Step into a makeup store and you’ll likely spot hundreds — if not, thousands — of different shades to choose from. Overwhelming? We’d say so. There are a lot of factors that go into choosing the best makeup color for you. Preference and the contents of your cosmetic bag are two of them. Another one is skin tone.
At The Cheat Sheet, we believe women should be free to wear whichever colors they desire — but some options admittedly look better on certain complexions than others. But if you were to ask Kimberly Smith, founder and CEO of beauty e-tailer Marjani Beauty, the sky’s the limit for women of color. “It’s not much a color of colors that suit us best,” she explained. “Rather a particular shade of a particular color we feel compliments a specific skin tone better than others.” From striking to subtle, we found some amazing shades you’re going to want to try.
Red lipstick is a mainstay in any woman’s cabinet. It’s elegant, not to mention an effortless way to add some drama to your look. Best of all, it flatters every skin type. “Red is a staple every beauty junkie should have in her makeup stash,” Smith said. Though every woman should have a tube or two at her disposal, finding the ultimate shade requires some trial and error. To start, try your luck with Gold Label’s First Class — it’s one of Smith’s favorites.
2. Nude pink
Don’t want to attract that much attention to your lips? A nude pink might be your best bet. It’ll add a healthy tint to your pout, yet you can still spruce up your look with a smoky eye. Fortunately, the pumped-up neutral isn’t just for those with alabaster skin; there are tons of options for women with darker complexion, too. And Smith agrees.
“Matte lips in nude pinks and nude beiges are it right now,” she told the Cheat Sheet. A shade that perfectly matches your complexion will wash you out, so pick an option that’s close to your tone, but is tinged with hints of pink and brown.
3. Bright pink
If your complexion is a blank canvas for any color, why not take a risk with a shockingly bright hue? Enter bright pink or fuchsia. Not only will it instantly revitalize your makeup routine, but the cheery shade is also perfect for the warmer months ahead.
The Fashion Spot says that a zesty tangerine lip will pack just as much of a punch, but if this is your first foray into statement colors, we advise you think pink.
When it comes to your everyday makeup routine, less is more. More importantly, looking as if you’re wearing no makeup at all is of the utmost importance, That’s where your neutral-colored formulas come in. Whether eye shadow or lip gloss, nudes are some of the most versatile hues money can buy. And according to Smith, toffees and taupes can’t be beat. “Our customers can’t keep their hands off of Liquid Courage in Fawn and Toffee and AJ Crimson Subculture and Toffee,” she said.
You don’t have to wait until New Year’s Eve to pull out those sheeny metal shadows and liners. According to Smith, they’re great for girl’s night out and upscale events. “Another trend for those desiring to be bold and fierce are metallics,” she said. Any metallic will look great, so choosing the right shade boils down to the vibe you’re going for. While gold and bronze are sophisticated, albeit subtle enough wear to a wedding or date night, silver is the perfect choice if you want to crank up the drama.
Pitch-black liner, mascara, and even shadow have the reputation of being too severe and dramatic, but we have to disagree. When paired with a flattering arsenal of colors, black makeup can teeter nicely between subtle and statement with any complexion. Found a black eyeliner or mascara you love? Add a deep charcoal shadow to keep the drama at bay.
7. Turquoise blue
While Lupita Nyong’o is known for her on-point sartorial choices — think the epic Ralph Lauren cape dress from the 2014 Golden Globes — the Academy Award winner is no slouch on the makeup front, either. Take the 2014 Screen Actors Guild Awards, when she paired her embellished turquoise Gucci frock with matching eye shadow. The makeup was a risk, but looked so striking against her complexion that it was a home-run. If you too are looking to amp up your look, we recommend taking a page out of Nyong’o’s book.
Like a classic neutral, plum is one of those shades that will look good anywhere. Sure, a deep lip will lend a gothic flair to any ensemble, but the deep shade will look just as fetching on your eyelids. According to Cosmopolitan, MAC Cosmetics’ Heritage Rouge pigment is perfect for women of color.
In the market for a cheerier purple? Lilac will look striking on you. Similar to Lupita Nyong’o’s turquoise blue, a light purple will pack on the drama but is still appropriate for brunch with your girlfriends. There are tons of pretty purple shadows to choose from, but if you’re in the market for a pastel lip, The Fashion Spot is partial to MDMflow Lipstick in Milkshake.
What not to wear
Sure, pulling off a wide array of shades is totally possible, but there are still some guidelines you must follow when selecting a product. “What we should avoid are products that don’t contain enough pigment and companies that try to limit our options,” said Smith. To ensure the color you’re buying will look just as good on as it does in its container, sweep a coat on your hand at the makeup store. If the cosmetic in question looks radiant after a swipe or two, head over to checkout.
Editor’s note: This story was originally published May 9, 2017.