Mattes, Metallics, and Other Fall 2013 Makeup Trends (for Brown-Skinned Folk)

Are you tired of flipping through fashion magazines and reading through makeup trends posts only to find that the looks are designed for white women? Not to worry. I’ve arranged some kickass, beautiful brown-skinned BAMFs to show y’all some fall makeup looks designed for darker skinned women. (But don’t worry; I’ve included ways to wear the look if you’re light-skinned.)

Photo credit Ev Evnen

Ready? Onward!

Oxblood Lip

Oxblood is the color of the season. If you’re wondering what the fuck oxblood is, it’s a dark mix of fuchsia and red. More purple than burgundy, but more darker and redder than berry. Did I mention it’s dark?

makeup collage 1

Photo credit Ev Evnen

What better to usher in the fall than a deep, dark, vampy lip? Go easy on the rest of the makeup here. Lightly lined eyes with a sweep of matte shadow are enough to balance the lip without looking too intense. Skip the blush for day. Wear a pink or dusty rose blush for night, if you want more depth.
Sasanka is wearing Urban Decay 24/7 Liner in Bourbon, UD Matte Eyeshadow in Naked (for lighter skin try Foxy, for darker skin try Buck), UD 24/7 Lip Liner in Venom, and UD Revolution Lipstick in Shame.

If you’re looking for a more undone look, I’d recommend skipping the eye makeup altogether. Maybe a swipe of mascara if your eyelashes are light-colored. Also keep in mind that darker colors make lips look smaller, so if that’s not your thing, beware. Or fuck the patriarchy that says you need to have thick lips, and rock the color anyway.

Graphic Cat Eye

Meow. This year’s cat eye is large and dangerous. Think panther, not house cat. The line thickens in the middle of the eye and extends out a half-inch past the outer corners. A swipe of matte or satin eyeshadow in a color that matches your skin keeps the focus on the liner.

makeup collage 2

Photo credit Ev Evnen

This look goes great with bold colors and light makeup. Liquid liner takes practice and patience. Keep going over the line and thickening it until it’s symmetrical.
Payal is wearing Urban Decay Liquid Liner in Perversion and MAC Paint Pot in Groundwork on her eyes (for lighter skin try Painterly, for darker skin try Quite Natural), NARS Blush in Lovejoy (if you’re darker skinned try Taos), and MAC Cremesheen Lipglass in Richer, Lusher.

Purple Grungy Eye

Punk is back, baby! And I’m so fucking excited!

makeup collage 3

Photo credit Ev Evnen

The best thing about purple is that it suits pretty much every skin color. Adjust accordingly. There are warm-toned purples, cool-toned purples, dark purples, light purples, bright purples. Even mauves count. Mix some pink or blue into the look to give it an extra edge. If you’re lighter-skinned or have darker skin with a cool undertone, purples that lean toward blue look great on you. If the cosmetic industry thinks your skin tone is edible (caramel, honey, mocha, etc.), it probably means you have a warm undertone, and pinkish purples look more natural on you. The lighter the skin, the lighter and icier the purple can be. The darker the skin, the less jarring bright purples are. That said, I’ve worn cool, icy purples and I’ve known some light, cool-skinned people to rock some bright ass purple. These guidelines are meant to be broken.

Sarah is wearing Urban Decay 24/7 Liner in Perversion, UD Eyeshadow in Fishnet, RansomPsychedelic Sister and Blackout (used around lashline), and NARS Blush in Amour and Desire (mixed together).

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SJ Sindu

SJ has written 13 articles for us.


  1. This brown-skinned femme can’t (well, chooses not to/is scared to) pull off super bold makeup looks like this, but this brown-skinned femme is so. goddamn. happy. to see this on Autostraddle. More of this! <3

  2. the models in this article look both exotic; romantic and natural. well, from my gaze. it’s a rare balance to strike in photography of women.

