Nude Lips Like You've Never Seen Them Before

Photographed by Tom Corbett.
The concept of nude lipstick is badly in need of an update. No longer do we want to shop for it like we shop for concealer, expecting the shade to match our skin tone. After all, who wants mannequin mouth? Let's move on from this silly notion that "nude" only means skin-colored (whatever your skin color is), and embrace the fact that it means different things to everybody.

According to Pamela Cochrane, the makeup artist who has painted many an appealing shade of nude on the lovely Lana Del Rey, pulling off this look has less to do with your skin tone than with your lip tone. She insists that the modern version of nude is not the concealer-lips look of the early 2000s (sorry, Kim K), but a your-lips-but-better shade. “Typically, a foundation-colored tone will wash you out," she says. "Look for something that allows the natural lips to shine through." 

To prove her point, Cochrane helped us cast six beautiful models who represent different lip and skin tones, all wearing very different shades of lipstick. Ahead, she lays out a roadmap for finding your perfect buff shade. It probably doesn’t look like what you’d expect a nude to be...but, trust us — you’re going to love these stripped-down hues.
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Photographed by Tom Corbett.
Light With Yellow Undertones
For Frankie, Cochrane wanted a lip shade that would bring out the delicate pinks in her skin for a fresh, healthy look. "Her skin is on the pale side, but there's a peach undertone to it, so this color complements that," she says. Since Frankie's skin is a bit cool-toned, Cochrane says she should look for something a bit sheer: "Anything too opaque will wash her out."

Frankie's lip tone points to a tip that just about everyone can keep in mind. "When shopping for a nude, take your natural lip pigment into consideration," Cochrane says. Since Frankie's is pretty strong, for her it's important to find a lipstick that complements that tone, instead of working against it. "Working with your natural lip color is good — it will help the nude look more natural," Cochrane says.

Baldwin vest.
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Photographed by Tom Corbett.
Deep With Warm Undertones
Georgie's skin has warmer, reddish tones, so Cochrane made sure to stay away from anything beige or neutral. "If you put a color like that on, it will pop too much from her skin tone, and not look natural," she says. (Hello, concealer lips.) Instead, Cochrane reached for a Make Up For Ever shade in an icy, ruddy brown. "It has a little bit of a shine to it, so it looks pretty and natural," she says.

When in doubt, go darker than your skin tone. "You don't want to go lighter than the natural lip color, because it's going to look too fake," she says.

Kahle top; Nancy Caten necklace.
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Photographed by Tom Corbett.
Medium With Warm Undertones
Yulia has beautiful, golden skin, but her lip tone is actually on the fairer, pinker side. So, Cochrane opted for a lighter lipstick that had a warmer, peachy hue. "Peach brings out the natural warmth in her skin," she says.

Instead of glossy, which she picked for the first two models, Cochrane grabbed a semi-matte shade. "With her warmer undertone, there's a lot of life to the skin as it is, so she can get away with a more matte lipstick," she says.

Simon Miller jacket.
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Photographed by Tom Corbett.
Olive-Toned
Lary's lips were already quite dark, so Cochrane chose a very sheer lipstick to help enhance that color. "Instead of trying to change your dark lips, embrace them," she says. "For Lary, we used a sheer, orange-toned lipstick, because she has a hint of an orange tone on her skin and lips."

While you may not consider orange a nude, Cochrane stresses that it's important not to rest on the traditional idea of what nudes are. "A nude doesn't have to be pale, or beige, or brown," she says. "A foundation-colored tone will wash you out."

In God We Trust jacket.
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Photographed by Tom Corbett.
Pale With Pink Undertones
Kate got the most colorful lipstick of all — a gorgeous, pale pink. "Pale pink is such a perfect nude, but not many people can pull it off, unless you're pale with a pink undertone," says Cochrane. "Kate has a pink undertone, so it works." While the shade is a little glossy, Cochrane is quick to point out that there is not a lot of shimmer. "If it were too shimmery, it would look childish," she says. "This is more sophisticated."

If you have red undertones, Cochrane suggests trying something different. "If the skin has more of a coolness, this is a good shade, because it is cool itself," she says. "It gives that nice, '60s feeling."
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Photographed by Tom Corbett.
Medium-To-Deep
With medium and darker tones, sometimes "nude" is actually a color — like Zaina's plum lips. "Instead of changing the color, it's best to just work with it, because that is your nude," Cochrane says. "It's good to leave it in that pink, plum family, because anything else would look too weird." The lipstick you use as a nude may look like a plum on your pale friend — and that's totally fine.

If plum isn't your cup of tea, Cochrane says a darker brown would work. "But, a plum would really accentuate it instead of covering it up," she says. "Don't be afraid to look outside what you'd typically call a nude."

Simon Miller top.
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