Best Colours For Dark Skin

Note: Before you read this;

  • When referring to skin tones I’m not talking about skin colour but the undertones of the skin which can consist of yellow, blue, red, and pink pigmentation
  • Please note that this is a classification based on my own observations. My expertise come from working in a women’s boutique for almost years and I’ve seen just about every skin shade without make up from, Caucasian, Asian, African (scientifically, there is more diversity amongst southern African skin tones than any other races, and everything in between
  • Yellow based tones are also called cool tones in the make up and cosmetics Industry
  • Blue Tones are called cool tones, and also pink tones
  • A lot of women wear the wrong foundation for their skin tone. It’s only recently that cosmetic companies have started making foundations for yellow skin tones that have a yellow base. Previously most cosmetics company only made blue based foundation
  • Yellow and blue based foundation brands: MAC, Shishedo, Laura Mercier, Boby Brown
  • Also hope you take something out of this article and if you’ve got any questions please post me a comment or email me. This article took me forever to write. Hope you enjoy it.




In Full Bloom

I’m sure you’ve all heard the saying that colour looks good on dark skin. In my teenage years and early adult years, during the development of my personal style, I would visit cosmetics counters in Melbourne Department stores and beauty shops. I remember the sales assistant and make artists rushing to meet me with their rouges of red, orange, and pinks. Not only that. They brought with them their eye shadow palettes of exotic shades. Shades at the time no one in the Melbourne fashion scene was brave enough to wear. They were the colours usually reserved to stage make up.  But it didn’t stop these well meaning individuals from trying to experiment on me, because they believed that black people look great in colour.

While there’s some truth to this, there are also a few guidelines we must follow when selecting colour for make up or our clothes. Not all colours are created equal and to truly look your best in colour is to know your skin tone and what colours work best for your complexion.

Skin Tone

Skin tone is not skin colour but the colouring underneath your skin. There three main classes of skin tones among dark skin that I’ve personally witnessed. Yellow, blue, and blue red skin tones.

The first thing you need to do is look at yourself in the mirror and work out what your skin tone is. Knowing your skin stone should hopefully help you choose what colour clothes you should wear closer to your face as it affects your complexion. It’s also important to help you choose your make-up.

I’ve found that no matter what your skin undertone is, for dark skin there’s one rule. When it comes to make up, metallic bases and bright bases look better than matte bases. This is mostly true for nail polishes, eye shadows, lipsticks, lip glosses and blushes. Foundation and powders are different as they don’t often make them with metallic bases except for mineral make up.

Mineral makeup.

I haven’t yet been able to find a mineral makeup brand that didn’t leave my skin looking a ashy. I’ve tried all the main brands. One of the reasons this may be happening, is because of either talcum powder or the presence of zinc. When I started looking into sunscreens, I found that they made my skin look ashy. This is because of the zinc oxide that imparts a whitish tinge to my skin. I’ve found to brands of sun screen that don’t do this. Bloom cosmetics, Daily Shield Body and the other is Mecca Cosmetica’s, To Save Face.

Mecca Cosmetica, To Save Face

Personally my undertones are a mixture. I have yellow tones with occasional bits of pink. The dominant shade is yellow and as much as I’ve hated it, I’ve grown to respect this. I love summer because I get to develop more melanin which makes my skin more even.

Having a yellow undertone means that my foundation has to be yellow based in order for it to work for me, otherwise it’s going to be too dark. It also means that when I wear green, I can’t wear lime green tops. Lime green has a lot of yellow in it and it makes me look very dull. It also means that I can’t wear olive colours for the same reason. As much as I like wearing greens, I’ve learned to opt for the bottle greens, forest greens, and emerald greens. Basically any green without yellow. The other thing that I’ve learned to do is wear bright colours.

Bright Colours Vs Non Matte Colours

Bright colours are not just bright. They also have other chemical properties which I’m not going to bore you with that make them bright. Take for example. Cobalt blue is bright and shine. The brightness in colours are a result of metals. Cobalt blue has the metal cobalt. What does all this mean? If you want to look bright and vibrant, you’re best to wear make up or clothing that helps you achieve that.

The other reason why some colours appear bright and others don’t have got to do with the light. When light hits a surface of either your face or dress, it does two things. Some of it gets absorbed and the rest gets reflected. We see this reflection as a colour. This colour can be red or blue or yellow. The reflection of light occurs in rays. For a smooth reflection that gives a bright look, the light rays are reflected in a straight line. For a dull reflection, the light scatters in not so straight lines creating the appearance of dullness.

Because you want to always look bright and vibrant, dark skin doesn’t look as good dull. You will of course choose colours that have a brightness about them. For make up you will opt for metallic shades rather than matte.

Yellow Tones –

Most common skin tone amongst ethnic population


Yellow Tones sedene blake

Most yellow tones will suit all colours except for greens with too much yellow such as lime greens and some olives. Yellow skin tones also need to watch out for red pigments with a lot of yellow. Yellow tones also look great in metallic colour and colours that appear bright. They should stay away from matte colours as this makes them look less bright and a little ashy.

This colour rules mainly apply to colours closer to your face and is important for your tops, dresses and jackets. You need to choose the colours for your bottom half based on your body shape whereas the colour on top is about brightening your face and using the colours in your tops to brighten you up. This basically means that you can wear less make up or if you are like me, most of the time, none at all.

Make up

Again avoid matte colours, go for metallic or shimmering colours. Choose yellow base foundation and bases. Visit your MAC counter for a consultation.

Blue Tones and Blue Red Skin Tones

Blue Skin Tone - abang-othowblue tones - alek wekblue tones - Clara Aker Benjamin


You can were yellow based colours such as yellow reds and olive and lime yellows and the colour yellow itself. You will look better in pastel colours than you will in bright colours. Icy colour tones will also suit you more so than they suit yellow tones. Stay away from matte colours as they are to dull for your bright self.

Make up

Blue based foundations and lipsticks and glosses. Stay away from matte lipsticks they don’t do you justice. Take advantage of the fact that you can were eye popping yellow reds for lipsticks but watch out. If your lips are too lushes and stick out a bit much, then this maybe a little overwhelming.


Arlenis SosaBlue Red Tones - Arlenis SosaBlue Red Tones3Rose CorderoBlue Red Tones Rose Cordero 2
Special Notes 
No Classification system is perfect and you’re always going to have people who don’t seem to fit into the boxes.
A perfect example of this is Kelly Moreira. She has the perfectly even brown skin without the visibility of any apparent undertones. Amazing!
Blue skin tone Kelly_Moreira

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