Not Fair; The Makeup Artist’s Guide To Deep Black Skin Tones Part Two

Well hey there, nice to have you back! If you’re here after swatting up on Part One thanks for sticking with us, and if you’ve not been there yet head on over now for the basics of making up deep black skin tones before reading on. Because now, it’s time for the fun stuff… COLOUR!

The Cheek Of It!

You can get stuck into some uh-may-zing cheek shades on deep black skin. I mean just look at the eye-popping shades the awesome YouTube makeup artist Destiny Godley plays with in the is video at 6 minutes in for goodness sake.

Bright huh? And Destiny has fairer skin than the deepest black skin tones of models like Grace Bol and Alek Wek, so it just goes to show, the concentration of pigment is truly of the utmost importance here. You need highly pigmented shades of blush on deep skin tones for that gorgeous glow to show through, with no ashy vibes. (May I just say, I absolutely love Destiny’s videos. Another great watch for makeup artists wanting to brush up on their black skin work, her clips are full of great insider tips and really beautiful modern makeup looks.)

She’s using Nars Exhibit A – £23 (1.) there in the video, an absolute essential for deep black skin tones if you ask me, as well as being a great shade for creative looks on fairer skin so it does double duty, as do many of the eye/lip/cheek shades I’ll mention. Another Nars essential blush for ebony skin that I’ve raved about before in our Nars Makeup Artist Must Haves is Taj Mahal (2.), a pretty, golden tangerine shade that adds a warm glow and shimmer to the cheeks. Or try Black Up’s fantastic range of super-bright blushers – £19 (3.), the hot pinks of NBL01 and NBL02 are particular faves!



Besides hot pinks, bright reds and tangerines, other insanely popular blush shades for ebony skin tones are bricks, deep brown reds, plums, berries, cinnamons… You get the picture, those deep, rich, warm, Autumnal shades. MAC’s classic blushers Raizin – £18.50 (4.), a reddish brown which gives a really natural flush of subtle rosiness to the apples of the cheeks, and Sweet As Cocoa (5.), similar in shade but with golden highlights, are kit staples, and Sleek Blush in Sahara – £4.49 (6.) is a steal.



Also, I now get another chance to sing the praises of my current great love, Becca’s Shimmering Skin Perfector – £33 (7.), I shared my obsession for makeup-for-deep-black-skin-philomena-kwao-kenneth-sohthis lovely stuff in our product picks for dewy skin so I’ll save you a gushing repeat, but it’s bloody gorgeous, a highlighter from the Gods! Shade Topaz works perfectly to give a divine bronzed sheen as a highlighter on deep black skin tones. In fact you can see it in action in the makeup breakdown of this heavenly look on their site.

And to go with that highlight, if you want a little contour to the cheeks, step away from the contour palette! Most of them simply aren’t dark enough for the deepest of skin tones, so this is where you need to get a little clever with your products. Instead… eyeshadow. Deep brown/black eyeshadow – just make sure it’s matte! I swear by Bobbi Brown Espresso – £17.50 (8.) for my deep ebony skin contouring needs. Or perhaps try the shade Rich Brown on slightly lighter deep black skin, as the super-talented Kenneth Soh did in this beautiful look on the equally beautiful Philomena Kwao. And what’s that gorgeous pink tone on the cheek there you wonder? Only the cult Daniel Sandler Watercolour Fluid Blush in Dare – £15.50 (9.). As if you needed another reason to have that in your kit!

Eye Candy…

Time to make up those pretty eyes! And yet again, you can have all sorts of fun here. Let’s begin by saying metallic is fine but frosted, not so much. A lot of frosted pigment is white and as such just fight against that beautiful dark skin tone. Don’t get me started on the horrifying sight of bright white brow highlights on dark brown skin… Try something golden and lovely instead, perhaps the Becca highlighter mentioned above, something that glows, and doesn’t just sit there looking sad and powdery.

So again, pigmentation is the name of the game here. Deep black skin looks incredible wearing bright poppy colours so feel free to go to town. You only need to look at the gallery below to see proof of the fact, and Lupita Nyong’o is an absolute Queen of playing around with bright shadows!

Try rich metallics like Iman Perfect Eyeshadow Pencil in Forbidden – £11.95 (10.) – a hypnotic deep metallic blue – although the deep green and purple shades are also perfect – or try similar shades in MAC’s Mineralize Eye Shadows – £18 (11.), which can be used wet for a super-satisfying high-shine and high-pigment finish.  Metallic liquid eyeliners like Nyx’s Studio Liquid Liner – £4.50 (12.) also look insanely good set against dark skin and come in a great range of electric shades, or go to town and get stuck in with matte bright cream products like Mascara Wars faves, MAC Chromacakes – £21.50 (13. – give them a call for details of where to get your hands on them in the UK)! These create the most awesome graphic eye shapes on deep black skin that pop in a way that those of us with fairer complexions could only dream of!



