Finding your perfect nude lip liner) is a lot like looking for the perfect little black dress or a classic white button-down shirt you can wear with everything in your wardrobe. In other words, it has to check all the boxes: Does it feel comfortable on the lips? Does it complement most makeup looks? Does it suit your skin and natural lip tone? Does it make you feel like the best version of yourself?
If you answered "no" to any of the aforementioned questions, then it sounds like you've yet to find the one. When you finally do, though, you'll be amazed at the multitude of ways you can use a neutral liner to enhance and highlight your lips. For instance, accentuating your cupid's bow and overdrawing your lip line slightly for a fuller appearance are just two examples of techniques you'd need a nude lip liner in your kit in order to execute.
This is where the pros come in, as they're the ones who work with lip liner on clients every day and have a wellspring of knowledge when it comes to what neutral shades work best on each skin tone. Most of you are probably already makeup-savvy enough to know that someone with fair or light skin wouldn't want to wear the same shades as someone with a tan or dark complexion, but even still, it can be super-helpful to hear from experts because you can count on their recommendations being some of the best out there. So, whether you're due for another neutral liner in your collection or you're still searching for one that will convert you to the nude lip life, check out the makeup artist-approved picks ahead to help you find your new favorite.
Fair: Nars Lip Liner in Rosebud
For those with fair and porcelain complexions, makeup artist Nick Barose recommends Nars's Lip Liner in Rosebud; a medium-toned, rose-pink shade he says does a solid job of mimicking the natural lip coloring for most fair skin tones.
Fair: M.A.C. Cosmetics Lip Pencil in Oak
If you have super-light skin and want a true nude-brown lip, makeup artist Quinn Murphy says M.A.C.'s Lip Pencil in Oak is a foolproof option to help you achieve the signature '90s makeup look that's resurged over the last few years.
Fair: Dior Contour Lipliner Pencil in Grege
A staple in makeup artist Allan Avendaño's kit, Dior's Contour Lipliner Pencil in Grege is one of his favorites for fair complexions. "It matches so well on a ton of different lip colors and just subtly mutes down the intensity when used on darker lips," he says. He adds that the soft terracotta pink shade looks also looks great under almost every lipstick color under the sun.
Fair: Chantecaille Lip Definer in Nuance
Makeup artist and brand owner Jillian Dempsey adores this taupe-ish, ballerina pink lip liner lip liner on fair complexions, as it's the perfect base shade that mutes one's natural lip color just enough without washing them out. "I use it all the time," she quips. (A couple of Dempsey's clients include Kristen Stewart and Leslie Mann, both of whom have fairer skin tones.)
Light: Charlotte Tilbury Lip Cheat Lip Liner in Pillowtalk
Another go-to for Avendaño is the widely-beloved Charlotte Tilbury Lip Cheat Lip Liner in Pillowtalk. It's a pinkier-nude than Dior Grege, he explains, and a shade that he finds to complement naturally-pink lips the most. Murphy and makeup artist Robin Black of Beauty Is Boring and are also fans of Pillowtalk for light skin tones. "It's a great pinky-nude that gives light and soft definition," says Murphy.
Light: Kat Von D Everlasting Lip Liner in Bow N Arrow
Another excellent option makeup for light complexions is Kat Von D's Everlasting Lip Liner in Bow N Arrow, says makeup artist Joanna Schlip. It's a fawn-nude shade that brightens the skin, saturates the lips in rich color, and lasts all day, she says.
Light: Urban Decay 24/7 Glide-On Lip Pencil in Naked
This medium-toned, beige-pink from Urban Decay is just dark enough to enhance lighter complexions without looking too stark, which is why Schlip specifically loves this liner for slightly overdrawing the lips, as it still appears natural and defined.
Light: Make Up For Ever Aqua Lip Waterproof Lipliner Pencil in Rosewood
Another must-have for Schlip is Make Up For Ever's Aqua Lip Waterproof Lipliner Pencil in Rosewood, which she says stays put no matter what and looks especially lovely on light skin tones. If you haven't noticed, it seems that shades in the "rose" family are best suited for light complexions when it comes to lip liner.
