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

3 different nude lipsticks for different skin tones

Getty Images / Graphic by Cristina Cianci

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, with any warmth or color drained from your face. However, if you manage to 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, add a sparkle to your eyes, and will work with everything from that velvet suit to your grey knit and cropped jean combo. If chosen and applied correctly, nude lipstick has the unique ability to always feel chic— like how the perfect red lipstick simply always screams glamour. In short, you need to find your perfect nude lipstick pronto. To help you avoid a beauty faux pas, we tapped into the well-versed mind of celebrity makeup artist Fiona Stiles, and asked her to share her knowledge around finding the most flattering (read: not zombie-like) nude lipstick for your skin tone. 

To find the perfect nude lipstick, you need to consider your skin tone and undertone. Make sure you know if your complexion is cool, warm, or neutral to help find your most complimentary shade.

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

Alabaster Skin Tone

Christina Hendricks

"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 ($29).

Bobbi Brown
Bobbi Brown Lip Color in Beige $29
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Fair Skin

If you are fair like Emma Stone, Stiles recommends looking for a rosy-beige nude lipstick, like Lancôme L'Absolu Rouge Hydrating Shaping Lipcolor in Si Seulement ($32). "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."

Lancome Sheer Lipstick
Lancôme L'Absolu Rouge Hydrating Shaping Lipcolor $32
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Light Skin

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 ($34).

K.I.S.S.I.N.G. in Nude Kate
Charlotte Tilbury K.I.S.S.I.N.G. in Nude Kate $34
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Warm Olive Skin

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, like this Clinique Chubby Stick Intense Moisturizing Lip Colour Balm ($18).

Clinique Balm
CLINIQUE Chubby Stick Intense Moisturizing Lip Colour Balm in Curviest Caramel $19
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Cool Olive Skin

"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 color like the one Michele is wearing, try Dior Addict Stellar Shine Lipstick in Clair D Lune 125 ($38).

Dior Lipstick
Dior Dior Addict Stellar Shine Lipstick $38
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Tan Skin

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 Hi-Fi Shine Ultra Cushion Lip Gloss in Midnight Cowgirl ($20) for a sheer wash of color.

Midnight Cowoy
Urban Decay Ultra Nourishing Lipgloss in Nooner $20
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Medium Skin Tone

"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 Biscayne Park ($27).

Biscayne Park
Nars Satin Lip Pencil in Biscayne Park $26
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Caramel Skin

"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 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 ($32). This shade is still one of Stiles's favourites!

Hourglass Stylo
Hourglass Femme Nude Lip Stylo in Nude No. 5 $32
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Mocha Skin

"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 ($25), a rosy-pink mauve with gold flecks, or Stolen Kisses, a caramel rose with silver flecks. 

Nars Lip Gloss in Beliz
NARS Lip Gloss in Belize $19
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Dark Skin

To get Lupita Nyong'o's bronze, shimmery nude color, Stiles suggests using a sheer gloss like MAC Strip Down Nude Lipglass in Dangerous Curves ($17). "For women of color, 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.

Nude Lipglass
MAC Strip Down Nude Lipglass in Dangerous Curves $18
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