This is a listing of natural-looking lipsticks that fall into the “my lips but better” or “nude” category. Of course, individuals’ natural lip color will affect the way any lipstick looks, but this list can be a starting point. Where possible, I linked to an image of each lip product on someone in that skintone range, and listed that blogger’s foundation match in parentheses. The NC20, etc. numbers refer to MAC foundation shades, which are commonly used as a standard point of reference online. If you have a foundation shade that matches you, you can find your approximate MAC shade by using Findation.
Brushes make a huge difference with makeup application, especially with foundation. Some good brushes at a low price point are:
- Real Techniques
- Sonia Kashuk (the brushes with black handles)
- ELF Studio
Eyebrow products will make your eyebrows look thicker/fuller.
- Eyebrow pencils are good for sparse brows; you would use them in quick, light strokes to imitate little hairs, as opposed to drawing in block-y eyebrows.
- Powder is good for adding definition to brows that are already pretty full, and typically looks softer and more diffused than pencil.
- Pomades are creams that you dip a narrow angled brush in. They tend to have strong lasting power, though they have more of a learning curve and can take more time to apply than pencil or powder. They can be used for a bold eyebrow look or a more natural one. If you want a more natural look, it’s important to use only a tiny – tiny! – amount of product; put some on your brush and then wipe a bunch of it off before applying.
- Gels are like mascara, but for the eyebrows; you run it through your brows, and the product clings to your eyebrow hair to darken it. These are best for brows that are light in color and already fairly full and well-shaped.
Some drugstore product recommendations:
- NYX eyebrow cake powder
- ELF eyebrow kit
- L’Oreal Brow Stylist Definer pencils
- NYX auto eyebrow pencils
- Wet n Wild brow pencils
Lip products add color to your lips and can make a noticeable, quick difference to your look. There are several different kinds of lip products:
- Lip balm – Designed primarily to moisturize your lips. Some lip balms are tinted; tinted balms have sheer color and typically fade quickly, but they are comfortable to wear. Pay attention to the ingredient list when buying lip balm. Ingredients like coconut oil or shea or cocoa butter are hydrating. Petroleum and beeswax don’t actually hydrate on their own; they just seal your lips so they won’t dry out further. Ingredients that add flavor/scent, such as peppermint, can be irritating to the skin. Ingredients to avoid include: camphor, menthol, phenol (these create a cool tingling sensation but will dry out your lips), and salicylic acid (an exfoliant that is also drying).
- Lip stain – These are designed to have great staying power. However, the trade off for the longer wear time is that lip stains are often drying and uncomfortable.
- Lipgloss – These mainly add shine to your lips, usually with a sheer-to-medium level of color. They tend to fade fairly quickly and can also be sticky – if you wear lipgloss on a windy day and have long hair, you may find your hair getting stuck to your lips! Lipgloss can be applied on top of lipstick in order to add shine (especially if the lipstick is matte) and/or to adjust the color a little.
- Liquid lipstick – These come in liquid form and usually dry to a matte finish. They tend to be very opaque and long-lasting, but can be drying and crack over time.
- Lipstick (in a traditional bullet) – Lipstick has different pigmentation levels (sheer, medium, or totally opaque color) and different formulas; click here to learn more about those. I would advise starting out with cream or satin formulas, as those tend to be more moisturizing and comfy to wear. Matte lipsticks, which have no shine/shimmer, tend to be drying/uncomfortable and to magnify flaky/dry lips, though they do typically have longer weartimes. However, you can wear a layer of lip balm underneath to mitigate the drying effect; I find that this often makes matte lipsticks quite wearable. I would advise avoiding frost finishes, as they tend to look dated/unflattering.
It’s easy to wind up focusing mainly on color when it comes to lipstick, but formula can be just as important! No matter how great a lipstick color may be, if the formula dries your lips out or fades unevenly (leaving a ring of color around the edge of your lips), you probably won’t want to wear it.
