What’s the Best Office Makeup for Brown Girls?

Published in: Makeup Tips/How To

Earlier this week MBB reader Jessimae asked what I thought was a great question in the comments on Fiona’s guest post titled Office Makeup: How to Look Polished and Professional at Work.


“Hey Karen,

Could you do one of these for browner girls? Many of the shades… would contrast with my skin tone.”

Hi, Jessimae. Let’s see… Ultimately, it depends on what’s considered appropriate for your workplace and what you feel comfortable wearing, but here’s an idea for a conservative look based on neutral colors I’ll sometimes wear (for reference, I’m an NC35).

A neutral look

For the eyes, I might combine two or three neutral MAC eyeshadows like Arena, Shroom, Soft Brown, Woodwinked, Saddle, Sable, Cork, Brown Script or Soba. I think all of them look fab on darker skin and work well together, which means not having to think too hard or work too fast in the morning.


Then, I’d line the eyes with either a brown or black liner (I’m a fan of the MAC Technakohls in Graphblack and Brownborder) followed by two coats of mascara.

For the lips and cheeks, I see NARS Highlighting/Bronzing Blush Duo in Orgasm/Laguna working well. I’d sweep Orgasm Blush on the cheeks and then contour with Laguna Bronzer.

To complete the look, I’d go with NARS Dolce Vita Lipstick, a sheer dusty rose.

Do you have any ideas for Jessimae? I bet you do. 🙂 To share, just copy the following list, and paste it with your ideas in the comments.

What’s a good office makeup look for brown girls?

Your skin color:
Skin type:
Hair color:
Eye color:
Age (optional):
Recommended eye color(s) and why:
Recommended cheek color(s) and why:
Recommended lip color(s):

Your friendly neighborhood beauty addict,



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  1. Fieran says:

    Brown eyeshadow – a bit dull and neutral … but jazz it up with dark blue or teal eyeliner. Really works for me.

  2. Nina says:

    Hi there!

    Your skin color: Medium, yellow undertones
    Skin type: Combination
    Hair color: Reddish Brown
    Eye color: Brown
    Age (optional): in my 30s

    Recommended eye color(s) and why: For work I go for a mostly neutral palette – some shades on my work palette are Nylon, Woodwinked, Expensive Pink, Vanilla, Espresso — so more on the browns. Expensive Pink would be the most “colorful’ shadow id use to work. I do jazz it up by using bright eyeliners – mostly UD. I like Flipside, Bourbon, Underground, Binge etc – just for a little pop of color.

    Recommended cheek color(s) and why: I stay away from shimmers. So almost everyday, my cheek color is Benetint or Posie Tint + an almost matte blush eg MAC Dainty. I also like Milani’s Luminous over the tints although its a bit shimmery. When I use Luminous, I tone down my eyeshadow.

    Recommended lip color(s): I only recently got into lipsticks so my usual work lip would be a tinted lipbalm – I like the Burts Bees skinny lipbalm (color shimmers I think) – ive used Guava, Watermelon and Champagne. They are very moisturizing and add a little hint of color to the lips. Lately, ive been using Viva Glam Cyndi and MAC Crosswires – relatively neutral and office appropriate.


  3. Your skin color: NW 45, dark brown skin
    Skin type: Normal to dry
    Hair color: Dark brown
    Eye color: Dark brown
    Age (optional):
    Recommended eye color(s) and why: I like shimmer for work, but not glitters. Something like Warming Trend (or any beige or light bronze colour) would do. Maybe some Handwritten or Sketch in the crease to blend it out (or any midtone browns, burgundys). Just not too much shimmer. During the summer I like to add a little more colour to the eyes, by using navy, purple or a more golden liner from MAC or MUFE.
    Recommended cheek color(s) and why: Soft peaches and rose colours. I also like using cream colours as I don’t wear foundations and creams adhere to dry skin better. Bobbi Brown in Calypso Coral is good b/c it give a little warmth to the skin without looking bright. Also like NARS Crazed, as it has a subtle shimmer, and gives a rosy colour.
    Recommended lip color(s): 5N lipstick, Tranceplant lustreglass or any soft brown colours. These colours could have slight pink, or coral tones to them. Actually I like wearing just lipbalm.
    .-= Noire Tropical Beauty’s last blog post… The Makeup Show Review!! =-.

