My best friend is like another sister to me. We tell each other everything -- and we're brutally honest with each other.
"Do these jeans make me look fat?" one of us will ask.
"Yup, they do, sweetie," the other will reply.
"Is my hair as bad as I think it is?"
"Mmmmhmmm, never go to that salon again."
What can I say? The truth hurts -- and I'm glad I can count on my bestie to give it to me straight.
But this weekend, when I suggested my BFF try Bobbi Brown's new neon lip glosses, her reply went something like this: "Have you lost your mind? I would never wear neon pink lips -- my skin is too dark!"
The idea that black women with darker complexions can't wear bold, bright hues is one of many age-old African-American beauty myths that are totally bogus -- but have somehow managed to stick.
After hearing this misconception for the millionth time, I knew it was time to put an end to these "black beauty rules" once and for all. So I chatted with some top experts in the field of black hair, makeup, and skin care and quickly discovered that blonde hair can look natural on us, nude lipstick does complement our skin tone, and black skin will, in fact, "crack."
My friend eventually acquiesced and tried the gorgeous neon shade and, as I suspected, she looked stunning.
Have you been stuck in a beauty rut because of one of these beauty myths? Find out which "rules" you need to start breaking now.
Myth No. 1: BLACK DON'T CRACK
One look at beautiful celebs like Halle Berry, Iman, and Vanessa Williams and it's easy to understand how the expression "black don't crack" has stayed around for so long.
"Most women of African descent do not develop as many fine lines or sunspots as most Caucasian women do," says Philadelphia-based dermatologist Susan Taylor, MD. "However, that does not mean the added melanin in our skin completely protects us from the sun. Black women can get sunburned!"
While treating sunburns may not top the skin care concerns for most African-Americans, getting rid of dark marks does. "Uneven skin tone is a common result of sun damage," says Taylor. "Also, many black woman are often on medications for high blood pressure or diabetes, which make you more susceptible to burn or develop darkened blemishes."
Related: The Best Sunscreens for Your Skin
Myth No. 2: BLONDE HAIR DOESN'T LOOK NATURAL
Sure, Beyonce's blonde hair looks gorgeous -- but pulling off the Goldilocks style is impossible for most black women, right? Wrong. Oprah Winfrey's longtime hairstylist Andre Walker says creating a natural blonde look is simple if you know how to dye your hair blonde.
"The first step for anyone planning a hair color change is to figure out the undertones of your skin tone," says Walker. "The majority of African-American women have warm undertones, so it's important to go with honey or strawberry blonde hues that complement these golden undertones." Walker also suggests steering clear of cool shades, such as ash blonds and platinum. No matter your skin tone, mixing in the blonde color with your natural hair color is key. Opt for lots of highlights, which blend better with your natural color base.
Related: Best Highlights for Your Hair Color
Myth no. 3: "NUDE" PRODUCTS NEVER WORK
Of course we all know there's no universal skin tone (remember when Crayola debuted a "flesh" color and there was a huge backlash?), but that doesn't mean all makeup companies are up to date on the new standard of beauty. If you're having trouble finding nude makeup that complements your complexion, you're probably looking in the wrong section.
"Selecting the perfect nude product is all about customizing it for you," says Mary Kay makeup artist Ashunta Sheriff (her clients include Alicia Keys and Rihanna). "Just because it's labeled 'nude' doesn't mean it will work for you."
The toughest nude-colored pick for African-American women? Lipstick. "Many women of color have strong natural pigments in their lips," says Sheriff. "These browns, pinks, or purples will show through sheer nude tints." To create a naked lip look, stay away from beige tones and opt for peachy tints, which will color correct and neutralize the lip's darker colors. Sheriff also suggests applying a bit of concealer over the lips to mute the lip color before layering on a champagne or latte-colored lip gloss.
Myth No. 4: NEON MAKEUP IS A NO-NO
Statement looks can be scary. Swiping on a hot pink shadow on a darker complexion will surely create a bolder effect than on a paler-skinned woman. This instant wow-effect can be intimating -- but only if it isn't properly balanced. Women with dark skin can pull off neon makeup colors really well because the contrast of the makeup against the skin tone intensifies the pigment, says Sheriff. "However, moderation is key when it comes to bold makeup, no matter what shade your complexion is." To tone down the contrast, Sheriff suggests focusing on one feature at a time and keeping the rest of the face neutral. And remember, just because it's loud doesn't mean you can't wear it well.
Related: 5 Ways to Wear Neon
Myth No. 5: DREADLOCKS ARE DIRTY
When you think of dreadlocks do you imagine matted strands of hair that haven't been combed or properly washed in years? This is a common misconception. Yes, the permanent, tightly coiled locking technique allows for low-maintenance (no combs or brushes required -- ever!). But Diane Da Costa, Carol's Daughter Brand Stylist and author of "Textured Tresses," says most women with dreadlock styles shampoo their hair once a week. Which is consistent with the weekly shampoo schedule of most black women.
"Women of color generally don't have oily hair and shouldn't shampoo their hair daily, as this will strip the natural oils from the hair and scalp and leave the hair very dry and brittle," says Da Costa. "Textured hair is dry in nature, therefore, it needs more moisture and hydration and less shampooing. Dreadlocks can be cleansed and refreshed daily with a leave-in conditioner spray."
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