Essence Mag Readers Attack Naturals For Being “Too Dark” to Wear Red Lipstick


By Chinwe of Hair and Health

“Take that red lipstick off.all black people cann’t wear this for real”

 “Everybody can’t wear RED lipstick, baby u should have tried Wine,”

“Please stop wearing red lipstick when your complexion is very dark.  Uh!”


“My, my that red lipstick is ugly as pure hell!  It’s not for everyone.”

These are just a few of the negative comments posted under an Essence photo containing three black women – one of which is of dark brown complexion with red lipstick.  All of the above comments were, sadly, from black women.  Let me give you some background information:

Rocquelle (who was actually featured in this BGLH Natural Hair Style Icon post a couple years ago) is a beautiful, confident, sister with skin reminiscent of chocolate.  During a book signing event, a photographer asked to take her picture.  This photo, along with photos of many other women, would later be placed on and their Facebook page to showcase “hot natural hairstyles” that were snapped in Houston.  Then Facebook comments came pouring in concerning the “red lipstick” on the “dark-skinned” lady.  What do red lipstick and dark skin have to do with hot natural hairstyles, you ask?  You tell me!


The Facebook photo.

My first impression when I saw the above photo was: “Everyone is rocking red with their natural hair.”  If you asked me to focus on Rocquelle, I would’ve simply said, “That red pops.  It reminds me of a lipstick I own”.  That is all.  I would give the same response if I saw this lady: 


… or these two ladies:


All of their lipsticks are popping!

Now, of course, we live in a world where no two individuals are exactly alike, and thus opinions and perspectives will vary.  Some people like red lipstick.  Some don’t.  Plain and simple, right?  Well, not when red lipstick only becomes an issue if it is worn on a lady with dark skin.  That is called a limited view based on European standards, in my book.

So what is the problem, exactly?  Why does this red lipstick not look fine on a sister with dark skin?  How dark is too dark to wear red? Why would it look just fine on women with lighter complexions?  Who made up that fashion rule!?!  Have we been conditioned to think that way?  And the bigger question: When will we, as black women, stop putting each other down and so disgustingly?

In a country where black women are at the bottom of the beauty totem pole, it saddens me that we would kick each other further down that pole.  What makes it worse, in my honest opinion, is when we do so based on features that define us … “black” or African features, if you will.  Gabby Douglas and her “kinky edges”.  Rocquelle and her “dark” skin with red lipstick.  Blue Ivy and her “unkempt curls”.  So what does fit our standard of beauty, then?  Straight edges, white skin, and perfectly combed hair?  I will let that marinate.

It is unfortunate that some of us believe such odd “fashion rules” (i.e., “Red lipstick and dark skin don’t mix.”It is a shame that a lipstick meant to pop beautifully is not allowed to do so on dark skin. But this is bigger than the red lipstick. It is a shame that some of us deem the very features that are unique to us (our dark skin, our kinks and uncombed curls) as “the problem”.  It is a shame that we have consequently become “mean girls” amongst ourselves.

Fortunately there were numerous comments – also from black women and a black male – in defense and compliment of Rocquelle.  But we all know that it only takes one rotten apple (in this case, several) to spoil the whole barrel; we see it everyday with how media and television shows perpetuate certain stereotypes and negative stories in the black community.  It is a shame, because at this rate we will only help to keep ourselves at the bottom of that pole.  How fitting that this month is Black History month.

What are your thoughts?  Please share below.



Empowering women of color to break barriers. Cherish.Thy.Melanin.


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187 thoughts on “Essence Mag Readers Attack Naturals For Being “Too Dark” to Wear Red Lipstick

  1. it’s all about undertones. If your cool but the red is a yellow/orange based it won’t do you any favors like a blue based red would. I say wear whatever but undertones make a big difference

  2. i think the darker woman should have worn a slightly darker red not a gothic red but a medium red. colours seem different on different skin tones eg light pink looks white on dark ski so you just need to find a shade that will look how you want it to look on your skin and not clash with your skin

  3. Nothing wrong with wearing red. I wear red and I’m dark, it’s not about the colour of her skin it’s about the shade of red she is wearing. It does look ridiculous, she looks like she is young and still experimenting with her skin tone and make-up.

    P.S: The asian looking woman also looks horrible in THAT SHADE of red.

  4. I love red lipstick! I keep extra tubes of it unopened just so that I can be the red lipstick fairy to other women (usually black as well) who need to know the power of a red lip.

    I think the idea that red lipstick isn’t ok for black women especially dark skinned ones comes from the idea that our features are “less than” so we need to downplay them somehow. An attention grabbing, classically feminine shade like a bold red seems out of place on dark skin because we’ve been taught that we don’t have a right to claim beauty in that way.

    I also think red lips are viewed as sensual or “sexy” in a way some of us don’t want to be. It’s a reaction to being over-sexualized I guess. I’ve seen that with women in my family feeling the need to bend over backwards to be the “good girl” so that folks wouldn’t call them “loose.”

    I think that certain reds (blue vs. yellow based) work better on certain skin but I don’t think red itself, even bright red should be off-limits for anyone.

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