Let’s be real. Shopping for makeup as an African American woman can be a struggle. From foundations that don’t match to lipsticks that don’t complement our beautiful skin tones, it definitely takes some patience (and practice) to not only find go-to products, but know how to use them properly, too. Thankfully, we tapped into Emmy-winning makeup artist, Andrew Sotomayer, who is no stranger to working with brown skin. His celebrity clientele includes A-listers like Jourdan Dunn, Wanda Sykes and Kerry Washington and he knows a thing or two about applying makeup to deep skin. Not to mention, he’s a huge fan of Black Opal. Keep scrolling to find his top 7 tips to mastering flawless makeup on African American skin.
Opt for Warm, Natural Tones
Whether it’s a lipstick or eyeshadow, we love neutral shades. But not all nudes are created equal. If you choose the wrong undertones, a neutral shade can go on chalky making your makeup look gray or ashy. Sotomayor suggests opting for warmer hues in eyeshadows and lipsticks to better compliment your brown skin. Instead of beige, silver and ivory tones, grab colors with gold, caramel and terracotta tones like the ColorSplurge Patent Lips in Copper Tone. As for highlighter, Sotomayor recommends always leaning towards metallic bronze shades, but points out that and reddish-brown hues can double as a blush. If you prefer powder formulas, try swiping on the True Color Illuminating Powder. This powder is formulated to work with all skin tones and has a high-shine finish, but isn’t too glittery. For more control, the True Color Illuminating Stick allows you to build you color as sheer or opaque as you please and is available in five shades that fit medium to deep skin tones.
Experiment with Mixing Foundations
Women of color tend to have a variation of colors on our faces. From under the eyes to the foreheads to the jawline, don’t be alarmed if you find that one shade of foundation doesn’t match your entire face. Instead of compromising on a shade that isn’t quite the perfect fit, Sotomayor suggests grabbing more than one foundation to apply to the face. “Applying a lighter color under the eyes, the center of the face and the chin helps to brighten your appearance,” Sotomayor says. “While a deeper shade along the jaw, under the cheeks and on the forehead, will help create a subtle contour and prevent your base from looking ashy.” Though if you do decide to stick with one shade, you can try adding contrast with a bronzer or deeper shade of powder like the Ultra Matte Foundation Powder in Dark or Medium Deep.
Press Powder Into Your Skin
If you’re not using a pressed powder, we highly suggest trying one out. It’s the secret weapon that keeps your makeup in place all. day. long. No lie. If you have oily skin and find your T-zone looks greasy before lunchtime, try the Invisible Oil Blocking Loose Powder that keeps shine at bay. Or grab our best-selling True Color Soft Velvet Finishing Powder infused with color adjusting pigments that blend-in seamlessly and look like a second skin. Sotomayor’s rule for applying powder is to press, not sweep. "You can totally apply powder with a brush, however, I suggest you follow with a powder puff or sponge to press the powder into the skin," he suggests. "The light pressure works the makeup into the skin so it doesn’t look like it’s sitting on top." And since no one wants cakey makeup, adopting this method will keep your base makeup looking smooth and natural.
Know The Difference Between Matte vs. Flat
Sure, no one ever aspires to have oily skin, but the truth is using too many mattifying cosmetics can actually hinder your overall look instead of helping. No one’s face is completely matte all-over so creating a no-shine look doesn’t make your skin appear naturally beautiful. Sotomayor says his rule of thumb is to create a variety of finishes for that ‘I woke up like this’ glow. “If you love shine, sweep it across your cheekbones, but keep the center of your face matte using a setting powder,” he suggests. “It makes the shimmer be your best accessory, instead of stealing all the attention.” Our go-to for shine is the Sheer Metallics for Eyes, Lips, Face and Body. You can pretty much use it anywhere you please and it adds the perfect pop of shine, without overdoing it.
Bold Jewel Tones Are Your Friend
There’s nothing wrong with sporting color on your lids or your pout. Let’s just say it now, African American women don’t need to be afraid of color. Instead embrace it with bold jewel tones like emerald green, cobalt blue, shimmery copper and ruby red. According to Sotomayor, these look best on melanin-rich skin. “When you have rich pigment to your skin, you need rich pigment in your makeup to match,” he says. “The most important think when choosing color is to find one that is dense and vibrant.” For an eye-catching pop of color, we love to reach for the ColorSplurge High Impact Mascara in Royal Blue. Trust us, sporting this bright blue mascara against golden brown skin will get you endless compliments wherever you go.
Don’t Forget To Clean Your Brushes
This rule isn’t based on skin color, but will surely help save your skin from unwanted bacteria. Ladies, don’t neglect cleaning your brushes. Sotomayor’s go-to cleanser is the Dr. Bronner’s Castile Soap. Not only will clean brushes help keep bacteria and germs at bay, it will also ensure your makeup shades apply true to color. “If you use the same brush for a lighter shade, but then follow with a darker shade, it may lighten up your makeup,” Sotomayor warns. “If you have a formula that’s difficult to remove, try a waterproof makeup remover before cleansing with soap for a more thorough clean.” On average, skin experts recommend cleansing brushes every week, especially those used for base makeup.
Always Wash Your Makeup Off
We’ve all been there, it’s midnight and you’ve had the longest day ever and there’s nothing you want more than to lay your head on a pillow and sleep. But trust us, the extra three minutes it takes to wash your makeup off won’t ruin your snooze. You see, when we leave our makeup on for too long, we become prone to breakouts. And women of color, especially, are more likely to get hyper-pigmentation aka acne scars that are a pain to get rid of and even more of a pain to cover up. So, save yourself the hassle and wash your makeup off before bed. For a gentle cleanse that removes dirt, grime and makeup, try the Even True Skin Perfecting Crème Cleanser. It’s formulated with glycolic acid to help remove dead skin cells and Squalene to help balance out moisture levels in the skin.