What is neutral for black skin? Fashionable black women are pondering that question as the popularity of the neutral look (also referred to as "nude" or "naked" makeup) continues to increase. For fair skin, neutral immediately conjures up images of taupe, wheat, pale peach, shell-pink--the kinds of colors that, if not adjusted properly, leave darker-hued women with a disconcertingly ashy look.
Fortunately, the beauty industry has recognized that black women are frequent purchasers of cosmetics and beauty regimens, including high-end, prestige lines, and many companies have adjusted their palettes accordingly. So achieving a neutral yellow, brown or black face is not as daunting a goal as it would have been years ago.
Some lines offer custom color blending, the ultimate in color matching. Prescriptives, for instance, introduced custom-blended liquid foundation about three years ago and recently added seven foundations in deep shades to give women with darker skin more choice, says company spokeswoman Anne Greenberg . A custom-blended powder was added last year. The 1990 Collection "is an extension and amplification of one's natural skin tone. The textures are matte and sheer, so they seem inseparable from one's own skin," Greenberg says. The 1990 colors can be worn by very fair- to very, very brown-skinned women with varying degrees of emphasis (deepening eye color, for instance), depending on the occasion.
"I think that black women are blessed with skin that looks beautiful in a wide range of colors," says Andrea Robinson , president of Revlon's Ultima II, which has just introduced The Nakeds, cosmetics that emphasize the skin's color and texture. For Robinson, the key to interpreting the nude look for black women is how shade marries with skin tone. The Nakeds' Brush-On Foundation, now being introduced in Southern California, comes in shades from fairly pale to fairly brown and is not powder--even though it is carried in a compact. The new foundation enhances rather than masks the skin's natural color and texture, a plus for women with good skin who are not afraid to show it off.
Beverly Hills-based Visage Beaute offers custom-blended everything--so women with skin from alabaster and caramel to cocoa can come away from its counters with a neutral look precisely appropriate for them. The same polished, unmade-up effect--nude color for a medium-brown-skinned woman and nude color for a woman with espresso-colored skin--can be achieved with completely different colors.
Mixing cosmetic components, rather than using everything from one line, works better for black women, advises Rudy Calvo, a Los Angeles-based makeup artist who counts actresses Cicely Tyson and Jasmine Guy and pop divas Patti LaBelle and Gladys Knight among his clients. Black women's deeper hues, Calvo says, "make color work better than on Caucasian skin; you can really blend color in for a natural look."
Calvo's advice to black women who want to try the nude face: Soft, unfrosted shadows in simple colors are best, and matte lipstick is current and especially flattering on women with full, lush lips. Finally, Calvo admonishes, a more subtle approach to blush makes for an attractive, natural-looking face. "Too much blush makes you look harder. Concentrate on 'less is best.' "
Hair and makeup by Jasmine / Celestine-Cloutier; model, Shae / Nina Blanchard