    • I don’t know how to nicely tell you that saying brown women are “exotic” is, well, not really the compliment you probably mean it to be.

      I’m pretty sure you didn’t mean any harm by this, though, so hopefully someone with less anger / baggage with that term can come along here and drop some knowledge.

    • Emma, I think this is very well expressed by Amoja Three Rivers in SOA Watch’s Cultural Etiquette: A Guide For The Well-Intentioned:

      Ethnocentrism, according to the Random House Dictionary of the English language, means “a tendency to view alien groups or cultures in terms of one’s own” and “the belief in the inherent superiority of one’s own group and culture, accompanied by a feeling of contempt for other groups and cultures.”

      The term “exotic,” when applied to human beings, is ethnocentric and racist. It defines people of color only as we relate to white people. It implies a state of other-ness, or foreign origin, apart from the norm. It is not a compliment.

      please don’t use that language on autostraddle!

      • here also is a lovely and analytical article on the word:

        “…somewhere along the line, exotic went from describing a consciously cultivated look to describing something its bearer could hardly strip away: race. Exotic became code for dark-skinned women of various ethnicities: black women (Naomi Campbell, Beverly Peele, Sade), Latina women (Selena), Asian women (Tina Chow, Joan Chen).

        …It’s not terribly hard to see why exotic is problematic: In the States, white women are still perceived as neutral; dark-skinned women are the Other. For something to be exotic, by definition it must be the Other. So with exotic—which is usually used in an ostensibly positive sense, to describe a woman with striking beauty—we’re also looking sideways at its target, the message bearing the subtext of “You’re not from around here, are you?” And encoded in not being from around here is, Your beauty will never match our values. […] To use exotic is to assume dominance. Exotic says as much about the speaker as it does the subject.”

    • The biggest issue I have with the word “exotic” is that it’s extremely othering. White women are rendered the default, the norm. This is an invisible privilege that is largely unacknowledged in our society. Exotic is code for “not white,” which is problematic for a variety of reasons. Here are some:

      1. It lumps all non-white women into one category and erases the uniqueness of their ethnicities and experiences by racializing them the same way.

      2. It creates a normal (white) category and an other (non-white) category. The normal category always has power and privilege.

      3. As a label, exotic reduces the person into an other-racialized being, ignoring all other identities the person in question may have.

      4. Historically (and continuing today), exotic has been used in many ways to dehumanize non-white women. Back then, exotic slaves were gifted to royalty and persons of influence. Today, exotic brides can be bought and sold. Exotic is a fetish, one under which it’s hard to see the person’s humanity.

      5. Unlike self-identified racial and ethnic monikers, exotic implies a white gaze. The person being called exotic is being subjected to a privileged, objectifying gaze.

      Applying the term exotic to someone is reductionary, erasing personhood and identity to put someone’s race in the forefront of everything they are. It’s also a term steeped in power and privilege, which identifies non-white people as Other.

    • Being called “exotic” is not a compliment. In fact it can be incredibly demeaning and isolating. *Sigh*

  3. That groundwork MAC paint pot is part of my every day arsenal and is MAGIC. It’s totally worth the $$ in my opinion. I used to rock the purple eyeshadow back in 2010 & now I guess it’s time to BRING IT BACK. That oxblood lip is singing like a siren to me & I can’t wait to rock it.

    SJ I hope to see more brown-skinned make-up tips from you on Autostraddle! This post is a dream come true & the best thing to wake up to. Did you do all these looks yourself? If so, THAT’S AMAZING.

  4. Great post, not only is everybody in the photos gorgeous (purple eyeshadow rock chick, marry me? )but punk eyeshadow, heavy black eyeliner and vampy lipstick are pretty much my signature moves so pretty much all of these products are on my wish list now!

  5. Portland Black Lipstick makes really good, natural, lasting, every-colored (pretty much, seriously) lipstick that is strongly pigmented. Even though (sadly) all of the models on their website are white, the absolute opaqueness of the pigment make me quite confident to recommend it as a good choice for dark skin.

