I remember my preteen self perusing the drugstore beauty aisle and leaning my amateur eyes over fancy makeup counters at department stores searching for makeup to complement my dark skin tone. The limited amount of "nudes" and "foundations" available led me to believe those weren't made with me in mind. Often, beauty brands misinterpreted "nude" as one-shade-fits-all and the beige, chalky-pink options did not work for my deep complexion. Foundation lines took a more careless, singular approach with foundation and created one or two "deep" foundations as if women of color didn't have a myriad of complex complexions and undertones that also deserved an array of shades suitable for our skin tones.
It's even more unsettling when you think on the fact that black women spend over $7.5 billion on beauty products every year, 80% more on cosmetics, and twice as much on skincare than other consumers.
This has gotten better in recent years, thanks to revolutionary brands that have put women of color first before it became the most marketable and strategic business move. Working in the beauty industry, you get a firsthand look at fresh launches and an opportunity to test the latest and greatest beauty products. I'm proud to say I finally found my perfect nude, which is Inglot Matte Lipstick in shade 449 ($19). And my go-to foundation is Fenty Foundation in shade 420 ($34). I called on fellow brown-girl beauty editors to share the story behind how they found their holy-grail nude lipstick, go-to foundation, and the one hair product they always reach for.
Prepare to take notes on beauty brands making products for us and by us.
All-time favorite nude lipstick: "After many years in the beauty biz, I only found my all-time favorite nude lipstick last year! Crazy. It's Dose of Colors Matte Liquid Lipstick in Cork. The brand was new to me (I discovered it through a story I was working on), so I decided to try a few shades. I'm obsessed with liquid formulas, and this shade is literally one shade lighter than my skin tone—it blends perfectly. I literally gasped when I first put it on."
Go-to foundation: "I feel like I've tried every brand of foundation (expensive and budget) and have been pleasantly surprised with some drugstore finds. My current fave is Revlon Youth Fx in Cappuccino ($12)—but my all-time favorite is Vera Moore Cosmetics Sheer Beginning Foundation ($25). This brand was made by a woman of color for women of color, so the shades are just right. It's a medium coverage, but it hides my hyperpigmentation perfectly and isn't super mattifying like other formulas I've tried.
The one hair product you can't live without: "Kerastase Nutrive Nectar Thermique ($25). I'm a natural girl addicted to a blowout. This is the best heat protector, primer, and smoother that I've tried. It keeps my hair healthy and doesn't weigh it down or make it greasy. A must for my wash-and-blow days."
All-time favorite nude lipstick: "Urban Decay 1993. I've tried so many 'nude' lipsticks, but they usually come out looking ashy or too dark (even though I do love a moody chocolate lip). This taupe shade has just the right hint of pink to match both my top and bottom lips. But it isn't so matchy-matchy that my lips disappear, making me look like a ghost."
Go-to foundation: "Dermablend Flawless Creator Liquid Pigments ($40) is my favorite foundation. I don't like the feeling of a lot of product, and one drop of this mixed with my favorite primer is enough to cover my entire face. If I want more coverage, I can add more drops for a full-coverage look."
The one hair product you can't live without: "Mielle Organics Avocado Hair Milk ($16). This is the G.O.A.T. when it comes to leave-in conditioners for type 4 hair. As beauty editors, we get a lot of things free, but I actually buy this product (of course, I love supporting a black business owner as well). As soon as I put this on my hair, it's soft and I can comb through it pretty easily."
All-time favorite nude lipstick: "Mented Cosmetics! I love the concept of the brand, and you can't go wrong with any of its shades. Honestly, before that, I typically avoided nudes because they never really worked—too chalky or too beige. I love Fenty Beauty's Universal Gloss Bomb ($18) and Elizabeth Arden Lipgloss in Nude Oasis ($20) as well."
Go-to foundation: "I don't really wear foundation because I like my skin to breathe (and I'm lazy), but if it's a special occasion, I use Laura Mercier Candleglow Soft Luminous Foundation in Praline ($48) or Estée Lauder Double Wear Nude Water Fresh Makeup Broad Spectrum SPF 30 in Sandalwood ($42)."
The one hair product you can't live without: "Leave-in conditioner! I've been changing my hair color for the past few months, which has left it dry. I'm super obsessed with Mizani's 25 Miracle Milk ($13) because it hydrates, defines my curls, and brings my hair back to life."
All-time favorite nude lipstick: "I swear by Mented Cosmetics' Foxy Brown ($17) and Brand Nude ($17). It's a shade that's exactly my lip color but better. Mented truly designed a lipstick with our melanin in mind. It also recently raised $1 million in capital, so I'm hoping for much, much more from the brand."
Go-to foundation: "To be honest, I don't wear foundation, but I live by concealer. My go-to is Nars Radiant Creamy Concealer in Amande ($30). It's super lightweight, buildable, and doesn't crack by the end of the day."
