Raise your hand if you've ever felt personally victimized by a shade of nude lipstick. Yes? No? If you were here at WWW HQ, you'd witness our entire editorial staff raise their hands and collectively shudder. Whether we've suddenly become the sixth long-lost member of the Kardashian-Jenner clan, Edward Cullen's distant cousin, or an alarming combination of both, we've had more nude lipstick-related beauty snafus than we'd care to admit.
Even though nude lipsticks are thought to be the most low-maintenance, minimalist-looking option out there, there's some science involved. When it comes to selecting your most flattering hue, a nude lipstick job can either go wonderfully right (see our A+ celeb inspirations below) or horribly wrong. So, we decided to recruit some expert guidance and product recommendations in the form of some of the best celebrity makeup artists in the business. And, not surprisingly, we picked up all sorts of helpful, and ingenious tidbits we'd never have known otherwise. (For instance, if you're not prepping your lips with a chap- and flake-removing scrub pre-application, you might as well forget a stripped-down color scheme altogether.) Also, layering matte formulas with glosses or creamier lipsticks will lend a helpful, undead-looking hand.
"Nudes can easily go too flat and dead," celebrity makeup artist Quinn Murphy explains. "They can become almost eraser-like—as if you've put concealer on your lips instead of a lipstick. Going that route will wash you out and will likely make you look sick or tired. I recommend choosing a nude with some kind of undertone. If you go with a color that’s too light, it can veer ashy, and if you go with something too dark, it can veer muddy. Start with a color that is similar to your natural lip color, but slightly more muted. The closer you stay to your lip, the less likely you are to make those mistakes.
Looking for more color tips and product recommendations? Keep scrolling! Sorted by skin tone family, we've pulled together 20 of the best nude lipstick shades our favorite beauty retailers have to offer. Trust us, you can't go wrong with this bunch—our makeup artist experts told us so.
Dark to Deep
"Not all nude lipsticks are created equal, and just because a certain lipstick is labeled 'nude' doesn't mean it will suit everyone's skin tone," warns celebrity makeup artist Kira Nasrat. "The beauty is there are so many shades to choose from. When I'm working with clients who have deeper skin tones, I choose nude lipsticks that have a hint of berry, mauves. If you have a darker skin tone, try to stay away from super-light lipsticks because it can look too extreme and unnatural."
"Nude lips are sexy and strong, and the absence of a bolder color can make quite a statement," Murphy tells us. "A rule of thumb is the darker your skin tones, the darker your nude lip should be. This means that 'nude' can actually be anything from pastel pink, berry, beige, ochre, cafe latte to walnut. Next, choose the undertone you want—it can be warm (more yellow) or cool (redder)."
Fair to Light
"Don't go too light and always consider your undertones," celebrity makeup artist Emily Cheng says—especially of those with lighter skin tones. "If you have more pigmented lips, sometimes going too light to achieve a 'nude' will cause a gray overcast. Start with a warmer nude and gauge from there."
"For fair skin, I like using peachy tones," adds Nasrat. "That way, it’s just a wash of color."