    (It has beeswax, though, if you’re vegan.)

    • When you said Portland Black Lipstick, I got excited ’cause I thought it was a company making lipstick for black folk. But alas. Still, I’ll check it out! Thanks!

      • (Yeah, sorry! I think their name comes from midnight-black lipstick being the first ‘distinctly non-natural’ lipstick hue that comes to mind, after it being popularized by goth fashion. But I digress.)

  6. I’ve been trying so hard to do the catseye flick lately but I suck at it :( Can anyone give me extra tips? I’ve tried liquid eyeliner that came with its own applicator but it goes everywhere, and pencil eyeliner is so hard to keep sharp. I always do them too small, too. I think I need to spend a day just applying and reapplying!

    • Most liquid eyeliners come with a stubby tapered foam applicator. Those don’t work very well for me. I find that a line is hard to keep straight, thin and sharp. But I LOVE the applicator on the Urban Decay liquid liners. It’s a very thin, flexible brush, and it’s super easy to draw a cateye. So easy that I wear a small one to work.

      I’ve also done gel liner (Buxom Lashliner is good, so is Bobbi Brown gel liner), with a flat angle brush. Super simple, very easy to draw the line. But not so easy to do the flick.

    • Rimmel GlamEyes is really good, has an applicator similar to the Urban Decay one pictured. It only costs about 7euro from Boots, which helps if you lose your eyeliner as frequently as I do!

      I find getting the thinnest possible applicator and then putting just the faintest brushstroke for the flick on both eyes as a guideline works really well. You can build up a heavier line from there knowing that the two sides will match. Also having some damp cotton wool or tissue nearby is handy. If you get the flick part wrong, remove it immediately and start again. You’re not going to be able to fix it, if it looks wrong from the get go, it’ll just dry in and you’ll have to scrub it off and have red skin and smudges.

      • I second the good advice, and add that it’s usually good to have makeup remover with you. I use pointy q tips soaked in makeup remover to help even out the wings of the liner. I usually also make my own makeup remover by combining 1 part oil (almond oil is my fav but you can also use baby oil) and 1 part witchhazel.

        • Ohhh I’m definitely going to try that! I didn’t even think to mention eye makeup remover because it tends to irritate my skin but this might be a good solution.

          Great article by the way. All three looks are awesome, looking forward to the next one! :)

        • Amazeballs!!

          Question though: how do you tell if a red lipstick has a blue base? (Also, this is an awesome fact to know as I’ve never been able to figure out why I sometimes win the red lipstick lottery and other times fail entirely!)

        • You scan it with your laser vision.

          In all seriousness, I don’t know how to explain it well. Blue-based/cool red is pinker, more purple. Look for words like garnet, burgundy, and classic. Warm red is more orangey or brown. Look for words like tomato and brick. My thing is to always try it on before buying. Sephora and Ulta always have open trials you can try on, and you can ask a store associate to disinfect the lipstick for you. If you have warm skin, a blue-based red will look harsher against your skin (which is not to say you can’t wear it, but it will pop more). If you have cool skin, warm reds will look brighter and contrast more with your skin.

    • RE: that liquid eyeliner look without mess– I use L’Oreal infallible Lacquer Liner. It’s a jar of deeply pigmented paste(think a kind of lipstick consistency) and comes with a tight, precise brush for application. I dig it because it’s really opaque, and because it’s so thick, I can control exactly how much product goes on the brush so it doesn’t blob all over the place.

      I don’t make up that often, but I have this for when I do.

  7. Are you tired of flipping through fashion magazines and reading through makeup trends posts only to find that the looks are designed for white women?

    YES. I AM. (Also hairstyles that are only for hair that ranges from straight to slightly wavy….)

    Thank you for writing this.

    Thank you for nipping the “exotic” talk in the bud.

