Finding complementary makeup for your skin tone is no easy feat, especially if you have a darker complexion. With hundreds of options in every category from foundation to eye shadow to lipstick that promise to be the "best of the best," the only way to truly figure it out often comes down to trial and error.
To help sift through all of the options and get right to the good stuff, we talked to three makeup artists about their favorite beauty products to use on darker skin tones.
How to shop for makeup for darker skin tones
Kelechi Ibelegbu, the makeup artist behind K Lynne Beauty, recommends steering toward products like lip glosses and blushes that have orange undertones. "It just looks really good on deeper skin tones, so orange is an ally," she said.
She also recommended that shoppers be wary about products, particularly foundation, with SPF already built in. "It can show up as ashy if you're not careful, so it's better to have your SPF first as a separate product and then put your foundation over that," she advised.
Another thing to keep in mind while browsing for products is your skin type. New Jersey-based makeup artist Cindy Bonema of Artistry by Bonnie told Shop TODAY that some products can make skin "look scabby," despite being designed to cover up imperfections. "Make sure you look and see who the formula is catered to," she added.
Bonema also recommends looking for hypoallergenic makeup products, especially if you have sensitive skin. "I would...avoid products that aren’t breathable and would eventually clog up your pores and may cause breakouts," she said.
Best correctors and concealers for darker skin tones, according to experts
"I think that it is nonnegotiable that darker skin women use correctors," Ibelegbu told us. She's a fan of this L.A. Girl corrector. "It's always good to have an orange-based corrector to conceal dark hyperpigmentation before putting anything on so that it doesn't show up as gray," she explained.
Bonema is a fan of these concealers from Kevyn Aucoin. "I feel like it melts into our skin beautifully. It doesn't have that flashback effect which I love, love, love," she raved.
Ibelegbu also likes these Milani concealers. "It does really well, just as good as any high-end concealer I've found," she said. She likes that it provides good coverage without looking cakey and is as long-lasting as the brand promises.
While this is more of a pre- or post-foundation product, celebrity makeup artist Stephen Moleski recommends this product for people that have more textured skin and want a blurring agent. "A lot of people wear it by itself because it gives you a little bit of a sheen glow, but you [can] wear it on the high points of your face or anywhere you want to have a little bit of luminosity," he said.
Best foundations for darker skin tones, according to experts
Moleski calls this foundation his "go-to for deeper complexions" because it helps minimize texture and is long-wearing. He praised the whole line for its full-coverage application and its versatility because it can also act as a concealer. These foundations feature several deep options with different undertones including red, neutral and yellow.
Bonema is also a fan of these foundations, praising their color variety and pigmentation. "A lot of black women tend to suffer from foundations that don't have the right undertones and I believe that NARS has mastered that when it comes to their foundations. The undertones are perfect, there's a wide variety and I feel like it's easy to find the perfect match instead of having to mix two foundations," she told us.
"Fenty's pressed powder foundation is amazing and [has] such a broad range that Rihanna came up with," Moleski told us. Not only does he keep this foundation in his own kit, he also recommends it to clients looking for a product with light application.
Aside from its vast shade range, he called it an "amazing daily powder foundation" that would likely work well for most women that have slightly oily-to-normal skin types.
"[MAC] is still on top for me," Bonema admitted. "It blends well into the skin [and] it lasts long. That's something I really like."
This powder foundation has a plethora of base colors available with a variety of undertones ranging from red to rosy to peach to golden.
When it comes to buying quality makeup, Bonema wants shoppers to remember that pricier doesn't always guarantee better. "Don't think the price is the reason why it's better than the other product," she said. "I can tell you now, yes, I do like NARS foundation but BLK/OPL is a drugstore brand that you'll find at CVS, Walmart and Target...that has great foundations for black women."
Best setting powders for darker skin tones, according to experts
Moleski recommends this setting powder from Prime Beauty, a Black-owned beauty brand. Their Locked In Loose Powders come in four different shades that can be bought individually or come in duos for a lower cost than price of ordering two individuals. "They are absolutely gorgeous," he said.
"Right now, in my kit, my go-to setting powder is Dermablend," Bonema said. She likes their original invisible powder for all complexions, but it also comes in colors like tinted beige and tinted saffron.
Bonema also recommends this translucent setting powder from Laura Mercier. It comes in three different shades: translucent for very fair-to-medium skin tones, honey for medium skin tones with olive, warm and golden undertones and translucent medium deep for medium-deep to the deepest skin tones.
Bonema likes this translucent setting powder from Danessa Myricks. It comes in seven shades ranging from invisible to deep brown.
