Comments are fixed — YAY!!! Come back tomorrow, let’s take another crack at the Top Ten of Spring, which I’ll re-post. In the meantime…
In the past two years, we’ve tackled all sorts of makeup/lipstick issues – red lips, YLBB shades (“your lips but better”), pink lips, mascaras, more red lips, foundations, plenty of, and I’m sure some other things I’ve forgotten. As I’ve said before – I am no expert on makeup, I’m just an enthusiastic amateur who’s willing and ready to play and experiment, and I always come away from these blog exchanges with new ideas and products to try.
Many women say “there is no right red lipstick for me,” but in my opinion, nothing has been more difficult or elusive than an attractive nude-lip makeup look. I think it’s particularly tricky for those of us who are fairly pale, and who are thus in danger of looking like corpses or store-mannequin freaks in a too-pale flesh-toned lipstick.
Why did I keep pursuing this goal? Two reasons: first, because I’m pigheaded. Second, as I slide into middle age, I believe that YLBB/nude lipsticks, done with the right shades, are really soft and flattering and youthful looking. Gone (for me anyway) are my goth-lip makeup days. Mostly, subtle is better, at least during the daytime.
I wish I had a dollar for every time during the past two years that I have asked a makeup sales associate at any given makeup counter to show me a nude lip and wound up with something awful. The general drill: they apply lipstick X, then frown and say, uh … that’s not what I was expecting. Which brings me to my first pronouncement – I think a successful nude lip, more than any other shade in the crayon box, is the most difficult to hit correctly and the most dependent on your personal skin tone and lip coloring.
I have pale skin with ruddy undertones, and quite pigmented lips, and along the edges my lips are almost purplish. I think this has allowed me to pull off warmer lipcolors that shouldn’t work on me – pinks veering into coral – because my underlying lip tone shifts lipstick colors toward cool. Cool-tones pinks and reds read strongly cool-toned on me. And finally, some of those vampy wines that in theory would look great on me? Look terrible. Bluish-black. Instant Morticia Addams territory. No thanks.
So the “nude” lip was mostly a disaster because, for instance, lipsticks and pencils that read truly nude – neutral toned – on their own are bluish-brown on my lips. No no no. However. There’ve been a couple breakthroughs recently, hence this post.
First off, I realized a flaw in my approach. Instead of hitting Lancome, Chanel, Bobbi Brown, D&G, Shiseido, yadda yadda to try their two or three nudes I went (HUGE DUH MOMENT) to The Nude Mothership – aka MAC. I’m sure a bunch of you are MAC fans already but seriously, if you’re going to go nude, why not start with the line that, probably owing to their younger demographic target, has more nude lipsticks, pencils, liners, blushes, glosses, etc. than any other line out there? I found an SA I liked, picked a rainy Tuesday morning when nobody was there (not an option for all of you, I realize) and asked her to show me nudes until one of us ran off screaming, and that I promised I’d buy a pack of MAC wipes if all else failed.
And so we proceeded. The first three, five or nine were, predictably, disasters (insert smiling emoticon here.) Because – yo – my lips, they’re blue. However, as she started to tinker … first, we came up with a lip pencil that we liked on its own so much that I decided I’d be getting that — MAC Boldly Bare.
Now, I’m going to stop here and make A Second Important Pronouncement, which is/was perhaps Screamingly Obvious to Every Other Woman on the Planet, maybe I just missed the memo: if you’re pale (like me) and/or you have pigmented lips (like me), then I don’t care how opaque that lippie is you’re trying to wear – you’re going to have to lighten up your lip tone first if you expect to get the full effect of the nude.
And how are you going to do that? Well, one classic makeup school of thought has you foundation your entire face – including eyelids (to delete redness) and lips (to remove color) and start from there. That’s a little extreme for me, but I’m info-sharing. Gina the makeup artist who may drop by here today, is not a fan of foundation on the lips, which she finds chalky — she recommends a pencil. However, I will confess that I’ve gotten decent results in this department by applying, with my fingertip, a very very lightly dabbed application of my trusty Lancome Effacernes concealer, or a lightly sponged application of Make Up Forever Liquid foundation. I’m not erasing all the color into freaky-mannequin-territory so much as lightening my lips several shades and making the color neutral. The other way you can do this is with the aforementioned lip pencil – so go to town. Go to MAC. They’ve got like 20 nude lip pencils; one of them will look good, right? In theory. The nice thing about the pencil is that you can draw in and create a clearly defined nude border.
