Flattering Neutral Makeup for All Skin Tones
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.
Neutral Makeup for Fair Skin Tones
The most flattering neutrals for paler skin are light pink and peach, says Miami-based makeup artist Vivian Vasquez. Your lipstick or gloss should mimic the just-bitten look of your lips. The best neutral blush matches the color of your cheeks when you’re exercising; stay away from shades with brown undertones, which can make skin look muddy. “As for eyes, go for a rosy beige or even a silvery blue-pink to play off the translucence of the skin on your lids,” says Brown. “Avoid rust tones, as they can make you look flu-ish.”
e.l.f. Studio Bronzer in Cool
To buy: $3, eyeslipsface.com.
Kevyn Aucoin Elegant Lip Gloss in Vesuvian
To buy: $27, bergdorfgoodman.com.
Urban Decay 24/7 Glide-On Shadow Pencil in Lit
To buy: $20, urbandecay.com.
Sonia Kashuk Nail Polish in Sugar Rush
To buy: $5, target.com.
Essie Nail Polish in Marshmallow
To buy: $8, essie.com for salons.
Wet n Wild Nail Polish in 2% Milk
To buy: $2, at drugstores.
Neutral Makeup for Medium Skin Tones
This category covers a range of complexions, including pink, olive, gold, and bronze tones. The lighter shades that suit fair skin may look too chalky; go a bit brighter with warm orange-pink blush and lipstick, like the ones shown here. For lids, “shadows in the copper family work best,” says Brown.
Lancôme Rouge in Love in 128M Ever So Sweet
To buy: $26, lancome-usa.com.
Zoya Nail Polish in Avery
To buy: $8, zoya.com.
Deborah Lippmann Nail Lacquer in Fashion
To buy: $17, deborahlippmann.com.
Topshop Nail Polish in Naked
To buy: $10, topshop.com for stores.
Make Up for Ever Aqua Cream #12 Soft Copper Shimmer
To buy: $23, sephora.com.
MAC Cremeblend Blush in Posey
To buy: $21, maccosmetics.com.
Neutral Makeup for Dark Skin Tones
For deep complexions, anything from brick red to plum counts as a neutral. “If your skin has golden undertones, I find that a fiery orange blush is the most complementary,” says Brown. “If your undertones are cool, look for grape shades.” On eyes, opt for deeper metallics (think gold or bronze) that will stand out against skin. For lips, choose a color that matches the skin on the inside of your lower lip, which is often reddish brown.
Nars Blush in Exhibit A
To buy: $29, narscosmetics.com.
HIPPxRGB Nail Polish in T3
To buy: $18, rgbcosmetics.com.
OPI Nail Lacquer in A-Taupe the Space Needle
To buy: $9, opi.com for salons.
Color Club Nail Polish in Charity Ball
To buy: $8, 516-239-4200.
Estée Lauder Pure Color Long Lasting Lipstick in Sugar Honey
To buy: $26, esteelauder.com.
CoverGirl Queen Collection 1-Kit Eye Shadow in Copper Penny
To buy: $3, covergirl.com.