Best bronzer for darker skin tones, according to experts
Bonema and Moleski both recommend this Fenty bronzer.
Moleski told us these bronzers are "error-proof" because of their ability to complement different undertones. While he notes that other brands may tend to lean toward red or orange undertones as the standard for deeper skin tones, Fenty has a broader spectrum and creates products that acknowledge other undertones that exist amongst women. Similarly, Bonema said this is a brand that has mastered accurately tackling undertones in bronzers.
"There's...very unique shades that make each woman individually beautiful in her identity. Fenty's bronzers really allow that natural glow that you want from a bronzer to come out. Instead of it looking like makeup, it looks really like healthy skin," Moleski told us.
Best eye products for darker skin tones, according to experts
The initial purpose of this eye shadow is to act as a primer for the eye but, since it helps with creasing, Ibelegbu likes to use it on the smile lines. "Put it on the smile lines before you put on foundation and it helps that area to not crease as well," she explained.
Moleski said the Viseart Neutral Mattes and Dark Mattes eye shadow palettes are his go-tos. "These two palettes, for women of color, [are] the perfect matte neutrals so that you can get that eye definition that you want. The undertones are really complementary, so it enhances the eye shape without that...heavy eye makeup look," he explained.
Ibelegbu recommends any eye shadow palette from Juvia's Place. "[It] shows up really well on deeper skin tones, [it's] very pigmented [and it's] a brand by a Black woman for Black women," she said. "It's amazing; I use it all the time for my clients."
Bonema also raved about Juvia's Place products from eye shadows to cheek colors. "Sometimes, depending on the brand, [the color] may not show up on our skin. Juvia's Place is awesome when it comes to [pigmentation]," she said.
This particular palette features 12 different shades in an array of neutrals and nudes that range from matte to shimmery finishes.
"Awesome, awesome," Bonema said of Pat McGrath's makeup products. This palette is made up of 10 eye-catching shades in both matte and shimmery finishes that are perfect for creating any look you have in your mind.
These pigmented creams from Danessa Myricks come in over a dozen different colors and can be used on the eyes, cheeks or lips. Bonema is a fan of these, as well. "Being a Black-owned company, I think she really caters to the Black woman in general. I really, really like her products," she told us.
Moleski likes this mascara for people who "have some lashes but want really, really defined lashes." This budget-friendly mascara makes it look like you have false lashes, he told us.
Moleski also likes this mascara — which is also under $10 — for bold lashes. "I don't push designer products; I push quality products," he said. "I don't like any mascara that's over $15 because it could be amazing, but you should replace your mascara every month because of bacteria."
"It's waterproof, it's very black and it goes on very smoothly, so I really enjoy [this liner]," Ibelegbu said. She's not the only one who's a fan of this eyeliner gel. It has a 4.6-star average rating and almost 600 verified five-star ratings on Amazon.
Best highlighters for darker skin tones, according to experts
"Depending the deepness of your tone, [this product is] really pigmented and really, really, really beautiful," Moleski said of this powder highlighter from Jouer Cosmetics. He calls them "outstandingly gorgeous" and "very buttery." His favorite shades for deeper skin tones are Topaz and Skinny Dip.
Bonema can't get enough of Danessa Myricks' skin illuminators. "I swear by them," she told us.
This liquid highlighter comes in upwards of a dozen different colors. If liquid isn't your thing, you can also opt for the loose powder version.
Best lip products for darker skin tones, according to experts
After 20 years in the business, Moleski resoundingly recommends MAC's lip products for deeper skin tones. "If you're going to go for error-proof lip liners and lip products, MAC is always what I would gravitate toward," he said.
Moleski calls this lip gloss in the shade Rooftop as his "number one favorite go-to lip gloss for women of color that want a really beautiful nude." Described as a buttery and beige-ish brown, he told us that this is the gloss that he uses on anybody that is looking for a brown-leaning nude. "Even on darker complexions, with the right liner, it is absolutely gorgeous," he said.
He also recommends the shade called Heatwave. While it looks orange in the tube, it actually slides on sheer and has the right amount of tint that makes it complementary for darker skin tones. "It gives you that warmth that you'd want in the fall without having it being overpowering," he said.
"She makes the most amazing lip glosses for Black women," Bonema said of this Black-owned brand founded by Kiana Newsom. "You don't have to wear lip liner [and] you don't have to wear lipstick — the nudes just work."
Bonema likes to use these lip glosses on her bridal clients because they aren't sticky and they provide the perfect amount of color.
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