Nude Eyeshadow for Darker Skintones

Photo: Henry Leutwyler

Many people misinterpret nude makeup to mean peach or beige, but celebrity makeup artist Brigitte Reiss-Andersen accurately defines it as “neutral makeup that’s as close to any skin tone as you can get.” She’s worked with a long list of gorgeous women, including Kerry Washington, Karlie Kloss, and Katie Holmes, so she knows a thing or two about perfecting the natural look. Nude nails and lips have been de rigeur for the past few seasons, but what about a subtle nude eye? Reiss-Andersen has some great tips to find your match.

It’s a process of trial and error, and Reiss-Andersen says you should hit up a big store like Sephora to test a variety of products in natural light. “There’s not a general rule, but for darker skin maybe go a little lighter whereas for light skin I would go a smidge warmer or pinker so it doesn’t get too bland,” says Reiss-Andersen. “Ask yourself honestly, do I look dead? Do I look like I survived an illness?” One surefire way to avoid looking like that is to add texture. “You want to add a little depth, and a great way to play around with those kinds of shades is with the finish,” says Reiss-Andersen. “Try something a little shimmery or matte or glossy—just remember if you do a shimmery shadow to keep your lips matte.” For a simple, one-color look, she suggests using a creamy shadow in something close to your skin tone that’s still visible.

MAC and Nars are her go-to brands for shadows that compliment darker skintones. She’s used Nars Kalahari Duo Eyeshadow ($35) for a sheer, daytime look on Kerry Washington, transitioning her makeup to evening with the brand’s Matte Eyeshadow in Coconut Grove ($25) with a matching brown Mambo Eye Pencil ($23) for a smoky eye. On Neutrogena spokesperson Gabrielle Union, Reiss-Andersen has used the brand’s Crease Proof Eye shadow in Lasting Taupe ($8.99) with Nourishing Eyeliner in Cosmic Black ($7.99) on the upper lid and Spiced Chocolate ($7.99) on the lower lid with a natural liner look. She finishes the eye with a nice coating of Healthy Volume mascara in Carbon Black ($7.99).

Reiss-Andersen is prone to layering—and she doesn’t care if the product’s made for eye, face, or lip. Try one of her faves, MAC Shaping Powder in Lightsweep ($16.50), over a darker contouring shade to provide a wash of color over the eye. “For an extra special effect, use a flesh-colored, silky Giorgio Armani Eyes to Kill Solo shadow ($32) from lash line to the crease in the middle of the lid as a highlight,” she says. “If you notice certain formulas making dark skin look gray and washed out, check the ingredient list. “Titanium dioxide is a lightener they use in makeup and unfortunately it’s not really compatible with dark skin,” says Reiss-Andersen. The graying affect can happen on olive skin as well, so warm shadows work best. Highlight golden skin with copper shadows. “Orange looks hideous on golden skin; I call it the Oompa Loompa effect. Bronze shades are best.”

Of course, the best way to figure out which shades are best for you is to try a bunch—in natural light!