  4. adinda says:

    Your skin color: medium..nc 35-40 i guess ;p
    Skin type: Normal to dry
    Hair color: black
    Eye color: dark brown
    Age (optional): 27
    Recommended eye color(s) and why: i will recommended something that neutral like gold,brown..my fave eyeshadow palette is Ud get Baked. the color really suits my skin

    Recommended cheek color(s) and why: something that’s peachy and coral..i love my LORAC cheek stamp in coral

    Recommended lip color(s): i’ll go with nude colour or a little bit coral

  5. Tiffany says:

    Skin type: Tan-NC 42
    Hair color: Black
    Eye color: Dk bron
    Age (optional): mid 20’s
    Recommended eye color(s) and why: I do a lot of browns, golds, coppers and bronze, . I like the Notariety e/s pallette by Mac and I tend to use Tempting, Mulch, Amber Lights, & Glamour Check! a lot. I like these because they are neutral but still really pretty and I can play with the combos to spice it up. Alos Tarte’s Femme Naturale is a good pallette.
    Recommended cheek color(s) and why: I like Mac’s Sweet as Cocoa and Plum Foolery. They go with everything!
    Recommended lip color(s): I wear Mac’s Lovin’ It , Honey Love and Shy Girl. All are really good neutrals. On our casual Friday’s, I funk it up with Mac’s Up The Amp or Hipster w/ Oyster Girl l/g on the top!

  6. lexi says:

    Your skin color: NC42/Chanel TI – Wheat

    Skin type: Dry/Sensitive

    Hair color: Drk Brown w/caramel highlights

    Eye color: Drk Brown

    Age (optional): 35

    Recommended eye color(s) and why: I love me a neutral eye – I constantly go to Karen’s quick bronzey smoky eye looks because I can do it in about 10mns. I love using UD’s Smog/Bourbon pencil, Benefit’s “Birthday Suit” creaseless shadow as a base or on it’s own. For a more brighter color – I use UD’s Get Baked palette and use half-baked in the inner corner, baked in the mid – rest of lid and twice baked as my contour. Expensive Pink is also a nice lid color for our skintone. You may also want to try olives as a smoky alternative too. I suggest MAC Sumptous Olive/Purples are also great – Karen did a great EOTD using MAC’s Designer Purple pearl glide liner.

    Recommended cheek color(s) and why: Because it’s summer I have been using NARS bronzing powder in Irrestiblement – described as a desert rose shade. Our darker skintone can pull off this color on the cheekbone as a soft blush. Also I love using corals such as MAC’s Hipness. Plums are just as good and so are rose shades – NARS cream blush in Lokoum is one of my favs – has a touch of gold shimmer in it as well. As far as nude blushes – that can be tricky cuz they tend to blend into darker skintones. I had great luck w/MAC’s Prim and Proper.

    Recommended lip color(s): I go with Milky Pink glosses or nudes. I wear Chanel’s Rouge Coco in Secret with Waterlily glossimer, I also have been loving Victoria Secret’s lipliner in Soft Rose topped with their gloss in Yearning. I lean towards the pinks or light brown glosses if I’m doing any type of smoky eye. If I am just doing an black lined eye – I go a bit bolder with my lip colors – dark rose shades or maybe a red gloss. OOh Orange Gloss is so underappreciated but with darker skintone it’s just lovely!