Eyeshadow goes on and around the eyelid and, sometimes, the lower lashline to add definition and emphasis to your eyes. It comes in cream and powder formulas. Powder eyeshadow is applied with brushes, while cream eyeshadows can be applied with brushes or with a finger. (Powder eyeshadow can even be applied with fingers as well, but brushes allow more precision.) Some drugstore eyeshadow recommendations:
- Wet n Wild (only their Color Icon shadows)
- Maybelline Color Tattoos
- L’Oreal Infallibles
- Rimmel Scandal Eyes eyeshadow stick
- Milani Shadow Eyez pencil
- Jordana 12 Hour Made to Last eyeshadow pencil
Eyeshadow can be very tricky for beginners, especially if you have a non-“standard” eye type/shape (ex. hooded eyelids, protruding or deep-set eyes, monolids – see here for more). If you keep following “standard” eyeshadow advice but feel that it’s not doing anything for you, you may have a non-“standard” eye type and may need to follow different advice for a more flattering look.
As a general principle, keep in mind that light and/or shimmery colors bring an area forward, while dark and/or matte colors make an area recede. This is the principle behind contouring, and it’s also important for eyeshadow. Essentially, eyeshadow is used to accentuate the natural shape of the eye, by highlighting areas that already extend outward (typically the eyelid) and contouring areas that are recessed (typically the crease of your eye).
If your eyes are pretty “standard” in their shape, the diagram shows a typical eyeshadow look:
- 1 – a light highlight color on your brow bone (just below the arch of your eyebrow)
- 2 – a light highlight in the inner corner of your eye
- 3 – a medium-to-dark matte color in the crease
- 4 – a shimmery light-to-medium color on the lid
- 5 – a dark color on the outer corner of your lid (the “outer v”)
For beginners, I would recommend starting out with just one color on your lid and one in your crease, or an all-over lid color only, then going on to more complex looks.
Don’t put eyeshadow too far down/off to the side; this will drag your eyes down rather than giving them lift. If you draw a line connecting the outer corner of your eye with the tail end of your eyebrow, then your eyeshadow shouldn’t extend past that line (aside from maybe putting a little on your lower lashline). Also, don’t bring your eyeshadow all the way up to your eyebrow (aside from a highlight color).
Make sure to blend your eyeshadow with a separate clean fluffy brush, using light circular motions, so your eyeshadow looks like a nice gradient and not blobs of color sitting on your eyelid. Tips for blending:
- Use a very light hand; try holding your brush towards the end rather than close to the bristles.
- Applying a matte eyeshadow that matches your skintone all over as a first step (after primer) will help you blend your eyeshadow.
- Using a “transitional” shade (a few shades darker than your skintone) around the edges can help with blending, as it will create more of a gradual gradient between the eyeshadow colors and your skin.
- When using multiple shades, go from light to dark; start with a skin-colored eyeshadow, then add your transition shade, then your crease color, then your darkest color in the outer V (if using a standard eyeshadow application as shown above).
- Don’t blend across colors; only blend at the edges. If you blend all over, it’ll get muddy-looking/overblended.
- Put down your shadow at the place where you want it to be darkest (for instance, the outer V), then blend away from that area towards where you want the shadow to be lighter. See here for more.
There’s a wide variety of eye shapes/types.
- Protruding vs. deep-set – Hold a pencil up to your eye vertically, so one end rests on your browbone and the other end rests on your cheek. If your eyeball is set forward so that the pencil touches your eyelid without touching your browbone or cheek, then you have protruding eyes. If your eyeball is recessed so that the pencil rests against your browbone and cheek without coming very close to your eye, then you have deep-set eyes.
If you have protruding eyes, using darker matte shadow all over the lid will help your eyes recede. You don’t necessarily need to use a dark color – just something darker than your skintone. Smokey eyes work particularly well for protruding eyes.
If you have deep-set eyes, using relatively light, shimmery shadow on the lid will help bring your eyes forward.
- Downturned vs. upturned – If you drew a horizontal line across your eye starting from your tearduct, is the outer corner of your eye above that line or below it? If it’s above the line, you have upturned eyes; if it’s below it, you have downturned eyes.
If you have downturned eyes, concentrating color on the outer corner of the eye, including the lower lashline, will emphasize the downturned shape. Conversely, keeping your eyeshadow and eyeliner on the top lid/lashine and doing a cat-eye look will lift your eyes up visually.
- Wide-set vs. close-set – If your eyes are set further apart than one eye’s width, you have wide-set eyes. If your eyes are set closer together than one eye’s width, you have close-set eyes.
If you have close-set eyes, concentrating dark eyeshadow at the outside corner of the eyes and using a highlight color on the inner tearduct will make your eyes look wider-set. Winged eyeliner can have a similar effect.
