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Nude lipstick is full of dichotomies. It can be glam or low-key, unnoticeable or show-stopping and matte or glossy, meaning there’s an option for everyone. And unlike with statement red lipsticks, applying nude shades doesn’t require too much precision. “The beauty of a nude lipstick is that you don’t have to be too exact, and it’s also easy to apply without a mirror,” says LA-based makeup artist Nikki DeRoest.
And nude lipstick is highly personal; your perfect shade is based on your skin tone and undertones, natural lip color and preference for textures and finishes.
The different shades of nude lipstick
There are so many shades of nudes, and it’s entirely open for interpretation on exactly what is classified as a nude lipstick, says makeup artist Shayna Goldberg. However, she usually categorizes nude shades based on their undertones, which range from warm to cool to neutral.
Alexandra French, the trendsetting makeup artist, agrees the “possibilities are endless” when it comes to nude lipstick colors and textures, but typically groups them within following nine categories:
- “Cool Spice” – Cool-toned nude shades with undertones of orange and brown.
- “Warm Spice” – Warm-toned nude shades with undertones of orange and brown.
- “Light Nude” – “These are almost concealer-color lipsticks, used to lighten the center of a lip,” French says.
- “Pink Nude” – Pink-toned lipstick shades that are slightly lighter in color than rose nudes.
- “Lippie/Rose” – Dusty rose tones that are “perfect for an everyday lip,” French says.
- “Brown Nude” – Think of the iconic ‘90s brown lip, but the category can also include brown nudes and even deep chocolate shades.
- “Tinted” – Tinted lip balms, usually with just a hint of color.
- “Cool Nude” – Lipsticks with cool undertones and that come in a variety of nude shades.
- “Nude Gloss” – Clear or milky lip gloss that gives lips shine, rather than color.
What to consider to find your perfect nude lipstick
Since nude lipstick shades have varying undertones, they can “range from light to deep in color,” says Marc Reagan, global director of education, artistry and events at Hourglass Cosmetics. “Choosing a hue all depends on the look you’re trying to achieve,” he adds. “Whether that be a pale nude or an enhancing nude, it’s all relative to your natural lip tone.”
To find which nude hue works best for you, Goldberg suggests comparing each shade to the center of your lips where natural pigment is most prevalent. When selecting the right nude lipstick color for her clients, she usually tries to match their natural lip color exactly to the lipstick shade or go slightly lighter or darker. Some lips have two tones, notes Reagan, and in that case, it’s up to the individual, he says, whether they want to soften the contrast or enhance it using the deeper tone as a guide.
When shopping for the best lipstick, you can also follow DeRoest’s lead and play with undertones depending on your makeup look that day. “For example, if you’re wearing a warm, coral blush, you might want to go with a nude that has more of a peach undertone instead of a brown undertone,” she says. Or, as with French, the process doesn’t even have to be that specific. Instead, she says she likes to alter tones, textures and hues of nude lipsticks based on her current mood.
The best way to apply nude lipstick
The beauty of a nude lipstick is that there’s no wrong way to apply it. Depending on the look you’re going for, though, below are some suggestions.
The natural nude lip: Goldberg prefers the natural look, choosing to apply the lipstick with her fingers. And whatever formula is left on them, she dabs onto her cheeks. “I don’t mind the imperfection of smudging outside the lines,” she says. “I think it makes the appearance more natural.”
The swipe-and-go nude lip: “Nude lip colors are the easiest to apply — think of them as your no-mirror makeup,” Reagan says. He likes to swipe the lower lip straight from the bullet, then press the lips together for a soft application. If you want to give the illusion of fuller lips, grab a color that is one shade darker than your natural lip color to enhance volume and definition.
The glossy nude lip: DeRoest employs the “fake it till you make it” technique. “If you’re using a shade that’s an enhancement of your natural lip color, you can also cheat the edges and go slightly outside the lines for a fuller-looking pout,” she says. And if you’re looking for an additional pop, she recommends applying a clear or nude gloss to the center of the lips.