    I hope this helps if not give some ideas…

  7. anita says:

    Your skin color: NC 40 with yellow and peach undertones
    Skin type: combo (darn my oily T-zone!!!)
    Hair color: brown
    Eye color: brown
    Age (optional): 30
    Recommended eye color(s) and why: I use a lot of gold tones, copper tones and peaches, they work well with my undertone and make me look awake, generally in shimmers as mattes clash with my skin texture / make me look dead. I use Mac Naked lunch on the inner third of my eye, then blend out with one of the following: Mac – All that Glitters, Cosmic (bronze), Sumptuous olive, Nars Alhambra, or Surabaya (good for out third). On lazy days, I just rub on a sheer wash of benefit creaseless cream in Birthday Suit or Get Figgy; I always line (or I look asleep); faves include MAC’s Teddy Kohl, Powersurge Kohl or dark black/brown shadows (Mac Espresso, Smut, or even Black Tied with a gentle hand). On days I’m so late I can’t even be lazy, I throw Elizabeth Arden’s Neutral Cashmere quad into my purse along with some brushes and improvise. It’s a super work-friendly emergency palette.

    Recommended cheek color(s) and why: One of these three:
    Benefit Dallas – subdued plum, very subtle wash makes me look flushed
    MAC Mineralize Love Joy- looks like a tan on me
    MAC Mineralize Dainty – a bit pink but adds the right amount of healthy colour on me

    Recommended lip color(s): creamy or matte nudes (Revlon Matte Mauve it Over, MAC Twig or Spirit) with lip gloss. If I’ve just lined my eyes and have nothing else on, a light coral like Elizabeth Arden’s Georgia Peach works well in the summer

    Whew, this was a novel. Hope it helps y’all out!!!

  8. Theresa says:

    Your skin color: NC 40/ medium tan

    Skin type: Combo (or schizophrenic – it is oily but if I don’t moisturize, I get dry and flaky)

    Hair color: Black

    Eye color: Brown

    Age (optional): 29

    Recommended eye color(s) and why: I do a lot of browns, tans, and golds, with a little green and violet thrown in the mix. Since I teach, I try to keep my colors very neutral. Specifically, I use Origins Safari So Good set (peach and olive green), Chanel Lavande (a lavender color that is surprisingly neutral), and Benefit’s creaseless cream shadows in Birthday Suit or Flying Down To

    Recommended cheek color(s) and why: I usually opt for a bronzer over a blush. I am currently using One Hot Minute by Benefit. If I do use a blush, I’ve found that Glee from Bare Minerals or Benefit’s Rush Hour (which can be used on the cheeks and lips) work well.

    Recommended lip color(s): I like a little pop of color on my lips, but I still keep it rather neutral. For the summer, I love Chanel Zanzibar (peachy beige) and Chanel Samoa (a slightly iridescent berry/punch color). Chanel Camelia (pink with a little shimmer) is a good, year-round color choice.

    I tend to use colors that are a little darker in the fall/winter. I like berry-inspired colors; Berry Freeze by Clinique is often my go-to winter color. I also use Clinique’s Angel Red if I want something with a little more zing. Benefit’s Rush Hour (sunberry) is also a nice choice, since it gives you a little color without being too obvious.

  9. honeybrown1976 says:

    Your skin color: NC 42/yellow undertones
    Skin type: Combination
    Hair color: Darkest brown
    Eye color: Medium brown
    Age (optional): 33
    Recommended eye color(s) and why: gold/copper
    Recommended cheek color(s) and why: a light coral
    Recommended lip color(s): coral or a medium pink

  10. Ladyfabulous says:

    Your skin color: Golden Olive
    Skin type: Dry
    Hair color: Dark Brown
    Eye color: Redish Honey Brown
    Age (optional): 29

    Recommended eye color(s) and why: Almost any colour works, except frosty pinks, but for the office I tend to stay pretty neutral. My everyday look is MAC’s Rubenesque paint pot all over my lid with Benefit Hollywood Glo or MAC’s All that Glitters to highlight with some black liquid liner (Urban Decay in Perversion) and black mascara. The golden tones compliment the gold undertones in my skin and offer an appropriate amount of shimmer for day/sitting in front of my computer at work.

