If you’re a black man looking for makeup tips, be prepared to be overwhelmed by the sheer amount of information out there. I mean, seriously, there are so many different brands, styles, and products, how are you going to know what works? There are some traditional makeup tips that also apply, but there are also some special considerations you should take into account beforehand. That’s what this article is here to help you with.
Makeup for black men is a topic that is often overlooked by the cosmetics industry. This is unfortunate, because there are many reasons why African American men should consider wearing makeup:
- Makeup can help to conceal blemishes or scars that might be visible due to hair loss (especially in the case of alopecia)
- Many people consider makeup to be more masculine than it actually is, so wearing it may make you feel more confident
- Wearing makeup may make you look younger than you actually are
Makeup for black men
1. Choosing a Concealer
The greatest barrier to entry is finding the right concealer for you—especially with the amount of options that are out there, and the very chaotic retail environments where they’re shelved. Before you go shopping (online or in store), there are a few things you should be aware of.
First, stay away from formulas that say “brightening,” “illuminating,” or “highlighting,” Sir John says. While these words all sound great, it’s actually beauty marketing speak for “shimmer”—generally, these kinds of products have enough of a very small, reflective glitter to catch the light. While that’s an effective tactic for makeup, “they can look cosmetic, not undetectable,” he says.
Second, texture is essential. “You want a formula that’s moisturizing,” says celebrity makeup artist Patrick Ta. Generally speaking, selecting a product that comes in a tube with a “doefoot applicator”—beauty world for a sponge-at-the-end-of-a-stick—will give you the right vibe.
And finally, make sure you’re selecting the proper finish. Steer clear of phrases like “full coverage.” “Sheer to medium coverage is ideal,” Sir John says. Anything more than that will require better blending, and is generally designed to be worn as a companion to foundation—so if you want to quickly apply a product and move on, those aren’t quite right for you.
Since the beauty world is massive, here are a few favorites: Shiseido Synchro Skin Self-Refreshing Concealer ($31), Fenty Beauty Pro Filt’r Instant Retouch Concealer ($26), or as an affordable alternative, try L’Oréal Paris Infallible Full Wear Concealer ($13).
2. Before You Purchase
Think of shopping for the best makeup for men like shopping for a suit: instead of knowing your measurements, you need to know the exact shade that’s going to suit you. And just like our bodies, which tend to give a little and take a little depending on the season, your complexion changes based on your sun exposure. This means you may need to go and get “matched” at a department store, a Sephora, or your local MAC Cosmetics counter.
“You’ll get more one-on-one help this way, so they can assist you by trying on a few shades to make sure it’s right for you,” says Ta. “Just make sure they apply it directly on your face—not on your arm or elsewhere.”
After that, Sir John says, go take a walk outside or go up to the nearest window with natural light. Pull out your phone, put it on selfie mode, and take a picture. How does it look? Can you see a stripe of makeup, or does it mostly blend into your skin? You should be able to pick the right shade from there. (And then stock up.“Invest in a couple,” Sir John advises. “In August, your complexion is different than in January, so the key is to have more than one color.”)
If you’d rather shop online, most sites (Sephora.com among them) will have a good enough swatch system for you to guess your best shade. And since you’re buying two, go for the shade you think you are right now and then also purchase one step darker—you can always return it.
3. OK, Now Let’s Put It On
The best way to keep your concealer…concealed…is to prevent it from settling into fine lines or creases, or getting “cakey” throughout the day—and the best way to accomplish that is by taking care of your skin. “You always want to make sure you moisturize before applying concealer,” advises Ta. “If you moisturize, the product will apply to the skin more smoothly, and therefore, look more like your actual skin.”
The moisturizer you use depends on what your needs are. If you’re using concealer to cover up under-eyes and look more well-rested, you’ll want a rich, hydrating formula (try Tatcha Silk Peony Melting Eye Cream, $60). Tap just enough product to coat the pad of your ring finger under your eyes, starting outside near the crow’s feet and moving inwards. You should still feel or see the product sinking into the skin when you apply your concealer (this helps it glide and absorb better for a realistic finish).
If you’re masking blemishes, be aware of flakiness and dryness around the general area of the breakout. Plenty of folks with acne are cautious about adding any oil to their skin—but properly hydrating during your routine can actually help repair your face without causing an overdrive of your sebum (or oil) production. Plus, a nice, silky oil formula is a great aid for blending and applying concealer so it will look natural all day. Sunday Riley UFO Face Oil ($80) contains salicylic acid and tea tree, which moisturize and help prevent ingrown hairs.
And if it’s redness you want to hide, you need to first make sure you’re using the proper product to calm the area down. (Makeup may actually aggravate the situation without a proper base of skincare.) I suffer from psoriasis, so I know the drill—one of my favorite lines has been Dr. Jart Cicapair. Their Tiger Grass Cream ($48) really does the trick.
Immediately after moisturizing, apply your concealer. “I use it to cover up any blemishes, redness around my nose or chin, or darkness under my eyes,” Ta says. Use the doe-foot applicator of your product to gently place dots of concealer on blemishes (right on top), under the eyes (try three dots—outside, middle, and inner), or redness (one dot on each side of the nose, two dots for each cheek and the chin). Afterwards, use your freshly-cleaned ring finger to gently pat product into the skin until it disappears. Patting along the eyes using repeated motions will help cover the full area, while consistently patting the area of the blemish should give you enough coverage.
Before adding any more product than that, it’s wise to step away from the mirror. The pro move here: move into a room with different lighting, take out your phone’s selfie camera, and assess your work. Remember that you want to look like an improved version of yourself—not like you’ve just come from a daytime television appearance. “If you’re nervous, take a photo with flash,” Sir John adds. “That will show you how it translates during the day.”
To get even more advanced, you could invest in a sponge like the Beautyblender Pro ($20), which you simply wet, wring out, and then tap it into the product to do the blending for you. This is easily the most foolproof way to look like you’re wearing nothing at all—if you’ve got the time or patience for it. (It should be noted that, for those guys with consistent ingrown hairs, troublesome pimples, or rosacea, a Beautyblender will provide your most even coverage and is well worth the extra step.)
“If you do it right,” Ta says, “you’ll look great, like your skin was given a little extra help.” And I don’t know about you, but when it comes to my looks, I’ll take all the help I can get.
Shiseido Synchro Skin Self-Refreshing Concealer
Fenty Beauty Pro Filt’r Instant Retouch Concealer
L’Oréal Paris Infallible Full Wear Concealer
Tatcha Silk Peony Melting Eye Cream
Sunday Riley UFO Face Oil
Tiger Grass Cream