When I cosplay, I normally prefer to tone down the color of my lips unless the lip color is an identifying trait. Considering that cosplay makeup looks can have a lot going on — for example, lots of detailing around the eyes — I like to downplay other areas to keep the focus on those features that really define the character.
My natural lip color usually looks pink, so it gives the appearance that I’m wearing pink lipstick even if I’m not. So I prefer to color my lips something close to my skin tone so it’s not distracting.
For this post, I’ll get into my favorite lip colors in my cosplay kit, and how I pick colors for certain characters!
Here’s a look at my bare lips.
Notice how the pink jumps out as a contrasting tone against my overall color tones.
I used to think concealer would be the key to this problem, however…
Here I am with concealer on my lips
Not really a look I can pull off, I think
Notice how I didn’t change anything else but suddenly I look kind of sick and dehydrated. My lips continue to be pink, but an even lighter, patchier, more distracting shade of pink.
This is where the following nude lip color recommendations will come in. Now, the term “nude” for lip colors is of course a subjective thing. I’ll just be going by the definition of them being colors similar to your natural skin tone or lip color. I apologize that I can’t speak for everyone who has a much lighter or much deeper skin tone than mine, as I only have experience with these products that I personally use. But I hope that the insights behind these choices will help guide you to choose colors to suit your needs!
You don’t have to stick to a single nude color for all your cosplays. I’ll try to illustrate character choices for these by using the cast of Final Fantasy XV, so that there can be a unifying factor while I discuss my color insights.
Also hi, I am unapologetic FFXV trash.
Some background info:
- I have kinda pink, pigmented lips.
- I habitually use a lip balm and exfoliate my lips regularly (it drives me nuts otherwise) so I wouldn’t say I have a problem with my lips being dry or flaky.
- My skin tone is uh, light-possibly-bordering-on-medium? Most products I end up matching are usually labeled ‘light’. And I am honestly confused about whether I have a warm or neutral undertone. (If you can tell, let me know!)
- I have done my best to keep the lighting and white balance as consistent as possible so that you can judge the colors properly.
NYX Soft Matte Lip Creams
I use two colors from this product line, so I guess I’ll talk about the formula first!
- The texture is mousse-like, kind of like frosting
- It smells like buttercream frosting. 🎂 But it doesn’t really stick around so that’s good if scents bother you. It also doesn’t taste like anything.
- I find this a very comfortable formula. It has been my favorite for years, out of everything I’ve tried.
- It’s really easy to apply with the wand thing. The fuzzy tip makes it easy to spread the product into thin layers.
- It has a bit of shine when first applied, but it dries down to a matte finish after a few minutes. I enjoy how the matte finish doesn’t bring extra attention to my lips.
- When I succeed in applying a thin and even layer, it feels like I have nothing on my lips after it sets.
- Once dry, it’s pretty transfer-resistant and not prone to smudging.
- It’ll survive drinks but usually needs to be reapplied after eating.
- It has great staying power so I don’t have to keep worrying about my lip color when I’m busy during a convention.
- It fades evenly and is easy to wipe off when you want to, so that you can put on a fresh coat when you need it.
- Price: ₱390.00 / $6.00
Cairo is the lightest of my picks — a peachy beige color that when applied to my lips is almost the same color as my skin. I use this when I really want to downplay my lips, or when I have to wear a light-colored wig, or for characters who have an unearthly quality to them.
I wear Cairo when I cosplay Cecil from Welcome to Night Vale
FFXV Character Pick:
Lunafreya Nox Fleuret
I would choose Cairo for a character like Lunafreya. There is not a lot of contrast between the color of her face and her lips. And given that she has light-colored hair and is dressed in white, if the lips are too pigmented they might stand out too much. Keeping an overall light color scheme adds to the ethereal air that she carries herself with. (For Luna, I’d suggest applying it as a gradient, with the product most concentrated on the outer edge of the lips and fading as you go towards the center.)
