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… 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 »