The liner-and-lipstick nude lip: If you’re looking for a longer-lasting nude lip, try using a lip liner first, then applying lipstick. French is a huge fan of utilizing lip liners with lipsticks, either matching them with the corresponding sets or using a liner that’s darker than the lipstick for a fuller pout. (We highlight some of her favorite liner and lipstick combos in the roundup below.)
Now that you’re equipped with all this knowledge, it’s time to get shopping. From tinted to matte to hydrating formulas available in shades for every skin tone, these are the 20 best nude lipsticks to swipe on.
Charlotte Tilbury Matte Revolution Lipstick in Pillow Talk
A national bestseller and cult-favorite lipstick, Charlotte Tilbury’s Pillow Talk Matte Revolution hardly needs an introduction. But ICYMI, the formula enhances your lip’s natural tones to make them appear more plump, full and sumptuous. The matte, nude-pink shade is super easy to apply with precision via an angled square tip designed to mimic the shape of a lip brush, plus features nourishing orchid extract for a creamy, hydrated finish. It’s so perfect, in fact, that brand says it sells a tube of Pillow Talk on its website every two minutes.
Nars Air Matte Lip Color in Lose Control
Best Nude Lipstick for Brown Skin
Nars’ Air Matte lip color in Lose Control is one of French’s go-to nude lipsticks. A brown-pink shade, the budge-proof liquid formula applies almost like a stain but has the finish of a soft-focus, matte lipstick. The trick is to apply the formula to clean, dry lips for max wearability and hold, which you can do via the custom-designed doe-foot applicator to achieve precise results. Offering full coverage, intense color payoff and an extremely lightweight feel, the Air Matte lip color is a dream to wear — even for those that are matte-adverse.
Mac Cosmetics Powder Kiss Lipstick in Impulsive
Best Matte Nude Lipstick
Mac is a master of lipsticks (hello, Ruby Woo), and its Powder Kiss formula is matte lipstick reinvented. The brand’s version is weightless yet hydrating thanks to the inclusion of moisture-coated powder pigments that give the formula the feel of a lip balm but with a zero-shine finish. The Impulsive shade, a mid-toned warm yellow nude, is surprisingly flattering and delivers soft-focus color. As one reviewer said, “This is the first matte lipstick that didn’t dry my lips out. It goes on really smooth and lasts a long time. It never dried out, which is exactly what I wanted, and stays perfectly matte.”
L’Oreal Paris Les Nus by Colour Riche Intense Nude Lipstick in Nu Extreme
Best Drugstore Nude Lipstick
The Les Nus lipstick collection by L’Oreal Paris is composed solely of nude shades — 12 in total — designed to help anyone find their perfect nude hue. The colors are richly pigmented and smudge-proof, so you can go about your day without having to worry about constant reapplication. But should you want to reapply, the unusual bullet shape allows you to precisely line the lips on the go, sans lip brush or liner.
Byredo Amber in Furs Lipstick
Best Shimmering Nude Lipstick
Swap out your traditional nude lipstick for this standout option from Byredo. Not only does a shimmering finish gives it some depth, but it also features a creamy, lip balm-esque texture for hydration without sacrificing any color impact. “If going for a more finished look, I lean towards Byredo’s lipsticks, especially the shade Amber in Furs,” Goldberg says. “It has a kiss of pearl in the formula and a beautiful cool-toned natural shade.”
Bobbi Brown Luxe Shine Intense Lipstick in Trailblazer
Best Hydrating Nude Lipstick
DeRoest is a fan of Bobbi Brown’s nude lipsticks, not only for their diverse shade range — which includes Trailblazer, a lovely neutral pink-brown — but also for their super nourishing formulas. The high-shine lipstick delivers bold color payoff while healing lips via a powerful blend of hyaluronic acid and vitamin E.
