18 Nude Lipsticks That Won't Look Pasty On Brown Skin

The first time I tried on a pair of "flesh toned" stockings from my local drugstore before church, I was sorely disappointed. Instead of matching my dark brown legs, I looked down to see my limbs covered in a wildly unflattering beige material. That's my experience with "nudes" in a nutshell. For years, whenever I saw a new line of nude lipsticks or glosses from my favorite brands, I'd keep browsing, not wanting to relive my nylon nightmare.

Of course, I'm not alone. "'Nude' is a tricky theory, especially when it comes to darker skin," makeup artist Nick Barose, who works with stars like Lupita Nyong'o and Zoë Kravitz, explains to R29. "People think of nude as something beige, so on darker skin it just looks unnatural and too light."


Thankfully, things are rapidly changing: Fashion and beauty brands are realizing that nudes aren't a one-size-fits-all concept, offering more options for more complexions. But those who are still hesitant — especially those that fall on either side of the complexion spectrum —should rest easy, because picking out the right nude from modern options is as simple as looking in the mirror. "Your nude should look like it could be your own skin — just a bit rosier and warmer," Barose instructs. "On darker skin, I go a bit more bronze berry, so it looks fresh and healthy... not pale and flat. The right nude should make you look fresh, not dull."

To help you navigate the complicated world of nudes, we got the pros to spill their favorite next-to-nothing shades, ahead.

At Refinery29, we’re here to help you navigate this overwhelming world of stuff. All of our market picks are independently selected and curated by the editorial team. If you buy something we link to on our site, Refinery29 may earn commission.

Peach nudes can look good on warm complexions, if you choose one with hints of brown, like this one that celebrity makeup artist Keita Moore swears by. "It's a warm peach with brown flesh tones, which makes it beautiful on Black skin," he tells Refinery29.
MAC Cosmetics Powder Kiss Lipstick in Impuslive, $19.00 Buy
For his clients with rich complexions (like Issa Rae or Fantasia Barinno), Moore likes this Dior tube. "It reminds me of coffee with no sugar or cream," he says. "It's a deep '90s brown that's super moisturizing and makes a statement."
Dior Dior Addict Lacquer Stick in Black Coffee, $37.00 Buy
If you're looking for a neutral lip that isn't pink or peach, try this coffee color. "I love pairing this with a dark brown lip liner," Moore says. "It's super opaque and has a semi-matte finish that won't dry out your lips."
COVERGIRL Exhibitionist Lipstick Cream in Coffee Crave , $5.59 Buy
Also in Moore's kit: Fenty's buzzy Unveil Stunna Lip Paint, which he reaches for when his client's lipstick needs to last. "This has been my go-to for deep complexions. I love that you only need one layer for full, flattering coverage, and it doesn't move — at all."
Fenty Beauty By Rihanna Stunna Lip Paint Longwear Fluid Lip Color, $24.00 Buy
AJ Crimson's base products offer some of the deepest shades in the game — so of course, his #NoFilter nude is just as good.
AJ Crimson S+M Sultry and Matte Lipstick #NoFilter (Matte Lipstick), $18.50 Buy
Barose loves this Chanel shade for warm complexions. "It's a caramel brown shade that looks good on medium skin tones and won't make you look pale," he says.
Chanel Ultra Hydrating Lip Colour in Adrienne, $37.00 Buy
For deep-dark skin, à la Lupita N'yongo, Barose uses this copper color, which gives the lip a natural brown glaze — not an ashy, washed out finish.
Lancôme L'Absolu Rouge Hydrating Shaping Lipcolor in Luxe, $32.00 Buy
If you're giving your mattes a rest for the warmer months, then Too Faced's Natural Nudes collection is perfect — they go on creamy and are formulated with coconut butter.
Too Faced Natural Nudes Lipstick, $22.00 Buy
After a pinot-fueled convo about their makeup counter frustrations, friends Amanda Johnson and KJ Miller came up with the concept of Mented. The brand has a collection of six balmy shades suitable for the darker spectrum.
Mented Lip Gloss, $15.00 Buy
For his clients with warm complexions, Alexx Mayo loves this Kevyn Aucoin tube. "This is great for brown skin because it looks like your natural lip color — but better," Mayo says. "Not to mention, it has mango butter, which will leave your lips smooth and hydrated."
Kevyn Aucoin The Expert Lip Color Lipstick in Twiglight Lotus, $35.00 Buy
"This is, hands down, one of my favorites for warm skin. It's one of the smoothest, most pigmented brown formulas out there," Mayo raves.
NARS Audacious Lipstick in Deborah, $34.00 Buy
If you're looking for a nude color you can wear every day — to work and beyond — celebrity makeup artist Amber Amos swears by this one. "It has a rosy undertone that looks gorgeous on Black skin," she says. "It also has a sheer finish and balmy texture that feels great on the lips."
Hourglass Girl Lip Stylo in Influencer, $32.00 Buy
To avoid your lips looking pale or "flat", Sean Harris says a neutral lip liner is essential. "This MAC liner has a brown tone that is flattering on all shades of deep," he says. "It pairs perfectly with any flesh-toned lipstick."
MAC Lip Pencil in Cork, $18.00 Buy
Gilbert Soliz, Global Makeup Artist at Marc Jacobs Beauty, loves this bullet for brown complexions. "If your lips are more pink, this shade with lift your natural tones without appearing too pale," he tells us.
Marc Jacobs Beauty Le Marc Lip Crème Lipstick in Sonic Truth, $30.00 Buy
Ernesto Casillas, makeup artist to celebs like Eve and Ryan Destiny, loves MAC's Half-and-Half for his clients. "This is one of my all-time favorites," he says. "It's a creamy neutral color hints of brown that goes with any makeup look. I love it for warm skin tones."
MAC Cosmetics MAC Amplified Creme Lipstick in Half 'N Half, $29.13 Buy
"Shades that are slightly darker than your natural lip color make great nudes," Casillas says. "I use this pencil on my clients regularly, it's a beautiful warm brown that gives your lips a naturally-plump effect."
NARS Satin Lip Pencil in Het Loo, $27.00 Buy
Want to see Mented's nudes in action? Just press play!
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