London is a warm caramel brown tone that’s like a deeper version of my skin tone. It has a similar tone to the shadows on my face, so even though it’s darker than my natural lip color, it blends in. I particularly like this color for characters with a more tanned complexion.
Since it is the darker shade between the lip creams, it has a higher contrast with my skin tone compared to Cairo. But for someone who does have a deeper skin tone, it can have the same effect as Cairo on me where it looks almost like the color of their skin. Miguel’s skin tone is a couple of shades deeper than mine, so I have him use London when his lips are looking too pink.
Me wearing London while in my cosplay of Tidus from Final Fantasy X, when I was also more tanned
I actually most often use Cairo and London mixed together. You can see that in action on my Cosplay Makeup Basics post!
FFXV Character Picks:
There is significant contrast between his lips and facial complexion, though both have warm tones. This makes me feel that a color like London would work well for Ignis.
Gladio’s lips are almost the same color as the rest of his skin, so for someone with a deeper skin tone, London has a good undertone that would give the effect of those bronzed tones blending together.
Maybelline Creamy Matte Lipsticks
I use two colors from this product line as well, so again I’ll talk about the formula for both first.
- It’s a normal lipstick in uh, stick form [gives myself a trophy 🏆] so it’s a fairly familiar thing to everyone, and it’s easy to use.
- The texture is creamy and you get an even coat of color without it tugging at your lips.
- It smells sweet like… cookies? 🍪 (This food theme isn’t going to stop) The scent does not linger on this one either, and it also doesn’t taste like anything.
- On the lips it feels slightly thicker on the lips compared to the NYX Matte Lip Creams, but it’s still pretty thin once it dries down.
- If you find that swiping it across your lips applies too much product too quickly, you can try using a tapping motion on your lips instead to build the color up gradually. This will prevent it from going on too thick.
- It is immediately matte upon application.
- Not as transfer-resistant as the NYX creams even after they’ve set, but still not bad!
- If your lips aren’t sufficiently prepped, these require a little more care to apply without emphasizing dry patches.
- Price: ₱299.00 / $7.49
Without further exploring what mental images this name conjures, Nude Embrace on my skin is like a desaturated mid-toned beige. In terms of how light or dark the shade is, I’d say it’s somewhere in between Cairo and London. But it’s still different from the color I get when I mix those two because this seems to have a bit of grey mixed in. And I think that undertone is what makes this an interesting shade! To me it gives off a somber impression.
FFXV Character Pick:
Noctis Lucis Caelum
There is a certain pallor to Noctis’ complexion — my friend says it’s because he doesn’t eat his vegetables 💧 — so I think the subtle greyish undertone of Nude Embrace would make it work well as a lip color for him. Something like London could be a bit too warm-toned (it might look too orange) and would clash with Noct’s overall desaturated color palette.
Daringly Nude is on the more pink side of the spectrum. The color is somewhere between my natural lip color and my skin color, so while the pink tone is still there, it’s not as saturated as the color of my bare lips. There’s still a bit of a brown undertone that keeps this from looking too bright and unnatural despite being a lighter color.
I feel this could work as a light but natural-looking lip color for female characters, as well as male characters with a flushed complexion. It gives the appearance of someone who is lively and healthy.
FFXV Character Picks:
I feel like Daringly Nude would be a good choice for Prompto’s lip color, as he has those pink tones around his eyes and cheeks. The other lip colors previously mentioned might look too pale or too brown-toned when surrounded by all that pink. I think this color would give Prompto a healthy appearance that looks cohesive with the other hues on his face.
(On that second photo, you can see the contrast of Prompto’s lip color compared to Noct’s. It gives them both a different vibe, and I appreciate that even something like lip color could help give an impression of a character’s personality.)
I think this color would also look nice for characters like Iris. I find her dark hair striking against her fair complexion, and avoiding additional contrast on the lip area could exude a more youthful appearance because of that “no-makeup”* look.
* — I always find it weird to say “Use this makeup thing to achieve a no-makeup look!” but again, it’s like how my bare lips make me look like I’m wearing pink lip gloss so I have to put on a little something to make them look less distracting.
