For decades, the marketing definition of â€œnudeâ€ was, like most things from American tan tights to Sloaney patent heels, based on some mythical caucasian ideal â€“ 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 weâ€™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, thatâ€™s Mac Lustre Lipstick in Hug Me (Â£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 itâ€™s worth whiling away a few minutes on one of the clever nude lip finders available on-counter and online.
Cliniqueâ€™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 (Â£17.50. A satin, like this, will look most natural; try a matte if you prefer a more â€œdoneâ€ 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 Avonâ€™s bargainous nude lipsticks ( only Â£4), and she wasnâ€™t wrong. The website features real women of all tones, and offers up two appropriate nudes â€“ one pinky, one brown â€“ in a creamy, comfy, lasting matte formula that behaves like something much dearer. Thereâ€™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 isnâ€™t automatically what flatters the mouth â€“ and thatâ€™s before we even consider how the skintone on oneâ€™s face can differ from that of oneâ€™s torso. Iâ€™ve never topless sunbathed in my life, and my chest shares a Dulux paint chart with blue.