Pat McGrath Labs MatteTrance Lipstick in Divine Rose
Best Nude Lipstick for Fair Skin
To mimic the glamorous, dreamy looks associated with famed makeup artist Pat McGrath, grab her bestselling MatteTrance lipstick in Divine Rose. The nude-pink tone gives intense color saturation in just a single swipe with its revolutionary oil-infused powder formula. The unique texture gives that classic Pat lush, soft-focus effect, while also feeling wonderfully comfortable and weightless. You can apply the vivid lipstick straight from the tube for max saturation, or dab just a touch on lips and blend it out with your fingers for a blurred, subtle look.
Dior Rouge Dior Refillable Lipstick in 100
Rouge Dior shades remain just as classic as the original versions Monsieur Dior created over 60 years ago, but have now been updated with nourishing lip-care ingredients and refillable packaging. The nude shade 100 is one of the brand’s most popular, and it’s a reinterpretation of the “greige” tone Dior originally crafted as the perfect blend of gray and beige for his 1947 “New Look” collection. But don’t let the word “greige” scare you off; 100 is a bestseller for a reason. The nude-pink shade is ultra-flattering, creamy and flawlessly matte in just a few quick swipes. Also made with botanical oils and shea butter, the formula is designed to be super comfortable to wear, with up to 16 hours of lasting color.
Fenty Beauty Gloss Bomb Heat Universal Lip Luminizer + Plumper in Hot Chocolit
Best Nude Lip Gloss
Naturally, Rihanna’s version of a nude lipstick is anything but ordinary. Her Gloss Bomb Heat has a blend of conditioning ingredients, like shea butter and Vitamin E, and imparts its wearers with a heavy dose of tint and shine. French loves using the rich brown shade Hot Chocolit on its own or layered atop Mac Cosmetics’ lip liner in Cork (a muted golden brown) for a bolder look. “It’s not too dark but gives you some awesome wearable brown pigment I’ve never seen in a lip gloss before,” said one Sephora reviewer. “It’s so unique and a must-have.”
Makeup by Mario Ultra Suede Lipstick in Kate
Best Shade Variety
Well-known as Kim Kardashian’s makeup artist, Mario Dedivanovic has stepped into the limelight with the launch of his own makeup line, Makeup by Mario. Dedivanovic has already created a handful of cult-favorite products, and his super-comfortable, soft-focus lipsticks are some of his most popular. The matte, suede-like formulas feature duo seed oil, which allows them to glide on effortlessly and moisturize lips. All of his shades are also extensively tested to ensure they flatter a range of skin tones, with the nude varieties — such as the dusty-rose hue called “Kate” — being particularly show-stopping.
Maybelline Super Stay Matte Ink Liquid Lipstick in Loyalist
Best Long-Lasting Nude Lipstick
Famed for its truly infallible staying power, Maybelline’s Super Stay Matte Ink liquid lipstick remains perfectly matte and intensely pigmented all day. (For that reason, make sure you apply it carefully from the start and use an an oil-based makeup remover to wipe it off when you’re ready.) The nude-pink Loyalist shade is universally flattering for lighter skin tones, while Globetrotter is a rich orange-y brown that’s ideal for olive to deep skin tones.
Tom Ford Lip Color in Nubile
DeRoest also loves Tom Ford’s nude lipsticks, saying they’re worth the splurge. The packaging alone has a weight to it that makes the product feel quite glamorous, while the formula itself is creamy and ultra-hydrating, featuring a blend of chamomile oil, Brazilian murumuru butter and soja seed extract. What’s more, these lipsticks are super long-lasting, designed to provide up to eight hours of budge-proof wear. If you have fair skin and are looking for something a bit darker or have naturally deeper tones, Tom Ford’s lip color in warm brown Nubile is the way to go.
Danessa Myricks Beauty Colorfix 24-Hour Cream Color in Crème Brulee
Best Multipurpose Nude Lipstick
Makeup artist Danessa Myricks continues to churn out some of the most remarkable makeup products on the market, including her Colorfix cream paints that are designed to be used on the lips, eyes and cheeks. These formulas have incredible longevity and, as their name suggests, fantastic staying power. The shade Creme Brulee is a pretty mauve-nude tone, and, like all of the hues in collection, should be applied using a makeup brush (pro tip: work quickly as you apply, since the formula is fast-drying).