Medium: Chanel Precision Lip Definer in Mordore-Nude
For medium complexions, Black is obsessed with Chanel's Precision Lip Definer in Mordore-Nude, which is the perfect medium-to-deep taupe-y mauve with a subtle metallic bronze finish. "It's very sophisticated and lovely under clear gloss or a bit of balm," she says, adding that the unusual and lovely finish is worth a mention all on its own.
Medium: Dior Rouge Dior Ink Lip Liner in Tender
A cool-toned mauve with brown undertones, Dior's Rouge Dior Ink Lip Liner in Tender is ideal for medium complexions with a neutral balance of cool and warm colors in their skin. The shade itself aside, Black raves about this one's formula: "It's a liquid I use over the entire lip in place of actual lipstick" she says. "It's such a cool, innovative formula."
Medium: Votre Vu Drawmatic Lip Liner in Spark
A favorite among the bevy of lip liners in his collection, Barose recommends this spiced hue from Votre Vu for medium skin tones, as he says it beautifully defines and warms-up the lips without being too overpowering. In other words, you can definitely wear it on its own, but it shouldn't disrupt any lipstick color you should want to throw on top.
Tan: Nars Lip Pencil in Borneo
A warm-toned terracotta hue with subtle hints of rose, Nars's Lip Pencil in Borneo perfectly complements tan or olive complexions with yellow undertones. Schlip uses it to create definition and subtly shape the lips for a soft-but- sculpted effect.
Tan: Charlotte Tilbury Lip Cheat Lip Liner in Foxy Brown
Another stellar neutral liner option for tan complexions is Charlotte Tilbury's Lip Cheat in the shade Foxy Brown, which comes highly touted from both Murphy and Black. "The creamy formula has a good balance of brown, red, and ochre so it doesn’t appear gray or ashy on darker skin tones," says Murphy. (Bonus points for the fact that it leaves lips feeling moisturized for hours.)
Tan: L’Oréal Paris Colour Riche Matte Lip Liner in Matte's It
Avendaño swears by this drugstore liner by L’Oréal Paris for those with tanner complexions. "It’s definitely more of a brownish-nude with a hint of pink that's perfect for those with naturally browner lip shades," he explains. It's also under $10, making it a wallet-friendly option worth adding to your arsenal.
Dark: Pat McGrath Labs Permagel Ultra Lip Pencil in Ground Control
For those with dark and deep complexions, Schlip says you can't go wrong with Pat McGrath's Permagel Ultra Lip Pencil in the shade Ground Control, a rich chocolate-brown hue that won't feather or transfer throughout the day thanks to its next-level technology.
Dark: Surratt Beauty Moderniste Lip Pencil in Chocolat Bisous
Another stunning high-end option for dark complexions is Surratt Beauty's Moderniste Lip Pencil in the color Chocolat Bisous. Recommended by Black, the highly-pigmented brown hue won't wash the lips out but instead enhance and define them beautifully. It's also another one that looks gorgeous paired under a simple clear gloss or balm for that coveted my-lips-but-better effect.
Dark: Bobbi Brown Lip Pencil in Rum Raisin
A classic favorite from Bobbi Brown, Rum Raisin is unique in that it has cool, berry undertones that work to brighten deep complexions. Its nourishing formula also helps to keep the lips looking hydrated and plump all day.
Dark: M.A.C. Lip Pencil in Chestnut
Just about every expert ishonest spoke with recommended M.A.C.'s Lip Pencil in Chestnut for dark complexions, so you know it's the real deal. "This is such a great lip liner for dark skin tones," raves Avendaño. "I love creating an ombré lip with it by softly lining and partially filling in the lips," he adds of his go-to technique.
"It's a beautiful true brown that doesn't look too cool and suits deep skin tones for natural-looking definition," says Murphy.
Dark: Lancôme Le Lip Liner in Sheer Chocolat
This rich, true-brown lip liner from Lancôme is a favorite of Barose's for dark complexions, who says it defines without being too severe or too brown. What's more, it's dual-ended with a lip brush on one end, which comes in handy if you want a super-precise application or to fill in your entire lip with it.
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