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

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It all depends on our skin’s under­tone. Find the right shade that works with your under­tone and any lip­stick col­or works. 

My grand­moth­er had a deep brown com­plex­ion and unfor­tu­nate­ly believed that she could nev­er wear red lip­stick. I real­ly wish she’d had the con­fi­dence to break the “rules” of her day.


There’s been a lot of mise­d­u­ca­tion and a lot of unlearn­ing needs to take place, but I appre­ci­ate arti­cles like this and oth­ers on this top­ic. We have to dis­cuss­es and call out this behav­ior when it hap­pens so that peo­ple can do bet­ter. I think it’s to the point where some folks don’t even real­ize how neg­a­tive they can be.


Red in the right shade/undertone looks good on everyone.…She is beau­ti­ful and i dont see the prob­lem. Heck, I envy any­one that can rock it, and oth­er bright/bold col­ors, unapolo­get­i­cal­ly. I just recent­ly mus­tered up the con­fi­dence to wear a bold red lip. WERK!!


I’m dark skinned and I LOVE red lip­stick!!!


Truth be told, not every col­or lip­stick works for every­body. But it has noth­ing to do with the per­sons com­plex­ion. It has more to do with the over­all per­son and the com­bi­na­tion of the per­sons fea­tures.

Agreed. In addi­tion to that, it has to do with the shade of the LIPSTICK, not the shade of the per­son wear­ing it. Under­tones are real. And they mat­ter. Black folks are so thirsty for rea­sons to say that OUR col­or is wrong. They’ll find any excuse under the sun to hate on dark skin. It’s pathet­ic. We ain’t NEVAH wrong to be black and dark. The lip­stick is wrong for not com­ple­ment­ing that. There are plen­ty of reds, pinks, oranges, pur­ples, etc that POP on dark skin BEAUTIFULLY. Just because some­one may have picked the wrong shade ONCE doesn’t… Read more »

I bet these same women turned into the Hulk when A$AP Rocky said that dark skin women should not wear red lip­stick.

Ugonna Wosu