There is no "one-shade-fits-all" for makeup. For years, beauty brands have struggled to create products that cater to dark skin. The foundations available were either gray, unrealistic, or, in many cases, nonexistent. Luckily, game-changers (thank you, Rihanna) have pointed out that more than half of the country doesn’t fall into the fair-medium camp. Today, much-loved makeup lines are expanding their shade ranges to include deeper tones and are releasing new products (to which we say it’s about time).
Now that beauty lovers with darker complexions have a wider variety of products to choose from, we’ve made it our goal to round up the best of the best. We also tapped makeup artists Lakeisha Dale and Shanell Sorrells for tips on the ones you should add to your makeup bag ASAP (and how to wear them best).
Keep scrolling for the best makeup for dark skin.
Meet the Expert
- Shanell Sorrells is a New Jersey/New York-based makeup artist.
- Lakeisha Dale is a professional makeup artist and licensed esthetician of MelaSkin Studio, located in New York.
Ask any makeup artist, and they'll have at least one Make Up For Ever product in their kit. Why? The color payoff, silky-smooth formulas, unexpected finishes, and staying power all contribute to its popularity—not to mention the wide array of foundation shades. "Check to see if the undertones in the foundation work for your skin by swatching at least three shades against your chest and jawline. Give it a few seconds to dry down then see which one matches your skin the best. You'll know whether or not you are someone who needs something with a more warm undertone or cool," Dale advises.
The brand recently re-released its Ultra HD Invisible Cover version of its much-loved foundations and foundation sticks, which also include a new range of 40 shades that deliver an airbrushed finish for all skin tones.
When choosing a foundation, you want to be sure it matches the tones that come from your neck/chest/shoulder area. Sorrells says, "Never match based on the face because it's often lighter than the body. You want to pull from the undertones of those areas so everything is seamless. Black women have beautiful multidimensional skin tones and it's important that the color on the face is not flat and mismatched."
Best Long-Wear Foundation
Lancôme has really stepped up its game in recent years when it comes to creating products that flatter and enhance darker skin tones. Before committing to purchasing a line of products from a company, Dale suggests checking the brand's website first to see if they showcase models with deeper skin tones wearing their foundation. "You should also check for the finish (matte, satin, or dewy); this will help you know whether or not it will work for your skin type and the look you desire," Dale explains.
The brand's Teint Idole Ultra Long Wear Foundation offers a wide range of medium to deep shades and is what makeup artist Nick Barose reaches for when prepping its ambassador, the ever-glowing Lupita Nyong’o, for the red carpet.
Best Concealer: NARS Radiant Creamy Concealer
NARS is widely known and loved for its extensive selection of shades and formulas and has remained a makeup-artist favorite since its inception. According to Sorrells, "The brand's foundations are appealing to women with darker skin tones because they offer golden, neutral, olive, and deep undertones. They also have soft satin and matte finishes to choose from."
Meanwhile, this cult concealer comes in a deep cocoa color that’s perfect for brightening up under-eyes on darker skin tones. Add the product towards the inner corner of your eye and down your nose. Blend outwards to the end of your eye with a small bristle brush.
Best Setting Powder
Iman Cosmetics makes this list because one, Iman is a goddess and we trust anything she creates, and two, the products really are that good. They're all created with medium to dark skin tones in mind, but lest you assume that limits your options, think again.
The line's Luxury Pressed Powder warms up the complexion and can serve as setting powder. Brush on the powder using a tapered brush and light touch. Oh, and the drugstore price tag doesn’t hurt, either.
Best Contouring Stick
Founded by an African American makeup artist, Black Up is the first-ever luxe beauty brand created for women of color and just recently received Sephora’s seal of approval. Black Up’s products claim to enhance dark skin tones instead of just matching them.
The brand's standout products include its contouring stick, which comes in five medium-to-deep shades. "I create the look of deeper skin being contoured by focusing on highlighting under the eyes, the bridge of the nose, and the cheekbones," Dale says. "Black women with deeper skin tones shouldn't feel left out when it comes to bronzer. The warm, radiant glow that their skin has naturally is what bronzer helps those who don't, achieve."
Bronzer is commonly known to give a warm, radiant tan look to fair to medium skin tones. When applied to darker complexions, it looks like a glowy highlighter. Instead of shying away from bronzers, add them to your makeup routine.
MAC, which is known for its high-pigment formulas and bright colors, was one of the first makeup brands to create a more diverse shade range. Most of its products are suited for darker skin tones, but its Mineralize Skinfinish ($36) face powder and its Paint Pot eyeshadow, which comes in six colors, are two of the most-loved.
When applying eyeshadow to darker skin tones, Sorrells suggests using a matte concealer (one to two shades lighter) as an eyeshadow base before applying bright shadow to darker skin. "Set it down with powder and go over with the eyeshadow," she explains. "You can also use a creamy eyeliner/shadow stick with similar color as a base blended all over the eye. The powder eyeshadow has something to adhere to and become more vibrant."
"When using bright colored eyeshadows on deeper skin, depending on the look you're going for, make sure you have crease colors that complement your skin," recommends Dale. "I use pressed powders that are normally for setting or touching up your makeup as crease colors."
Another drugstore gem, Black Opal was founded in New York in 1994 and was the first technologically advanced, doctor-recommended, mass-market skincare line for women of color. It was so positively received that the brand then rolled out a makeup line. "Black Opal foundation sticks are amazing not only in the consistency, but the shade range! Their shades are rich and beautiful. I have never had an issue matching anyone with them. They are super buttery and skin-like, and affordable," Sorrells states.
At the core of the line are foundations and concealers (even Beyoncé’s makeup artist has vetted its cult foundation), but we’re also fans of the super-creamy ColorSplurge Risqué Crème Lipstick. "To keep bold lips pigmented, try lining the lips with a similar color and filling in the entire lip so it acts as a base," Sorrells recommends. "This will make the lipstick long-wearing and fade-proof."
Becca Cosmetics may not specifically cater to dark skin tones, but its vast array of primers, foundations, and highlighters are definitely made with them in mind. "Women with deep skin should look for highlighters that look more deep bronze with a hint of warm gold. If you have dry skin, I suggest cream highlighters, for oilier skin I suggest powder highlighters," Dale says.
The brand's Shimmering Skin Perfector highlighter originally came in 12 radiant shades, all made with a range of skin tones in mind. While Becca Cosmetics sadly had to shut down in 2021, the highlighter's wildly popular Champagne Pop shade luckily found a home at Smashbox, ensuring you can still embrace that iconic glow. Build up your look with soft, sweeping motions above your cheekbones.
Cover FX was created with the intention of delivering a natural-looking finish for all skin tones. The Contour Kit ($60) is a favorite, with two different quads suited for medium to deep skin tones—one for golden undertones and one for neutral undertones. If all that didn't sound great enough, the Natural Finish Foundation ($42) line now boasts 40 diverse shades
Its hero product is the Custom Cover Drops, which you can add to moisturizer, tinted moisturizer, and even sunscreen to make a shade and coverage that’s perfectly suited for your unique skin tone.