Nude. The term seems so simple to define—bare, naked, au naturel. However, as a woman of color finding the right nude is complicated. I see everything from beige to biscuit in the beauty aisle, but there are rarely colors available that match my milk chocolate skin tone (and don't even get me started on sheer stockings...).
I can't tell you how many times I thought I found "the one"—the perfect nude lipstick—only to end up looking straight ashy in the mirror. So, I gave up. Red, dark brown, and bright purples became my go-to lip colors. Then, the '90s nude lip trend came back. Scrolling through Instagram all I see are Kylie-inspired nude lips , and I refuse to miss out on this beauty moment.
I wanted to discover my own nude #blackgirlmagic. So after some research, I called in over 25 different neutral lip shades, hoping to discover my perfect match. Believe me, there were a lot of Tyrone Biggum moments during the trials, where my lips looked a lot like gray death—but eventually I found six winners that I'd wear again.
Understand that darker skin tones come in many different variants, and these particular shades might not work for you. That's why I've also included tips from a few makeup experts so you have the formula for finding YOUR perfect nude. First, check out all the colors I tested. Then, get more information on each one below.
This lipstick has an orange undertone that looks surprisingly neutral on my lips. It's the same concept as using orange concealer to cover up your dark circles . So, this orange-tinted lip cancels out any darkness or discoloration on my mouth, and picks up on my yellow undertones.
"The best way to shop for a nude is to match your skin's undertone: pink undertones can use pinky undertones, neutral undertones can use peachy undertones, and yellow undertones are flattered by peach, copper and gold nudes ," Lorac Pro Artist, Dean Fournier, tells SELF.
Try it: Frankie Rose Cosmetics Lipstick in Apple Spice, $16; Frankierosecosmetics.com
I wore this lipstick for date night with my boyfriend, and he said nothing. Typically when I wear any type of lipstick, I get that wary, "What is that, and will it get on my lips?" look. This time he went straight in for the kiss. If you're looking for a nude that completely disappears, this is your pick. It's warm enough to blend in with brown skin without looking pasty.
Try it: BlackUp 2-in-1 Lip Pencil in Jum 04, $20; Sephora.com
This brown was a favorite because it had a glossy finish that still gave enough coverage. I pumped up the color even more by using a brown liner underneath. "For women who have a beige or brown undertones, I would recommend a dark brown lip liner," Valerie Saint Amand, lead makeup artist for Black Up Cosmetics, tells SELF. "A lot of women might think that it's easy to achieve the right nude look with just one lip color, but sometimes they'll have to layer colors using a lipliner or another lipstick shade to obtain the perfect nude."
Try it: Lancôme L'Absolue Rouge in Henne, $31; Nordstrom.com
OK, so one issue with finding the perfect nude starts with the color of my natural lips. How can you find something that blends when both my lips are two separate colors in the first place? My bottom lip is a fleshy pink, while the top is a solid brown. The key is to even out the tone with concealer first.
"Always put a little concealer, corrector, or foundation on the top lip to neutralize it so you can get the same color of the nude lip that you're applying," Carola Gonzalez, Kerry Washington's red-carpet makeup artist, tells SELF. You don't want to completely wipe out your natural lip color, but the concealer can help make the lips look more even. It will also help the color last longer.
Try it: Revlon Super Lustrous Creme Lipstick in Mink, $6; Drugstore.com
This lip is my JAM! Seriously, I will wear it again and again. It's exactly what I was looking for in a nude color. It matches my skin color so well that it makes my lip line vanish. In order to give my lips definition, I apply a brown lip liner first. Then, two layers of the lip color. Then, I finish with another layer of liner to blend. This is also a strategy you can use if the nude lipstick you bought looks ashy once you put it on.
Try it: MAC Lipstick in Taupe, $17; Maccosmetics.com
This lipstick sparked some debate around the office. Is it brown or is it nude? Technically, my skin is brown and the lipstick is brown, so therefore it is nude for me. At least that's what I'm going with because this was my favorite color out of all the ones I tested. This brown captures the spirit of the '90s nude lip trend that is making a comeback right now.
The pigment is so rich you don't have to worry about a liner (even though I did use some underneath). The color completely masked any discoloration on my lips. From my tests, I discovered that sheer colors rarely work. The opaque colors give a more even finish and don't end up looking two-toned.
Try it: ColourPop Lipstick in Kae, $6; Colourpop.com