Women with dark skin know that ‘nude’ is not a categorical term. Whether it’s when trying on stockings, or browsing for barely-there underwear, slipping on ‘nude’ heels, or, yes, swiping on another ashy, ill-suited lipstick, we’re subtly, yet repeatedly, reminded that the colour of our bare skin is not the norm. ‘Nude’ has traditionally meant beige, taupe, ecru, or, at best, a creamy caramel—but it’s only just starting to encompass the shades of nude brown skin, in all their glory.
In 2021, more and more beauty brands are embedding inclusion into their ethos and making a widely accessible range of products for darker skin tones. The world of make-up is changing. While many local stores and stockists have traditionally been slower on this uptake than overseas, the arrival of brands like Sephora has opened up an array of options previously inaccessible to dark-skinned Southeast Asian women—and widened our options beyond just three shades for skin darker than a Light Tan 03.
Even though that’s the case, settling on a nude lipstick can be difficult—so we’ve whittled down your options to a selection of lip products with an inclusive colour range. We’ve also picked out our favourite of the shades, but, of course, not every colour (even the ones made for dark skin) is going to suit your skin tone—so if our choice of shade isn’t right for you, head to the link and try out a different shade in the same product. Options, baby. You deserve them.
Whether you prefer a matte, glossy, hydrating, or satin finish, read on for the best nude lipsticks for darker skin tones. No ashiness allowed.
The best nude lipsticks for dark skin tones
Rihanna’s Fenty Beauty was founded on inclusion and choice, so it’s no surprise that dark-skinned beauties can find a lip colour worth their time here. This one is mattifying and has a long-lasting, true pigment. Top with a Fenty gloss for a smudged, softer finish.
Another celebrity beauty line, Selena Gomez’s Rare Beauty has a creamy formulation in a range of colours suited to deeper skin tones, but we particularly like ‘Thrilling’ for its rich, chocolatey hue.
Natasha Denona’s ‘I Need a Nude’ collection was formulated to help women of all skin tones find the nudes they need—try the 4B Naya, which has warm undertones, or the 5B Nati for an even deeper, coppery hue.
With a hydrating formula and a hybrid formulation, Nars’ Cream Lipstick glides on, and is saturated enough to retain its true colour on melanated lips.
Matte doesn’t have to mean drying. Huda Beauty’s ‘Last Night’ hue has staying power, but is also plush and hydrating. Plus, its ombre-toned case looks ever so chic in a shelfie.
A classic for a reason, M.A.C.’s lipsticks have won fans across generations for their accessible price point and their expansive range of hues: the saucily named ‘Derriere’ suits medium-deep, warm-toned skin, but other popular nude hues for darker skin include Taupe, Whirl and Antique Velvet.
A paler hue than some of our other options, this Charlotte Tilbury formulation has a golden warmth to it—play it up by lining your lips with a deeper lipliner for a two-tone effect.
If you’re about the lived-in look, a satin-finish cream from Bobbi Brown in a nutty, deep brown is the lip product you’ve been searching for. It hydrates like a lip balm, while giving a subtle flush of colour.
What are the best lipstick shades for darker skin tones?
While we’ve been focussing on the barely-there end of the spectrum, darker skin tones wear bold pops of colour just as well—if not better. Brown skin plays with deep fuchsias, bold reds and even witchy purple, with an extra panache. While many of us grew up steering clear of pink and peaches, it can suit deep skin if you’ve matched the right shade to your skin’s undertone. Look for peachy shades for yellow-toned skin, or cooler reds if your skin has undertones of blue, pink or purple. TLDR: no colour is off-limits.
How should you apply lipstick when you have a darker skin tone?
Prepping is key. Make sure to exfoliate with a lip scrub two to three times a week, and don’t forget your lips when you’re cleansing your face. Next, lay the foundations for healthy, nourished lips with a swipe of hydrating balm.
Now, you might consider it a ’90s relic, but lipliner is the secret weapon you need to have in your beauty arsenal, particularly if you have deeper skin. Use a shade a few notes darker than your lipstick, and apply a smudged line around your lips to define, plump and bring out your lips’ natural contours. Then, swipe on your favourite shade of lip colour, press your lips together (use blotting paper if you’re dealing with a smudgeable product), and you’re ready to face the day.