I, like many Women of Colour (WOC), cringe whenever the term "nude" pops up. Nude, by definition, is related to skin tone, which sounds like a pretty universal concept, right? Unfortunately, as with pretty much everything, the standard skin tone that is used to define such a broad term falls far from one that represents my skin's melanin level. As a result, I am often left with nude selections that are about 5 shades too light and do the exact opposite of what nude lipsticks should do. I am far from a makeup expert and the thoughts I am about to share are my personal opinions; however, through discussions with friends, family and you, my followers, I've found that there is a serious need for WOC friendly nude lippies. So, I have done my research and scoured pretty much every MAC kiosk and Sephora store in the Calgary area to provide you with a diverse list of what I think are melanin loving tones to achieve that often sought after nude lip.
When I say this is my everyday lip shade, I am speaking nothing but the Bible truth. I legitimately think that I run through about 4 Whirl lip pencils a month because it is the best nude colour I've found for my skin tone yet and it works beautifully as an office appropriate shade. It can be easy to fall into the habit of associating nude lipsticks with strictly beige and brown-like tones, but I've found that nude lip colours with pink and taupe undertones work just as well for women of colour. Whirl is the perfect example of this with a dirty rose shade that picks up on the natural soft tones of our skin.This shade comes in a matte lipstick as well, but I prefer the lip pencil because of the durability. I must not be alone, because the Whirl lip pencil continues to hold its spot on MAC's bestsellers list.
Molten Caramel has a semi-matte finish with a nice shiny metallic glimmer that causes the color to pop and shine. This is a shade that i usually shy away from because I tend to gravitate towards more pigmented lipsticks, but this lightly pigmented shade is great for those "I just woke up and look effortlessly stunning" look you want to get through a lazy Sunday. This colour is a warm to light brown and it's sheer quality allows this colour to suite pretty much all olive to dark skin tones as it tends to let your natural lip colour take center stage.
Taupe is a muted reddish brown that adds depth to a nude lip. It is one of the lighter shades on this list, and works well on its own for olive to medium skin tones. I love Taupe because it brings out the natural peaches and bronzes in my skin tone and, although it is a matte shade, reflects light in a golden tone. I sometimes find that this shade is too light for the look I'm going for, so I use the chestnut liner as a base across my entire lip and top it off with Taupe to dilute the tangerine tones of this lippie. Taupe is a great all around player and a perfect building block shade for whatever nude lip pairing you are trying to achieve.
Lolitta is pretty much the universal shade. I have yet to run into anyone that speaks ill of this sacred shade, despite skin tone. On lighter skin tones, this colour is a bold brown brick colour, but on us WOC, it take a more muted, brown/pink tone that works perfectly for our skin tones. This chestnut rose lipstick is very strongly pigmented which makes its durability unparalleled. It goes on wet but dries very matte, keeping me a very happy camper. This colour is legitimately always sold out, especially after the Kylie LipKits dropped, making Lolitta the closest shade to the ever coveted Dolce K. So if you ever run into Lolitta in stock, buy seven. You'll thank me later.
One of the fierce women I follow on Insta is the inspo behind this shade. When I saw a selfie of @Ashleighchubbybunny wearing this Berlin shade, I had to roll through her DMs and ask for specifics. It is a beautiful medium warm brown, the perfect brown everyday lipstick. It is silky to the touch and dries matte, but is not too aggresively matte, allowing some sheen to come through. To top it off, this beautiful chocolate brown is a great bang for your buck, proving that drugstore brands can hold their own against the more known brands.
The Chestnut lip pencil is a close second when it comes to an everyday tone. The colour is an intense brown that translates to a warm chocolate on medium to darker skin tones. It is a muted version of the NYX Berlin shade, creating a day to night transition brown. Where the other brown based tones on this list have more of a bronze undertone, Chestnut is truly brown, with a deep chocolate base. This colour is often used as a true lip liner because the deep brown in it helps to soften other more pigmented colours. I've found that lining my lip with Chestnut allows me to pull off some other more risqué colours, especially bright corals and pinks, colours normally more difficult for WOC. However, on its own, this lip liner is as close as it gets to the perfect nude and is my go to for days when a little goes a long way.
I was very excited to hear that Queen Latifah, plus WOC advocate and all around badass, was coming out with a CoverGirl line of cosmetics. To me, that meant that a WOC was going to be behind the scenes, making decisions in the cosmetic world on behalf of all of us - and she did not fail. You can tell that she took into account our wide range of skin tones, producing colours that compliment us. My favourite tone is Nude Attitude which is a sheer, peachy bronze tone that is to die for. Not only is it hydrating due to CoverGirl's ingenious silk moisturizing formula, but it is sheer enough that your true lip colour shows through with a little bronze help. I highly recommend trying out the entire line made by a WOC for women of colour! Nude Attitude is sheer goodness that only the Queen can provide.
Nothing says luxury like NARS line of pure matte lipstick. They are so decadent, infused with mango butter, leaving your lips feeling like a million bucks. Peloponnese is hands down my favourite shade in this collection. It has such a complex colour, bringing together the best of rosy coppers and gold, a WOC dream combination. The copper undertones allow this colour to be universally flattering to WOC, coaxing the warm tones from our skin to the surface. Along side gold flecks that leave us glowing, the overall product is nothing to be messed with.
As you can already guess, I am a big proponent of matte colours. However, I will put away my love of matte just for this satin shade. Plum undertones are a WOC's best friend and Verve serves it. Verve is a satin lipstick, meaning that is fully pigmented but goes on and dries with a more wet look. Verve is a muted brownish-pun, making it an easy go to for pretty much all skin tones, but specifically olive to dark tones. Due to the base of this lipstick being plum, the fear of having a nude thats too light doesn't exist with this shade. Feel like making this shade matte? Take a highlighter powder and dust it on your lips after applying the lipstick. This will remove the shine but leaves the beautiful hue in tact.
YSL, as a brand, is all about luxury and their lipstick doesn't disappoint. I was apprehensive when first trying this shade because of how sheer it looked, but was pleasantly surprised at how great it looked on. Trust me and look past the pink nature of this tone and see it for its true taupe beauty. Its sheerness is also quite misleading, as the colour is very pigmented. I find that I have to mix this tone with a brown base in order to mute it down to a true nude, but on its own, its is fresh and a perfect spring and summer nude. Plus, it has the added benefit of SPF built right into it, so it's a win-win!
Honourable Mentions (because you can't have too many lipsticks)
Kinda Sexy - Mac Cosmetics
Touch - Mac Cosmetics
Sandstorm - Wetn’Wild Megalast Lipcolor
Fig Jam - Revlon Colorburst
Jist - Mac Cosmetics
Freckletone - Mac Cosmetics
Mocha Locha - Covergirl Queen Collection
Paramount - Mac Cosmetics
Fresh Brew - Mac Cosmetics
Rich Cashmere - Lancome L'Absolu Rouge
Hover Lip Pencil - Mac Cosmetics
Finding the perfect nude lip colour is difficult for most anybody. Finding the perfect nude as a woman of colour is a whole other ball game. I hope that the selection I've put together prove that they really do exist out there, they just take some dedicated searching to find. I know it can be frustrating, as I often times find myself wondering why these shades aren't marketed as heavily as others, but it is worth while when you find that perfect colour and the lipstick gods shine down on you. It is, of course, an uphill battle when it comes to demanding change within the cosmetic industry, but I think that if we all do our part and raise a little ruckus, the industry will take note and start catering its front line products towards WOC. I hope you enjoy and please send me pics/tag me in pics of you rocking that perfect melanin loving shade!
Love & light