Dark chocolate? Mocha? Caramel? When we're not ordering our favorite latte, we might use these words to describe the skin we're in. And while choosing our morning cuppa is easy, it can feel much more difficult to create natural makeup looks for dark skin. Don't worry: Armed with our goof-proof tips, you'll be rockin' the neutral look faster than you can say "Double half-caff, no foam."
Ladies, always color-match concealer, foundation and powder to your skin tone like your lives depend on it! While your skin tone can change with sun exposure, your underlying skin tone will not. In general, darker-skinned women will have cool undertones, while medium to lighter-skinned women can have cool, warm or neutral undertones. Don't know your undertone? Figure it out with these tried-and-true methods:
The towel test
Wearing no makeup, wrap white towels around your body and hair. Examine your skin in the mirror, ideally under bright natural light. If your skin shows a slight blue, red or pink tint to it, your undertone is cool. If it's yellow, golden or peach, your undertone is warm. And if it's olive or green-ish, you have a neutral undertone.
The vein test
In natural light, turn your wrist over so you can see the veins. Blue veins indicate a cool undertone, green points to a warm undertone, while a mixture (or if you can't tell) means your undertone is probably neutral.
Matching makeup to undertone
- Cool undertones are complemented by vibrant jewel-tone colors, silver and gray. Think neutral or pink-based foundation.
- Warm undertones look lovely with earth tones, gold, bronze and copper. Choose foundation that's yellow or peach-based.
- Neutral undertones can generally manage to pull off the entire rainbow of colors.
Boost your makeup mojo even more by choosing product formulations that work with your skin type and give your face a natural, glowing look.
- Drier complexions do well with cream foundation—mix it with your moisturizer when your skin craves more hydration and needs less coverage.
- Oilier skin that can handle more coverage will do well with foundation sticks, which have drier formulations.
- Acne scars can look more prominent if covered with a lot of makeup. Try mineral powder in a shade that matches your skin tone to get a more natural-looking concealing effect.
Colors for women of color
A natural "no-makeup" look can mean wearing neutral colors that very closely match your skin tone. But it's also about creating a look that complements your coloring and features so "naturally" that people don't even notice the makeup you're wearing—they just see you. Tip: Avoid one of the most common beauty fails by thoroughly blending cheek color as well as eye color.
- A bronze idea for light to medium skin. Get a natural-looking glow by using bronzer in place of blush. Aim for apples of the cheeks as well as temples.
- Brighten up darker skin. Vivid blush can also create a natural look and instantly perk up a tired-looking face. Choose highly pigmented bright corals and fuchsias so the color looks vibrant against your skin instead of ashy.
- Highlighter help desk. Using restraint, apply highlighter to the highest parts of your cheekbones. Stick to a color one shade lighter than your skin.
Beyond the shadow of a doubt
- Wearing next to nothing. Create a truly neutral look with three shades of eyeshadow: a base that closely matches your skin color, a highlight that's one step lighter and a contour shade that's one or two steps darker than your skin.
- Is blue for you? When brown feels too blah, use blue shadow to define your eyes and brighten your face. Bright cobalt blue works for very dark skin, midnight blue for medium skin and dark denim blue for lighter skin.
Get the lock on lips
- The new nudes. Resist the temptation to wear shades that are significantly lighter than your skin color—it'll wash you out. Choose lip colors that match your skin or are one to two steps darker. Match lip liner to your lip color unless you're using the liner to intentionally change how the color looks on your lips.
- Viva la vibrant. Bold color can look naturally gorgeous when you pick the right shade for your complexion. For our complete primer, check out "Alluring looks for lips."
These days, most cosmetic brands offer makeup colors that are suited to darker skin tones. But if you're looking for a fool-proof shortcut to stunning, try brands like the Covergirl Queen Collection and Iman, which were specially developed with African-American women in mind.