Women of colour need makeup options that match their skin tones. Image courtesy of Bobbi Brown Cosmetics
A gorgeous lip colour shade from Urban Decay.

For dark skinned women, finding the right match is crucial to ensure an attractive finish writes Meera Murugesan

Silver eye colour makes dark skin pop. cover.credit:stylesweekly.com.

THE makeup counter at your local pharmacy or department store can be a daunting place for a woman with a dark skin tone.

Speaking from personal experience, I can say that you usually walk up, take a look at the range on display, perhaps try out one or two colours, but you know you’re only fooling yourself.

Art Stick Liquid Lip by Bobbi Brown.

Most of the shades only look good on fair skin and you can forget about even finding a foundation or powder that matches your skin tone. That’s a Herculean challenge.

On the rare occasion when you do find something suitable, you buy enough to last months and hope and pray that it doesn’t go out of production.

Actress Lupita Nyong’o shows that a red lip can work wonders on dark skin. credit:vignette3.wikia.nocookie.net

You don’t have the luxury of multiple choices at your disposal, something fairer women take for granted. 

It doesn’t help of course that dusky or dark skinned women come in a multitude of skin tones so what may look good on a woman of Indian descent wouldn’t necessarily be suitable for an African.

Bollywood star Deepika Padukone makes a seamless match with her colour choices. Credit: s4.scoopwhoop.com

Syahidah Abd Rahman, training manager for Bobbi Brown Malaysia, says while many international makeup brands offer diverse shades and tones to cater to the needs of dark or tanned women, there are still brands that are limited to only fair shades, especially brands from Korea or Japan where darker shades are not in demand.

Syahidah adds that foundation remains the most challenging make-up product to find for dusky or dark skinned women.

“The key to beautiful make-up starts with the right foundation, in terms of the right shade match, texture and finish. For dark or tanned skin, finding the right colour match is especially important as shades which are too light will make their skin appear ashy or grey.”

Concealors in various shades from Bobbi Brown.

To add depth and definition to lips, cheeks and eyes, Syahidah says dark women should look for rich hues like burnt copper and bronze or bright berry tones. Deep burgundy undertones also give dark skin an alluring glow.

But it’s very important that they test these products on their skin to determine if the colour and product is suitable. This rule generally applies to all women.


She explains that one mistake dark skinned women should avoid is trying to “change” the colour of their skin. This, coupled with powdering on dry, un-moisturised and un-prepped skin can result in make-up that looks too thick and overly powdered.

Also avoid foundation and moisturisers that contain too much zinc oxide. This compound, often found in products containing sunscreen, can lighten foundation, causing an ashy effect. They should also steer clear of frosted or illuminating powders all over the face as it makes skin look way too oily.

When it comes to foundation and powders, Bobbi Brown has an extensive range that caters for a wide spectrum of darker skin tones. In fact, the brand has one of the widest shade ranges available.

Amanda Rodriguez, artistry manager for Urban Decay, says choices for dark or tanned women are much better today than it was 10 years ago. Brands are becoming more inclusive and that’s a beautiful thing.

Urban Decay’s Naked Skin Foundation.

But finding a foundation that matches their skin tone remains the biggest challenge for these women. Lip and eye products, on the other hand, are pretty universal.

Vibrant colours look amazing on deeper skin tones. The burnt red or orange metallic trend is everywhere at the moment and it suits women of colour, she says. Urban Decay’s Naked Heat palette for example is great for making eyes pop.

When choosing make-up, a dark skinned woman should select whatever makes her feel best, stresses Rodriguez.

“I honestly believe in women doing what they please when it comes to applying their make-up as long as they feel awesome in whatever choices they have made. It’s all about self-expression.”

Rodriguez herself loves using the brand’s Naked Skin liquid make-up because it’s lightweight and looks like skin. The shade range is extensive and the brand continuous to expand its shade range every year.

But the “nude” lipstick can be a tricky thing for dark skinned women. Rodriguez says nude is not a one-size-fits-all situation.

For example, beige is the shade that comes to mind when choosing a nude lipstick but it can come across as super flat and dull on deeper skin tones.

