Hey y'all, Nina here. I'm a woman of color who's a lover of makeup, but woefully makeup stupid.
So, you might remember me from this post, in which me and some other BuzzFeed Babes got our hair and makeup done. But a lot of people who saw the post said the makeup artist (MUA from now on) didn't know how to do makeup for a woman of color.
It left me wondering: How do different people and brands handle doing glam makeup for women of color?
When you're a woman of color, it's hard enough matching your skin tone to a foundation without having to mix (and therefore buy) two colors. For lipstick, it can be incredibly difficult to know which colors compliment your skin because many swatch tests are done on lighter skin. And when it comes to eyeshadow, we often get pigeonholed into only using specific colors, particularly golds and purples.
I wanted to get a professional perspective on what a good "glam" look would be for me, so I decided to visit five different stores and makeup counters to get a "glam" look. I planned to follow two simple rules. 1. I'd use the words "glam," "bold," and "evening" to describe the look I wanted, and 2. When offered a choice, I'd let the MUA decide what would look best on me.
Makeup by: Kenya O'Neil
Cost: $50 in products.
Time: About an hour.
What I liked: EVERYTHING. I am a sexy, shimmery diva here. The MUA made my face really pop. She matched my skin tone so well, and gave me a wonderful, natural glow. Yeah, she went for gold in the eyes, which is pretty safe, but then asked me if I wanted to just focus on eyes and leave the lips neutral. I told her to do what she thought would look best, and she brought out that darker lip color. I really appreciate that she was willing to go bold or go home.
What I didn't like: Literally nothing. I felt so glam and vampy and I had a really hard time wiping it off later. It felt like I was taking off my best self.
Cost: Purchase two products.
Time: About an hour.
What I liked: Before applying foundation, the MUA swatch-tested three different ones and asked me my opinion about which was the best match. That was a welcome assurance that I wasn't gonna end up looking like a porcelain doll or something. Because they're all about ~the natural look~, I was pleasantly surprised by how much she did on my eyes. I think a lot of people (including myself) have a hard time picking natural-looking lipsticks for women of color, but I dug what she chose.
What I didn't like: I probably shouldn't have picked a place that emphasizes natural beauty for glam look so, oops. My bad. She specifically said she wasn't going to contour my face, and I was kinda sad that I'd have to keep my doughy jowls. She picked purple and gold tones for my eyeshadow, and I was already getting bored with it. Ultimately though, it felt like this stuff was caked on. I think it's because the moisturizer didn't have enough time to set, and ended up kind of combining with the foundation to make me feel...globby? I also have a hairier face and it felt like everything was getting caught in my peach fuzz. NAGL.
Makeup by: Calvin Dexter
Cost: $50 in products.
Time: About 45 minutes
What I liked: This is the kind of look that takes roughly 5209384 products, but I think it paid off in my eyes, which became smoky, lustrous, seduction pools. I liked that the MUA went more silvery, instead of gold. It's a welcome change, and I think my eyes look FIERCE.
What I didn't like: This MUA didn't swatch-test first, and I think it shows. The contour makes me look like I fell face-first into a pile of powdered sugar. I almost blinded myself! People kept remarking how strangely light my face looked, and it made me feel self-conscious. I'm tryna look like a brown beauty here, not a white girl knockoff. He also chose to keep the lips pretty neutral, but tbh if we're going that hard with the eyes, why not go in on the lips, too? I should also say my selfie of this look was much less intense and looked a little more natural.
Cost: $50–$60 in products (my location was $55).
Time: About 45 minutes.
What I liked: The Benefit MUA checked in with me a lot about my look, which was refreshing. I let her choose to do a cat eye (which I'm a huge fan of).
What I didn't like: When I told her she could choose my lip color, she opted for a gloss instead of lipstick. By this point, I was getting pretty sick of this neutral lip BS. I wanna look G.L.A.M.! Can a woman of color get some color in here?! And I felt like there wasn't enough time between applying skincare stuff and makeup, so I was a glob-monster once again. While the eye makeup looked pretty sick with my eyes closed, it was gold and purple. Yawn. I also think the highlighter emphasized those HUGE lines under my eyes, so the whole world can know I'm sleep-deprived.
Makeup by: Aga Jakubowski
Cost: Purchase three products.
Time: About 45 minutes.
What I liked: The MUA at NARS was the most explanatory of them all. She had me test products like a tinted moisturizer on my hand so I could see how they actually looked on my skin. EVERYONE SHOULD DO THIS. She also used some strange shade of green on my eyes that I was totally into because by this point I was sure my eyelids had a secret sign that said "Gold or bust!" This MUA, like others, went with a lighter lip because it was daytime, BUT she suggested a couple darker options for a nighttime look and thus avoided my neutral lip rant.
What I didn't like: Not much. I was really feelin' this look. I also think it looked MUCH BETTER in person than it did in these photographs. The MUA really enhanced my natural skin tone and gave me a warm luminescence. Honestly, I totally forgot I was wearing any makeup. That's how light it felt!
1. If you don't like something, say so. Even though it was daytime, I secretly wanted the MUA to apply the darker lip color at NARS and wished I had said something. Or at MAC, I should've asked him to tone down the highlighter because it was making me uncomfortably light.
