When the African beauty Iman hit the modeling scene in 1975, cosmetics companies were all about the white girls. At an early photo shoot, it took a well-known makeup artist half an hour to mix a custom foundation to match her skin tone. After that, she taught herself the art of makeup and brought her own.
In 1994, she launched Iman Cosmetics, focusing on makeup for women of color, filling a desperately underserved niche and paving the way for the old standards -- Revlon, Maybelline, Max Factor -- to follow suit.
Women of color now have a fairly wide selection of cosmetics to suit their skin tones. And in cosmetics, skin tone is everything. Darker complexions call for different coloring approaches from lighter complexions. Two general makeup rules still apply: Highlight your best features, and don't overdo it. Beyond that, though, women of color are looking at some unique approaches to cosmetic greatness.
To begin with, foundation can be a bit trickier for darker skin.
Key Point: Undertone
Dark or light, the foundation of foundation is undertone. There's no faster way to looking worn out or just plain weird than smoothing the wrong foundation into your face.
Non-Caucasian skin usually has warm undertones. Iman, Salma Hayek and Lucy Liu are all warms. If this is you, look for a yellow-based foundation.
Very dark skin, like Naomi Campbell's, tends more toward cool undertones, which calls for a foundation with a pink base.
- If the veins on the inside of your wrist are bluish, you're a cool. If they're greenish, you're a warm.
- African-American women often have lighter skin on the cheeks and forehead; use multiple shades of foundation to help even everything out.
Cheeks are up next. After you finish, you may want to trade in your blush.
Key Point: Bare
The last thing you want is a stand-out blush color. The goal is to underscore your cheeks, not color them. Skip the fuchsias and bright pinks and go with neutrals that are just a tad darker than your skin tone, like browns, bronzes or plums. Lighter skin can get away with a peach or pink.
In fact, the newest blush is no color at all; try a bronzer instead. The light shimmer will highlight your bone structure while blending right in with your skin tone.
Quick Tip: Before starting on your eyes, even and set the base by brushing a light layer of tone-appropriate (not too light!) translucent power over your foundation and blush.
You'll be switching gears when you head upward to your eyes.
Key Point: Contrast
Most women of color have dark eyes -- deep, dark, smoldering eyes -- and the instinct may be to go neutral, lining them in dark brown or black. In fact, all that really does is play them down. You want to play those babies up.
Line them in a contrasting color that draws attention to their smolderingness. Blue, pink, green or mauve can work well. Then, tone it down on the lids, using a neutral eye shadow. Try bronze, gold or mocha.
Quick Tip: To avoid the "I'm dying" look, stay away from dark-brown eye makeup. It can make your eyes look sunken.
Key Point: Color
When it comes to lips, women of color have it all.
In general, the darker the skin tone, the darker you can make your lips and still look fabulous. African-American women especially have a tremendous range of lip color to try, from light pink to deep plum to bronze to dark red.
The look to shy away from is a neutral that matches your skin tone. That'll make the bottom of your face blend together like one freakish blob.
The current trend is gloss. Your lips will look plump, sexy, sophisticated and can go casual or clubbing. Try lining your lip in a soft color like plum or mauve, and then cover your mouth in clear or shimmery goodness.
Quick Tip: Some African-American women have a lighter lower lip. To even it out, apply a darker lipstick to the lower lips, and then cover both lips in the same gloss.
Whether you go for striking pink or subtle shine in your lips or your overall look, remember: When it comes to makeup, less is more. What looks stunning on the runway can look ridiculous down here.
For more information on makeup and style, look over the links on the next page.
More Great Links
- Beauty and the book: Iman's makeup guide. Today. MSNBC. Oct. 18, 2005.http://today.msnbc.msn.com/id/9697714/
- Bridal Beauty: Makeup for the African-American Bride. The Knot.http://wedding.theknot.com/wedding-beauty-tips/bridal-beauty-secrets/articles/bridal-makeup-for-the-african-american-bride.aspx
- Goldstein, Nikki. "Make-up tips: Dark skin complexion." HomeLife.http://www.homelife.com.au/beauty/1291/make+up+tips:+dark+skin+complexion
- Kovalovich, Lisa. "Makeup Tricks for Dark Skin." Ladies' Home Journal.http://www.lhj.com/style/beauty/makeup/makeup-tricks-for-dark-skin/
- Makeup for Ethnic Skin Tones. W Network.http://www.wnetwork.com/beauty-and-style/Articles/Makeup-for-Ethnic-Skin-Tones.aspx
- Nordenberg, Tamar. "Tips for Looking Hot-Hot-Hot if You're Hispanic." Discovery Health.http://health.discovery.com/centers/healthbeauty/ethnicskin/hispanic.html