Most dark-skinned girls have brown eyes, and even professional make-up artists are sometimes puzzled over what to do with that. Their default move is to go for shimmer and sparkle – regular tones get lost in their clients’ complexion. Lately, darker celebrities like Lupita Nyong’o and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie are being selected as make-up brand ambassadors. Also, inclusive brands like Rihanna’s Fenty Beauty are offering a broader palette of 40 shades, covering girls blessed with skin ranges from milky olive to dark coffee.
Fenty builds its foundation around … foundation … but it also offers lip and eye shades. Their website offers skin-tone guides that help you digitally experiment and discover what works best for you. So while making your brown eyes pop seems like a simple matter of picking the right colour, you do need to factor in your skin tone. A ‘nude’ that may work on fair skin might look weird on a darker girl, while a customised nude designed for Asian or African(-American) skin would be quite visible on a Caucasian customer.
For our purposes, we’ll dig into colours that work on the darkest skin range. In practice, this colour choice will be more dramatic on lighter skin shades, but can still be flattering. This approach is more practical because coming at it the other way around could result in make-up that is invisible on a darker face. The first eye-make-up tip many of us received was to wear a colour that matches our eyes. So blue eye-shadow for blue-eyed girls, green shadow for the green-to-hazel range. Curiously, this doesn’t translate into black eye-shadow for black eyes, mostly because many eyes described as ‘black’ are actually dark brown (… and because black eye-shadow is very goth.) Still, brown eye shadow for brown eyes is iffy.
Skin tone matters
On lighter girls, brown can seem too mild to pop. On darker girls, it can disappear completely into their skin or look garish, depending on the shade of brown. So only use brown eye-shadow if you’re going for that natural no-make-up look. It’s a bad choice if you’re trying to make your eyes pop, but it can be a subtle highlight when you’re trying to make your skin look un-made-up. Instead, especially if you’re on the darker side, opt for contrasting shades with some shimmer.
Lighter girls can pick contrasting eye-shadow palettes as well, though they don’t need quite as much sparkle unless it’s a night-time event. Green is good, because of the contrast effect. It works really well with hazel eyes, because it heightens the green while contrasting the brown, and dances beautifully in those intense emotional moments when your eyes themselves seem to change colour. If you’re feeling dramatic, you can blend different shades, going green at the top and veering closer to blue for your lower lid.
Gel liner brightens the whites of your eyes, offering a more distinct canvas for your eye-shadow selection. Of course shimmer doesn’t have to pair with colour. Sparkly silver makes a good choice for brown eyes, regardless of skin tone. It can highlight eye-bags though, so watch out for that. You can move towards grey if you want a milder effect that still draws attention to your face. Shiny silver is more bold, so you need attitude to wear it without wilting. Gold shades are – interestingly – less dramatic than silver, and they work on both light and dark skin, with or without the extra gloss.
Brown and blue
If you want a soft pop, opt for bronze or copper rather than untainted gold. They’re closer to brown than yellow, so their effect is gentle but distinct. Blue eye-shadow (or eye-liner) enhances the whites of your eyes, but if you’re a darker girl, pick darker blues like navies and royals. Use mattes for daytime and shimmers for night. Lighter, paler blues can risk looking comical today, though they were popular in the 80s, so you should avoid them unless you’re going deliberately retro. Lighter girls can wear any shade in the azure range and it will beautifully highlight their brown baby blues.
Finally, the royal colour purple works on just about everyone, from Alek Wek to Lucy Liu, Keira Knightley to Britney Spears. It highlights brown eyes on any skin tone or hair shade. On darker skin, it looks elegant, muted, and bold. On lighter skin, it looks vivid, sophisticated, and playful. Pick the purple that best fits your undertone. Generally speaking, that’s indigos for darker girls and violets for lighter shades. A dark girl with red undertones can swing either way. But whichever shadow you use, never sleep with eye-make-up on. It’s the quickest way to get a sight-threatening infection, so wash that shade off!