As a Black Woman, Nude Shades Scared Me – 10 Years on This Lip Pencil Changed My Mind

Aaliyah Harry

Image Source: Aaliyah Harry

Confession: I’ve always steered clear of nude lipstick shades. Growing up, I didn’t think nude was a shade I could wear. “It would only wash me out,” I would say to anyone who would attempt to separate me from my trusty deep brown lip gloss. As a woman of colour, brown shades and deeper shades of red have always been my safe place.

It’s not a unique experience to me, it can be a common experience for many women of colour in the UK – and it has its roots firmly in the 90s. Back then, wearing deep brown lipliners and glosses was popularised by women of colour – particularly Black women – due to lack of options as much as anything. And unfortunately, not much changed for me during the 2010s.

In my teenage years, I would buy nearly every cult ‘nude’ lipstick with hopes that it would also work for me. Now I realise those products weren’t made with my deeper complexion in mind. Nude lipsticks were so often all the same shade of pinky beige – not exactly inclusive. Nude was a shade that was apparently a go-to product and easy to pull off. But I felt that finding the perfect natural shade for your complexion was extremely difficult. If you get a shade that’s too cool, you risk washing out your complexion; too warm-toned and you might have a case of concealer lips on your hands. Over time I gave up trying to branch out, despite the fact I’d have loved to find an every day, natural shade that enhanced my lips.

Increasingly, in 2024 I’ve found there are some products and brands that do have me in mind – but my fear was deep-rooted and still remained. Basically, I’m a tough critic. But when I was recently introduced to the NARS High Power Matte Lip Pencil in the shade Bohemian Rhapsody, I was impressed. Described as an auburn brown, on deeper skin tones the product also has a slight pinky hue.

Image Source: Aaliyah Harry

Eliana Cavallo, NARS Cosmetics Field Trainer UK and Ireland says: “Bohemian Rhapsody is the perfect nude for deep skin tones. It’s a rich auburn brown shade that complements and enhances the colour of the lips while remaining natural and versatile for any occasion.” Before I could reach for a brown lip liner, Cavallo had already put the shade on my lips – and I actually loved it.

Related: 3 Editors Put Clinique’s Viral Black Honey Lipstick to the Test

I could tell instantly that this shade was made with deeper complexions in mind and to me, that truly is the key. There is nothing quite like that feeling of finding a product that works for you, especially as someone that grew up with limited options. I was smiling like a Cheshire cat the rest of the day. Finding my nude was actually quite a special moment. And once you find it, it can become a signature look that can be worn over and over.

“When it comes to finding the right nude shade for deep skin tones, it can be quite challenging due to the wide range of undertones and lip pigmentation,” says Cavallo. She explains that finding your perfect nude shade is often a personal journey: “It may take some trial and error to discover what works best for you but have fun exploring different options.”

How to Find the Right Nude For Your Skin

To help my deeper skin girls find their perfect nude, Cavallo shares some tips.

  • Determine your undertone: Are you cool-toned, warm-toned, or neutral? This will help you narrow down the range of nude shades that will complement your skin tone best
  • Don’t be afraid to experiment: Try on different shades of nudes, ranging from light to dark, to see what works best for you. Take into account both the colour of your lips and your skin tone to find a harmonious match.
  • Consider the intensity: If you have darker pigmented lips, opt for nude shades with higher intensity or pigmentation to ensure the colour shows up nicely.
  • About the NARS High Power Matte Lip Pencil

  • Transformative cream-to-matte texture.
  • 12 hour wear time.
  • One swipe gives instant colour.
  • Transfer proof.
  • What I Like About the NARS High Power Matte Lip Pencil

    I’ve never been drawn to matte lipsticks due to the dry and tight feeling that can sometimes remain on my lips. However, the NARS High Power Matte Lip Pencil is not drying at all due to the cream-to-matte texture and crayon-like tip. When you apply the product, it glides on smoothly with a creamy texture but dries matte on the lips. My lips still felt hydrated throughout the day and it wasn’t drying at all. I also love the variety of shades with this product – there are 10 and I hope they expand this further.

    What to Consider About the NARS High Power Matte Lip Pencil

    The product does claim to have 12 hour staying power but I didn’t find it was as long-lasting as that. Whilst the shade range and feel of the lip pencil is perfect, if you’re thinking of wearing this for dinner or a long day out, be prepared to top up.

    Where Can I Buy the NARS High Power Matte Lip Pencil?

    This is currently available at Boots, Brown Thomas ,and NARS High Power Matte Lip Pencil Bohemian Rhapsody is becoming a fast favourite and is often sold out in stores so online shopping could be your best bet.


    Aaliyah Harry(she/her) is the associate editor at POPSUGAR UK. She writes extensively across lifestyle, culture and beauty. Aaliyah also has a deep passion for telling stories and giving voice to the voiceless. Previously, she has contributed to Refinery29, Grazia UK and The Voice Newspaper.

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