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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Lizzie Beth

You made it sound like society has a problem with black women wearing makeup when truth is, it’s black people doing the most criticizing. Just like it was black people criticizing Gabby’s hair. I think it’s time we start being honest about how horrible we treat each other!

Purple Sound

Exactly. The self-hate in the Black community is real smh. People would be so quick to call out White people for racism yet mercilessly go in on someone who is dark-skinned. Black women can’t win for losing these days. I bet it was an ignorant Black man that made this. I’m am so over them projecting their insecurities onto us.

Edith Spencer

And you said everything that needed to be said about this. We treat each other like crap, and we have to stop.

Yes, I agree with Lizzie about the Gabby thing. Nobody hates black people more than black people — and this hatred is targeted towards dark complexioned black women the most. Of all of the wonderful, spectacular, talented, phenomenal things Gabby does, black folks were so ignorant and self-hating all they could concentrate on was her hair. The little girl’s hair looked like the white girl’s hair: pulled back in a pony tail so that she could do her thing without interference or distraction. I bet not one of those opinionated negroes could do anything Gabby could do! And how many… Read more »

Hyperpigmentation in everyday lingo is a pretty specific term actually. Refers to Post-Inflammatory hyperpigmented spots, ergo dark spots. What you’re referring to is melasma. Sure technically that falls under the same term, same way technically Indians and Middle Easterners, not just Chinese & Japanese are Asian, but people don’t get that pedantic. In day-to-day speak, hyperpigmentation and pIH are one and the same, that’s probably why your comment sounded so asinine. But yes, if you’re talking about Melasma (which, none of the girls pictured are suffering from actually) then you have a point.


[…] lastly, using it because we are ugly.   I shared more of  thoughts regarding makeup-shaming in this post, however you can watch my Power of Makeup video to show your support for makeup enthusiasts […]

Adebisi's Hat

Truth, every word!


Yes shaming exist and needs to STOP. With or without make-up – up true beauty is from within.


Why do you care? Are you wearing it?

C.S. Stone

having a discussion that includes respecting people expressing their opinion on the topic is beyond you, apparently. oh well.


Same to you as I just expressed my opinion.


Make-up shaming is just self-hate. Why should you care what someone wears on their skin? We all wear make-up to have fun, enhance our features, and to try something new and different from the every day look. I mean so what? Just leave people alone. Give us room to breathe, be ourselves, and enjoy being ourselves. We are sometimes our own worst enemies with the things we say about each other…yes, black women, I am talking about us! Why are we always bashing each other? Society is hard enough. Leave us alone! Let’s stop the shaming, the hating…just STOP!


…some have not learnt self-love. I had to change my thinking about a lot since returning to nature…it’s a mindset.


Actually wearing fake straight hair and makeup that lightens your brown God-given skin is the real self-hate.


I don’t know what people are talking about sometimes. Bright colors look amazing on darker skin. Nothing against my fair sisters, but shades of darker skin lend themselves so well to rich jeweled tones.

Caela Bialek

Agreed! I’m about as pale as a polar bear in a snowstorm, and bright colours unfortunately do not work for me. I used to try wearing eye makeup when I was a teenager, but I eventually realized I looked like a ghost clown, so I stopped.

To all makeup-wearing dark-skinned people: if you want to wear a bright colour, do it. I may not be able to wear those colours myself without looking absurd, but I sure as hell appreciate how good you look with those colours on your beautiful melanated skin #melanenvy 🙂


No!!!! Not a “ghost clown”!! XD
But yeah, whenever I see makeup recommendations, one thing seems to ring true: darker skintones can handle more pigment in makeup. The contrast is striking and flattering, but some people apparently don’t like it, smh

This is just another way for people to try and keep Black Women “in their place”. Black Women need to understand that ‘our place” is wherever we decide we want it to be and that, “that place” is interchangeable. Kind of like makeup, which is why I wear it and love it. I personally love seeing dark skin women with bright lipstick colors. I’m not a fan of weird colors on anyone mind you, like the blue color they have out or the yellow, but that’s regardless of race or complexion and its just my thing. What we as black… Read more »

[…] the longest weave or the best contouring technique, but I am saying that a girl or woman’s cosmetic care choices shouldn’t diminish how you view her as a potential partner. What we do with our hair, nails, […]

Most folks that shame black women for wearing makeup are only saying “I cant imagine how to begin to do that on my own face so since I feel intimidated I’m going to knock her down by saying something rude.” And as far as men, they are idiots when it comes to makeup and what they think is natural. Nobody is transforming like that on you in real life and if they are be grateful they took the time to get cute for you because you probably don’t look like much to her, but she recognizes that men dont usually… Read more »
Hello there ladies! I am a history major and I would like to address your question in the article: 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….. First, the Europeans created race and created the feuding and stigmas we have against one another. The dark-skinned vs light-skinned and field workers vs house workers battle is real. You see there were several blacks who were born in now America during the colonial periods and even before. Interracial marriage was… Read more »

I think most of the people on this blog are well-aware of the history of slavery. That doesn’t address why Black women are singled out for being dark-skinned instead of Black men, or why women are shamed for wearing makeup.

Stephanja Ahumada
I think people are super hateful and it shocks me. If a girl wears no make up and doesn’t look “the part”, she has no self confidence, but if she wears make up proudly and has fun with herself, she is a liar… seriously people! I think all of those women are beautiful for WHO they are and I’m glad they are enjoying themselves. Make up is art. It’s fun. It makes us more confident just like fixing your hair or putting on nice clothes. I think the swimming hash tag is degrading and insulting. Let’s not forget that NONE… Read more »

Thank you so much for your comment I forget women wit a lighter hue use bronzer

Well, as far as the question of “The question then is, why are black women not afforded the same freedom with wearing makeup as our white counterparts” goes, one is always going to receive that uneven treatment from white society and we already know why, which is partially fueled by the fact that we not only age better but look stunningly better both with and without makeup than our white counterparts have, do and ever will. If people need a hashtag, they can use #facts for that. But when it comes to our own community, some of the more juvenile… Read more »

But at the end of the day, what does it matter what colors a person wear on her skin? It’s not your skin so why should it matter to you? Seriously. Happy medium or extreme is still a matter of personal choice.