    Recommended cheek color(s) and why: Nars Orgasm. It’s great on my skin. I wear this colour almost every day and it gives me the perfect amount of colour to my cheeks. It’s not overwhelming and the bit of shimmer in the blush gives my skin a nice dewy look.

    Recommended lip color(s): I rarely wear bold lip colours generally, so MAC’s VIVA Glam V is a staple, but I do mix it up depending on what colours and tones I wear. I find gloss is better for work as I find it low maintenance. Depending on what the weather is like outside, I’ll be in the mood for a nice pop of colour though so that works well with the rest of my face remaining neutral.

    I do spice things up for events, but for the every day at work, my look is pretty simple.

  11. Sanya says:

    Your skin color: Medium brown (Pakistani)
    Skin type: Combination
    Hair color: Black
    Eye color: Black
    Age (optional): 24
    Recommended eye color(s) and why: I wear glasses, so I love doing bold eye colors with conservative lips or reversely, a really bold lip gloss (I like MAC Lipglass) with a conservative neutral eye. I think really bright colors in pink, corals and yellows that would look sort of clownish on fairer skin tends to make a bold and believable statement on darker skin;. I personally get tons of compliments on my neutral eye and hot pink lip gloss. <3
    Recommended cheek color(s) and why: I'm not too adventurous with my blush but I use a bright pink coral from FACES.
    Recommended lip color(s): Again, I heart bold colors like hot pink and red. It's intimidating to do the first time but fun!

  12. Aparnaa says:

    Skin color: Medium brown (South Asian)
    Skin type: Combination
    Hair color: Black
    Eye color: Darkest brown
    Recommended eye color(s) and why: Alima Pure’s Pearluster Eyeshadows in Champagne, Palomino, and Cappucino – they’re all shimmery but not sparkly neutrals that bring light into my eyes and make my dark circles seem much less crazy. I dress very conservatively for my office, but these eyeshadows don’t look crazy – just polished. I get a tad more adventurous with eyeliner – meaning I wear black, blue, eggplant, and sometimes rockstar purple if I want to.
    Recommended cheek color(s) and why: I go with a neutral rose or coral – just the barest flush of color (Alima in my case, but hey) so I don’t look dead.
    Recommended lip color: Stila’s Kitten – shimmery nude pink. It’s again pretty but polished. I’m SO freaking conservative about my cosmetics for work but it looks like me, but better.

  13. Jen says:

    Your skin color: NC45, caramel, yellow/orange undertone
    Skin type: Combination
    Hair color: Dark brown
    Eye color: Dark brown
    Age (optional): 28
    Recommended eye color(s) and why: Golds, greens, browns, soft oranges, purples, warm pinks. These colors can look nice and office appropriate if the intensity and tone fits your skin color.

    Recommended cheek color(s) and why: I like MAC’s Sweet as Cocoa, Format, and Gentle. The first two are nice pretty golden browns and the last one is a soft pretty warm pink. All three look very pretty on darker skin.

    Recommended lip color(s): Neutral golds, pretty nude browns, warm pinks, soft purples and corals. All look good on darker skin.

    Check out Bobbi Brown or MAC. Both lines have decent shade coverage for women of color.

    • Keener says:

      I’ve been looking for a warm pink blush… thanks for the recommendation on Gentle. I’ll check that out.

  14. Keener says:

    This is great, I’ve gotten some great recommendations as well. Love the question, would love if there were more blogs for us brown girls.

