My Personal Quest For The Perfect Nude Lipstick

You don't have to be a lip color enthusiast to recognize that there are approximately a billion shades of lippy out there. Finding the best drugstore nude lipstick is a particularly daunting task, what with all the "cool vs. warm" undertone nonsense and the massive selection of brands.

I can never leave my house without a quick swipe of lipstick — or a longer, more careful application of lip color, for that matter. It’s not that I’m a slave to the painted pout, it’s just that I never feel completely dressed without it. I've tried it all: Matte cherry red, shiny pink, lustrous lavenders...

I've even dabbled in black lipstick as of late. The selection is exhilarating, but for someone just looking to update their everyday shade, it can be a little overwhelming. I was interested in finding a neutral tone that was the embodiment of casual cool; and yes, "casual cool" means the same thing in Lipstick Land as it does for your friends in the real world. My lipstick had to be noticeable, but not in a showy way. It needed to emphasize what I was already working with, so to speak, which meant playing up my natural, medium-tone lip color, rather than covering it completely. I’m a lady on a budget, so $30 tubes just weren’t an option in this case. Instead, I tried out samples from a pool of drugstore beauty aisle lipsticks, including NYX Cosmetics, Milani, and Sonia Kashuk. Read on to see my pick for the best drugstore nude you can buy.

Sonia Kashuk Lustrous Shine Lip Crayon #03: Peony

Sonia Kashuk Lustrous Shine Lip Crayon in Peony, $9, TargetThe lip crayon from Sonya Kashuk is definitely a fun option for everyday wear because of its easy application process. Could simply be my aptitude for art classes my whole life, but getting to “color in” your lips neutral pink with a chubby pencil was super easy. It's ideal for a flawless touch-up desk-side, instead of running to the bathroom for a mirror. The color is grounded in the neutral pink lip tone but borders on something darker (a whisper of a violet maybe, in the right light), so it's fantastic for working a trendy shade into your everyday look. The crayons lost a little luster after a few hours had passed (see "Sweet Pea" below), but because of the fun "coloring" feel, I didn’t mind reapplying one bit.

Sonia Kashuk Shine Luxe Lip Color #21: Sheer Pink Lust

Sonia Kashuk Shine Luxe Lip Color in Sheer Pink Lust, $11, TargetPacked with moisture and a slick finish, Sonia Kashuk brings the lips a little love with this girly sheen. The color and shine balance was perfect for me, so for a pretty-in-pink pout, Kasuk’s your gal.

The lightweight Sonia Kashuk sticks required a handful of touch-ups throughout the day, so prepare for reapplication if you prefer wearing an airier pigment.

Sonia Kashuk Lustrous Shine Lip Crayon #4: Sweet Pea

Sonia Kashuk Lustrous Shine Lip Crayon in Sweet Pea, $9, TargetThe crayon's color is just a half shade lighter than Kashuk's “Peony" (see above), but dialing it down a notch — even just by half — definitely created an entirely different mood. Flirty and feminine, the shade reminded me of a ballerina flat. A more matte finish makes for a slight drying of the lips beneath, but it’s still the ideal pick for a natural look-loving girl.

NYX Cosmetics High Voltage Lipstick #5: Flutter Kiss

NYX Cosmetics High Voltage Lipstick in Flutter Kiss, $3, UltaThis skinny stick had all the heavy pigment depositing luster of “Tiara” (see NYX's "Tiara" below), but this time around, in a color way more suitable for me. The sweet scent was also super refreshing, and the long-lasting color of both NYX lipsticks stayed put even after lunch and several napkin dabs.

Sonia Kashuk Satin Luxe Lip Color #81: Barely Nude

Sonia Kashuk Satin Luxe Lip Color in Barely Nude, $10, TargetThis Sonia Kashuk stick may be barely nude, but it lent my lips a chic and shiny coat reminiscent of the 90s’s warm pinky-brown tones. It’s a refreshing update on the familiar earthy color scheme, this time around with more fruit-of-the-earth (namely melon) inspo than tree bark. A sharp, pointed tip on the lipstick makes for easy navigation of your lips’ edge. Bonus: It's SPF 16!

NYX Cosmetics High Voltage Lipstick #19: Tiara

NYX Cosmetics High Voltage Lipstick in Tiara, $3, UltaThe first thing I noticed when gliding this stick on was the shockingly solid pigment. It was refreshing that with one swipe, the color deposited was just as vibrant as if I had reapplied several times with another stick.

Still, I err more on the sides of brown tones and darker shades, so this color was a little light for my neutral preferences.

Milani Color Statement Lipstick #42: Rose Femme

Milani Color Statement Lipstick in Rose Femme, $7, AmazonThe Milani pigment easily glided on with a creamy finish, leaving my lips lustrous and hydrated all day long. The lasting power of both Milani sticks (see "Pretty Natural" below) calls for a shout-out especially, as it really stayed put — even after several water glass sips and napkin dabs!

The medium raspberry hue is my ideal neutral because it enhances the natural lip tones with a subtle saturation. Bonus: It smelled like kiwi! (And in a fresh, crisp way — not a too-many-Starbursts way.)

Milani #43: Pretty Natural (My Personal Pick)

Milani Color Statement Lipstick in Pretty Natural, $5, AmazonThese Milani sticks smell seriously delicious! Like, this fragrance alone could launch a thousand drugstore beauty aisle sales.

Though the light and bright hue of Milani’s “Pretty Natural” was more candy-coated pink than my typical everyday go-to hue, the shade really works for a super casual office-to-after-work drinks transition.

The pigment deposits much the same as “Rose Femme,” easily, and without a bunch of time-consuming retracing.

Images: Elly Ayres