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.

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Youtube Vlog­ger Make­upD0ll

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:

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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?

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 Comments on "Why Are Black Women Makeup-Shamed So Heavily?"

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The way the insults were word­ed was def­i­nite­ly offen­sive and anoth­er choice of word­ing prob­a­bly would have bet­ter got­ten the mes­sage across. There are, how­ev­er, cer­tain TONES of col­ors that don’t work for everyone’s com­plex­ion and it’s a bit ridicu­lous to feel like you can wear every col­or with­out some­thing look­ing bad. There are tones of red lip­stick that work beau­ti­ful­ly with dark skin and there are tones of red lip­stick that don’t work on white or lighter skin. The same goes for all oth­er col­ors. And the make­up sham­ing hap­pens to all women, not just black women. I’ve seen… Read more »
Khelsi Clarke
With make­up I end up lighter not nec­es­sar­i­ly because I want to but because it was the dark­est option offered and I pur­chased hop­ing for the best or the lady at the counter did my make­up and told me that shade works best for me and I didn’t real­ize I defi­nate­ly wasn’t dark enough until after I already bought it (I notice the col­or dif­fer­ence more when apply­ing make­up myself than when some­one does it for me and I can just see the final look). And tbh a 1 shade dif­fer­ence should not be a deal break­er or else you’re… Read more »

…inter­est­ing I thought this hap­pens in only in my coun­try. Black women are ridiculed and judged when they use make-up. Most­ly by oth­er black men and women.

Mvu­mikazi ~ Urban Mngu­ni ~

One thing with red lip­stick (and oth­er make-up) whether you are black, white , yel­low or green is that it has to match your under­ly­ing skin tone. Some peo­ple are more yel­low then red (and vice ver­sa), so even if your skin is the same dark­ness or light­ness as some­one else it doesn’t mean the same make-up colours suit you both.  Unfor­tu­nate­ly when peo­ple insult oth­ers over their make up colours they are too thick to use the cor­rect words. So red lip­stick used by the dark­er skinned woman doesn”t suit her under­ly­ing skin tones.The oth­er women have all cho­sen colours… Read more »

line your lips in dark dark brown and you can wear ANY col­or. Trust me But the lin­ing is crit­i­cal oth­er­wise you look like that Dave Chap­pell crack­head


LMBO!! Omg I’m dying. On one hand, I do believe black women/dark skinned females are shamed some­times and made to feel like cer­tain kinds of make­up are not for them, or men say they’re false­ly adver­tis­ing (sor­ry that I tried you into think­ing I have green eye lids or burnt orange lips? Bye.), how­ev­er on the oth­er hand, regard­less of skin tone, cer­tain colours will work for you while oth­ers won’t. It is what it is. How­ev­er, it’s your face, you are enti­tled to do what­ev­er you want with it.

Mary (aka Queenbee1118)
Mary (aka Queenbee1118)

Women should have the free­dom to choose to wear make up or not to wear make up. They should have the option to choose bright lip­stick or any oth­er cos­met­ic choice they desire. Peo­ple, includ­ing myself, will have their opin­ions of whether some­thing is becom­ing or not. And, you know what they say about opin­ions. So, do you boo!


This is the after­math of black twit­ter. While it can gal­va­nize behind social caus­es and bring light to promi­nent issues, most of the time, it is a bunch of meme-obsessed and self-hat­ing losers ready to “go in” and “clown” their fel­low black peo­ple. This is why I do not use social media smh

Funeka Manzi
Thank you for the post! It’s about damn time some­one spoke about the neg­a­tive atten­tion black women have been receiv­ing from black men espe­cial­ly who assume that these women are try­ing to bewitch, trick or trap them by con­ceal­ing imper­fec­tions. As usu­al we are being judged as though we have noth­ing else to con­tribute except for our looks. First­ly, it’s assumed men are the ulti­mate judges of beau­ty which is real­ly flawed. Sec­ond­ly, I find it quite arro­gant that men assume that all this is for them. There have been improve­ments in make­up tech­nol­o­gy, pop­u­larised trends such as con­tour­ing, con­ceal­ing,… Read more »
Maybe because I don’t wear make­up reg­u­lar­ly or watch tuto­ri­als much, I have not noticed any extra crit­i­cism towards dark or black women in gen­er­al unless they wear A LOT of it. Which I hear the same crit­i­cism of lighter com­plex­ion and non black women who wear A LOT of make­up. I think what­ev­er com­plex­ion you are there can be shades that don’t com­pli­ment you. Same with clothes. I just have an orange lip­stick to a white cowork­er that looks great on her but sucks on me. I have seen many pics on this site of make­up I thought was… Read more »
Clare Oparo

Yes, make up sham­ing does exist. Where I’m based, in Ugan­da, East Africa, some men have the crazy idea that we walk, talk, breathe to please them and get offended…even abu­sive when you make it clear that your love for make­up or skin care has naught to do with their mas­sive egos.

Joan Fenty

When are the hair icons com­ing back? I see poten­tial women all over insta­gram. @4chairchicks @myhaircrush come on now.4b 4c gal here


I’m not sure why adults can’t /won’t leave oth­er adults alone. Peo­ple shld do what­ev­er the hell makes them hap­py.


There’s always gonna be that one bey­otch. It’s real­ly sad, cause when you do it to them, they’re the first ones to call you out


Per­son­al­ly I wish women didn’t exist in a misog­y­nis­tic patri­archy, where they are com­pelled to apply cake on their face to look like some­one else. All of this in the hope of attract­ing an idiot male and being a viable sex object for him. It is trag­ic.

