How To Find A Truly ‘Nude’ Lip For Darker Skin


I have a problem with the term ‘nude’ in the beauty world: rather than being contributed to a specific shade (as it so often is), it should really be seen as a concept. In terms of lipsticks, depending on your complexion, ‘nude’ will mean something entirely different to you.

The search for my own perfect one (a pinky-brown shade, slightly darker than my own natural lip in a satin finish, ergo, the dream) was a long one, and I’ve had more misses than hits if I’m honest. More often than not, shades differ from what’s presented on the packaging, so it’s an expensive trial and error judging whether a lip colour has the right undertones.  

Space NK stocks over 200 ‘nude’ shades, and searches for them are up on the year, so for a lot of us it seems the hunt is still on. You might think a simple nude would be an easy find, but with thousands of different complexions to cater for, it’s no mean feat for any brand to get right. Here’s how to have the best shot at finding yours:  

Work Out What Undertone You Need

When you’re colour-matched for a foundation, be sure to ask what your undertone is: the rule of thumb is that the most flattering nude lipstick will have the same undertone as your foundation.

“This is the main thing I see my clients getting wrong when it comes to nude lips,’ confesses make-up artist, Joy Adenuga. ‘If you have a warm red or yellow undertone in your skin, a pale and cool lip shade will look completely off, which isn’t the point of a nude. You need a shade that complements your undertone, rather than contrasts with it.” That should nicely narrow down your search.

Try To Do A Swatch

If you can’t swatch in person, try the next best thing. Ideally the shade will have been shot on a diverse range of models, so always check through the online imagery. Obviously it’s unlikely your exact complexion will be available every time, but seeing it on any model makes the hunt easier than if it’s only available as a smudge of lippie on a white background. After all, our lips don’t start off ‘white,’ like a page does: our base shade is a peachy-pinky-brown.

Check Out The Bestseller List

I always filter the website to ‘best sellers’ for a head start: all of the shades there have made it onto the list for a reason. Of the 10 best selling nude lipsticks at Space NK, Charlotte Tilbury takes up an incredible eight of the 10 spots. I, however, am not surprised: the brand’s Revolution Matte Lipstick in Pillow Talk Medium (which is number two on the list) is my favourite nude of all time. It’s slightly darker than the original Pillow Talk (which is number one) and is ideal for medium skin tones.

Laura Mercier is famed for her inclusive setting powders, and her nude lipstick range is worth raving about, too. I love Nude Nouveau – it’s a peach-brown that would suit olive tones nicely. Nars Velvet Matte Lip Pencil is another bestseller, and in Dance Fever – a deep, warm brown – it’s great on darker skin. Equally, Hourglass’ I’ve Never is an expensive-looking brown that’ll earn you a ton of compliments. 

Fake It ‘Till You Make It

If you’re stuck finding your ideal lipstick formula, but luckily already have your shade down pat, Joy shared a nifty trick she uses to fake the perfect nude effect. “I love building definition, so I’ll use a deep, warm pencil around the lip line, then I’ll fill in the lips with the nude shade, and go over the whole lip with a clear gloss.” The lip then starts off glossy, fades to a satin effect, then eventually ends up matte, so all you’ll need to do is maintain your ideal consistency. 

Widen your search to include lip liners if finding the perfect lipstick has been tricky. Use your nude lip liner to fill in your whole pout, then dab some balm or a clear gloss on top. Once you get it right, it’ll be a shade you turn to every day, so the hunt is well worth the hassle, I promise.