“The best practice for finding your perfect shade of nude is matching your own skin tone and then going just a bit rosey or warmer. You can also take note of the nipple-matching lipstick trend that is all over Instagram in the US. It seems goofy but it’s incredibly accurate.”

Angeline Yap, regional training director at Sephora Asia Pte Ltd, says there are a lot more options in the market for all skin tones. Brands are working towards catering to various ethnicities and skin tones. and Sephora too is very conscious of this fact as it onboards new brands.


She too agrees that foundation remains the most challenging product to find for women with deeper skin tones. But the Sephora Collection, for example, has 15 to 20 shades in its leading complexion lines.

Finding the right foundation is the start to good makeup.Picture courtesy of Sephora.

 “There has to be almost perfect shade matching with foundations. Trends in eye and lip products come and go, but foundation will be the product one uses over a long time. Texture and pigments in a foundation formula also determine its optimal performance.”  

 When choosing make-up shades, the best colours for dark skinned women are those which are a rich reflection of nature. Yap says shades such as peach, gold, amber and coral work well. Dark or tanned skin also looks vibrant in warmer tones of a cool colour such as olive, violet-red and orchid. Shades of maple brown, mahogany, toffee and other rich warm colours also bring out the beautiful golden undertone of dark skin.

 But they should avoid colours which are too pale especially for the lips as this will appear washed out on dark skin. 

 Similarly they must also avoid using too much powder when applying make-up as it can make them look too chalky and sometimes, even age the face.

 Taylor Frankel, co-founder of the brand Nudestix, says in the past few years, there has been a shift in the industry as brands become more inclusive, specifically, brands which have a large presence in North America.

Lovely colour options for deeper skin tones by Nudestix.

 “Due to an extremely diverse consumer, we must create an assortment that portrays all skin tones and ethnicities to compete in the cosmetic industry. Also, as more clients aspire for a natural make-up look, there is a demand for neutral tones, which differ tremendously, based on different regions of the world.”

 When it comes to colour, dark skinned women should avoid grey/cooler tones.

 “Usually women of darker skin have more olive/warm complexions so I love seeing peachy/coral/brown tones on them!”,” says Frankel.

All over face colour from Nudestix.

 What still remains challenging is finding the perfect nude lipstick for women with deeper skin tones.

 Frankel says dark skinned women should avoid using a nude lip created for a fair complexion, and look for one more suited for a deeper complexion, which is usually one that’s a shade or a few shades lighter than their natural lip tone.

For dark skinned women, the perfect nude usually consists of more coral/brown undertones rather than pink/beige (fair skinned women).


*Cover photo courtesy of Bobbi Brown Cosmetics.





Don’t use makeup to hide your skin tone
Many dark skinned women use powder or foundation to lessen their “darkness” and often ask for products in shades that are lighter than their natural skin tone. Embrace your natural beauty and buy makeup that perfectly matches your complexion.

Finding makeup can be challenging for tanned or dark skinned women. credit:cdn-img.essence.com


Navigating the world of makeup is a tricky task for a woman of colour. credit: laugh-lines.net

Don’t be afraid of colour

A dark complexion can actually carry striking shades. Warm lipstick colours such as plum, berry, burgundy or wine look particularly good on dusky or dark skin while bronze or gold makes the eye pop.


Know your shade and undertone
Always buy a foundation that blends with your skin tone. It should look like your skin. Foundation is meant to even out skin tone because many dark skinned women have uneven skin tone. When in doubt, go for a slightly darker shade but not a lighter one because you may end up with that white patchy look on photographs.


Test on your jaw
When buying foundation, don’t test on the back of your hand. Most of the time, your hands tend to be darker than your face so you won’t be getting an exact match.  Testing on the jawline will ensure a perfect match.


Don’t overdo the powdering

Many women with deep skin tones over powder because they feel it makes skin look “fairer” or brighter. A light dusting is all you need because your natural skin tone is your best asset. Go overboard and you end up looking cakey.  

Sources: www.beautyandtips.com and thehauterfly.com


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