Once you’ve achieved a lighter-toned lip, here’s the first experimenting I did – I have a bunch of YLBB colors (pinky-nude, coral-nude, nudie-rose, etc.) Ordinarily they go straight on my lips and – voila, YLBB. But if I put them on top of my new, pale lip, they’re a whole different color! They are, for the most part, a successful quasi-nude shade that is significantly lighter than YLBB, and the best part is: I already own them!
Which brings me to the next bit, the philosophical/color values debate and discussion: what constitutes a “nude” lip? To me, nude lips can and do overlap with YLBB colors. Depending on your skin tone, and how pale you are, your best “nude” is likely to be a slightly pinky nude – an actual hint of color – rather than a true flesh-toned nude. Furthermore, if we look at the beautiful Queens of Nude, like Beyonce and J-Lo, if we study what “nude” is on them – often it’s not their precise skin tone. Nope, the lips are very slightly lighter, darker, pinker, glossier, whatever. I think us pale girls are more likely to find success in a pinky nude, perhaps, than a light beige.
What about makeup? Well, a lot of women like to pair a nude lip with a defined or smokey eye — like J-Lo up there. Or you can go light and natural on the eyecolor as well. I definitely feel more of a need for blush with a nude lip. And I’ll say it again – in general, when trying lippies and pencils, the most success I’ve had has been with things that are slightly warm-toned or pinky, not neutral beige, which tends to read blue on me. Your Results May Vary.
So what was this fabulous lipgloss Gina told me about when I was whining about my nude-lip fail? Fine, if you try nothing else, at least go try this!! Gina recommended NARS Chelsea Girls lip lacquer, since I was so wild for their uber-hot-pink NARS Hotwired Lip Lacquer gloss pot, which I blogged about awhile ago. (No, I don’t love the gloss-pot format; I’d prefer a wand, I use a lip brush with mine.) Chelsea Girls in the pot looks … sort of like original Chap-Stik in terms of color? Meh. Weird flesh pink. I’ll warn you right now, when I tried it at Sephora, for the first minute or two I was pretty … eh about it. I swear, it must take a bit to warm up and melt into the lips. So. Give it a few minutes and take another look. This is the only lip product I’ve found that gives me a truly nude lip of the non-corpse, non-cool, no-purple, instant gratification variety, with no lip prep involved – I can put it straight on my (okay, non-dried and fully conditioned) lips without any color correction, just like a regular lipgloss, and it looks great. And it stays. Gorgeous, gorgeous color. I would never have tried it on my own. Thanks, Gina. BTW, yes, sticking the applicator in the tester pot in Sephora skeeves me out too; there’s no way to really sterilize it. Good luck with that.
I did try, while I was there, the new NARS nude lippie, which is a sheer glossy number called Cruising from their Spring collection, and which is supposed to be All That. On me, as on a number of folks in reviews on MUA, it’s essentially $24 Chap-Stik – not enough pigment. So I passed on that. But lots of other people love it.
Finally, and then I’ll shut up and turn it over to you – this discussion wouldn’t be complete without a mention of mannequin hands – which, for the uninitiated, is nail polish in a shade that is close to the wearer’s skin tone. It’s a fun topic on the nailpolish boards and blogs — I provided that link so you can see for yourself. I tried on a color, OPI Tickle My France-y, thinking it would be taupey, but it’s mannequin-ish — only slightly different than my skin tone. Well, guess what? If you haven’t played Disappearing Fingernails yourself, a light nude beige is, in fact, incredibly chic looking. I wore France-y to Paris – had a pro mani done ahead of time and took the bottle along for touch-ups. It goes with everything, doesn’t clash, stays tidy and looks elegant. My only caveat is that to me it’s very much a short-trimmed-nail look, I do think it looks bizarre on long nails. What are some of your favorite mannequin hand colors?
Okay – now, your turn! Do you hate the nude look? Love it? Tell us which lines and shades of nude lips you’ve had success with. Are all lip pencils too drying for you? Where do you draw the line between YLBB and a true “nude” look? If you’ve deployed the nude lip, what do you tend to do about the rest of your face in terms of makeup? How do you keep from looking washed out? (On me, blush is pretty much mandatory with the nude lip.) Which shades of nail polish have you used for mannequin hands? Or feel free to add any other questions, comments, etc. on nude makeup looks that you want.
photo: Jennifer Lopez, Glamour magazine, July 2007