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African American Beauty

By Makeda

In honor of Black History Month (or, African American History Month, if you prefer), this week's column is going to give Black women tips on how to use make-up to best compliment their unique beauty assets. As a Black woman, I am well aware that it is almost impossible to generalize about the best beauty tips for Black women because we run the gamut of skin tones and shades. Black women can have great, glowing skin and should use that natural bronze beauty to their advantage. Also, sometimes, the very things that may irk us are the assets that we should be playing up - like our naturally full lips.

For Black women, concealers and powders should have a yellow undertone. As we discussed in last week's column, finding the right shade of foundation can be a bit tricky, but, once you've discovered the foundation color and type that works best for you, you will be so happy and the rest of your make-up application will go so much easier. Thankfully, in recent years, there have been companies that have sprung up to address the needs of women of color (e.g., Iman, Real Cosmetics, etc.) and the major make-up brands have expanded their color lines to include option that are more flattering to women of color (e.g., MAC, Prescriptives, L'Oreal, etc.) Like concealer and powder, your foundation should have a yellow base. Also, often, Black women will have uneven skin tone and may need to use more than one shade of foundation on the different parts of their faces or mix more than one shade of foundation to find the shade that best matches. If you top your liquid foundation with powder, once again, that loose or presswed powder should be yellow-based - do not use white "translucent" powder, which claims to be colorless - it will make your skin look dry and ashy.

In terms of blush, Black women often look great in the brightest of colors. Imagine my surprise when I found that I look wonderful with hot pink (like MAC Dollymix or Breezy), deep plum (like MAC Loverush), even the brightest orange blush (like NARS Taos)! They can look shocking in the case, but the brown of our skin can tone them down and they give a fresh, glowing, healthy color to the cheeks. Black women even look terrific with just bronzer on the cheeks - I've had fabulous results with CARGO's Medium or Deep bronzers or Coral Beach blush/bronzer, MAC bronzer in Refined Golden or Bobbi Brown's Bronze Shimmer Brick, just to name a few. When you apply bronzer, don't just apply it to the apples of your cheeks, like you would blush. The idea of bronzer is to imitate the look that you get when you've been "sun-kissed", therefore, you should apply it where the sun would naturally "kiss" your skin - on the cheekbones, down the bridge of your nose, and your forehead (not your entire forehead, more like your hairline).

Fortunately for us, most of us have many eyeshadow color options. Lining your eyes with a dark blue or green will make the brown "pop." For a polished, sophisticated look, we can choose from wonderful neutral options like chocolate, mahogany, bronze and gold.

When thinking of options for lip color, here's my best piece of advice: if you've been blessed with full, luscious lips, don't try to make them look smaller! Think about it - there are so many products being sold at the make-up counters right now to give other ladies the illusion of what we have been given naturally. Many shades will work on our lips - though we should actively avoid anything overly frosty - it looks thick and pasty. The trick is finding a shade that best compliments your skin color and the natural pigmentation of your lips. If you're worried that a really light lipstick/lip gloss shade won't look good on you, you can always change the look of the color, by lining your lips with a deep brown or plum - but be careful to blend the liner really well - the dark, thick liner with light gloss look is so not cute, girlfriend.

For step-by-step tips on addressing your unique beauty needs, check out beauty books like those by Kevyn Aucoin (particularly Face Forward and Making Faces), Bobbi Brown (Bobbi Brown Beauty or Beauty Evolution) or the new book by supermodel/make-up entrepreneur Iman, The Beauty of Color. Give yourself a little time to find what works best for you. And have fun, honey - it's only make-up! Own your beauty!

Perfume-scented hugs and lipstick kisses,