For a more neutral look, use a deep brown base, such as Bobbi Brown’s new Dark Chocolate Ink shade of Long Wear Gel Eyeliner – £18.50 (14.) used as a cream shadow – which is also a great base for oily lids prior to any powder shadow application. For a socket contour, use the same dark eyeshadow shade that you would contour the cheeks with. For added shimmer and a little more pop, pat a dark brown shimmer like Inglot’s Pure Pigment Eyeshadow in shade 41 – £13 (15.) onto the lid and inner corners. And of course, a black smokey eye looks perfect on this skin tone, just make sure the shadow you use is JET BLACK. No ashy dark greys here please. Sugarpill’s Pressed Eyeshadow in Bulletproof – £8.95 (16.) is often hailed as the blackest black going at the moment. Blended over a layer of MAC’s super-black Feline Kohl Power Eye Pencil – £14 (17.), with an inky black mascara like our Japanese Makeup Essential Fairydrops Scandal Queen Mascara – £18.50 (18.), and you’ll have serious depth and drama against even the deepest of black skin tones.


And finally, that beautiful kisser!

The best tip I have here, if I say nothing else, is lip liner – brown lip liner. Nyx’s Slim Lip Pencils – £3.50 (19.) in Espresso or Dark Brown are an absolute steal! I often hear folk say that deep skin tones shouldn’t wear certain shades, particularly the lighter, brighter ones like bright corals and pinks – try Illamasqua for a great range of high pigment fun Lipsticks – £19.50 (20.) – but I wholeheartedly disagree!


However what I do find is that they can have a tendency to look stamped on, and stand out in a negative way – it seems to be all about that harsh paler edge against the skin. But soften that edge, with a deep brown lip line, blended into the shade, and suddenly a whole new world of colour opens up. And as if by magic I literally just yesterday saw this great video of MAC Senior Artist Fatima T employing the exact same technique.

If you apply a shade and it’s not working for you, try the brown lip liner trick, you might be surprised! It really helps to soften the stamped on effect and add a little more dimension.

makeup-for-deep-black-skin-lupita-nyong'o-lancome-campaign-red-lipstickRich red shades are also utter heaven on ebony skin.Take a  look at Lupita in Lancome’s recent campaign for example. I won’t pick one red for you, as there are so many to choose from and I’m sure you all have red lipsticks coming out of your ears, but try anything from glossy sheer shades to bold mattes, bright poppy reds to deep merlots. Even deeper warm shades like Milani Lipstick in Double Espresso – £4.99 (21.) look phenomenal, coming out as a deep shimmering copper brown, and Mac’s Cyber Lipstick – £15.50 (22.), which is known as a deep and daring purple-black vamp shade on fairer skin tones just looks classically beautiful and utterly chic when set against deep black skin.


Oh what’s that? You wanna see some nudes? Ooh la la. Well my absolute faves are “Touch” by MAC – £15.50 (23.) a sheer cinnamon shade showing as a creamy tan nude and “Paramount” by MAC (24.) reading as a creamy reddish brown nude – lots of MAC here, what can I say, they’ve always been there representing for dark skin tones! Bobbi Brown’s new Chocolate Lipstick shade – £20 (25.) is a rich deep brown that would be heavenly on the deepest of black skintones. Swatch these shades on caucasian skin tones and you’ll get varying shades of deep brown, so bear that in mind when picking your nudes for deep black skin. Nude simply means a lip shade in the vicinity of the client’s skin tone, so simply alter it accordingly – peachy pinks and beiges do not always a nude make.


And there, in a nutshell, you have it. Don’t try to apply the tried and tested rules of makeup for fair skin to all skin tones, embrace a new approach! So many artists go through the motions during makeup application, using the same of tricks and favourites time after time – but making up what may be an unfamiliar skin tone requires you to stop, take a minute, and really look at the face and skin tone of the person in front of you.

Iman has a great beauty app that can be used for inspiration or ideas as you learn – unsure what to use when presented with a skin tone you haven’t worked with as often as you’d like? Search for the model closest in the app for great suggestions across a variety of looks – it may give you that added confidence to really play around and do whats right for your client. Over time these colour theories and go-to killer shades become second nature, but this is a great makeup artist’s tool to have in your arsenal as you learn, and of course is great for women of colour to find shades to play with themselves!


As Nykhor has pointed out via Instagram since making the news with her initial comments, great brands like Nars, Bobbi Brown and many more now cater for dreamy blue-black skin tones like her own, so there really is no excuse for a makeup artist to be unprepared!

As always, there are no hard and fast rules with makeup, it’s about exploring your creativity, having an eye for beauty and not taking it all too seriously! This is meant merely as a guide to get those of you nervous about working with unfamiliar tones out of your comfort zones, and give you the ammo to go out there and smash it with every client who comes your way! Let me know how you get on guys, feel free to subscribe to our email updates for more makeup artist tips and inspiration, and if you have any great tips I may have missed, do let me know!

Lucy xx

Featured Image By John-Paul Pietrus for Modern Weekly China

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2 Responses

  1. Shayna August 27, 2015 / 5:58 pm

    Thank you so much Lucy for writing these articles! They are beyond helpful :) xxx

  2. nargis August 12, 2016 / 8:27 pm

    Thank you so much for this Lucy!

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