Dark chocolate? Mocha? Caramel? When we’re not ordering our favorite
latte, we might use these words to describe the skin we’re in. And while
choosing our morning cuppa is easy, it can feel much more difficult to
create natural makeup looks for dark skin. Don’t worry: Armed with our
goof-proof tips, you’ll be rockin’ the neutral look faster than you can
say “Double half-caff, no foam.”

Understanding undertones

Ladies, always color-match concealer, foundation and powder to your
skin tone like your lives depend on it! While your skin tone can change
with sun exposure, your underlying skin tone will not. In general,
darker-skinned women will have cool undertones, while medium to
lighter-skinned women can have cool, warm or neutral undertones. Don’t
know your undertone? Figure it out with these tried-and-true methods:

The towel test
Wearing no makeup, wrap white towels around your body and hair. Examine
your skin in the mirror, ideally under bright natural light. If your
skin shows a slight blue, red or pink tint to it, your undertone is
cool. If it’s yellow, golden or peach, your undertone is warm. And if
it’s olive or green-ish, you have a neutral undertone.

The vein test
In natural light, turn your wrist over so you can see the veins. Blue
veins indicate a cool undertone, green points to a warm undertone, while
a mixture (or if you can’t tell) means your undertone is probably

Matching makeup to undertone

  • Cool undertones are complemented by vibrant jewel-tone colors, silver and gray. Think neutral or pink-based foundation.
  • Warm undertones look lovely with earth tones, gold, bronze and copper. Choose foundation that’s yellow or peach-based.
  • Neutral undertones can generally manage to pull off the entire rainbow of colors.

Flawless-face formula

Boost your makeup mojo even more by choosing product formulations
that work with your skin type and give your face a natural, glowing

  • Drier complexions do well with cream foundation—mix it with your moisturizer when your skin craves more hydration and needs less coverage.
  • Oilier skin that can handle more coverage will do well with foundation sticks, which have drier formulations.
  • Acne scars can look more prominent if covered with a
    lot of makeup. Try mineral powder in a shade that matches your skin
    tone to get a more natural-looking concealing effect.

Colors for women of color

A natural “no-makeup” look can mean wearing neutral colors that very
closely match your skin tone. But it’s also about creating a look that
complements your coloring and features so “naturally” that people don’t
even notice the makeup you’re wearing—they just see you. Tip: Avoid one
of the most common beauty fails by thoroughly blending cheek color as
well as eye color.

Get cheeky

  • A bronze idea for light to medium skin. Get a natural-looking glow by using bronzer in place of blush. Aim for apples of the cheeks as well as temples.
  • Brighten up darker skin. Vivid blush can also
    create a natural look and instantly perk up a tired-looking face. Choose
    highly pigmented bright corals and fuchsias so the color looks vibrant
    against your skin instead of ashy.
  • Highlighter help desk. Using restraint, apply highlighter to the highest parts of your cheekbones. Stick to a color one shade lighter than your skin.

Beyond the shadow of a doubt

  • Wearing next to nothing. Create a truly neutral
    look with three shades of eyeshadow: a base that closely matches your
    skin color, a highlight that’s one step lighter and a contour shade
    that’s one or two steps darker than your skin.
  • Is blue for you? When brown feels too blah, use
    blue shadow to define your eyes and brighten your face. Bright cobalt
    blue works for very dark skin, midnight blue for medium skin and dark
    denim blue for lighter skin.

Get the lock on lips

  • The new nudes. Resist the temptation to wear shades
    that are significantly lighter than your skin color—it’ll wash you out.
    Choose lip colors that match your skin or are one to two steps darker.
    Match lip liner to your lip color unless you’re using the liner to
    intentionally change how the color looks on your lips.
  • Viva la vibrant. Bold color can look naturally gorgeous when you pick the right shade for your complexion. For our complete primer, check out “Alluring looks for lips.”

Made-for-us makeup

These days, most cosmetic brands offer makeup colors that are suited
to darker skin tones. But if you’re looking for a fool-proof shortcut to
stunning, try brands like the Covergirl Queen Collection and Iman, which were specially developed with African-American women in mind.