If you have wide-set eyes, concentrating darker colors on the inner corners of your eyes can make them seem closer together, if that’s what you want. Doing a sort of reverse cat eye can have a similar effect.
- Round vs. almond – If you can see the white of your eyes framing the bottom of your iris, you have round eyes. If not, you have almond-shaped eyes.
If you have round eyes, concentrating dark eyeshadow at the outer corner of the eye and extending it out and up, as shown here or here, can help elongate your eyes. Winged eyeliner can have a similar effect.
- Monolid vs. hooded vs. non-hooded double lids – If you have no crease, then you have monolids. If you have a crease, but the skin above your crease hangs down and covers most or all of your eyelid while looking straight ahead, then you have hooded eyes. If you have a crease and can see your eyelid while looking straight ahead, you have non-hooded double lids.
If you have monolids, try doing a gradient of eyeshadow as shown here, with a dark color along the lashline transitioning to a medium color, then a light color at the top of the lid.
If you have hooded lids, try extending your crease color up above your actual crease. Here you can see demonstrations of a lot of advice for hooded eyes.
Of course, eye shapes/types are not mutually exclusive – your eyes are likely a combination of several types, and in that case there’s probably one characteristic you’ll most want to address with your eyeshadow. For instance, I have protruding, round, wide-set eyes. I personally don’t care about making my eyes look closer-set, and the round shape isn’t really a big deal to me either, but eyeshadow looks much, much better on me if I follow advice for protruding eyes. So experiment with different application styles to see what works best for you.
Regarding choosing eyeshadow colors, I have recommendations, including specific products for each color, here:
- Eyeshadow colors for brown eyes
- Eyeshadow colors for green and hazel eyes
- Eyeshadow colors for blue and gray eyes
Other eyeshadow application tips:
- Apply your eyeshadow first; that way, if you have any fallout (bits of shadow that fall onto your cheekbones), you can just wipe it away, without your foundation being messed up.
- There are some eyeshadows that will work without primer, but as a general rule, eyeshadow primer helps your eyeshadow look more vivid, makes it last longer, and keeps it from creasing (sinking into the lines in your eyelid during the day). Use only a tiny amount of primer; slathering it on can be counterproductive. A few drugstore eye primer recommendations:
- Black Radiance eyeshadow primer
- NYX HD eyeshadow base (in a tube)
- Milani eye primer
- If you’re using bright-colored eyeshadow, using a base (a light-colored eyeshadow) after your primer will make your eyeshadow look more vivid and true to the color you see in the pan, as opposed to being “muddied” by your skin color. A couple of drugstore suggestions:
- NYX jumbo eye pencil in Milk
- Jordana 12-Hour Made to Last eyeshadow pencil in Eternal White
- To increase wear time, you can layer powder eyeshadow over a cream eyeshadow base in a similar color. Keep in mind that each layer should be thin.
- If regular eyeshadow is difficult for you, I recommend trying cream eyeshadow like Maybelline Color Tattoos; you just dip a (clean) finger in the eyeshadow pot, pat it on your lid, and blend it out around the edges with your finger. Very easy for beginners.