2. Swatch-testing is your friend. I really liked that I could see how the foundation matched at Bobbi Brown and NARS. It was refreshing to know that I was absolutely not gonna come out lookin' like I just returned from a vacation on the sun. I embrace my natural coloring, and they should too!
3. Women of color don't just have to use gold and purple. We always get told that gold and purple are ~our colors~, and almost every MUA followed that rule. However, the NARS MUA tried something different, and I think it looks great on me. Don't be afraid to experiment with other colors. Taste the rainbow!
4. People were very reluctant to put color on my lips. I really think some of the MUAs copped out because they were unsure of what would compliment me. My eyes looked so fab, so why couldn't my lips look like they didn't come from a corpse? I will never do a neutral lip again as long as I live.
5. You can emphasize your eyes and lips. I know people say not to do this, but fuck those people. You can have crazy, shimmery eyes and a bold lip. Sephora did it for me, and it was the best I felt all day.
Sephora and NARS were my favorite looks. Sephora gave me the best bang for my buck, and NARS gave me options. Both MUAs knew how to handle darker skin and weren't afraid to take risks, which is exactly what I wanted going in. Ultimately, as women of color, we shouldn't shy away from demanding what we want, even if it's as simple as bright lips and silver eyeshadow. VIVA LA GLAM!
Sephora products used: Smashbox Iconic Photo Finish Foundation Primer, Armani Master Corrector in Orange, Sephora Bright Future Gel Serum Concealer in Toffee and Dulce de Leche, NARS Sheer Glow Foundation in Càdiz, NARS Dual-Intensity Blush in Jubilation, BECCA Ombre Nudes Eye Palette, Marc Jacobs Shamless Bold Blush in Rebellious, Laura Mercier Face Illuminator Powder in Indiscretion, stila Stay All Day Waterproof Liquid Eyeliner, NARS Velvet Matte Lip Pencil in Train Bleu, Kat Von D Everlasting Liquid Lipstick in Bauhau5, Urban Decay De-Slick Oil-Control Makeup Setting Spray, and Dior Diorshow Blackout Mascara.
Bobbi Brown products used: Hydrating Face Tonic, Intensive Skin Supplement, Hydrating Eye Cream, Extra Repair Moisturizing Balm, Corrector in Medium to Dark Bisque, Creamy Concealer in Honey, Skin Foundation Stick in Honey, Brightening Finishing Powder in Porcelain Pearl, Bronzing Powder in Natural, Blush in Sand Pink, Lip Color in Guava, Lip Pencil in Pink Mauve, Lip Gloss in Tangerine, Perfectly Defined Long-Wear Brow Pencil in Espresso, Long-Wear Cream Shadow Stick in Dusty Mauve and 24 Karat, Shimmer Wash Eye Shadow in Rose Gold, Long-Wear Gel Eyeliner in Black Ink, and Everything Mascara.
MAC products used: Pro Longwear Concealer in nc25, Studio Fix Powder Plus Foundation in nc20, Extra Dimension Eye Shadow in Smokey Mauve, Eye Shadow in Brown Script, Embark, Handwritten, Swiss Chocolate, Pink Freeze, and Carbon, Fluidline Liner in Blacktrack, Mineralized Timecheck Lotion, Prep + Prime Highlighter in Peach Lustre, Matchmaster SPF 15 Foundation in 6.0 and 8.5, Mineralize Skinfinish Natural in Medium and Dark, Mineralize Skinfinish in Global Glow, Lip Pencil in Cork, Lipstick in Crème d'Nude, Pro Longwear Lip Pencil in Nice 'N' Spicy, Lipglass in Myth, Kohl Power Eye Pencil in Feline, and Prep + Prime Fix+ spray.
benefit products used: Moisture Prep Toning Lotion, It's Potent! Eye Cream, Instant, Comeback Facial Serum, Air Patrol Eyelid Primer, Creaseless Cream Shadow in Holy Smokes!, Longwear Power Shadow in Kiss Me, I'm Tipsy, Thanks A Latte, and Quick, Look Busy, They're Real Push-Up Eyeliner in Beyond Black, They're Real Limited Edition Mascara, "That Gal" Brightening Face Primer, Hello Flawless Custom Powder Cover-Up in Amber, Boi-ing Concealer, Brow Zings in Dark, Gimme Brow in medium/deep, Erase Paste Concealer, Hoola Bronzer, Dallas Blush, Watt's Up! Highlighter, and Rockateur Ultra Plush Lip Gloss.
NARS products used: Multi-action Hydrating Toner, Optimal Brightening Concentrate, Aqua Gel Luminous Oil-Free Moisturizer, Pure Radiant Tinted Moisturizer in Annapurna, Smudge Proof Eyeshadow Base, Radiant Creamy Concealer in Biscuit, Steven Klein Dead of Summer Eyeshadow
Single Eyeshadow in Never Too Late, Larger Than Life Long-Wear Eyeliner in Rue de Rivoli, Kohliner, Lip Gloss in Chihuahua, Soft Velvet Loose Powder in Mountain, and Audacious Mascara.