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Bare Essentials for Brown-Skinned Beauties

From lipsticks to lingerie to shoes, these style picks are my go-to nudes.

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An image gallery of women in various shades of nude.
Island Boi Photography
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In the worlds of fashion and beauty, sometimes less is more. A barely-there look can go a long way in making makeup look sleeker, making legs look longer, and helping to hide the goods under white shirts and sheer blouses.

But nude is not one-hue-fits-all, and until now Black women haven’t had a lot of options amidst the varying shades of beige and peachy flesh tones that line the racks. Thankfully, both industry newcomers and legacy brands are expanding their offerings. I’ve rounded up head-to-toe options for brown skin tones.

What lies beneath

When I was 15, and prone to wearing shocking pink bras under light T-shirts, my grandmother told me that no one should ever know what color my underwear is. With that advice in mind, and by the mercy of the sartorial gods, I now know that every fabulous outfit starts with a solid foundation: quality underpinnings.

L’eggs Brown Sugar Ultra Sheer Pantyhose is an inexpensive department store classic custom-made for women of color. These nylons give the bare-skin look I’m after on more formal occasions (interviews, church) and avoid the ashy cast that most not-quite nudes give.

Another option for hosiery is Ade Hassan’s Nubian Skin, a Black-owned brand that also carries great lingerie including slips, bodysuits and tanks in size-inclusive ranges.

Put your best face forward

Rihanna has been a trendsetter in so many ways, but none more pronounced than when she dropped Fenty Beauty cosmetics. Her Pro Filt’r Soft Matte Longwear Foundation comes in 40 shades and provides buildable coverage that makes your skin look like … well, skin! The brand offers a variety of options, from warm butterscotch to deep dark chocolates, sure to suit your undertone as well as your skin tone. My 420 Neutral shade was a perfect match, a welcome surprise when so many dark complexion products are either too red or too yellow.

But ask any beauty enthusiast and she’ll tell you: Fenty can be hard to come by. (My shade has been sold out for months!) Fear not — my other tried-and-true option is NARS Sheer Glow Foundation in the shade “New Orleans.”

When it comes to lips, finding the perfect nude can be tricky and will require a bit of trial and error, so have fun with it! Black women’s lips tend to be highly pigmented and are often two different colors with a brown lip on top and a pinker lip on the bottom. Even out lips with a dab of concealer or fill in with complementary lip liner in toasted brown, and then lightly apply lip color. My go-to shade is NARS Satin Lipstick in “Blonde Venus.” Another naked shade? MAC Matte Lipstick in “Taupe.”

One foot in front of the other

I need another pair of shoes like I need a hole in my head, but a nude pump is such a wardrobe staple that I made an exception. Aussie brand Shoes of Prey offers a wide range of options that you can customize in your preferred shade, heel height and shoe width. Choose from sling-backs, pumps, suedes, patent leathers and more to give your look a sophisticate’s polish. Also check out Rebecca Allen. The Black-owned eponymous brand was created by a former Goldman Sachs VP, so you’re guaranteed to find a work-friendly pair.