- Picture tutorial: Eyeshadow blending (by Hantastic Beauty)
- Picture tutorial: Eyeshadow blending (from XOVain)
- Picture tutorial: Blending is a Bitch: A Guide to Eyeshadow Blending (from Katyroleigh)
- Picture tutorial: Eyeshadow basics (by Sssamanthaa)
- Picture tutorial: How to apply eyeshadow (by Makeup Geek) – a good, simple breakdown of different eyeshadow placements
- 7 ways to do your eyeshadow – another nice breakdown of different basic eyeshadow looks
- 7 ways to use colored eyeshadow every day
- 9 Eyeshadow Mistakes You’re Probably Making (from BeautyEditor.ca)
- Video tutorial: Quick smokey eye (by Lisa Eldridge)
- Eye shape guide, with a focus on East Asian eyes (by jellyyy)
- Eye makeup for different eye shapes (from Beautylish)
- Eyeshadow looks for different eye shapes (from Smashbox)
- Picture tutorial: Hooded eye tips (by hobbitqueen)
- Video: Tips and tricks for hooded eyes (by missmai27)
- Video: Smokey eyes for hooded eyes (by pixiwoo) – includes general tips for hooded eyes
- Picture tutorial: Eyeshadow for Asian eyes (by Bunbun Makeup Tips) – see links to parts 2-5 at the bottom of the post
- Monolid tutorial: part 1 (supplies), part 2 (eyeshadow placement), part 3 (eyeliner and mascara) (by Mostly Sunny)
Mascara will darken your eyelashes and make them look thicker/longer. This is the makeup item where YMMV (your mileage may vary) most; a mascara that works great for one person might work horribly for another, so you may need to do some trial-and-error to find your favorite. Here are a few drugstore recommendations:
- Jordana Best Lash
- Maybelline Lash Sensational
- Maybelline Colossal Volum’ Express
- CoverGirl Clump Crusher
Makeup companies tend to focus their efforts on developing new wand shapes rather than new formulas (many brands actually use the same formulas). So it’s really the wand that makes a difference. A wand that resembles a comb, with very fine, evenly spaced bristles, will separate and lengthen your lashes. These are good if you have naturally thick lashes and just want a little enhancement. A wand with long, densely packed bristles will increase volume for a more dramatic look. Note that if your wand has short bristles, it’ll be easier to avoid smearing mascara on your eyelids when you apply it. And finally, a curved wand is designed to provide a curl for your lashes – just use it with the curve facing up (like a U shape).
To apply mascara, tilt your head back (so you don’t get a bunch of mascara on your eyelids), wiggle the brush left and right at the bottom of your lashes, and then comb it up from the base to the tip of your lashes. If you do get mascara on your eyelids, you can clean it up with a Q-tip.
To prevent clumping, before applying your mascara you can comb your lashes with a metal lash comb (not a plastic one; those are useless). Real Techniques, Sonia Kashuk, and Tweezerman all make metal lash combs.
You can also wipe some mascara off the wand onto a tissue before applying to get rid of the excess. If your mascara does clump up, you can comb through your lashes right away with a lash comb to fix it.
Keep in mind that mascara should be thrown out every 3 to 6 months – closer to every 3 months if you have sensitive eyes. Because of this, and because there are many good drugstore mascaras, I recommend sticking to drugstore mascara rather than mid-to-high-end.
You can also curl your eyelashes to really “open up” your eyes. I’ve never used an eyelash curler (this is why), but you would need to find a curler that fit the shape of your eyes (otherwise it would pinch and be uncomfortable). This post goes into wonderful detail on curvature numbers for a bunch of different eyelash curlers. Here’s a rundown of some eyelash curlers that are popular on the Makeup Alley boards:
- Flat eye shape – Shiseido
- In between – Shu Uemura
- Round eye shape – Kevyn Aucoin, Chanel
You would use the curler at the base of your lashes, in the middle, and at the ends for a more natural-looking (not L-shaped) curl; each time you’d “pulse” the curler a few times, then hold for a few seconds. To get better results, you can heat your eyelash curler first, either by sticking it in your shirt for a few minutes, or by using a hair dryer on it for a few seconds, then checking it against your hand to make sure it’s not too hot.
Then you’d need to use a mascara that will hold the curl rather than making your lashes flop back down. Waterproof formulas are best for this – try Maybelline Full n Soft Waterproof.
Tutorials and helpful posts:
Eyeliner goes along your lashline (right by your eyelashes) and/or in your waterline (the line right between your eyeball and lashline) and adds definition to your eyes.
Often, it’s a better idea to keep your eyeliner on your top lid only rather than lining both the top and bottom of your eye. Unless you have very large or round eyes, or want a dramatic look, putting eyeliner on the top and bottom can close your eyes in and make them look smaller. Or you can line your top lid and then apply a thin line of dark eyeshadow to the outer third of your lower lash line for added definition.
Applying liner only on the bottom lashline will drag your eyes down rather than giving them lift. However, one nice way to include some color in your look is to apply regular dark eyeliner on your top lashline and a colorful liner on your bottom lashline.
If you have small or narrow eyes and want to make them look bigger, you can apply a beige-colored eyeliner in your lower waterline. Try Rimmel Scandal Eyes eyeliner in Nude. (White can also be used, but can look harsh or unnatural, especially if you have medium or dark skin.)
If you have light skin and hair, keep in mind that black eyeliner may look harsh or dramatic, and brown may be better (you can also buy brown or brown-black mascara).