The Best Nude Lip Liners

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Nude lip liners are a makeup bag staple — but since “nude” isn’t a one-size-fits-all color, your best nude lip liner will be determined by your skin tone, L'Oréal Paris celebrity makeup artist Sir John explains. "There are four tones," he tells Elite Daily. "I go for a pinkier-nude liner the more fair someone is, and something a hair more brown as you get deeper into the complexions," says Sir John, whose celebrity clients include Beyoncé, Zendaya, and Margot Robbie. "The third liner tone would be something even deeper, and the fourth liner would be a very warm, deep brown," he says of the nude tones that people with darker skin should look for.

As for applying your liner, if you've been lining your lips first, Sir John says to consider switching things up. "I like to use lipstick first," he shares of his preferred approach. "I apply lipstick and then liner after [so that] I end up knowing exactly where I want my liner to lay," he explains, adding, "I use a little less liner, and it is a bit quicker." When it comes to matching your lipstick with your liner, Sir John admits that it takes a bit of guesswork, even for the pros. "When in doubt, go slightly deeper with your liner," he advises. "A nice hack that I have is using a mechanical brow pencil as a lip liner," he shares. "This may not seem like something you want to do, but they are always a cooler color so they give the border of your lips a really nice shading."

To find your perfect match, scroll on to shop some of the best nude lip liners for every skin tone — plus, more details from Sir John on selecting your ideal shade.

1. Best Retractable Nude Lip Liner For Fair Skin

As Sir John notes, the fairer your skin tone, the pinker your perfect nude shade will be. However, you don't want it to be "too pink," Sir John says, "Because that would become too much of a statement lip. A baby pink would be great," he advises. Butter London Plush Rush Lip Liner in ‘Sweet Something’ is a warm nude that's more pink than brown, so it won't wash out lighter skin. The water-resistant formula creates a matte finish, but because of its unique Filling Spheres, it smooths over your lips and glides on easily. The retractable pencil means no sharpeners are involved, and it includes a small brush on one end to blur and blend your liner.

2. Best Nude Pencil Lip Liner For Fair Skin

For a traditional pencil that you sharpen to keep pointy, Jane Iredale’s Lip Pencil in ‘Spice’ is a light pink color with just a hint of brown that adds subtle warmth to fair skin tones. "Make sure not to go too peachy on a fair complexion because it can wash you out," Sir John says. Jane Iredale's pencils are made with conditioning ingredients like hydrogenated jojoba oil, meadowfoam seed oil, and mango seed oil, so the formula is super smooth and nourishing.

3. Best Retractable Nude Lip Liner For Tan Skin Tones

For those with a tan or olive complexion, Sir John recommends colors that are more light brown than pink in tone (basically, what is traditionally thought of as a "nude-brown"), though he does note that “this shade can still verge on the pink side.” L’Oréal Paris Colour Riche in Lip Liner in ‘Au Naturale’ is a light brown shade with a formula that’s infused with omega-3 and vitamin E to smooth and condition dry lips. The mechanical pencil doesn’t require sharpening, and the liner itself won’t feather or fade.

4. Best Nude Pencil Lip Liner For Tan Skin Tones

Slightly darker in color, Urban Decay 24/7 Glide-On Lip Pencil in ‘Liar’ is a mauve-nude that pairs perfectly with nude-brown and brick-red lipsticks. The formula is one of my favorites, as the pencil easily applies pigmented color in one stroke without having to tug at your lips. It's a waterproof lip liner that truly holds up throughout the day, but it feels just as creamy after hour six as it does when you first apply it, thanks to ingredients like jojoba seed oil, soybean oil, and vitamin E.

5. Best Retractable Nude Lip Liner For Dark Skin Tones

Sir John recommends medium, true-brown shades to achieve a nude lip on darker skin tones. Palladio’s Retractable Lip Liner in ‘Coffee’ is a true-brown color that's waterproof and long lasting. The twist-up pencil pairs botanical ingredients like aloe vera and chamomile extract with emollients like jojoba seed oil to soothe lips and leave them feeling softer.

6. Best Nude Pencil Lip Liner For Dark Skin Tones

For a true-brown color that's a touch darker, NYX’s Slim Lip Pencil in ‘Espresso’ is a solid choice. The super-slim pencil is loaded with conditioning ingredients like shea butter, jojoba seed oil, and coconut oil, which give it a creamy texture that’s a dream to apply. "I recommend involving a beautiful blush in the same family to tie everything together," Sir John says of what to pair your nude lip with. "If you choose to tie an eyeshadow into the look, it will be monochromatic makeup, which is right on trend."

7. Best Retractable Nude Lip Liner For Very Dark Skin Tones

The deeper your skin tone, the deeper the brown your liner can be. Maybelline Color Sensational Shaping Lip Liner in ‘Rich Chocolate’ is the deepest color from the drugstore brand's 21-shade range, and it truly is a rich-brown shade. The matte finish is also a great choice, according to Sir John. "Textures that are very matte absorb light and give a velvety tone to the lip," he says, while noting that, "For lips that aren't as full, hydrating lip glosses create visual interest.”

8. Best Nude Pencil Lip Liner For Very Dark Skin Tones

This Haus Laboratories RIP Lip Liner in ‘Shank’ is a deep brown with a Burgundy tone that adds dimension on deep skin tones. The formula is another one of my personal favorites, as the color is highly pigmented, so you don't have to keep retracing your lines (it also means it's easy to fill your lips in entirely if you prefer to wear your liner as your all-over lip color). It also applies super smoothly on lips and creates a demi-matte finish that doesn't look or feel dry.


Sir John, celebrity makeup artist