By all accounts, the nude lip is having a moment. Perhaps it’s just another example of the early aughts style resurgence. Or maybe there’s a practical end to it, as nude isn’t as easily smeared and smudged inside masks and that it’s a perfect complement to a strong eye. Or maybe it’s simply that there are just really fantastic, creamy numbers on the market right now—and who doesn’t love a new lipstick for the holidays? Whatever your reason for wanting to sport a nude lip product, you’ve come to the right place for a quick note on application.
See, while bold reds tend to get all the attention for their precise application and upkeep—I’d argue that a nude lip requires even more attention to detail. This is why we tapped celebrity makeup artist Alexandria Gilleo on her best tips to pull it off—with as little fuss as possible. Given how chaotic this holiday season is turning out to be, I’m absolutely looking for a look that’s effortless without missing any of the glam.
First things first: A beautiful pout always starts with lip care. Prior to applying makeup, do a gentle exfoliation. This will buff away excess dead skin cells and provide a smooth, gently plump up skin, lessen the look of fine lines, and allow for a clean canvas for all that’s to follow. Just following your lip scrub, add a layer of hydration with a high-quality lip balm. We recommend something not too thick, shiny, or tacky, as those will mess up pigment that will be soon applied. But you still want something that will give lasting hydration throughout its wear. We love options that include butters, light plant oils (moringa and jojoba come to mind), soft waxes, and maybe even hyaluronic acid for a subtle plumping effect.
Once you’ve hydrated your skin, let the balm settle in before moving on to the other steps—the next of which is lip liner. “I always like to line my client’s lips with a pencil that’s about two shades darker than whatever their skin color is,” she says. When you are applying liner, the key is to be light with your touch, as not to have a sharp, harsh line–rather you’re looking for a light shading effect around the mouth. “It’s fun to even overline their lips a little bit, just to give them that nice, full pout look.”
Then it’s time for the main attraction: the nude lipstick. Find one that matches your skin or just a shade darker. Finding your perfect “nude” may take some guess-and-test, as everyone has unique undertones. Ultimately, Gilleo says, “I always tell people when choosing a lip color or choosing a blush, you have to go with something that you love.” And that may mean your favorite nude tone is slightly mauve, whereas someone else opts for something with plum undertones. All are acceptable options.
Now, past nudes have typically been of the matte variety. But Gilleo says she’s loving the creamy sticks she’s seeing this time around. “I’m seeing so many beautiful cream nude colors that have really hydrating formulas, and I love them,” she says. “Personally, I’m over super matte lipsticks. Some may disagree, but I find them to be too drying.” For what it’s worth, my personal tastes are always strongly in Camp Cream Lipstick—there’s something so delicious about a silky finish. But anything from a gentle semi-matte to a soft gloss will work for this look.
Finally, a nude lip should always be paired with another notable moment, even if it’s as simple as a full brow and swipe of mascara. But Gilleo’s go-to’s are a power eye (check out our favorite eyeliner looks for some inspiration) or a refreshing pop of blush. The latter of which feels like a fun, vibrant update to the trend.
“I feel like if you’re doing a nude lip, like you can’t go wrong with a little glow or blush—basically you want some kind of flush in your cheeks that feels radiant and plump,” she says, noting she also loves a cream blush for this look.
Inspired to get your hands on the new nudes? I know I am. Here are some options that are positively dreamy for the season. A subtle and elegant statement.
Mented Semi-Matte Lipstick
This brand was founded on the idea that every skin tone should be able to find their perfect nude stick—so it’s no surprise they really deliver. The pigment and color payoff is rich and dense, making for a perfectly coated pout in just a few swipes. We also love the sophisticated finish, which has a very subtle sheen.
Semi-Matte Lipstick, Mented ($16.50)
Noyah Wink Lipstick
This super natural lipstick comes in a variety of bright, happy shades, too—but we’re partial to the neutral tones for this season. As for the formula: It’s USDA-certified biobased and made with a plethora of plant oils, butters, and waxes. Plus, it’s housed in a bamboo carton, making it very eco-friendly.
Wink Lipstick, Noyah ($18)
Indie Lee Nourishing Lip Tint
Crafted by a skin care brand famous for their effective natural formulas, this lipstick doesn’t fall short of my high expectations. It’s made with coconut, jojoba, and pumpkin seed oils—as well as some skin-supporting natural extracts. The color is a bit more sheer, but you can build up the coverage for a more saturated look.
Nourishing Lip Tint, Indie Lee ($26)