Are Neutrals the Same as Nudes?

Not exactly. “Nudes are flat colors, like bone, beige, and brown, that look the same no matter whose skin they’re on,” says makeup guru (and neutrals champion) Bobbi Brown. “Neutrals include tones naturally found in the skin, like peach, rose, bronze, and even plum.” The general rule for picking the right neutral—whether your skin tone is fair, medium, or dark—is to stick to hues within two shades (lighter or darker) of your natural lip, cheek, and eyelid colors.


How to Keep Basic From Getting Boring

Mix textures. Choose one product with a shimmery finish and wear matte shades on the rest of your face—say, a sparkly blush with matte shadow and lipstick. “Shimmer draws attention to areas you want to highlight,” says Charlotte Willer, a makeup artist for Maybelline New York, and helps you avoid the monochromatic effect (yawn).

Two layers are better than one. Sticking to your neutral palette, try a deeper lipstick with another shade of gloss on top. Or sweep cream color over your cheekbones and finish with a pop of powder blush on your apples. The slight contrast is more complex (and interesting).


The Finishing Touches

“Concealer is an absolute must when wearing neutral makeup,” says Brown. The goal is to look natural and fresh, so you don’t want dark under-eye circles to ruin the effect. Mascara and liner also help open up the eyes: Choose brown for a softer daytime look and black for evening.


A Note on Nails

Like Linen? So does Essie Weingarten. Despite all the colors she has to choose from in her eponymous polish line, she admits to wearing a neutral shade nearly every day. “I love that it can look casual and dressy,” she says. But as with all makeup, one woman’s tasteful neutral may be another’s sidewalk chalk. To find the shade that suits you, try this tip from celebrity manicurist Deborah Lippmann: After painting on the color, look at your cuticles. If they almost match the polish, you’ve nailed it.