How to Pick the Best Makeup for Dark Skin Tones — With Product RecommendationsJuly 11, 2023
If you have a dark skin tone, seriously pigmented makeup colors can accentuate your features. From berries and pinks to reds and purples, bright shades tend to complement darker complexions. While deep skin tones can have all the fun with bold lipstick and colorful blush, shopping for essentials like foundation doesn’t always come quite as easily. Not to worry — we’re here to help you out. Ahead, we’re sharing a few helpful tips for finding the perfect makeup matches for your skin tone.
How to Find the Perfect Makeup Shades for Dark Skin Tones
Work With Your Undertones to Find a Foundation
“Dark skin tones can be very complex — that's why it’s important to find a brand that offers multiple dark shades/variations,” says May Cintron, makeup artist and founder of TUHLZ. “We have red undertones, golden, and neutral and range from mid- to very deep tones. Understanding your undertone and depth will ultimately determine how to choose your proper foundation shade.”
Here’s what to know: If your complexion has pink, red and blue undertones, you’re cool. If it has yellow or golden undertones, you have warm undertones. If your skin has a balance of both, you have neutral undertones. If you’re unsure what your undertone is, try one of these tests to find out.
The White vs. Cream Test
Grab two articles of clothing, one white and the other off-white. While wearing no makeup, decide which color complements your skin tone best. If it’s the pure-white shade, your undertones are cool. If the cream color suits you more, you have warm undertones. If both flatter you just the same, you’re neutral.
The Vein Test
Look at the veins on your wrists. If they’re green, then you have warm undertones. If your veins are blue, you have cool undertones. If you have both colors or they appear to be blue-green, then you have neutral undertones.
The Jewelry Test
If gold jewelry enhances your complexion, you’re likely on the warmer side. If silver jewelry looks best on your skin tone, you have cool undertones.
Opt for Jewel-Toned Eyeshadow and Liner
Jewel tones like purple, bright blue, emerald green or a deep burgundy will stand out against your complexion. “Black eyeliner can disappear,” celebrity makeup artist Nick Barose previously told Makeup.com. “I love using navy as it reads black from a distance, but it pops against dark skin to define your eyes.” He also recommends golden and bronze shades on the lids to add a touch of shimmer.
Find a Brown Lip Liner You Love
Dark skin looks gorgeous in a wide variety of lip colors, but to make even more shades work for your complexion, make sure to have a brown lip liner you love in your makeup bag. Brown lip liner can deepen too-light or bright lip colors and create a more seamless transition between your skin tone and your lipstick of choice. In a previous Makeup.com article, celebrity makeup artist Judi Gabbay recommended choosing a lip liner slightly deeper than your lip color for the most natural look.
Best Foundations For Dark Skin
Available in 40 shades and a variety of undertones, this drugstore foundation rivals our favorite luxury picks. The lightweight, non-comedogenic formula offers a matte complexion that lasts all day, thanks to oil-absorbing clay, and a breathable, non-cakey finish. If you’re having trouble picking the right shade, you can use the Maybelline New York Foundation Finder for a customized suggestion.
If you love glowy, dewy-looking skin, this medium-coverage foundation will fit the bill perfectly. You can build it up or sheer it out depending on the level of glam you’re going for and choose from 40 shades with myriad undertones. The foundation subtly blurs imperfections for a radiant, soft-focus effect that mimics a candlelit glow in any lighting.
Best Concealers For Dark Skin
When choosing a concealer, it’s always best to look for one that comes with a wide shade range — that way, you can use one formula in multiple shades to spot-conceal, highlight and contour your face. The Valentino Beauty Very Valentino Concealer comes in 20 shades with undertones listed, making it easier to find your perfect match. Our editors raved about how lightweight, long-lasting and non-cakey this pick is.
A favorite of makeup artist Jonet Williamson, this concealer is a buildable, medium-coverage option that won’t cake or crease throughout the day. It offers a striking range of shades with gold, neutral and olive undertones, which can be difficult to come by in concealers.
Best Setting Powders For Dark Skin
A pressed powder can help mattify your skin and add extra coverage or brighten up the areas you like to highlight, depending on the shade you choose. For example, the NYX Professional Makeup Can’t Stop Won’t Stop Mattifying Pressed Powder in Bright Peach is perfect for brightening up the under-eyes without adding more coverage or cakiness.
While this pick is technically a powder foundation, our editors loved the matte finish and extra coverage it gave their skin when used as a setting powder throughout the day. The long-wearing formula helps tamp down shine and keeps even oily and combination skin types looking matte and refreshed.
Best Bronzers For Dark Skin
For that just-got-back-from-vacation glow, you need a bronzer in your makeup routine. This one is a matte powder formula that’s heat-, water-, transfer- and sweatproof, so you can rest assured your sun-kissed look will last all day. Cintron recommends looking for bronzers with red undertones, as they’ll give a more naturally flushed effect.
LYS Beauty is a clean, Black-owned beauty brand that is home to one of our favorite bronzer/contour sticks. The chiseled tip makes it easy to target your application and define your features, while the creamy, blendable consistency is a breeze to blend.
Best Highlighters For Dark Skin
The cult-classic NYX Professional Makeup Jumbo Eye Pencils have been reinvented as highlighters, and we can’t get enough of the shimmery, multi-dimensional shade range. The shades Lemon Meringue, Flan, Apple Pie and Blueberry Muffin would look especially radiant on dark skin tones.
You can dust on a sheer layer of this powder highlighter or build it up for a high-shine, metallic finish. Each shade complements dark skin tones, from Molten Rose gold, which offers a pop of pink shimmer to Molten Gold, a warm champagne tone. Cintron says she encourages golden-toned highlighters “as they are more complementary and really enhance darker skin tones.”
Best Blushes For Dark Skin
When looking for a blush for dark skin, it’s important to seek out a formula that has enough pigmentation to pop on your skin tone, but is still easy enough to blend. We recommend this high-voltage liquid formula from Urban Decay. A little goes a long way in offering vibrant color payoff and a flush that lasts. Try the shade Obsessed for a pop of peach, Unhinged for a sweet berry pink or Rebellious for a warm-toned glow. Cintron loves plum and berry tones — “they really appear on darker skin tones,” she says.
These velvety matte blushes offer a vivid pop of color in a 24-hour formula. Plus, each color is pigmented enough to bring a bold flush to dark skin, whether you opt for Fearless Coral or Daring Rosewood, a red-toned brown.
Best Lipsticks For Dark Skin
These lipsticks have a lustrous satin finish and a shade range that makes it easy to find the perfect red or nude lip for your skin tone. Each shade is infused with moisturizing oils to keep your lips soft and hydrated all day, with eight hours of unwavering color.
Formulated with cocoa butter, these feel as comforting as a lip balm but offer the high shine and color payoff of a cream lipstick. The shade Glacier is a soft, gold-flecked nude that enhances the warmth of dark skin tones, while Musk gives lips a bold kiss of scarlet.
Best Eyeshadows For Dark Skin
Liquid and cream shadows tend to be more pigmented than powders and are easy to blend out for an easy yet impactful eye look. The Giorgio Armani Beauty Eye Tint Long-Lasting Liquid Eyeshadows come in a wide range of bronze-y and jewel-toned shades that will make your lids shimmer.