To contrast, let’s take a look at Gentiana. She’s an example of someone whose lip color is a characteristic trait. Her deep burgundy lips make a stark contrast against her fair skin and dark hair. It gives her a more mature and mysterious aura.
Optional: MAC Prep + Prime Lip Primer
If your lips feel dry or you’re having trouble getting lip colors to stay on, here’s something that might help. Sometimes an ordinary lip balm might do the trick but I personally feel this lip primer does something extra special for the times my regular balms need more help. I didn’t know I needed this until one of my friends gave one to me as a present, and it was such a nice discovery!
- Looks like a slim white lip balm. Applies clear, but leaves a matte finish. Moisturizing lip balms usually leave your lips looking shiny. This smoothens the lips but does not add any extra shine.
- It smells creamy and sweet. Like a doughnut? 🍩 (Again with the food…)
- It supplies light moisture, but its main purpose is to give lip colors a better appearance. This will not heal chapped lips, but it’s really not meant for that.
- I don’t feel the need to use this with London, but I like to use this under Cairo since it’s such a light color that has more of a tendency to look patchy if it moves around.
- I find these very helpful with Nude Embrace and Daringly Nude as well. Since these lipsticks are thicker than the lip creams, it helps to use this primer as a base so that they apply evenly with less swipes. Going back and forth too much during application could make them clump up on my lips.
- When I use this under lip colors, I find that once they set they become more resistant to smudging.
- This also makes wearing lip colors more comfortable for me in general, because it usually makes me feel like I don’t have anything on my lips apart from a light balm. (At least, when used with the NYX lip creams and Maybelline lipsticks. Can’t say it would be the same for thicker formulas since I don’t have much experience with much else.)
- Price: ₱1,000.00 / $17.50 — So this isn’t below $10 like the lip colors, but I think it’s a worthwhile investment if it’s something you can use under many other products!
So here are the colors side by side, on the back of my hand.
And once again on my arm, where the skin is slightly darker than the back of my hand.
I hope these help to illustrate how different the colors can look even on slightly varied skin tones, and how these hand/arm swatches can look different from the way the colors look when they’re applied on the lips. It’s hard to see the grey undertone on Nude Embrace here, and Daringly Nude looks like it would be a brighter coral tone when it’s actually more subdued than that.
Whenever possible, I encourage you to try lip products on your actual lips to get a proper sense of the final look. However, I know sometimes the testers in stores don’t look like the most enticing things to put anywhere near your mouth.
On the occasions that they do look decent, what I would do is this:
- I usually carry sanitizing wet wipes so I’d use that to take a layer off the lip color that I’ll be trying out.
- I apply the product to my lips, mostly on the outer areas so that I avoid chances of ingesting any of it.
- Immediately after I observe the color, I wipe the product off my lips.
- I give the tester another sweep of my wet wipe to clean up the part I used, as a courtesy to the person who will try it next.
Here’s how the colors look on my lips.
To make some simple descriptions of the color differences:
Cairo — beige
London — beige + orange + brown
Nude Embrace — beige + brown + grey
Daringly Nude — beige + pink
I’ve done my best to keep the settings consistent so my skin tone is all the same in these photos, but having different lip colors appears to affect my overall complexion.
Another comparison collage, showing my whole face with different lip colors.
Again, I don’t change anything in my makeup apart from my lip color in these pictures. Isn’t it odd how one small thing can have such a significant effect?
I hope that was helpful! I really enjoy these products and I hope you will too! I feel like lip color is a part of cosplay makeup that is often overlooked, so I enjoyed sharing these things that go through my mind when I’m picking colors for characters. Do you think these things too? Or am I crazy and totally overthinking these things? Let me know! Hahaha!
Please don’t hesitate to leave a comment!
Please don’t feel shy about speaking up if you have any questions or need some clarifications, or even just to tell me which part was most helpful to you! I always want to be better at sharing content with you, and hearing from you guys really helps!
Also feel free to share the link to this post if you have friends who may need help getting started with cosplay makeup! I hope you try this and have fun!