Tips To Ensure Bright Eyeshadows Pop On Darker Skin Tones

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It's no secret that incorporating color into your makeup routine can be a bit challenging, especially if you're a person of color in the deep/dark range of skin tones. For example, a TikTok-famous liquid blush you were eager to try out may end up looking ashy or washed-out on your skin, and your new lipstick might not look as intense or pigmented as it did on the fairer models in the ads.


The feeling of being left out by beauty brands is not a pretty one, and when it comes to eyeshadow —where color payoff and pigment are highly crucial— this feeling can worsen. Of course, things have improved recently, with beauty brands becoming more inclusive and mindful of making products with darker skin tones in mind (per McKinsey & Company). But the disappointment of trying out bright eyeshadows only to have them look flat or lackluster has — and continues to — make people with darker skin tones shy away from colorful eye makeup, or worse, believe that color does not belong on their skin tones.

Colorful eyeshadow looks are for everyone, and we're here to prove it — starting with these tips guaranteed to make eyeshadow pop on the deepest skin tones.


Take note of your undertones

Mm, undertones — whatever shall we do without these? Your undertone is the subtle color underneath your skin, and as Beauty Bakerie states, it affects your overall hue, including the eyeshadow looks that are sure to look good on you. So, to get bright colors to pop on your skin, you must be mindful of your undertones. For instance, if you have a warm undertone but the eyeshadow palette you're reaching for is made with cool undertones in mind, you will most likely have an ashy- or off-looking eye look.


If you have warm undertones, wear warm eyeshadow shades with a peachy or golden undertone. And if you have cool undertones, Ipsy suggests you try cooler eyeshadow shades with undertones of blue or pink. For those with neutral undertones, your options are limitless. And if you have yet to learn about your undertones, we have a helpful all-in-one guide here.

Use an eyeshadow primer

If your go-to method is to go straight in with your eyeshadow on your bare lid, we're begging you to reconsider and try some eyeshadow primer. As explains, eyeshadow primer is a liquid or cream-based product that allows your eyeshadow to glide on much smoother when applied to your eyelids. Just as regular face primer is used before foundation, eyeshadow primer creates an almost-tacky base for your eyeshadow to stay on for much longer and a smooth canvas for you to work with. A smoother canvas equals a much higher color payoff, allowing bright colors on your palette to appear boldly on your lids.


If you do not have some eyeshadow primer in your stash, Maybelline says to put your liquid concealer to work by patting a little on the center of your eyelid and spreading it into the creases and folds. Concealer's just as good at creating a smooth, slightly tacky base and is more budget-friendly.

Use palettes or eyeshadow products that have high color payoff

It's 2023 — there is little to no reason to stay with or support brands that refuse to make products that cater to darker skin tones, and yes, this includes eyeshadow. According to Sugar Cosmetics, eyeshadows that do not contain enough pigment or are not easy to layer mostly appear on your eyelids as muddy, chalky, or even cakey. To save time and effort, use highly pigmented eyeshadows or shadows that are at least buildable in layers. 


To choose the best eyeshadow palettes and products for darker skin tones, we recommend watching and reading reviews from dark-skinned beauty content creators. Not only can you see the color payoff in real time and not via edited swatches, but most usually offer more advice on how to play with the colors and make them pop. And if you need some recommendations, we love the Pat McGrath Labs Mothership VIII Artistry Eyeshadow Palette: Divine Rose II, which boasts 4.6 stars on Sephora and contains shimmers that show up beautifully on dark skin.

Dampen your brushes, babes

Know how your skin looks brighter and taut when it's moisturized or how your lipstick looks brighter on hydrated lips? With that same principle, your eyeshadow can pop no matter your skin tone. First, lightly spritz your eyeshadow brush with some setting spray before dipping it into your color of choice. What the setting spray does is help the brush transfer more product onto your lid, removing the need to swipe on more layers of eyeshadow. You can also spritz the brush after dipping it in eyeshadow. This makes the color pop and sets the eyeshadow onto your lid, helping the look last for much longer (per Huda Beauty). 


Be Beautiful.In also adds that you can try this hack with tap water, although it will not hold as long as the setting spray. With this hack, your eyeshadow stays popping and set throughout the day. Two birds with one stone, in our books.

Try glossy, cream, or loose eyeshadows

Okay, so the powders and pans aren't working out, and you're looking for more high-impact, high-payoff options. So let us introduce you to the wonderful world of glossy, cream, and stick eyeshadows. According to Ipsy, cream and liquid eyeshadows come with much pigment compared to powder eyeshadow palettes. With a lot of pigment comes a lot of payoff/pop, especially on darker skin tones. And if you're a lover of shimmers, this is your sign to try loose eyeshadow pigments. While they can be messy and tricky to work with, remember to dampen your brush with some setting spray to reduce fall out and increase the pop you get with the shimmers (per Adore Beauty).


Eyeshadow sticks are another versatile option for darker skin tones as they come in several colors, are buildable, and spare you the stress of cleaning fallout from your undereye area. Try it!

Make it pop with some eyeliner

One of our favorite things about eyeshadow is how it can look great alone, but works even better with other elements. One of those elements is the ever-daunting eyeliner. Eyeliner is a great way to add definition to your eyes, thus making your eyeshadow look even brighter and crisp (per L'Oréal Paris). And if you'd like to make your eyes look bolder or maybe tinier than they really are, eyeliner's an amazing multitasking makeup essential (per Makeup).


But eyeliner's not the only eyeshadow-enhancing essential on the block; lashes are great, too. Sugar Cosmetics says applying false lashes defines and completes your eyeshadow look. And if you prefer a more natural look, apply a few coats of mascara to make your natural lashes pop. Either way, you can always depend on some eyeliner, mascara, and a pair of falsies to take your eyeshadow to the next level.

Pay attention to your application

So far, you've learned to dampen your brushes, consider your undertones, and use some eyeliner for definition. If you've tried all that and your colors still aren't bright on your lids, consider how you apply your eye makeup. For the best color payoff, you need to quell the urge to apply your eyeshadow by moving the brush in circular or swiping motions. Instead, dip the brush into your eyeshadow product, whether palette or loose pigment, and press it onto your lids (per Be Beautiful.In). You can return with more product by pressing it onto your lid to have the desired intensity. And now you can blend. All swiping or moving the brush in circular motions does is scatter the product without blending it in properly.


Another thing you need to pay attention to is the compatibility of your brush with your product. As 100 Percent Pure explains, it's best to use a fluffy crease brush to apply pressed or loose eyeshadow. For cream eyeshadows, apply with a flat eyeshadow brush, and a smudge brush is best for applying eyeshadow on your lash line.

And above all, do not be afraid to use color

We know trying to make colors work can get exhausting. And because of this, you may want to stick to neutral eye looks to avoid worrying about payoff and whatnot all the time. But contrary to what society might have you believe most of the time, color does look excellent on darker skin tones. As De'lanci Beauty implores, bright and colorful eyeshadow looks complement darker complexions. With numerous eyeshadow options now available for people of color, there's much room to experiment with your eyeshadow makeup.


If you need help with color combinations to try, try some bronze shades, emerald greens, bright oranges, and pops of yellow. Color combos like turquoise and yellow, and deep blue and copper are also universally excellent on darker skin tones (per JoStylin). Now more than ever, we encourage you to add some more color with your eyeshadow. Experiment confidently, because color looks fabulous on your skin tone, too.