For decades, the marketing definition of “nude” was, like most things from American tan tights to Sloaney patent heels, based on some mythical caucasian ideal – an evenly dipped honeyed blonde. A nude lipstick, for example, was invariably a brown-based pale pink that looked far from natural on most women on either side of the archetype (much as it still may look fabulous, of course). In reality, a nude in a beauty context is any shade that naturally appears in skin, from palest cream to deepest espresso, and the industry has been forced to rethink. Essentially, what we’re looking for in a basic, always flattering, wear-anywhere-and-with-anything nude lipstick is something the same, but one or two shades darker, than our real lip tone.
For me, that’s Mac Lustre Lipstick in Hug Me (£17.50), a neutral inner-flesh tone with a sheer finish that can be worn alone, or slicked over a bolder shade to bring it down to earth. Your mileage will obviously vary, so it’s worth whiling away a few minutes on one of the clever nude lip finders available on-counter and online.
Clinique’s ingenious Shade Match Science tool uses models of all colours and offers three appropriate nude shades, from the barely noticeable to the dramatic, in Even Better Pop Lip Foundation (£17.50. A satin, like this, will look most natural; try a matte if you prefer a more “done” look). Counter staff are also trained to match your Clinique foundation shade with a spectrum of nudes.
My makeup artist friend Sam Chapman recently raved to me about Avon’s bargainous nude lipsticks ( only £4), and she wasn’t wrong. The website features real women of all tones, and offers up two appropriate nudes – one pinky, one brown – in a creamy, comfy, lasting matte formula that behaves like something much dearer. There’s a popular school of thought that believes the most natural and flattering lipstick is one that matches your bare nipples. It sounds nifty and funny in a headline, but in practice is mostly nonsense. Many very pale-faced women have dark brown areolae, just as many dark-skinned women have rosy ones. What works under the bra isn’t automatically what flatters the mouth – and that’s before we even consider how the skintone on one’s face can differ from that of one’s torso. I’ve never topless sunbathed in my life, and my chest shares a Dulux paint chart with blue.
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