10 Makeup Tips for African-American Skin


With their rich caramel undertones and range of skin tones, women of color have some of the most beautiful and dramatic makeup choices at their fingertips. Unfortunately, too many African-American women are unsure where to begin when it comes to finding the perfect shades, products, and techniques to highlight all of that natural beauty. Here are 10 dos and don’ts that every woman of color should know by heart before heading towards the makeup counter, in no particular order.

1. Don’t Buy Foundation That’s Too Light

According to Greg Verbeck, designer and VP at Colorevolution Makeup, the single biggest mistake made by African American women when selecting their foundation is not properly matching the color to their skin tone. Any foundation, be it powder, liquid, mineral or cream, that’s too light will make darker skin look chalky and ashy. Test your foundation against your skin in natural light, and don’t be afraid to mix two different colors together to get the best match possible. The goal is to have your foundation disappear once it’s been applied and blended into your skin.

2. Exfoliate Regularly

Regardless of how great your makeup and brush selection is, it can’t look its best unless you’re taking care of your skin. Regular exfoliation gives your skin that soft, smooth, dewy glow that every woman wants. There’s no need to spend tons of money on high end exfoliators to see results, either.

Simply mix ¼ cup of brown sugar with enough extra virgin olive oil to create a paste. Use this mixture to gently scrub your damp face three times a week, then rinse with cool water and pat dry. You should start to notice an improvement in the texture and glow of your skin after the first use.

3. Don’t Be Afraid of Color

Too many women mistakenly stick with a neutral palette, thinking that they can’t get away with bold color choices. That’s not the case. Instead of shying away from color altogether, it’s important to know which shades work best for you.

Like Caucasian, Hispanic and Asian women, African American skin comes in a myriad of shades. This means that their skin tones run the gamut from cool to warm to neutral. Knowing your undertones is essential for choosing compatible shades for your lips and eyes. Other factors should play into your color choices, as well.

For example, bold lips or dramatic eyes are a great style statement. But they should never be done together, or you run the risk of overdoing it. Pair bold eye color with pale or nude lips, and keep your eye look simple if your lipstick color is doing all the talking.

More: 10 Beauty Tips for Dark Skinned Girls

4. Avoid Heavy Metal After 40

Shimmery gold, silver and glitter are a fun way to add some shine and pizzazz to your makeup look. But once your skin begins losing some of its youthful elasticity, those shimmery eye shadow shades have a tendency to settle into your eyes creases, magnifying the look of any fine lines, wrinkles and crow’s feet. Once you’ve celebrated your 40th, make the switch to vibrant, bold, or smoky matt colors instead.

5. Moisturize Year Round

It’s a common misconception that you don’t need moisturizer if you have oily skin. Or that it’s only important during the winter months. The truth is, healthy, smooth skin needs to be moisturized year round. The key is to find a moisturizer that’s designed for your specific skin type (oily, dry, mature, acne prone, etc.) and then use it twice a day without fail. Combined with regular exfoliating, moisturizer will help your makeup look as flawless as possible.

6. Blush and Bronzer Should Be the Right Hue

Not everyone should be using pink or red to highlight their cheekbones. In fact, most shades of African American skin will do better by sticking to copper, bronze and brown blush and bronzer. If you don’t feel like using blush or bronzer, skip this step. Your makeup routine shouldn’t be complicated, so using blush or bronzer on a daily basis isn’t necessary at all!

7. Stop Over-Plucking

Ladies, there is nothing beautiful about bald brows. Over-plucked, extremely waxed eyebrows make you look angry and disheveled. And that is definitely not the feminine, sophisticated look most women are after. Keep in mind that your eyebrows take up a lot of room on your face, and while it’s essential to keep them trimmed, clean and arched, you don’t need to kill them off entirely. To make the most of those eye-framing brows, try applying brow powder or a well-sharpened eyebrow pencil from the center of the arch in short, feathered strokes. Then apply highlighter or brightening cream just under and above the eyebrow.

More: 10 Ways to Choose the Right Eyebrow Shape

8. Lipliner Should Be Incognito

Popular among junior high girls that just purchased their first makeup kit, the black lipliner and red or pink lipstick combination is a big makeup no-no. A lipliner should never be noticeable, much less a focal point of your makeup look. Instead, choose a shade that closely matches your own lip color and carefully outline and fill in your lips. This allows your liner to do its job – keeping your lipstick from feathering and bleeding – without calling attention to itself.

9. Avoid Eyeliner on the Bottom Lid

A dramatic eye look requires the use of eyeliner. But that doesn’t mean your liner should ever touch your bottom lid, especially if it’s black, brown or any other dark color. Thick, heavy liner rimming the bottom of your eyes only makes them look smaller and tired. This is true for all women, but especially those with a caramel or brown complexion. Stick to your upper lash line and the outer corner of your eye instead.

10. Focus on Your Best Features

Easily the most important makeup rule of thumb for any woman, regardless of skin color, age, or proficiency with a blush brush, is to focus on your favorite features. Choose the part of your face you like the most, and make that the shining star of your makeup look. If you have full, pouty lips, invest in a few great shades and matching lip glosses, and make them shine. Love your eyes? Then opt for complimentary hues and liners. Drawing attention to your best features will put the focus exactly where you want it, letting your natural beauty to shine through.

Many women think that it’s difficult to find the best makeup for African American skin. In fact, it’s not as difficult as you may think. Just follow the aforementioned tips and don’t be afraid to experiment. If you have your own makeup tips, feel free to share them with us in the comments section.