VIOLETTE_FR Bisou Balm in Calisson
Best Sheer Nude Lipstick
Leave it to French cool-girl Violette to create a perfectly imperfect lip-balm-meets-lipstick. The Bisou Balm tints the lips with a natural amount of pigment to give off that flushed, “just been kissed” effect. Even if you apply it without a mirror, this muted nude lipstick looks effortless on with a few quick swipes. Plus, it’s layerable if you want additional color payoff.
Victoria Beckham Beauty Posh Lipstick
Best ‘90s-Inspired Nude Lipstick
Victoria Beckham called this lipstick the most personal product she’s launched yet under her eponymous beauty line. And with the Spice hue, which closely resembles the lip colors she often wore in the ’90s, it’s not hard to see why. Featuring a complex blend of hydrating superfood ingredients, the gingerbread-toned hue delivers a vibrant finish and ultra-creamy feel that makes it a pleasure to wear round the clock.
Huda Beauty Power Bullet Matte Lipstick in Board Meeting
Best Nude Lipstick for Olive Skin
Celebrity makeup artist and beauty blogger Huda Kattan certainly knows her way around a nude lip, and her version is a matte lipstick that applies like a dream. Power Bullet shades are incredibly pigmented yet still swipe on like butter instead of tugging on the lips like most matte alternatives. The warm, mocha-colored shade Board Meeting is a favorite of French, who usually pairs the plush matte formula with Mac Cosmetics’ liner in Stripdown (a brown-beige hue). Although, if you’d like to swipe and go, the full coverage lipstick is beautifully pigmented on its own.
Westman Atelier Lip Suede in Les Nudes
Best Nude Lipstick Palette
Westman Atelier’s nude palette is finally back in stock — so run, don’t walk, to grab it before it sells out again. It features four nude-adjacent hues that are impossibly chic on their own, but can also be mixed and matched for endless color combinations. In addition to being customizable, the vegan, sheer formula also features hydrating ingredients that can heal and smooth lips, including jojoba oil, avocado oil and peptides.
ILIA Color Block High Impact Lipstick in Marsala
Best Vegan Nude Lipstick
Fact: Lipstick wearers have been found to ingest anywhere from four to nine pounds of the product in their lifetime. Since preventing lipstick from getting into your mouth is pretty much impossible as you eat, drink and talk throughout the day, try a lipstick from a clean brand like ILIA. The label’s brown Marsala nude lipstick is beloved not only for its flattering tone, rich pigment and silky texture, but also its non-toxic ingredients. The lipstick is handmade with customized color pigments and organic castor seed oil for incredible color payoff and hours of comfortable wear.
Hourglass Velvet Story Lip Cream in Hint
Best Nude Lip Mousse
If you’re looking for a lightweight lip cream versus a sticky lip gloss or heavy lipstick, this Hourglass lip mousse is for you. The velvety cream delivers a diffused, soft matte finish and has a heavenly whipped texture. Reagan likes both shades Hint (a beige honey nude) and Luxe (a mauve nude) for creamy pops of color. You could pair the cream with a lip liner underneath for a more stay-proof effect, or simply wear it on its own. All you need is a few swipes via the easy-to-use precision applicator for a subtle, weightless look.
About Face Paint-It Matte Lip Color in Slumber
Founded and led by Halsey, About Face is a beauty brand that’s all about exploration and individuality. And among its offerings are some seriously great matte liquid lipsticks, which are meant to provide “enduring and intense coverage.” The matte rose-beige shade called Slumber is particularly flattering on a range of skin tones and provides a high-pigment, opaque finish in just a swipe or two. The formula goes on almost like a stain and should last through multiple meals before you need to reapply it.