When it comes to my makeup mainstays, nothing beats red lipstick (although liquid eyeliner is right there next to it). Ever since I can remember, it’s been my go-to. I’ve always appreciated a retro pin-up look, which almost always consists of a red lip and a winged eye for that matter. It’s classic Old Hollywood makeup that looks good on almost anyone. Aside from that, red lipstick has always gotten me out of a funk. I think of it as sort of a magical tool that has helped me channel positivity, confidence, playfulness, badassery, sexiness—anything I choose to tap into when I wear it. As you can guess, my red lipstick collection is seriously out of control.
As much as I am a creature of habit, I’m also one who likes to venture out of my comfort zone once in a while, so I’m not afraid to admit that I’ve tried to dabble a bit on the other side: nude lipsticks. Over the years, I’ve attempted to find the perfect nude shade, and I’m not going to lie, it has been tough! For a long time, I just assumed nudes and I weren't meant to be. But recently I’ve come across Ctzn Cosmetics, a makeup brand started in 2019 by Pakistani American sisters Aleena, Aleezeh, and Naseeha Khan. Ctzn is known for having the largest nude-lip selection on the market thanks to its all-star product, the Nudiversal Lip Duo ($25). I figured if that was the case, surely there’d be a nude for me somewhere in there.
Ctzn began working on the Nudiversal Lip Duo by surveying over 200 people from different ethnic backgrounds, first finding out what their favorite nude lipsticks were, and then asking what exactly they would change to make it better. “It seemed that hardly anyone was perfectly satisfied with their daily nude lipstick,” explains the Khan sisters. “Their notes on what they would tweak to make the shade and formulation perfect became our Ctzn benchmark.” They also conducted in-person focus groups, watched YouTube videos where people gave reviews on their favorite nude lip products and their “favorite step,” where they pretended they were university students conducting a research paper on cosmetics, and got beauty assistants to share data on which nude lip brands and shades were the most popular. (It’s like a beauty industry version of Never Been Kissed.) The result was 25 different shades suited for a diverse range of skin tones. Even better? It’s a double-ended product, with matte lipstick on one end and a lip gloss on the other. Two lipsticks in one!
When I asked the Khan sisters what someone like me, a red lipstick lover who is usually a hater towards nude shades, should look for when trying to find one, they said that the first step is understanding that we all have different perceptions of the word nude. “It does not have to be a pale shade that you fear washes you out, although some people like that look and subjectivity is everything when it comes to nudes,” said the Khan sisters. This is exactly what I needed to hear. I remember the very first nude shade I ever tried was way too light and made me look like the undead. Later, I realized that I had to have something with a pink tone. “The standard definition of a nude lip shade is one shade above your natural lip color, and we think that's the best way for someone to understand where to begin,” the Khan sisters said.
To reduce some of the guesswork when it comes to finding the right Nudiversal Lip Duo shade, Ctzn has online tools, like the three-step Get Matched quiz on its website. The quiz determines your ideal shade by having you choose which skin tone is closest to yours out of 11 models and whether you’re looking for a pale nude, a neutral nude, or a slightly darker nude. There’s also a Virtual Try-On feature on each Nudiversal shade's product page to see how they will look. You can also DM a no-makeup selfie on Insta @ctzncosmetics and Ctzn will respond back with a personalized shade recommendation.
My perfect shade ended up being (fittingly) Los Angeles, which is described as being “mauve with rich pink undertones.” I loved how it looked. It may not have the same wow factor that a red lip gives me, but it was gorgeous, and more than enough proof that I didn’t have to go full brown when it came to finding my ideal nude, aka my nightmare. I also appreciate how it is two lip products in one, so I can wear a matte or gloss or both if the mood strikes. It may have taken 15 years to get me out of my red lipstick comfort zone, but I’m glad to have found a nude that I really like and is easy to wear. I’m also glad to know which ones to look for, the pinkish nudes. While there may not ever be as many nudes in my lipstick stash as there are reds, at least there are a few now!