    Your skin color: NC 45
    Skin type: Combination
    Hair color: Black
    Eye color: Dark Brown
    Age (optional): On the cusp of 30
    Recommended eye color(s) and why: I haven’t mastered eyeshadow for a day look, what I find works is apply a paint pot and liner. I look fres put-together without being over the top. Colours I use are Rubenesque, Painterly, Coral Crepe and Indianwood. I don’t use it everyday, my staple and what I find comfortable for the days are eyeliner and mascara. I play around with eyeliners from time to time, fluidline, loose khol powder, eye pencils. Don’t limit yourself with eyeliner colours, they can be a great way to add some colour without doing a whole lot. The only one that hasn’t worked on me is Urban Decay’s Bourbon, it doesn’t show up at all.
    Recommended cheek color(s) and why: I recently purchased MAC’s Format and that’s been working well as a warm bronze-ish colour for the everyday. A staple though should be NARS Deep Throat, the perfect blush in my opinion. I’m working on finding some highlighters and bronzers for myself because I haven’t explored that previously.
    Recommended lip color(s): Too many too choose from, MAC’s Kumquat, Nice Mix Up, Nice to be Nice (corals), Flashtronic (pink), Mad Cap (great for a nude lip) Chelsea (lipstick-brown, I use it with Mad Cap), and Soft Pause (lipstick-pink, great for the office, soft colour). In the fall/winter I definitely go a bit darker and dramatic and I’m not adverse to wearing red at work other colour choices are Deep Love (dark burgundy matte lipstick), Diva (Red), Chignon (purple), Overdone (brown). There are other colours but since I’m away from my collection I can’t recall any names other than my MAC products. I swear there are other brands with awesome lipsticks and glosses.

  15. jessimae says:

    Wow, this was the best, thanks so much ladies 🙂
    ( I’m NC50/55 fyi)

  16. JankiScreamsObscenities says:

    Your skin color: Caramel in winter, milk chocolate during summer.

    Skin type: Oily at times, dry during others.

    Hair color: A dark mix of browns, reds and blacks. It looks black/dark brown, the colors show in sun light.

    Eye color: Dark brown

    Age (optional): Sixteen !

    Recommended eye color(s) and why: I love mixing shades, I normally match my outfit. Pale pinks brighten the eye, orange/yellow make the brown pop, greens brighten, blues complement the brown but my favorite is a nice dark purple, it sexy and chic.

    Recommended cheek color(s) and why: I normally do a dark plum (redish plum not purple, lol) and a brighter slightly pink-er shade. I do the brighter colors on the apples and my cheek bones. The darker shade on the hollows of my cheek (slimming my face)

    Recommended lip color(s): I tend to say with nude lips and just apply chapstick. My lips are 3 tones (dark top lip with 3 bright pink spots towards the inner part, and a pink bottom lip, and they’re naturally lined,) I say a nice dark purple/red. or a pale pink.


  17. SUNNYTRISHA says:

    Your skin color: medium brown skin with red undertones
    Hair color: dyed medium to dark brown
    Eye color: Darkest brown /black

    Age (optional): 30

    I like to change up my look form natural, to makeup that pops. I’ve been wearing lots of coral shades of lipstick- Im pretty sure there’s a coral lipstick shade out there for every shade of brown skin. =) But i also love a feminine pink lipstick so I have one from Lancome called “Rose ?”. Rose something…I can’t remember right now. But you’ll know the one the moment you check out the shades at the lancome counter- its the only one that looks GREAT for brown skinned ladies.

    I apply a Nars blush- Luster. It’s perfect. more like a subtle bronzer, works all year round. I also like blushes with a pinkish hue when I’m wearing my pink lipstick. I used to wear one called Desert Rose ( I think from MAC) and that’s a great shade. Just a nice flush to the cheeks, not dramatic at all. Very suitable for work.

    For my eyes, I love greens, golds and purples for eyeshadow. Those are very flattering colours for my skin tone. I always line my eyes with brown kohl eyeliner. And then of course, apply mascara.

    Summertime, I just wear bronzer onn my face for a warm glow and line and mascara, and I’m ready to go!

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