The one hair product you can't live without: "I've tried tons of leave-in conditioners and moisturizers, and nothing defines my curls like Earth's Nectar's Coconut Curls ($24). I discovered it when I was a beauty editor at Essence years ago, and it's hard for me to use anything else. I'm praying the brand doesn't discontinue it!"
All-time favorite nude lipstick: "It took forever for me to find my nude because when I started experimenting with makeup as a teen, I was told that my nude was just any ole brown. That couldn't be further from the truth. Everyone has different undertones, and a tan or a café au lait is no good for me. Honestly, I'm a bit impatient and gave up on my search for a really long time. But last year, I stumbled across Mented Cosmetics' collection of shades made specifically for women and men with melanin and finally found my match.
My favorites are Foxy Brown and Dark Night. Because the finish is sheer, I'll tap a little translucent powder on top to make it matte."
Go-to foundation: "Honesty hour: I don't like foundation. Even the lightest ones are just way too heavy for me. Instead, I reach for Nars Velvet Matte Skin Tint in Polynesia ($45), which is perfect for my no-makeup makeup aesthetic. It's literally a moisturizer and goes on so smoothly on top of my face cream and serum (once I let it settle in for a bit). I also get really shiny in my T-zone, so the blurring powders—and the SPF 30—are a godsend on those sticky days in the summer. When I do need a 'real' foundation, though, you know it's Fenty Beauty ($34).
Priscilla Ono, one of the brand's global artists, matched me a few months ago, and 480 literally looks like my skin."
The one hair product you can't live without: "My hair routine is never the same on any given week. I just started wearing my natural coils last year and try out so many stylers, masks, and conditioners in an attempt to find what works best. But I've remained faithful to one product these past few months and that's Cantu Coconut Curling Cream ($6). My hair is short, but it's thick and absorbs water and product like a sponge. Even the tiniest dollop gives my dried out 'fro some serious definition.
And the cream makes my twist-outs and braid-outs sing."
All-time favorite nude lipstick: "I love MAC's Velvet Teddy lipstick. It's an oldie but a goodie. After swatching so many nudes, I always come back to this one. I have two-toned lips, and the undertones in this shade seem to balance out my tone while adding a pretty subtle hint of color."
Go-to foundation: "That's a tough question because I go back and forth depending on the season. However, I have to say hands down Giorgio Armani's Luminous Silk Foundation ($64) will always get five stars in my book. It never goes on too red or too orange and melts right into my brown skin seamlessly. I remember working in beauty at Essence years ago, and makeup artist Tim Quinn came along with the team to match the brand's foundations to women on staff. Just about everyone walked away a believer, including me!
I also have been obsessing over the brand's new Face Fabric ($49). It's truly a matte made in heaven. The texture feels like a whipped cream, and it feels like you're not even wearing anything but your own skin."
The one hair product you can't live without: "Right now I can't live without The Mane Choice Hair Oil ($12). It's light, smells great, and nourishes my dry strands. I go back and forth between blowing my natural hair, wearing it curly, or wearing a weave, which can be a lot. This oil helps to feed my thirsty strands no matter what's going on. It's also an edge saver."
All-time favorite nude lipstick: "So I'm not sure if I've found a true nude, but I have a dark brown lipstick that I love and looks kind of like an unconventional nude. I stumbled on Bite Beauty's Multistick in Cocoa ($24) randomly in Sephora last summer and have been obsessed with it. Most 'nudes' make my lips look chalky against my deep brown skin, but this one kind of makes my lips disappear (in the best possible way). It's kind of like a reverse nude lipstick, if that makes sense—my lips look bare."
Go-to foundation: "A favorite foundation is hard. I've only recently discovered how magical they can be, and now I'm completely obsessed. Growing up, I didn't wear a ton of makeup and was always nervous that I would look like I was wearing makeup or worse, that the colors available wouldn't match my skin. Since opening up to the possibilities of foundation, I'm completely obsessed. Right now, I'm loving Cover FX Power Play Foundation ($44), Bobbi Brown Skin Long-Wear Weightless Foundation SPF 15 ($46), and Marc Jacobs Shameless Youthful Look 24 Hour Foundation ($46).
For me, if a foundation matches my skin tone (which sounds like duh, but it's still tricky, surprisingly), is lightweight, and enhances my glow, #issawin."
The one hair product you can't live without: "Hands down, it's Deva Curl's Coconut Cream Styler ($28). I have super-curly hair, and this product really makes 'em pop! There was a time when I stopped using it and tried to use other curl creams, but my hair was kind of a disaster. So now I'm super loyal (even though it's pretty pricey). If I could add one more, I'd also have to say hair masks. I have color-treated hair, so it's a must that I take care of it. I do a mask two times a week (this one is great!), and I think that's why my curl pattern hasn't changed even though I've colored my hair."