I agree most­ly with what you are say­ing cause i myself don’t wear make up even though my skin tone now is more uneven than it was when i was younger. I grew up with a lot of fresh faced black women who ate well so make up to me was strange. If men are hon­est they pre­fer women with­out all the cake. I’ve always pre­ferred to go with­out because I want peo­ple to see me as I am and I want my skin to breath. I’ve come across women and young girls who have hang ups about the way… Read more »
Funeka Manzi

I don’t agree at all with that nar­row focus. Not every­thing a woman does is to attract male atten­tion. Gosh, that would be exhaust­ing! As stat­ed by some of these women, make up is for the wear­er. If it has the added effect of attract­ing male atten­tion, that’s great (if a woman so wish­es). But that can’t always be our default response when women do some­thing that makes them feel good about them­selves. Why does every sin­gle thing we do have to be inter­pret­ed to mean or assumed to ben­e­fit some­one else? I just can’t

I agree with you. Women have all kinds of moti­va­tions. Some use make­up to attract men, oth­ers couldn’t care less and wear make­up for them­selves. Some of the most skilled and adamant make­up wear­ers I know are les­bians and I promise you they give no f***s what a man thinks. LOL I wear make­up when I feel like it, and I can do a full-spack­le beat face that will peo­ple ask if I’m a pro­fes­sion­al MUA. On most days though, it’s some grape­seed oil and lip balm then out the door. Any man I would be try­ing to get with… Read more »
I high­ly doubt this, but keep lying to your­self. I like how you casu­al­ly put that it is an added bonus to attract men with make­up. You’re not slick. Coin­ci­den­tal­ly men nev­er feel com­pelled to put cake on their face. Clear­ly the act of putting on make­up is engen­dered, and that is some­thing you want to ignore. It is the woman who is taught to be ashamed of her bare face, not the man. That is indeed a shame. I nev­er ever wear make­up. That crap breaks out my skin and refus­es to allow my nat­ur­al, clear skin to breathe.… Read more »

Yes, I’m sure all the les­bians I know who wear make­up are try­ing to attract men too. Lol

Naja Hamilton

Yes, yes, yes and I say again YES!!! I’ve just start­ed play­ing around with make-up and it’s fun. I like adding col­or and shades to my looks much like we do with jew­el­ry or hair col­or. It’s fun, artis­tic and cre­ative, it;s girly, fun and for “US GIRLS to ENJOY & PLAY WITH”. It’s a fun form of artis­tic expres­sion and fun. That’s all !! The ques­tion to ask is.… Why is that so threat­en­ing???

Truth Hurts
For ladies in my gen­er­a­tion we didn’t wear make for sev­er­al rea­sons, one being our moth­ers didn’t. My mom & grand­ma wore lip­stick only. White woman wear make and it’s almost a right of pas­sage for them to teach their daugh­ters to wear make up and buy it for them, start­ing very young. The biggest rea­son blacks didn’t wear make­up was there wasn’t any drug store brands for us or what was avail­able was lim­it­ed. Now days with the inter­net, you tube and make brands geared to us more us now wear make up. But, because we are final­ly wear­ing… Read more »

Yes, the most my mum and grand­moth­er wore were lip­stick. As for the white girls yes, yes,yes. I was the only black girl in an all white girls school and they always approached me about how I was lucky I didn’t have to put any­thing on my face because of my colour.

In the 70s my moth­er wore Flori Roberts and Fash­ion Fair on a dai­ly basis. In fact I was turned off of make­up because it seemed she couldn’t leave the house with­out it. Then as a teenag­er a boy I had a crush on was sur­prised and pleased to learn I didn’t wear make­up. To this day the most I’ll wear is lip­stick. Occa­sion­al­ly I’ll play up my eyes, and I actu­al­ly am eager to learn tech­nique via YouTube, but I don’t ever want to be that per­son who’s depen­dent on make­up. I admit I’m for­tu­nate to have very clear… Read more »
Truth Hurts

Flori Roberts and Fash­ion Fair are not DRUG STORE cos­met­ics which I men­tioned and I’m talk­ing the 80’s & 90’s.

You said “The biggest rea­son blacks didn’t wear make­up was there wasn’t any drug store brands for us or what was avail­able was lim­it­ed.” As I stat­ed, there were black women who wore make­up back in the day. Both of the brands I men­tioned were read­i­ly avail­able in cities with decent-sized black pop­u­la­tions. Some folks were able to use some Avon col­ors as well, if I remem­ber cor­rect­ly. They may have cost more but not to the point where they were out of reach of any woman mak­ing a decent liv­ing (my moth­er was a teacher). Oth­er­wise they wouldn’t have… Read more »
Elle P.
I have been hear­ing these ridicu­lous rules (real­ly not rules, peo­ple not know­ing what they are talk­ing about) about dark skin and red lip­stick. I was on Face­book and there was a pic­ture of a beau­ti­ful dark skin girl wear­ing red lip­stick. I remem­ber being blown away by one igno­rant com­ment like the com­ment on the Essence pho­to. It was some stu­pid man mak­ing such an igno­rant com­ment! Then I read about a rap­per by the name of A$AP Rocky (What’s with the rap­pers and dol­lar sign for names?! I mean, their net worth ain’t as big as Diddy’s or… Read more »