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The best nude lipsticks for your skin tone

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How to pick your perfect nude lipstick shade

The perfect shade of nude lipstick shouldn’t be next-to-impossible to find, and it definitely shouldn’t require you buying a dozen different shades, going home, trying them on, finding that you now look dead, sick, and pale, thinking about the money you just wasted, and promptly punching a wall. Not that that’s happened to me a BILLION times before, or anything. (Ever had that problem? No? Just me? Cool.)

More: The Very Best Red Lipsticks for Your Skin Tone

But seriously, how do the J.Los of the world do it? How do these magical people rock nude, semi-matte lips for years and still totally slay, while I can’t find one damn lipstick that works for my average skin tone? Turns out, it’s not just me—nude lipsticks are tricky for everyone to figure out, according to 100-percent of the people I’ve asked in the office. So I decided to dispel the mystical cloud surrounding them by going to the experts for their best advice.

“Nude lipsticks should be the softest version of your own lip color,” says makeup artist Ashleigh Ciucci. “So to pick the best nude for your skin tone, just find the shade that most closely matches your natural lips, since that matchy-matchy look is actually what creates a nude effect.” Uh, what? Mind blown. “Your lips are one of the most pigmented and pink-toned spots on your face, so if you try to cancel out the color with a lipstick that’s too light for your skin tone you’ll actually wipe your face of its natural pigments, which can make you look sick,” she says.

Cool, so the biggest mistake people make with nude lipsticks (a.k.a. choosing a shade that matches your face, rather than a shade that matches your lips) was what I had done for years. Awesome. But what about the formula itself? Should you choose matte, glossy, opaque, or sheer? “Oh, man—a nude matte is the worst; it requires a ton of work and effort,” says Ciucci, immediately dispelling any uncertainty. “A creamy, semi-glossy texture is going to be the most forgiving, and it’s also look more flesh-toned and realistic.”

Just because creamy textures are “easier,” though, doesn’t mean that nude lipsticks are for the lazy. Since light colors show every flake and ripple on your skin, you need to exfoliate the hell out of your lips (try Fresh Sugar Lip Polish), first, before applying your lipstick. Ideally, you’ll even use matching nude lip liner, first, to help soften the contrast between lip and face. “I actually like to apply the lipstick first and then go back with the lip liner and clean up the edges,” says Ciucci. And because you’re muting your lips, you’ll need to draw attention to another part of your face, whether that be through an insanely awesome smokey eye, or bold-as-hell brows. Otherwise, yeah, you’ll look like the Crypt keeper.

Bet you didn’t know that wearing nude lipstick required a dissertation, but hey: We care about the state of your face. So now that you’re armed with the best nude lipsticks that won’t make you look like death, you can all channel your inner J.Lo for the rest of your glorious life. Scroll down to see our favorite nude lipsticks for your skin tone, along with tips on how to wear them.

More: 13 Celebrities Wearing Winter’s Dark Lipstick Trend

Fair Skin

For those of you with fair-as-hell skin (hey-o, Taylor Swift and Emma Stone), look for warm, peach-hued shades that have more caramel undertones than pink undertones. “Just make sure to brush a bit of bronzer around the edges of your face and blend some blush across your cheeks so your skin doesn't look totally monotone," says Ciucci.

How to pick your perfect nude lipstick shade
Image: Estee Lauder

Estee Lauder The Estee Edit Barest Lip Color in Au Natural (Estee Lauder, $22)

How to pick your perfect nude lipstick shade
Image: Maybelline

Maybelline Color Sensational The Buffs in Bare All (Maybelline, $8)

How to pick your perfect nude lipstick shade
Image: Too Faced Cosmetics

Too Faced La Matte Color Drenched Lipstick in Sorry Not Sorry Peachy Nude (Too Faced, $22)

Medium Skin

If your skin tone falls in the warm family of Kim Kardashian and Vanessa Hudgens, your best nude shade is rosy beige with a definitive copper tone. “Nude lipsicks with warm undertones provide just enough natural flush to keep the nude from washing you out," says Ciucci. "Anything cool or ashy will make you look pale and wan."

How to pick your perfect nude lipstick shade
Image: Yves Saint Laurent

Yves Saint Laurent Rouge Volupte Silky Sensual Radiant Lipstick in Nude Beige (Yves Saint Laurent,$37)

How to pick your perfect nude lipstick shade
Image: Sephora

Sephora Le Rose Givenchy Lipstick in Rose Ruban (Sephora, $36)

How to pick your perfect nude lipstick shade
Image: Sephora

Nars Pure Matte Lipstick in Peloponnese (Nars, $28)

Dark Skin

For those of you with dark skin, a la Beyoncé and Ciara, opt for a nude in the brown-plum spectrum. And don't judge the color by its packaging: Deep nudes look amazing against rich skin tones. “Don't be afraid to choose something that has a ton of pigment in it, if you're a woman of color," says Ciucci.

How to pick your perfect nude lipstick shade
Image: Urban Decay

Urban Decay Vice Lipstick in Trance (Urban Decay, $17)

How to pick your perfect nude lipstick shade
Image: MAC Cosmetics

M.A.C. Lipstick in Verve (M.A.C. Cosmetics, $17)

How to pick your perfect nude lipstick shade
Image: NARS Cosmetics

Nars Satin Lip Pencil in Het Loo (Nars, $26)

Deep Skin

Those of you with Lupita Nyong’o-level skin tones look phenomenal in brown lipsticks with berry undertones, which appear almost as a neutral, says Ciucci. "For someone like Alek Wek, however, a brown-based lipstick would appear milky on the skin, so try a black-cherry red shade, instead, which will melt right into the skin tone," she says.

How to pick your perfect nude lipstick shade
Image: Tom Ford

Tom Ford Ultra-Rich Lip Color in Temptation Awaits (Tom Ford,  $53)

How to pick your perfect nude lipstick shade
Image: Sephora

Bite Matte Creme Lip Crayon in Truffle (Sephora, $24)

How to pick your perfect nude lipstick shade
Image: Ulta

Clinique Almost Lipstick in Black Honey (Ulta, $17)

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