Why Are Black Women Makeup-Shamed So Heavily?

When Youtube Beauty Vlogger Nikkie Tutorials posted the viral video The Power of Makeup in response to makeup-shaming, the internet lit up. Those in the beauty community have always known of its existence, but Nikkie was the first to really put the idea of makeup-shaming on the map. While ridiculing women for wearing makeup is certainly universal, the negativity and the backlash against black women who wear makeup seems to address three major areas of concern:

  • The use of makeup to seemingly lighten the skin
  • Lipstick shades being inappropriate for a woman’s complexion.
  • The use of makeup to “trick” a man.

The ever-trending #takeherswimming hashtag often speaks to these concerns.

The popular Gossip site, Bossip, even has what they’ve labeled a makeup sorcery guide which include images like this:

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When black women who suffer from hyperpigmentation use makeup to even their skin tone, they are often accused of both trying to appear light-skinned, and also fooling their would-be suitors:

Black women are also often made to feel restricted with what’s appropriate for their complexion. When Essence posted a photo of black women wearing red lipstick on their facebook page a few years ago, the comments were overwhelmingly in reference to the darker-skinned woman featured in the collage:

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“Take that red lipstick off all black people can’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!”

The question then is, why are black women not afforded the same freedom with wearing makeup as our white counterparts? Why is our use of makeup tied to us wanting to appear more white, or trying to land a man? Futhermore, why does there exist a stigma against dark-skinned women wearing brightly colored lipsticks?

Here’s what some of  makeup-loving BGLH Editors had to say:



Wearing makeup makes me feel glamorous. In fact, that’s what’s always attracted me to it. As a little girl, I used to watch the women in my family powder their face, apply lipstick, and head out for the evening. I attended a lot of social events as a child and seeing the women look so glam and fab from head to toe, made me fall in love with makeup. I fell in love with the entire package. I’ll always associate makeup with glamour – gives me that Golden Era, Old Hollywood feel.




I’ve always been into makeup, but becoming a beauty and fashion blogger and youtube content creator has taken my obsession and turned it into a business venture. To be honest, I don’t wear makeup that often, but when I do it’s a full face, just the way I like it. When I put on a set of full glam eyelashes and a super bright pink lipstick, I am in my glory. As a dark-skinned woman of color, I grew up hearing about how I could only wear certain shades or how I shouldn’t wear too much, so wearing it now is kind of my comeback. I even post weekly swatch videos on my channel showcasing pretty much every color of the rainbow against my skin.  Makeup is fun, and for some it’s art. I think the naysayers make way too much it. It washes off with soap and water at the end of the day, and we go on with our lives. Our boyfriends and husbands aren’t being fooled, and we’re good with ourselves. I share more of my thoughts in this video:



I remember when I was a kid and couldn’t wait to wear make-up so I could be like the girls on Clueless (This was before I knew Stacey Dash was lost in the world). Lipstick was cool, mascara and eyeliner was oh so rad. I had to settle for Bonne Bell lip balm and those infamous clear flavored rollerball lip glosses. The only time I could wear make-up was for dance competitions. As I got older, I really started to explore. I remember stealing my Mom’s Black Opal shadows (some of which I have til this day). At one point in my life, I was even pursuing a career as an MUA. The reason being is because of the way make-up feels. It’s a sense of creative expression. It’s figuring out how many purple and gold smokey eyes one can come up with to go to their college football game. It’s beating your face so you can bolster your confidence if you so choose. You can’t keep me away from a good highlight and bold lip! I’m all for it. Make-up is for the wearer.

What are your thoughts? Do you think Makeup-shaming exists in the black community?

Lisa Jean Francois

I'm a Lipstick-obsessed Journalist and Fashion Blogger. You can find me over on my blog or youtube channel swatching lippies and strutting around in 5-inch heels. I'm a also a brand coach, specializing in video marketing and digital brand development. Find me @lisaalamode.


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91 thoughts on “Why Are Black Women Makeup-Shamed So Heavily?

  1. Came across this piece shared on FB, and I love the focus on both asking insightful questions, and offering positive, empowering personal narratives.

    The idea that makeup (and fashion for that matter) is fair game for anyone’s vicious criticisms baffles and enrages me. Wear what you want, do your makeup how you want, look great, feel great, stop tearing other women down. Amen.

    I wanted to chime in on this point though: “Black women are also often made to feel restricted with what’s appropriate for their complexion.” For what it’s worth, this is very much not limited to women of color. There is very much an “acceptable range” of tones for every skin complexion, and every self-anointed makeup opinionator will tell you what yours is.

    I, for example, have pale white skin with a yellow undertone. I have been forbidden by every makeup pro/”pro” on earth from wearing purples, yellows, pinks, any reds with blue undertones, browns, deep reds, and salmony oranges. I can wear very tame “neutrals” that vary only slightly from my natural lip color, one pale orangey pink, one very specific red, and one insanely fun vivid orange that I adore but am nervous to wear because I’ve gotten mixed feedback on it.

    I am so used to being told clearly and unequivocally that I “can’t wear that color” that I always sit in awe of the wide array of colors that darker complexions “can” wear.

    So I assure you, this isn’t a thing targeted at dark tones. It’s flung at all of us. Sit still long enough, and someone who thinks s/he is hot shit will find a way to “improve” upon your look, often with lots of pity that you somehow didn’t know this obvious thing.

    In the end, here’s a good barometer for whether or not you can wear a specific lip color with your complexion: When you put it on and you look in the mirror, are you happy? Then bam, congratulations, you can totally wear it! Knock ’em dead.

