, but this article is all about the nudes) is distinct, like something bright, encased in ice. (Something bright, encased in ice, that dried down to a perfect matte, that is.)

Having spent about a week testing these colors, I've found that I'm reaching more and more often for Bonbon, the deepest of the nude shades. Go figure. As soon as I found the perfect true nude, I shimmied over to the dark side, as if I haven't been waiting forever to go full frost-Nicki Minaj.

What have you been putting on your mouth lately — matte lipstick or otherwise? Do your adolescent neuroses affect your wardrobe too? Tell me in the comments.