Nude lipsticks are the beauty equivalent of a classic white T-shirt or jeans, and for me, therein lies the problem. I've never actually worn this official cool-girl uniform, as I'm more of a fan of leopard midi skirts and blister-inducing heels. Same goes for my more adventurous beauty outlook, and as a result, my lipstick investigations have never taken me into the nude shade spectrum (my extensive collection is made up of mostly postbox reds or rich clarets).
But after using a few recently, I'm ready to fully sashay into the world of nude lipsticks. First of all, we've been hoodwinked when it comes to defining what nude actually is. I, too, believed that the chalky Mini Milk–like pink lipsticks that came free in magazines when I was younger were the one-size-fits-all shade. Later, I'd place those shades in the hefty box of reject beauty products every woman of colour does at some point. That's clearly not the only nude in existence now, and thank goodness, because we all have such different skin tones and lip colours.
My lips have a dark purple tone, so a lot of pinks or light beige lipsticks won't work for me, and that's fine. It's just given me the opportunity to redefine what my perfect nude is, and I encourage you to do the same. I tried over 40 nude lipsticks in an effort to find the best shades for darker skin tones. There's a mixed bag of tones and hues, so you'll definitely be able to find one that works for you.
A tip that I've learnt along the way is that using a lip liner is an absolute must, especially for the lighter shades of lipstick. Find a lip liner that's close in colour to your natural lip, and for me, a cool dark brown always give me a great base. I swear by Nyx Professional Makeup Suede Matte Lip Liner in Cold Brew (£3). So for most of these, I lined my lips with this first.
Read on for my findings…
Sensai: The Lipstick in Kuchinashi Nude
With its imperceptible sheerness, this is the lipstick that had my friends asking if I was actually wearing a colour or just a really great balm. That's the exact energy I'm looking for when it comes to a nude lip, and thanks to the silky formula, my lips felt as good as all the compliments I received.
Becca: Ultimate Lipstick Love in Chocolate
Proving that there's more to nude lipsticks than pastel pinks, this full-bodied wine-brown shade was a complete surprise to me. When I swiped it on I was struck by how creamy and pigmented the formula was without feeling like I'd caked my lips in the product. It was the ideal shade for me, as it hit the right note between subtlety and enhancing my lip colour.
Hourglass: Confession Ultra Slim High Intensity Refillable Lipstick in I've Been
I don't think I'll ever be able to go back to ordinary lipstick packaging after this. Just look at it. I thought it was going to be style over substance once I saw the tapered applicator, but no, it really makes all the difference. It ensures that every single swipe is precise and I could tell the difference in how much definition the applicator gave my lips. Nude shades can often look quite flat on me, but this one looked spring-like, fresh and ready to be paired with a ruffled-sleeved dress.
Chanel: Rouge Coco Ultra Hydrating Lip Colour in Mademoiselle
I'm diligent about my lip care and can't go to sleep without two layers of lip balm on (Jo Malone Vitamin E Lip Conditioner, FYI). So while I wear lipstick most days, I refuse to wear any that don't feel comfortable on my lips. When I applied this pinky-purple shade, which really emphasised the purple tinge in my natural lip colour. It felt like my pre-sleep super-soft lips. An immediate win in my eyes.
Revlon: Plumping Lip Creme in Velvet Mink
I'd never reach for a shade with such berry tones in it when looking for a nude lip, but this experiment has convinced me otherwise. If you're struggling to find a shade that suits you, look out for these colours. I don't need any more plumping in the lip department, but the tingling sensation from this cream was a fun addition and slightly filled my lips out too.
It Cosmetics: Vitality Lip Flush 4-in-1 Reviver Lip Stain in Love Story
I don't trust four-in-one products, especially the ones that claim to be a shampoo/conditioner/bodywash/life coach. However, this lipstick has changed my mind, as it does all four of its jobs with equal levels of mastery. It gave my lips a stained wash of colour and felt like I didn't have a thing on my lips, which is so important when wearing it for a long time.
Bobbi Brown: Crushed Liquid Lipstick in Haute Cocoa
My prior dealings with liquid lipsticks haven't always been great; they're usually super drying and melt into every single hint of texture on my lips. Not ideal. This one came as a great surprise, as while it's officially called a liquid lipstick, it's more of a balm-gloss hybrid with all of the pigment of a satin-finish lipstick.