All-time favorite nude lipstick: "My main squeeze is Anastasia Beverly Hills Matte Lipstick in Rust ($18). It's a rich opaque brown that complements my skin and doesn't wash me out. My second fave is Tom Ford Travis ($36). It's a creamy metallic brown with speckles of gold. I always get compliments when I wear it. Finally, when I want something warmer, I use Sephora Collection Cream Lip Stain Liquid Lipstick in Frozen Strawberry ($14) and line my lips with MAC Chestnut Liner ($18)."
Go-to foundation:"I think I've tried literally every foundation on earth and recently found a new winner. My favorite foundation is Fenty Beauty in shade 450 ($34). It seriously has been a godsend. I have oily/combo skin, so it's hard to find a foundation that matches my complexion and doesn't melt off my face by noon. I only have to use a dime-size amount, and my skin looks flawless from dusk until dawn. The shade range is perfect for chocolate-hued girls because there are a variety of undertones from gold to red to neutral."
The one hair product you can't live without: "Castor oil. I wear protective styles, however, I have type 4c hair that gets super dry, so maintaining the moisture in my hair is key. It's truly the only product that keeps my hair soft for days. Plus, it is a great sealant for twists and growing back edges."
All-time favorite nude lipstick: "My all-time favorite nude lipstick is Velvet Teddy by MAC. Like many of other brown girls, I've struggled to find a flattering nude that didn't make me look washed out. I've tried just about every pale pink and caramel-cream shade in the book, but Velvet Teddy has been the perfect 'my lips but better' hue. It's a perfect mix of pink and coral. I have a medium complexion and wear it alone, but I've seen my friends with deeper skin tones pair with a brown liner to create a unique color.
It's definitely a staple in my makeup bag, and I've gone through at least four tubes."
Go-to foundation: "Estée Lauder Double Wear Longwear Foundation ($42) is my favorite foundation hands down. It's full coverage and perfect for covering hyperpigmentation and acne scars, but it's also lightweight and doesn't feel like a mask on my skin. It also comes in 42 beautiful shades, so women of different skin tones can get in on the magic."
The one hair product you can't live without: "I could not and would not live without L'Oreal Professionnel Mythic Oil ($13). I use it to nourish and protect my hair before and after heat styling. It's super lightweight and smells heavenly."
All-time favorite nude lipstick: "My all-time favorite nude lipstick is Marc Jacobs's No Angel. It's one of the very few nudes that I can wear without a liner and the formula is amazing—not too matte and not too glossy."
Go-to foundation: "It's so hard to find a foundation with wonderful coverage that doesn't make you appear cakey. My skin hasn't been the same since I started using the Nars Natural All-Day Radiant Foundation ($49). It comes in 33 shades and mattifies so perfectly on my skin without making me look dry. I feel so glowy every time I wear it. I love an effortless, natural skin finish, and this Nars foundation gives me just that."
The one hair product you can't live without:
"The Denman Brush ($11) is the holy grail of brushes. I use it for everything. Whether it's detangling my curls, during the blow-drying process, or when I'm wearing weaves, there's nothing I can't use this brush for. Even better, the brand makes it in a variety of sizes, so I now even use it for my edges. It doesn't matter what kind of hair texture you have—a Denman Brush should be your go-to. Plus, unlike many multiuse brushes, you don't have to pay a fortune."
All-time favorite nude lipstick: "I don't consider my search for the perfect nude lipstick complete until I've found both a matte and creamy finish. Right now, I've got the latter on lock. A little over a year ago, Lipstick Queen sent me its Nothing But the Nudes set, and I instantly fell in love with Nothing But the Truth. It's a beautiful beige that almost looks like a lip balm but provides just enough coverage to count as an actual lip color. I've got very yellow/peachy undertones, and this lippie warms up my face even more.
It goes everywhere with me, and now that I'm thinking about it, it's almost time to buy a new tube."
Go-to foundation: "I cannot pick just one! Admittedly, I didn't start wearing foundation until my almost mid-20s because I never really felt the need for it until I started to notice that my skin tone was a little uneven. The first one that I used to the very last drop was Make Up For Ever's Ultra HD Foundation ($43). A little goes a long way, it feels lightweight, and it looks amazing in selfies—like a second skin. Right now what I'm using almost every day is Tarte's Amazonian Clay 12 Hour Foundation ($39).
For starters, it's got sun protection, which is a huge must for everyone, but especially black women (I also prime with this sunscreen that doesn't leave my skin looking ashy.) The Tan-Deep Honey shade matches my skin tone to perfection. My only caveat is that it can go on a little matte, so I'll sometimes mix with a facial oil and apply with a damp Beautyblender."
The one hair product you can't live without: "I will sing the praises of Madam CJ Walker's Defining Butter Creme ($24) forever. I have tried so many gels for my curls, and most of them have left my hair soft but crazy flaky. This cream is not only super moisturizing, but it holds my spirals in place without leaving dandruff or crunchiness behind. I usually apply it fresh out the shower and then let it dry overnight under a satin bonnet or scarf. I really hope the brand never discontinues it!"