The Best Makeup for Dark Skin, According to Professional Makeup Artists
Finding makeup that matches is no small feat. And for decades, if you were a darker-skinned person, finding makeup that matched your melanin-rich complexion was near impossible. Thankfully, the beauty industry is making more of an effort to be inclusive in their offerings, so we have more options. Still, selecting the right products can be challenging; that’s why we tapped the pros to weigh in on the best makeup for dark skin currently on the market.
First, what’s the best way to determine your undertones?
The term “undertone” is one of those words that gets thrown around and is frequently misunderstood. Basically, your undertones are the colors that are underneath your skin and affect your overall hue. Not to be confused with your skin tone—which is your surface complexion, the outer skin, and can fluctuate as the weather changes; your undertones don’t change, ever. There are three types of undertones: cool, warm and neutral.
Understanding undertones is especially important for dark-skinned ladies because it can mean the difference between a sunny glow or a ghost-like cast and few things are worse than scrolling through your photo gallery after a night out only to find out that your foundation makes you look like you just walked out of the crypt. Luckily, there are several ways to figure out your undertones so you can find makeup that actually looks like your skin.
1. The vein test. According to L’Oréal Paris, if the veins on your wrist lean toward the blueish-purple end of the spectrum, you have cool undertones; if they’re slightly greener, then you have warm undertones and if you’re unable to nail down what color your veins are, you’re neutral.
2. The jewelry test. Another helpful tip: The jewelry test. “If you look better in gold, you’re a warm undertone. If your skin looks better against silver, you’re a cool tone. And if both are complementary, then you’re a neutral tone,” says celebrity makeup artist, Jamie Greenberg.
3. The jawline swatch. Perhaps the most effective way to select a foundation is to actually try it on your face. But before you go ham at Sephora, remember to patch test using the smallest amount of product possible, just in case you’re allergic. Other than that, Greenberg suggests picking three foundations that look similar to your skin tone, and applying them in a vertical stripe from your jaw to your neck (the two are often different colors). The shade that blends the best is the one for you.
What about the rest of your makeup?
In the past, the primary issue with color cosmetics like eyeshadows and blush was that because they were created with lighter skin tones in mind, they would often leave a darker-skinned person looking chalky or washed out. Today, more companies have adapted their formulas to accommodate a wider range of skin tones. So, whether you want to go for highly pigmented products or non-pigmented ones—products that don’t impart as much color on your skin—is up to you. There is just one caveat to consider: “Pigments can oxidize on your skin,” cautions Venice-based makeup artist and senior beauty editor of MyBeautik, Laura Roncagli. “Darker shades of non-pigmented also have a more natural appearance on darker skin. I use both types of products, but mostly the non-pigmented ones.”
The Best Makeup for Dark Skin
1. Fenty Beauty by Rihanna Pro Filt’r Soft Matte Longwear Liquid Foundation
One of the most appealing factors about Fenty Beauty is its expansive shade-range for all types of people—and this liquid foundation is no exception. This soft matte, long-wear formula comes in a whopping 50 shades and is oil-free and water resistant, which makes it perfect for those formal events where you can’t steal away to blot your face. “The brand has since launched multiple different finishes beyond matte, so there’s literally a foundation for anyone and everyone," says Lindsay Kastuk, a commercial make-up artist based in New York.
2. Black Radiance True Complexion Contour Palette
Best contour palette
Want to showcase those sharp cheekbones and chiseled jawline? Then go with this sculpting palette that you can pick up at your local drugstore. At only $8, it gives you the tools to contour your face and bring out your best features, while staying budget-friendly. “The Black Radiance True Complexion Contour Palette is great because it has light to medium-dark shades that conceal, contour and soften features by adding dimension,” says Roncagli. “The set includes eight essentials to achieve a flawless look: a matte cream foundation, a powdered bronzer duo, two highlighters, an eyeshadow palette with nine satin and matte hues and a crème bronzer in three different intensities of color.”
3. Danessa Myricks Beauty Power Bronzer Cream Bronzer
Created by Danessa Myricks, who is a makeup artist herself, this brand does away with the myth that darker-skinned women don’t need bronzer. In the past, bronzers had a reputation of looking chalky on richer skin, but now there are options—like this one—that deliver a natural-looking, sun-kissed glow. The buildable formula is free of parabens, formaldehydes and other pore-clogging, acne-causing ingredients.
4. Black Opal True Color Soft Velvet Finishing Powder Foundation
Best finishing powder
If you were a black girl obsessed with makeup in the early-mid 2000’s, Black Opal was probably your go-to brand because not only did it offer a wide range of shades, but it was also hypoallergenic and non-comedogenic. Thankfully, they haven’t altered their formulas too drastically over the years and are still dependable when it comes to finding shades for our fellow chocolate-hued sisters. This finishing powder is a standout for us because it’s oil-absorbing, which means you won’t need a filter when you snap pics of your flawless beat for the ‘Gram.
5. Babe Lash Volumizing Filler
Best brow gel
It doesn’t matter what anyone else says; we strongly believe that eyebrows are the most important part of any makeup look. Whether you’re going all out for a wedding or you’re keeping things light for Sunday brunch, if your eyebrow game is lackluster or mismatched, the entire look won’t work. And that’s why this tinted brow gel from Babe Lash is key for any makeup bag. Not only will it volumize your brows when you’re wearing makeup, but it’s also infused with biotin, which makes your brows look fuller over time. “I [use it] to softly define the arches, as it comes in two shades that mimic natural hairs,” says NYC-based celebrity makeup artist, Suzy Gerstein. “I often layer the two on deeper skin tones to get the added definition and depth, while maintaining softness.”
6. NARS Radiant Creamy Concealer
When it comes to concealer, you want a product that is tried, true and delivers every time. That’s why this famed pick from NARS is your best bet for masking those blemishes and vanishing those under-eye circles. It comes in 22 shades and has a mineral base and a tone-balancing finish that’ll leave your skin looking radiant, fresh and natural for up to 16 hours.
7. Mented Cosmetics Lip Gloss
Best lip gloss
Known for being one of the few companies that specializes in nude shades for black women, Mented Cosmetics is another solid choice. We love their lip gloss, which is non-sticky and therefore doesn’t cling to the inside of your mask. It’s made with castor seed oil to keep your lips nice and smooth. The color is also buildable, so you can take things from day to night effortlessly.
8. Yves Saint Laurent Rouge Volupté Shine Lipstick Balm
If you're looking for a bold red lipstick that stands out and lasts for a long time, Yves Saint Laurent definitely delivers. Though the $38 price tag is a bit of a splurge, that buttery application and luminous finish will make it all worth it. Rouge Volupté is made with 65 percent oils, pomegranate extract, and macadamia butter to soothe, soften and moisturize lips. Plus, that rich red color looks smashing on everyone.
9. Fenty Beauty by Rihanna Diamond Bomb All-Over Diamond Veil
Put it on your face and your body to add some sparkle to date night. (We recommend a light dusting on your clavicles and shoulders). This multi-tasking diamond-dusted highlighter won’t disappear on dark skin like other highlighters tend to. Plus, it has a unique, jelly-powder formula that’s cool to the touch, blends seamlessly into your skin and doesn’t leave behind a gritty texture.
10. Juvia's Place The Masquerade Mini Eyeshadow Palette
Best eyeshadow palette
No one does eyeshadow palettes quite like Juvia's Place. We can always count on their shadows to pop on darker skin. The brand offers plenty of options for women who love to wear a ton of color and those who like to keep their makeup lowkey. A good starting point? The Masquerade Mini Eyeshadow Palette, which comes with 16 shades in matte, shimmer and satin finishes.