The Ultimate Guide to Picking the Best Nude Lipstick for Your Skin Tone

Updated 11/14/16
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Finding the perfect nude lipstick is harder than it sounds. Too dark, and you look like you're trying to make brown lipstick happen (and not in a cool '90s way). Too light, and you start to resemble the living dead. But nail the right nude lipstick shade and life (or at least getting ready) will seem so much easier. The perfect nude will make your skin look alive, your eyes sparkly and will work with everything from that velvet suit to your grey knit and cropped jean combo. Nude lipstick whispers chic like a red lipstick screams glamour. In short, you need to find your perfect nude lipstick pronto. To help you avoid a beauty faux pas, we tapped into celebrity makeup artist Fiona Stiles's well-versed mind and asked her to share her knowledge about finding the most flattering (read: not zombie-like) nude lipstick for your skin tone. 

It is more than just about the color of your skin, it is also about undertone. Make sure you know if your complexion is cool, warm, or neutral to help find your best nude lipstick shade.

Keep reading to see and shop Stiles's expert recommendations. 

SKIN TONE → ALABASTER

If you have alabaster skin, here's what Stiles says you should look for in a nude lipstick…

Skin Tone: Alabaster

"If you have a fair and milky skin tone like Christina Hendricks, try a soft, dusty baby pink," says Stiles. "If you go too beige, you might start resembling a corpse!" She says to avoid super opaque, flat nudes and suggests using a sheerer formula instead like Bobbi Brown Lip Color in Beige (£21).

Bobbi Brown Lip Color in Beige $21
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SKIN TONE → FAIR

If you have fair skin, here's what Stiles says you should look for in a nude lipstick…

If you are fair like Emma Stone, Stiles recommends looking for a rosy-beige nude lipstick, like Tom Ford Lip Color in Blush Nude (£39). "When you look at nude lipsticks in fashion magazines, the skin matches the lips," she said. "This doesn't translate well into real life—you want a warmth and separation between the lips and the skin."

Tom Ford Lip Color in Blush Nude $39
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SKIN TONE → LIGHT

If you have a light skin tone, here's what Stiles says you should look for in a nude lipstick…

For light-skinned ladies with slightly olive undertones like Kate Mara, Stiles says to try a warmer nude shade. "You can definitely go pink, and you can definitely go beige," she says. "You want more pigment in your nude lipstick than someone who is alabaster or fair with pink undertones." Try Charlotte Tilbury K.I.S.S.I.N.G. in Nude Kate (£23).

Charlotte Tilbury K.I.S.S.I.N.G. in Nude Kate $23
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SKIN TONE → WARM OLIVE

If you have olive skin with warm undertones, here's what Stiles says you should look for in a nude lipstick…

Ladies with warmer olive skin tones like Maria Menounos should look for a caramel-tone beige lipstick that's darker than the shade of your skin, Stiles says. She recommends finding a glossier formula to play up the warmth of your skin tone.

Max Factor Colour Elixir Lipstick in Burnt Caramel $8
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SKIN TONE → COOL OLIVE

If you have olive skin with cool undertones, here's what Stiles says you should look for in a nude lipstick…

"With an olive skin tone like Lea Michele's, you have a lot more versatility [when it comes to nude lipsticks]," Stiles says. "You can go with a darker nude, or a lighter nude so your lips don’t disappear." For a sheer, pink-tinted lip colour like the one Michele is wearing, try Dior Dior Addict Lipstick in Urban 178 or Tulle 214 (£27).

Dior Dior Addict Lipstick $27
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SKIN TONE → TAN

If you have light hair and tan skin, here's what Stiles says you should look for in a nude lipstick…

If you have lighter hair and skin, Stiles recommends adding an "anchor" to your look with smokier, more defined eye makeup. For ladies with tan skin (real or faux), she suggests a glossy, shimmery nude to bring out the sun-kissed look of your skin. Try Urban Decay Naked Ultra Nourishing Lipgloss in Nooner (£15) for a sheer wash of colour.

Urban Decay Ultra Nourishing Lipgloss in Nooner $15
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SKIN TONE → MEDIUM

If you have a medium skin tone, here's what Stiles says you should look for in a nude lipstick…

"The slight pinkness of Eva's nude lipstick adds separation between her lip and her skin," Stiles says. She suggests finding a pink-toned nude shade that's lighter than your skin tone, like Nars Satin Lip Pencil in Floralies (£20).

Nars Satin Lip Pencil in Floralies $20
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SKIN TONE → CARAMEL

If you have caramel-colored skin, here's what Stiles says you should look for in a nude lipstick…

"If this nude lipstick was on Christina Hendricks, it would look way too intense," Stiles says. "On Naya Rivera, however, it's the ideal balance between beige and caramel and perfectly complements her skin tone." Stiles says she loves the

Stiles says she loves the bronziness of the look but would have added a little gloss and liner to make the lip stand out. For a caramel hue nude like the one Rivera's wearing, try Hourglass Femme Nude Lip Stylo in Nude No. 5 (£24), (it's one of Stiles's favourites!).

Hourglass Femme Nude Lip Stylo in Nude No. 5 $24
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SKIN TONE → MOCHA

If you have a mocha-coloured skin tone, here's what Stiles says you should look for in a nude lipstick…

"There's lot of definition going on in this look, which I love," Stiles says. To imitate Rihanna's glossy, nude pout, she suggests using a Nars Lip Gloss in Belize (£20), a rosy-pink mauve with gold flecks, or Stolen Kisses, a caramel rose with silver flecks. 

NARS Lip Gloss in Belize $20
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SKIN TONE → DARK

If you have a dark skin tone, here's what Stiles says you should look for in a nude lipstick…

To get Lupita Nyong'o's bronze, shimmery nude colour, Stiles suggests using a sheer gloss like MAC Mineralize Glass in Ray of Sunshine (£20). "For women of colour, it's all about playing with highlights and shadows to build definition," Stiles says. She suggests picking a nude shade lighter than your actual skin tone to brighten the face and sticking to a gloss formula for a more natural-looking effect.

MAC Mineralize Glass in Ray of Sunshine $20
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