    Please make this a series.


    Also curly-headed brown-skinned MOC haircuts. We need help.

  8. These models and the looks you created are utterly gorgeous. If this becomes a series, I will be thrilled. Maquillage for urban tree-climbing: HECK YES.

  9. Oh wow, gorgeous women. I loved this and it absolutely needs to be a series! As a white femme, it gave me a major privilege check and it’s really good to be reminded that the cosmetic/fashion industry is built for white women like me with complete disregard to the beautiful variation in the human population. Fuck the white hegemony!

  10. Wow wow wow this is perfect. I just bought an oxblood lipstick and I’m super excited to try it now!! Every day I love autostraddle more and more

  11. Love the looks! Especially the dark lipstick, I’m currently obsessed with deep plum and cherry lip colors!

  12. This is awesome buuut not all women who wear makeup identify as femmes. I certainly don’t and yet I never leave the house without makeup on. You could have just left it at brown-skinned people.

    • I actually don’t identify as femme either. I’ve IDed as genderqueer for as long as I’ve been out (8+ yrs or so). But many do, so I felt the label was a helpful one for others to find this article.

      • But after thinking about it more, you’re right. The “femme” label is unnecessary and misleading, so that’s been changed. Thanks for pointing it out!

  13. Like I’m actually really sick of people forcing the ‘femme’ label on anyone who looks stereotypically feminine.

    • Me, too. I ID as “femme-presenting” sometimes just so people understand what the fuck is going on, but I don’t actually apply the label femme towards myself. I hate being called femme by those who think there are only two options.

  14. The word ‘exotic’ is a problematic term but do we all have to jump down somebody’s throat like that for merely venturing her opinion? What is this? The PC police? Who here has never said or written something out of turn?

    • I think we’ve all written or said something out of turn before, that’s why she was respectfully corrected. Jen tells her that using that word is not really the compliment she probably meant it as and says she’s sure she meant no harm. Then Riese links to an article explaining this and says please don’t use that language on AS. Cris also links an article about the conversation around using this word and then SJ, the author of this post, contributes her thoughts on this. I really don’t think any of it was aggressive and seemed more about opening up a dialogue with a well meaning person about how their language might be perceived.

      I totally take your point about not wanting to jump down someone’s throat policing them but I do think these responses come from a good place.

      As a white woman, living in a small city with very few QWOC, I really appreciate the interactions that I can have in places like AS, and the opportunity they give me to learn about the experiences of another group within my community. I appreciate that this is a space where I can respectfully raise opinions and have them challenged and I would like to think that if I use a phrase or word that is disrespectful to someone on here, I would be called out on it, respectfully, just like I would call out anybody else. I have a voice, I have the right to reply. If I feel I have been misunderstood or that I misspoke the first time, I can clarify my intentions. If not I can engage in a conversation and LISTEN to why this is problematic.

      To paraphrase something Tiger Beatdown had to say about feminism: My queerness will be intersectional or it will be bullshit!

      • Every time I hear “PC Police” I roll my eyes because too many times it has been used to try to shut down conversation where if one is not into the PC-ness, you could just not engage instead of tone policing.

        I also felt the responses were not aggressive or sardonic, the whole thing was held with kind gloves of love, glitter and rainbows to make sure feelings will not get hurt of overly defensive.

        • kind gloves of love, glitter, and rainbows were actually exactly what i was going for so i’m glad that came through to at least some of y’all

  15. Ah I love this! Please make this a series :)
    Also — as a brown skinned femme, another great bright red matte lipstick is MAC Russian Red (and I think that has blue undertones?). It’ll stay put for hours and it smells like vanilla!

  16. So happy to see this post!! I love wearing makeup but it’s sometimes really difficult trying to achieve looks having my milk chocolate complexion; so Im really glad that you also included what products try used an possible others to try whether your darker or lighter. please continue doing this for every season!!!!!

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