The Nude-Lipstick Field Guide

Nude lipstick is an interesting conundrum in the world of beauty. Sure, it's a makeup-kit staple, but what exactly constitutes nude? Some women believe it's meant to be a shade similar to our skin tone, while others define it simply as a neutral. The reality, according to Katie Jane Hughes, Butter London's global color ambassador, is that there's no one definition of nude, despite what many articles would have you believe.
"When you think of nude lipstick, you tend to think of Kim Kardashian about two years ago," Hughes explains. "She'd wear an opaque, nude lip. I think we've evolved from that, actually. We're going cooler and trendier." But, Hughes stresses this one fact: There is no true nude for every skin tone. "There could be 20 or 30 shades that fit into the category of 'nude' for you, because nude means something different for every person."
Advertisement
For this reason, Hughes actually suggests that women should have a wardrobe of nudes. "I have 10 nude lipsticks that I go through in my own, personal makeup bag," she explains. "One may be a pinkish, one might be brown."
So, it's time to start rethinking the nude lipstick thing and start shopping. But, where to even start? "Put a swipe of the shade you're considering on the back of your hand, go to a natural light source, and pick the one that has the least amount of gray in it," she says. You've also got to take the color of your lips into consideration, as that will affect the way your shade reads.
There is one big misconception we've got to clear up right now, though: You are not looking for a flesh-toned shade that matches your actual skin tone. What you want is something that's synched up with your natural lip color and complements your skin tone — hence the "not making your skin look gray" tidbit above.
Still stumped? We've got you covered. Ahead, we rounded up a bevy of nude hues, broken down by skin tones and with tips from Hughes to guide you. At the end of the day, your buff lipstick is all about personal preference and what works for you. Consider this list a guide to help you find your nude-lipstick match. It's out there!
1 of 20
Photo: Via Jouer.
Light Tones

Hughes says ladies with lighter skin tones should favor pink or peachy shades. "If there's a model in front of me and she's pale, I'll nude-ify her with a peachy-toned look," she says. "If it's too beige it will go a little too far the other way — especially if it's opaque. It'll make you look a little zombie-like."
Advertisement
2 of 20
Photo: Via Chanel.
3 of 20
Photo: Via Dior.
4 of 20
Photo: Via Bobbi Brown.
5 of 20
Photo: Via Calvin Klein.
Calvin Klein CK One Pure Color Lipstick, $22.24, available at Debenhams.
6 of 20
Photo: Via Tom Ford.
Advertisement
7 of 20
Medium

Medium-toned ladies have it easy: They can go either way with their shades. "You definitely shouldn't go lighter with your lipstick," Hughes explains. "That gets tricky. People tend to go too light, and then they wind up looking ashy."
9 of 20
Photo: Via Maybelline.
11 of 20
Photo: Via Sephora.
Advertisement
12 of 20
Photo: Via The Body Shop.
14 of 20
Photo: Via L'Oreal.
Dark

Darker-toned girls should actually reach for shades with a red undertone to them. "If you look at Lupita Nyong'o, for example, to do a nude on her, you'd have to do a dark-brown lip," Hughes explains. "It's going to have a reddish-brown tinge to it, especially when you look at it in the bottle. But, it won't look like a red on darker skin tones."
15 of 20
Photo: Via Mark.
16 of 20
Photo: Via Nars.
Advertisement
17 of 20
Photo: Via Wet N Wild.
18 of 20
Photo: Via Dior.
19 of 20
Photo: Via Urban Decay.
20 of 20
Like this post? There's more. Get tons of beauty tips, tutorials, and news on the Refinery29 Beauty Facebook page. Like us on Facebook — we'll see you there!
Advertisement