  2. This topic is such a sensitive subject for many women of color. I’ve watched the videos where these ladies have applied mass amounts of concealer and foundation to even out and blend their skin tones to create their canvas for their make-up artistry. As a Professional Beauty Consultant, one of the things I encounter more then anything in the Black community are young women who will spend a high dollar amount on a mass amount of products to cover up their imperfections. I actually took the time to add up the costs of products used in one of these before and after videos and the young woman’s make-up totaled to over $450. Not once did she mention her skin care preparation before she applied all of her glamour. A lot of these girls CLAIM that they are scared to use skin care, or take the time to find one that works for them, because they are going to “Break Out”. Not realizing that this mass amount of concealer and foundation are trapping in dirt, creating one of the main reasons for their skin imperfections. One of the things I specialize in is teaching ladies about proper skin care and taking care of themselves from within. A simple change in their diet coupled with a good skin care regimen will eliminate the mass amount of blemishes and discolorations these ladies fill they need to cover up. Make up should be used to accentuate your natural, beautiful, unique features God has Blessed You with. It should NOT be used to Hide You.

  3. “What are your thoughts? Do you think Makeup-shaming exists in the black community?”

    I think a sick, pathetic need to control every damn thing Black women do, think and feel exists in the Black community. SMH

  4. The real issue here is that women can’t win no matter what they do. If they don’t wear makeup, they’re ugly and don’t take care of themselves and will never “get a man.” If they do wear makeup, they’re shallow and fooling people and trying to “trap a man.”

    Meanwhile, there are entire industries that tell women their beauty is directly linked to their worth as human beings, and an entire history of anti-Blackness that tells Black women they’re worth less than white women regardless of how beautiful they are.

    “Makeup shaming” isn’t a thing. Hatred of women (especially Black women) is.

  5. Red lipstick looks good on every skin tone (just use a brown liner for darker skin & no orange undertones). I’m older so I can remember back in the 90’s when neon colors were out and some girl let me know that I was too black to have on loud pink. Well, it wasn’t that it looked bad on me, it’s just that you noticed my skin…which people seemed to have a problem with..even more. My skin was beautiful. I didn’t know that then. It’s the same concept with the red lipstick.

  6. Yes, it exists!-Damn if she does or doesn’t waer make-up! She has to feel.comfortable and beauty no matter her decision…key words: HER CHOICE!

  7. For the dark skinned girl with the red lipstick, I think the main issue is that loud tomato shade just clashes with her (perfectly lovely) skin tone. I would have her in a cooler berry-tone red. But of course yeah, everyone is free to do their makeup however they want and there’s no need for mean/catty commentary. Ain’t my face!

  8. ALL women are make-up shamed. All women are accused of “lying” using make-up, all women are accused of only wearing make-up to get male attention, and all women are criticized for their color choices. This is not just a problem within the black community. There have been tons of “porn stars without make-up” articles, and every woman featured is white, and everyone always remarks on how these ratty, ugly, acne-riddled little white girls doll up to be every man’s fantasy woman. (“Good thing I only need to look at her for three minutes,” etc. etc.)

    The only thing in this I see being exclusive to the black community is the skin tone shaming. No one shames white women for getting spray tans or using bronzer (unless it’s a bad spray tan or too much bronzer, in which case people just poke fun at the orange hue, not the issue of skin tone itself.) And that seems to come largely from within the community itself. I suppose I can see where they may be coming from (“are you ashamed to be black/trying to be white?”) but concealment is always done with a lighter shade (even on white women, it just doesn’t seem as obvious) and it’s a shame that leads to such harassment.

    • Nevermind these professional victims. If they’ve experienced something they don’t like it’s because they’re Black women. Yet, you don’t hear them attribute their positive experiences in life to their Blackness. However, if you were to tell them they have a victim’s mentality and self-image they would make all sorts of accusations against you. It’s really embarrassing at this point.


  9. I personally have no issue with what another woman, especially another Black woman does to her face/hair/body. All this makeup sorcery shit is just waay too much drama on social media. And it’s petty, and the creators and provocateurs REEK of desperation and insecurity.

    I’ve had grown ass men and women critique me for wearing red lipstick because they are jealous of my full lips. They say “red is a whore color,” yet these same bozos will wear red Jordans or put on a red church hat, lol.

    Has to be jealousy and old-fashioned views because I don’t see them criticizing WHITE WOMEN for wearing red or black lipstick. It’s so hypocritical that most of this hate comes from my own people. I’ve gotten the hate about red lipstick since high school. I’m 33 now and while I am on the “light” end of the spectrum (I hate colorism, especially how pervasive it is in the south)…I’ll wear whatever-THE-FCK I please and I must say it looks good.

    Out of thousands of friends only 3 people had something bad to say. And one was a plain jane who can’t dress or put on foundation properly. Lol maybe she caught her husband eyeing my lips. Maybe that’s the reason she feels uneasy when I wear red lipstick, lol. *Sips Tea*

    Oh, and this is NEWS to me chyle that Black women “wear makeup to land a man!” Cuz some of the women I see Black men with of the other persuasions need some real help. I showed my man my bare face and natural hair before we even got to talking seriously so this “makeup trapping” *shrugs* IDK where they do that at.

    As usual, this makeup shade is going on over Black women. Where are these memes featuring white and “other” women who often do more bleaching, tanning, and altering of their skin tone that we do???

  10. Oh, I know who is responsible for these memes and the overt criticism of Black women and their makeup. The BBNC (Bitter B—- Ni— Committee). Across all social media platforms, it has been BLACK MEN who denigrate the Black woman the most. SMH

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