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Beauty: nude palettes

While the shops heave with festive glitters in outlandish shades for some imagined party animal most of us will never be, it seems timely to remind you that a “nude” palette is a girl’s best friend year-round. Not that I’m afraid of colour, but I do generally temper bold flourishes with something neutral – brown, taupe, ivory or chocolate give everything a more sophisticated air and are a particularly good foil for bright lipstick.

They provide the most wearable eye looks by far, ranging from a simple wash of one colour over the lids (using your fingers, if you like), to a more considered blend of pale base, mid-tone eyelid, dark socket and liner, and shimmery, highlighted brow bone. To cover all eventualities, four or more nude shadows is optimal (“nude” meaning any skin tone, not that generic Caucasian shade of buff the industry apparently imagines us all to be).

On that tip, I generally reach for Estée Lauder’s Pure Color Envy palette in Ivory Power, £40. There are five perfectly chosen, cool shades (think Catherine Deneuve in Belle De Jour); for warm and bronzey, choose Captivating Cocoa. I can think of no one they wouldn’t suit. The powders are a dream: soft, blendable and silky with proper pigment that deposits evenly and stays there.

If that’s too rich for your blood, try Maybelline The Nudes, £9.99, a dozen neutrals in a thoughtful mix of matte and shimmery finishes. I’m not convinced anyone would need so many, but it does mean everyone will find several to suit. An excellent option, particularly for darker skins and lovers of a smoky look, is Soap  Glory’s The Perfect Ten, £16. The 10 shades here are warmer and include an unexpected flash of aubergine that, worn as a liner, does a great job of brightening eye whites. I doubt anyone will sue me for noting that most nude palettes seem inspired by Urban Decay’s legendary The Nakeds, born when founder Wende Zomnir asked her team which four shades of shadow they’d choose above all others. That first palette spawned an empire, including two sequels, a smoky version and an all-over face palette, but the newer offshoots, Naked Basics, £23, are my favourites. These take things back to the original concept, editing out the superfluous in favour of six essential nudes that offer an infinite number of looks.

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