I used to be so afraid of wearing colour (and still am, to some extent), but I'm especially reluctant to experiment when it comes to what I wear on my eyes. I learned about makeup from watching how my mum applied it every day. I would sit and stare at her pulling out magic product after magic product. Whilst she was never shy of experimenting with colour when it came to her lipstick shade or finish, she would always keep her eye shadow muted and complementary to her skin tone.
My mum lived through the '80s and '90s when black women were conditioned to step in line behind the mainstream beauty trends that were predominantly created with lighter complexions in mind. In her day, the available shades and tones were often ashy or striking on the skin. As that mentality stayed with her, it influenced my own beauty routine, until recently.
The beauty conversation has changed dramatically over the last few years, and rightly so. As a result, brands and products have evolved to create colours and pigments that are complimentary for every skin tone. I now no longer have to worry about what shades are available for my black skin and just have to focus on what look I would like to create (will it be a cut crease or smoky jewel-toned eye?). It has made me so much more experimental with my own looks, and the variety of eye shadow colours I want to try is truly endless.
After all my testing, I've discovered 12 eye shadows, in particular, that I think look spectacular on dark skin. Apologies for the immense number of palettes (what can I say? I just love having options). Keep scrolling for the products I love.
1. The Best Eye Shadow Stick
Originally, this was one of those last-minute purchases that I snapped up to copy a look I saw on Instagram and wanted to replicate for the festive season. Low and behold, this turned out to be a product that I now bring out for any party year after year. I always favour a smoky or metallic eye, and whether all over the lid or as part of an eye shadow combination, this stick has never let me down.
2. The Best Metallic Shadow Palette
Not all brands understand the power of pigment, which is especially true on dark skin. Because of our darker complexion, eye shadow can be prone to disappearing or melting into the skin, eliminating the pow effect. Researching this, Fenty Beauty created a high-impact formula that means its eye shadows stand out and complement dark skin. As a complementary duo, both Peach and Deep Neutrals form an alliance any individual could create.
3. The Best Base Colour
Everyone knows that MAC was one of the first to deliver shade ranges that those with dark skin could trust. From its lip liners and foundations to its multitude of lipsticks, MAC has always impressed me. Not falling short in the eye shadow arena either, the single shadow in the shade Cork has been in my vanity since I started wearing makeup. Its muted golden-brown acts as the perfect base to build on any look afterwards. Highly pigmented and buttery upon touch, cork is timeless and a classic.
4. The Best Pigment
I don’t use eye shadow sticks often, but when I do, I always reach for Bobbi Brown, mainly for its creamy formula. Each shade glides onto the eyes without much effort. Bold in colour and smooth in application, the creamy eye shadow stick exceeds all expectations and is easy to carry making it a cosmetic bag repeater.
5. Best Investment Palette
At an eye-watering £115, this eye shadow palette is certainly an investment buy, and if you are anything like me, you have to get your worth out of a purchase like this. When I splurge on anything, I need to know its cost per wear. It needs to carry me through the season and through any look Monday to Sunday. This palette does just that. Covering cool, neutral and warm shades, there are tones for everyone.
6. Best Warm Gold Metallic Palette
I know this is slightly cheating by creating a category that separates colour combinations, but if you have already tried this palette, you would understand why it would have to be included. I love warm tones, golds, bronzes and anything that will make me glow, and this palette does just that. It contains 15 shades covering matte, metallic, sparkling and duo-chrome finishes with an array of tan, ochre and warm gold hues make this the perfect palette.
7. Best Travel/Compact Palette
If you have read any of my other articles for Who What Wear, you will know I am a huge advocate for Nars Cosmetics, and it doesn’t just stop at its complexion products. The brand's eye shadow pigments are beyond this world and its colour combinations are always a step ahead in performance. The Afterglow Palette is my favourite to travel with, as its compact but sleek design. This palette carries all the warm tones a person could ever want. It's certainly more on the glitz and glam side of things, but with the buildable hues, these shades can be tailored to what and when you need them.
8. Best for Richness and Depth
A brand that celebrates and champions brown skin, Juvia’s Place is an expert in elevating dark skin and her eye shadows highlight any shade of brown. It's simply impossible to pick between its selection, but The Warrior (best for rich shades), The Warrior II (best for matte everyday shades) and The Afrique (best for deep shades) have every finish and creation covered.
9. Best Quad Palette
The smaller the better, right? Usually, I love dipping and diving into a big palette, but the Topaz Obsessions is small yet mighty. It's pigment-packed and mixes duo-chrome shimmers with creamy mattes. The combination of the ambers, polished bronzes and vibrant oranges mean that this palette offers the perfect smoky bronze eye shadow look without the need of a huge selection.
10. Best Experimental Palette
Known for her lavish and luxurious looks on the runway, Pat McGrath always turns eyelids into a work of art. This is definitely a palette that I only dabble in when I want to be brave. Richly formulated and eye-defining, this eye shadow palette will elevate any artistry skills you have, and each look will unveil a sense of richness and power. You only have to glance at her Instagram account to witness the magic.
11. The Best Neutral Palette
I received this palette as a gift from a friend years ago and it has created many looks for both a normal day in the office and a little extra something when it comes to the weekend. At an amazing price point with 35 beautiful shades, this palette covers every look and finish I'm ever after. Covering the bases with cool, neutrals and warm tones, this palette has seen me through many eye creations.