Bourjois: Rouge Edition Velvet Liquid Lipstick in Trop Brunche
I've got a lot of history with this lipstick in the shade Grand Cru, which is the perfect blend of deep plum and chocolate. It's a staple in my makeup bag because its soft, powdery texture deserves to be in the lipstick hall of fame. The texture wasn't enough to tempt me into the lighter shades in the colour spectrum, as I was too scared, but I needn't be. This shade is everything—it's the exact lip you need to pair with a dramatic "going-out" eye look.
Avon: True Colour Perfectly Matte Lipstick in French Toast
There are some really standout shades in Avon's collection of nudes that really speak to just how diverse nude lipsticks need to be. This was my favourite shade from the lineup, as it completely changed my perception of lighter pinks suiting me. I used a lip liner which really helped with the colour transition. The formula was great too but could use some more hydration.
& Other Stories: Lipstick in Café Cacaoté
Before I even swatched this, I was impressed, as I like to hear the satisfying click from a lipstick lid as the packaging snaps into place. I was sceptical of this one, as I've fallen prey to throwing a random lipstick into my basket in order to reach the free delivery quota. (Don't judge me.) It's rarely worked in my favour, as the lipsticks haven't been up to scratch, but here I've found the game changer. A shade that gives me the highly coveted "your lips but better" look. I've only given it a lower rating as I'm not sure if it warrants the £17 price tag.
Huda Beauty: Power Bullet Matte Lipstick in Graduation Day
Disclaimer: I risked trying this on without a lip liner and it was okay, but not ideal. Clearly, I don't listen to my own advice. There was just too much differentiation between the shade and my natural lip colour. So back to the mirror I went, lip liner applied, and we were good to go. This lipstick shade is a hit but I'm also pretty obsessed with the softer than soft almost velvet-like consistency.
Lime Crime: Wet Cherry Lip Gloss in Double Dare Ya
I'm about to make a bold statement that's going to live here on the internet for the foreseeable future. When I'm famous it will probably resurface like a problematic tweet. Ready? This is the best lipgloss I've ever put on my lips. Ever. First of all, it smells just like the fake dreamy cherries that my Baby All Gone doll ate in the '90s. Scent aside, it has a mirror shine finish without any stickiness and its not wishy-washy when it comes to colour payoff either. If this is what the nude lip life is all about, I'm a convert.
Fenty Beauty: Stunna Lip Paint in Unveil
This shade gave me such chai latte vibes, but before I even get into the colour, we need to discuss the applicator. The rounded doe foot makes applying this a pretty joyful experience. It also kept my lips feeling soft, which is a non-negotiable for me, and it didn't even transfer through a lunch of fried treats. You get a lot of product on just one swipe, and I was pleasantly surprised by the intensity too.
Beauty Bakerie: Matte Lip Whip in Cake D'Ivoire
This lipstick reminds me of my first pair of barely there flesh-coloured tights, and it's one I find myself constantly reaching for. Liquid lipsticks are tricky. They give amazing coverage that stays put, but your lips will be on the fast lane to dryness. I found that even when this one by Beauty Bakerie dries down, it still maintains enough moisture and doesn't require a steady hand to apply it either.
Lipstick Queen: Nothing But the Nudes Lipstick in Cheeky Chestnut
Like the remnants of a chocolate lava cake, this shade was exactly what I imagined the ideal nude lip would look like before my experimentation began. This one's a keeper because it packs a huge pigment punch and required minimal touch-ups throughout the day despite being such a creamy formula.
So there we have it—all of the nude lipsticks worthy of your spending power. The key to finding your perfect nude is all about shedding everything you thought about what classifies as a nude and just finding one that works for you. Whether your perfect nude is deep chocolate, sand, purple or a whisper of pink, it's your nude and that's all that matters. The ones that will have a permanent place in my lipstick collection are Lime Crime, Bourjois and Sensai, closely followed by Hourglass and Chanel. Also, always remember: Lip liner and nude lipsticks go together like avocado and toast.