As you’re doing exactly what you’re criticizing me for, I can only reply in kind = my comment was neither posted by/about, nor directed to you, so why should the fact that I care or hold an opinion on the issue, matter to you? To answer your questions – it matters to me because I love my people and like helping them when asked to. But don’t mistake my answering the questions put forth in the article for, say, my actively sharing my opinions with others about their makeup choices without their asking. Two different things, hence my comment about… Read more »

there’s wearing makeup and then there’s wearing a mask… some don’t recognize the difference.

Staci Elle

I love makeup but when you look completely different on your after.. yea your potential partner might think its some kind of trickery…

Lakitha Goss

I love makep. It gives me a sense of power. The ability to flaunt pwowerful colors such as orange and teals on my lids and to slay in rich red, pranges, and purple lipsticks truly gives me life. I have been wearing makeup since age 13. My mom always told me that makeup makes a woman more polished.


I think this is the same as the fatshaming and slutshaming conversations; people need to worry about themselves instead of the weight, makeup, faces, and vaginas of other people. In other words, mind your fucking business about what someone else is doing with THEIR bodies.

Happywife Taylor

I love my makeup and I do very good job of making it look very natural. Black women can wear red lipstick. There are several different shades of red to compliment every skin tone.


Let’s not overlook the fact that that girls makeup doesn’t match her skin tone whatsoever. Technique is cool, but color mastery is equally important. Also, her makeup makes her look like a different person, but if that’s the look she’s going for….mission accomplished. Like why aren’t we talking about how this is bad makeup as opposed to good makeup? That’s the real discussion.


Can we also talk about how hard it can be for black women to find the right color? I’ve resorted to mixing 2 to sometimes even 3 different foundation colors to find sort of a close match to my natural skintone. Please take that into account. I’ve even seen many black celeb women with foundation that’s off. The struggle is real.


Yes! I also mix colors. And the problem is that I don’t have a formula so I cannot really reproduce the look consistently. Not to mention that I tan easily and my shade changes significantly. I end up not wearing makeup often for this reason.


Have you seen most actors without their makeup? You would not recognize them.

I get that this is a blog focused on solely black issues, but this is not an issue relegated exclusively to black women. This is a problem for ALL women. Really, nor everything is that personal. Why won’t those with hyperpigmentation blend they’re tones to their darker, more prevalent shade? Clearly this speaks to an even bigger issue we still hold with darker skin. Why can’t we tell a woman that a color choice is unflattering? Granted, we black women aren’t known for our tones of kindness and positive support. But honesty isn’t a crime against blackness. I mean, if… Read more »
S. Williams

from what I’ve seen, people get foundation to correct hyperpigmentation that closely resembles the color of their neck and chest. if the face is naturally darker than the neck (or for white women who suffer from rosacea[sp] and get opal tones) then it makes sense to match the face to the rest of the body. I don’t think it’s a matter of not getting the darker color. it’s getting your face to match the skin color of the rest of your body


Because they don’t make foundation dark enough or don’t carry the brands that make foundation dark enough.


#allivesmatter /s


Reply again when you feel like being relevant to the topic. I’ll gladly court your thoughts then.

“I get that this is a blog focused on solely black issues…” Just keep reading that part over and and over again until it hits you. But if you want to go there — Why don’t women blend to their darker, hyperpigmented shade? One, because it’s hard enough to find makeup darker than tan and, even if you do, these companies seem to think that the cool/warm/neutral undertone thing stops once you’re darker than a paper bag. I can’t tell you how many cocoa, ebony, toasted almond, cappuccino, espresso, mink and fawn foundations I’ve had that had “warm” in front… Read more »
LulaBelle as to your first statement, I don’t see how you could miss the point. Maybe I didn’t covey it clearly enough for your comprehension? Would I tell a white woman with acne scarring to wear redder foundation? That’s the the most narrow minded question anyone can possibly pose on the issue of hyperpigmentation. Clearly you are not aware of ALL the manifestations of such a generic term. I would tell a white woman with blotches or patches of darker shades due the uneven tones of color deposits she was naturally born with to go with the darker shade rather… Read more »

The bright red lipstick on that woman looks just as off as dark brown lipstick would look on pale skin. Back in the 60s, Diana Ross wore awful pale pink lipstick and it was “in fashion” at the time. Colors look better if they match your skin tone so I really don’t think this was darkskinned shaming at all.

i used to be anti-make up, outside of lipstick. i have clear skin (i eat healthy, exercise and take good care of myself). it used to bother me when i saw women of any group with make-up. but then i saw a youtube blogger take off her make-up. her skin was so bad, i actually had sympathy for her. i suspect she needed that make-up to feel confident in herself. since then, i don’t judge women for wearing make up so much. BUT, i have noticed that there’s this presumption that you’re not polished if you don’t have a face… Read more »

I’m a fan of women wearing what they want, what makes them feel good. If anyone else doesn’t like it, they can take a flying leap off a short pier.

There will always be makeup criticism for any woman, of any shade, so might as well focus on pleasing yourself.


Why do you stop playing the victim and do what you want? *eye roll*

s. cupcake

oy vey

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.

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

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???

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

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 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 »
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 »
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 »

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.

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 »