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7 Essential Makeup Tips for Dark Skin Tones According to the Pros


While expertly navigating makeup for your skin tone can be a tricky task, it's also the quickest way to exponentially improve your beauty game. If you're using products like eyeshadow, liquid foundation, bronzers, or lipstick that are tailored to your skin tone, it will tie your look together and make your complexion glow.

If you're in search of a bit of guidance on how to tailor your makeup to expertly suit darker skin tones, we're sharing 7 of the best makeup tips for those with deep complexions below.

About the Expert:

Ellen Bodkins is an NYC-based celebrity makeup artist who has done makeup for TV, film, weddings, and special events.

1. Embrace color. 

People with deep and dark skin tones look stunning when sporting bright, bold, beautiful colors. While some options may look intimidatingly bright in the pan, tube, etc., give them a try. You may be surprised how these colors play and contrast your skin tone. If you’re having trouble figuring out which shades suit you, NYC-based makeup artist Ellen Bodkins recommends taking some time to ask the experts for help.

“If you are at a loss when finding your go-to shades it's always great to defer to an artist. Access their knowledge by stopping at a makeup counter and asking an artist for opinions about optimal colors,” she says. “Try the colors right then and there and you will be able to see what looks great on you and go from there. You can also do a YouTube search for makeup artists and influencers that look like you. They always have super helpful lists, and it's free.”

2. Warm up your blush shade.

“Bright pink or peach blush tones can give dark skin tones an ashy appearance,” Bodkins says. Instead, look for deeper, richly pigmented blush shades like a warm magenta, purple-hued berry tones, or golden pinks and reds. The blush shade that looks best on you can also depend on your skin’s undertone (warm, cool, or neutral). Not sure what your undertone is? Use our guide to find out.

If you struggle to get the look you’re going for with powder blush, try a cheek stain or highly-pigmented cream blush instead. These are not only more hydrating but will have a better color payoff. FYI: Cream blush is great for dry skin types but those with oily skin may want to stick to a powder formula.

Close-up image of a model wearing bright red lipstick and blue and red pattern outfit lying down on a red couch

3. Don’t shy away from a bold lip.

“Deep plums, wines, and reds look wonderful [on dark skin tones],” says Bodkins. “Mauves and nudes and apricot shades look great as well.” For a classic day-to-night red, we’re loving the BEAUTY FOR REAL Lip Cream + Color in Really Red, a nourishing lip cream formulated with hydrating cupuacu seed butter.

Whether you opt for a matte, natural, or glossy finish is entirely up to you and your skin type!

4. Go golden when highlighting.

When it comes to highlighting dark skin tones, reach for highlighters with gold, rose gold, or bronze tones. Frosty, silvery, pink-hued highlighters have a tendency to cause a dulling effect on dark complexions, which is exactly the opposite effect you’re trying to achieve!

If you can’t find a shade that feels exactly right, don’t be afraid to layer multiple highlighting shades to create your own custom combo. Try blending something like the ESTATE COSMETICS Dew Me Baked Highlighter in Byeee and the ESTATE COSMETICS Dew Me Baked Highlighter in Lit, both of which feature golden tones. These are also “baked” formulas meaning you can apply them dry or wet. Applying it wet (with a damp brush) will intensify the pigments making the color more pronounced.

If your skin is on the drier side and you tend to steer away from powder formulas, opt instead for a creamy highlighting stick to boost your glow. You can still create your own custom combo with something like this golden highlighting set.

5. Test foundation shades on your jawline.

When selecting the perfect shade of foundation, don’t just swipe a bit on your cheek to see if it’s a fit. Instead, Bodkins says, “You want to balance the shade between the tones of your face, neck, and chest area to make sure you get the best shade. Forgo testing foundations on your hands–our hands tend to be different shades than our faces. It's always best to place the foundation swatch on your jawline.”

To properly test liquid foundation on the jawline, smear a vertical line going from the lower half of the cheek down to just below the jawline. The right foundation should basically disappear into the skin without much work at all.

DOUCCE COSMETICS Freematic Limited Edition Smokey Pro Palette

6. Consider your undertones when choosing eyeshadow.

Dark skin tones look stunning in bold colors, so don’t shy away from an opportunity to rock a bright eye makeup. However, whether you have fair skin, medium skin, or dark skin, you always want to make sure you take into account your skin’s undertone when applying eyeshadow.

Cooler shades will complement cool undertones best, while warm shades will complement warm undertones best. If you have neutral undertones, lucky you! You can have fun with pretty much everything!

For those with dark skin tones and warm undertones, consider the DOUCCE COSMETICS Freematic Limited Edition Smokey Pro Palette, which comes packed with smokey neutrals that can be paired together or solo.

If powder shadows aren't showing up as bright as you’d like them to on your skin, try applying an eyeshadow primer or concealer first. Alternatively, try using a cream or liquid eyeshadow which are often richly pigmented and have a big color payoff.

7. Don’t skimp on SPF.

As always, SPF should be an essential step in your daily makeup and/or skincare routine. While dark skin tones may not burn as quickly as fair skin tones, daily protection is still needed to block harmful UV rays and premature signs of aging.

If you’re on the hunt for a clean, everyday moisturizer with your daily dose of SPF, try out MURAD’s Essential-C Day Moisture Broad Spectrum SPF 30. It's lightweight enough to easily be applied before makeup. It also comes packed with ginkgo biloba leaf extract to shield skin from environmental aggressors, like pollution.

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About the author
Cortney Clift
Cortney is a New York-based freelance writer who has written about beauty and wellness for more than six years. She was previously the senior writer and special projects editor at Brit + Co where she covered a wide range of news and lifestyle topics.
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Article Last Updated August 2, 2020 12:00 AM