In honor of Black History Month, let’s go through some of the most incredible Black makeup looks in history—plus, some tips and tricks on how to achieve them yourself!
Beyonce in “Hold Up”
This look is all about tonal browns. Start by lining your upper and lower waterline with a dark brown kohl pencil (MAC’s “Coffee” is perfect) then buff it outward using a pencil brush. You can use a mid-toned matte brown shadow to help buff out the edges further. Once you’re happy with the blend, take a warmer, lighter brown with a slightly satin finish and work it across the upper lid, up into the crease. Finish the eyes with a black mascara—the new Maybelline Lash Sensational Sky High is truly as good as TikTok says it is.
Lips should be of a similar warm brown matte appearance. For a statement look, I love the Glossier Generation G lipstick in “Leo,” which is sheer but buildable and has the perfect tone. Add some Amika Bushwick Beach No Salt Wave Spray to amp up your hair’s volume and you’re good to go smash a fire hydrant!
Eve’s ‘90s perfection
While I’m no lover of matte skin, there’s a time and place for it—and this retro ‘90s look is just that. The It Cosmetics Your Skin But Better CC+ Oil-Free Matte Cream with SPF 40 offers a medium-coverage matte finish without looking flat or dusty. This matte base is the perfect complement to a frostier look on the eyes and lips.
MAC’s “Satin Taupe” is the perfect purple-brown shimmer to sweep across the lids. Take it slightly outward in a wing shape for extra drama. For the lips, you want a similarly shimmery finish, but a warmer, more coppery tone. The Urban Decay Vice Metalized Lipstick in “Conspiracy” is the ideal shade. Match it to your dress for maximum impact.
Brandy’s lilac dream
Is there any color that better symbolizes the ‘90s than lilac? From the walls of your childhood bedroom to the first eyeshadow you purchased from Wet ‘n’ Wild, one color truly reigned supreme. For a more modern take on the lilac eye, I love the Ilia Liquid Powder Chromatic Eye Tint in “Dim,” which errs on the side of subtlety. To amp it up, though, the Stila Double Dip Suede Shade Glitter & Glow in “Camera Ready” is more of a true purple. You can use the matte end over your entire lid, then add the glitter on the brow bone and inner corner to highlight.
Complement the purple eye look with a similarly cool-toned lip. Jordana lipstick in “Lilac Frost” is a great, authentically ‘90s option, but for something a little more wearable, I love the Ilia Balmy Gloss in “Maybe Violet.”
Donyale Luna’s Vogue cover
Donyale Luna was the first Black supermodel to grace the cover of Vogue—and she did it with serious pizzazz. This graphic black liner look is quintessentially ‘60s, but somehow still looks modern enough to be worn for a night out dancing today. If you’re a beginner, it’s far easier to sketch out these graphic lines using an angled brush and a black eyeshadow. It’s a more forgiving method, plus mistakes will be far easier to clean up.
You want to create three distinct lines here: one slightly above your crease, one across your upper lashline, and one below your lower lashline. Make sure they all extend outwards but don’t connect them. Complete the look with white almond-shaped nails and the biggest gold earrings you can find.
The Diary of Alicia Keys-era Alicia Keys
This look is 2013 personified—and thanks to the linear nature of fashion, that’s strangely cool again. Start with a satin-finish foundation for an even base—the L’Oreal Infallible 24 Hour Fresh Wear is still my favorite. Fill in brows with pomade and an angled brush for a neat, structured look. Bronzer is also key—and you get bonus points if it’s packed with gold shimmer.
For this angled smokey-eye look, make sure you focus the product in the outer corners, keeping the inner corners light and highlighted. Use a liquid liner pen to trace a cat-eye shape, then buff a shimmery black shadow over the outer corner. Take a soft, warm, shimmery gray shade over the inner lid, blending it into your deeper outer shade. Finish the eyes with some corner false lashes like the Charlotte Tilbury Fashion Cat Eye Corner Lash to accentuate the shape. Add a nude lip gloss (the Bobbi Brown Crushed Oil range is a perfect formula with a ton of great shades).
Florence Griffith Joyner’s Olympic Nails
How iconic that the fastest woman of all time did it with a set of acrylics and a full beat. We have no choice but to stan. Combining a smokey eye with a red lip can be risky, but Flo-Jo pulls it off effortlessly. You just have to lean in!
First, sweep on a deep brown cream eyeshadow like the Laura Mercier Caviar Stick in “Smoke,” and wing outward and upward. To create a clean line, you can take a little micellar water on a Q-tip to clean the edges. Line the lower waterline with a black kohl pencil, and add mascara to the top and bottom lashes.
For the lips, you want a deep red liner combined with a brighter lipstick. Try the NYX Slim Lip Pencil in “Deep Red” with the Charlotte Tilbury Kissing Lipstick in “Love Bite.” Finish the look with pearl earrings, a half-up half-down hairdo, and of course, long, pointy nails painted in red, white, and blue.