How to pick the best makeup for dark skin

December 28, 2015Notino
The perfect makeup for women of colour is notoriously hard to find. Many brands unfortunately still fail to properly cater to women whose skin tone is darker than Caucasian. That’s why we have put together several dos and don’ts for darker complexions as well as tips for specific products that will work for you.

Find the right base

Women of colour, and black women in particular, tend to have two clearly different shades to their skin. Using only one shade of foundation for black skin might therefore result in a flattening effect to the face. Look at your skin in a good light and if possible, use at least two foundations matched to different parts of your face. You should obviously pay extra attention to blending the transition lines to make the base flawless. 

The darker your skin tone, the more it will probably benefit from yellow and orange-based products, the former for highlighting and the latter for colour-correcting. If you’re looking to match your concealer to your foundation, try one of the darker shades of Lancome Teint Visionnaire foundation and concealer that combines both of these products. Nars is another brand that carries foundation for dark skin - you can buy for instance the Nars Luminous Weightless Liquid Foundation in shades like New Orleans, Trinidad or Khartoum.


Oilier skin requires less moisturising products, which is why powder-based dark makeup is ideal. Brands like MAC can be relied upon to offer colours for darker skin tones, so you can for example try the MAC Studio Fix Powder Plus Foundation. Be extra careful when buying powder products - if the shade is too light, it will make your skin look ashy and dull. For covering imperfections or discoloration, MAC Studio Finish Correcting Concealer will also suit many darker skin tones depending on the shade you pick.

Blusher and highlighter for dark skin

Bright berry pinks and daring orange-based reds tend to be the best colour families for really dark complexion when it comes to blusher. Makeup for black skin needs to reflect the fact that colours don’t translate the same way on dark skin as they do on lighter skin tones - you need not only stronger pigmentation, but also shades that will work with the colour of your skin and not against it. In other words, the canvas you’re working with already has a prominent colour to it and you need to be mindful of that. Lancome Blush Subtil in Rose Indien or Rouge In Love will look amazing on many dark skin tones.

That is not to say all your cheek products need to be bright. Nars blush in Super Orgasm proves that makeup for black women doesn’t always need to be striking in colour. The effect of this blusher comes from the subtle shade of the product and the way it works in combination with the daring glitter particles to complement dark skin. If you’re looking for something that is practically pure highlighter, and not just a blush with shimmer, you won’t go wrong with the beloved Mary-Lou Manizer from theBalm that’s actually even more suited for darker complexions than the pale ones.

It’s in the eyes

More or less the same principles apply when you’re choosing eye makeup for dark skin tones. So which eyeshadow colours usually work for women of colour?

Golds and yellows

If your undertones are warm, golden and yellow shades will add the most beautiful touch of light and make your eyes the centre of attention. Apply a shimmery colour either all over your eyelid, or just in the inner corner for a more subtle look.

Blues and silvers

For black women with cold undertones, blue and silvery shades will provide a brightening effect that will be either subdued or more intense depending on the specific shade you choose. Don’t forget to be careful with products that might pull a little too close to muddy gray, as they could dull down the beauty of your natural skin tone.

Purples and coppers

Believe it or not, purple and copper shades are actually quite similar in what they can do for you. They are ideal colours to create a smokey eye that will make you look sexy and mysterious while not giving the impression of a shouty, imposing colour. Once again, purples (like MAC in Vibrant Grape) will work superbly well for cool skin tones and copper will complement warm complexions. For a special coppery effect, try combining two shades of the same product, like for instance the Maybelline Color Tattoo in On And On Bronze and Metallic Pomegranate.

Lips lead the way

There seems to be a popular myth claiming that black women should avoid red lipstick because it doesn’t suit them. Feel free to disregard this supposed rule entirely - not only can you wear whatever makes you feel good, but there’s actually no good reason why your skin tone and red lips should automatically clash. Many gorgeous women from Lupita Nyong’o to Kerry Washington or Beyoncé are known to look absolutely awesome wearing red lipstick. The key always is and always will be to pick the right shade. Want something that can be both intense or quietly beautiful? Try Cliniqe Chubby Stick Intense in the colour Mightiest Maraschino. It can be lightly dabbed on the lips to give them a red tint, or built up for a proper striking red lip. For a more editorial, cool-toned berry red, you can go for the Nars Audacious lipstick in Charlotte.

Being a woman of colour, you definitely don’t have to shy away from intense shades of lip products in general. In fact, you can pull off a dark or brightly coloured lipstick better than anyone. For example the Lancome Rouge in Love lipstick in the shade Violette Coquette definitely isn’t for everyone - but it’s exactly what you should try if you’re looking for a statement lipstick for dark skin tone that will look like it was made for you.

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