No, I guess I’m not really feeling the need to lighten up …

Occasionally I give in to societal pressure and try to wear makeup. These attempts are, generally, short-lived. They almost always devolve into ranting and railing about sexism and racism and my surprising lack of manual dexterity when faced with a mascara wand. And who needs that when you’re trying to slap yourself together and get out the door for work?

A few months ago I was entering one of those phases, chiding myself about wearing my face au naturel, encouraging myself to be a grown-up girl and ‘do something’ with my face. So I went downtown to checkout the makeup displays at Macy’s I figured I’d have some luck at Clinique, where they seem to realize that there are women darker than Halle Berry. (No, really. There are.)

You see, that’s one of the ways my makeup moments devolve: the frustration and disgust of color palettes created only for light-skinned people. Annoying enough to drive me away from the glass-and-chrome counters again and again. Forgive me, Ms. Truth, but … ain’t I a woman? Why aren’t there any ‘perfect match’ colors out there for me?

But some lines have figured it out, and Clinique is one of them. I walked over to the counter and waited while another woman was guided through the tricky selection process of texture, coverage and color. This shopper was (lucky her) much darker than I am, and I was pleasantly surprised to find that Clinique’s colors went there. The woman wasn’t having any of it, though. She kept refusing to let the saleswoman put any of the dark foundation on her, kept insisting that she needed a lighter color.


When I first started buying makeup years ago, I couldn’t find my color anywhere. A woman at a counter in Saks tried to smooth some Vanessa Williams on my cheek saying, “You’re really not as dark as you think you are.” As if she was helping me out, as if that was something I would want to hear. Hey: I am as dark as I am, which is really not as dark as I wish I was but it works for me. I have no interest in wearing a color so light it resembles a death mask.

The woman I watched in Macy’s was angry with the saleswoman for offering up a dark color, for suggesting that the dark color was actually the right color. In the end, she bought a shade just a number or two darker than mine but at least five or six numbers lighter than the one she needed. I wondered what she would see when she looked in the mirror with that foundation on her face, wondered if her family and friends would let her walk around wearing haute maquillage clown-white.

When she turned to me, the saleswoman looked a little wary, probably worried that I’d put her through the same nonsense.

“Give me her color,” I said. “I would flaunt that all over town.”

“Right? And she was mad, too.” She shook her head. “I’m not supposed to, but if she comes back here and wants to exchange for the right color, I’ll do it.”

I went home with my purchases (two tubes of Black Honey lip gloss, too!) and maintained the facade for longer than usual. But it’s over now. After all, the weather started to get warm, and I started seeing more sun … and the sun always means I get dark, darker, darkest (yum!) and then the makeup that matches me so well in the tail of winter takes on some clown-white properties of its own. No, it’s just not me.

5 thoughts on “No, I guess I’m not really feeling the need to lighten up …

  1. I’m much lighter than you ‘Black Honey’ (and I hope you take that in the spirit in which it was intended) but still have the same trouble winter to summer. Which is right? And if I was doing what I should (sunscreen, melanoma runs in my family) I’d be the same shade year-round. But who wants that! I hate wearing foundation in the first place. Even the best brands make my face itch. In the summer it gets even more uncomfortable when I feel like my face is melting. The other thing? All my makeup expires before I use it. So then I hesitate to buy it. Ah, the expectations placed upon us by society!


  2. You’re so right, Ladybug! The only makeup I buy that doesn’t wind up in the trash because it’s expired is lipstick … and even some of that gets chucked, too!

    The other thing I hate about wearing makeup is that people notice and comment on it. Isn’t it really no one’s business but my own if I have some makeup on? But working in the Social Service Sorority House as I do, things like a little mascara and foundation cannot go unnoticed. After that last trip to Clinique, I walked into work wearing the foundation I’d bought … and the receptionist greeted me and said, “And your makeup looks very nice today.” Gaah!

    Hmm … I like being called ‘Black Honey’ … I feel a new screen name coming on!


  3. I’m a flushed-face spongy white girl and Black Honey is my favorite, though I use the ‘almost lipstick’ rather than the gloss. I’m an esthetician and am pretty good with the makeup and this shade looks good on almost everyone, it just makes your natural lip colour ‘pop’.

    As an esthetician, I would also like to remind women of color that you still need sunscreen, so find a moisturizer, tinted moisturizer or foundation that has at least 15 SPF.

    My clients have varying degrees of skin colour and the best advice I have for darker complexions is exfoliate, exfoliate, exfoliate. Use a gentle scrub one or twice a week to remove dead skin, then a little moisturizer suited to your skin type and glowiness and radiance abounds.

    And don’t pick or use chemical lighteners of any kind, both can create hypopigmentation(patchy spots that are lighter than your normal skin tone) and chemical lighteners usually have hydroquinone which has been found to be carcinegenic.

    Lastly, if you’re a low maintenence woman of any color, take care of your skin, get your eyebrows groomed, moisturize and protect and slap a little lipstick on. Pretty and ‘done up’ should be whatever you makes you feel confident and comfortable.


  4. Mom

    I can’t bear makeup, especially foundation on my face. Makes me feel like I have put on one of those masks that came with the halloween costumes out of the box, remember those? With the elastic string and the little mouth slit? It makes my skin crawl.

    Be defiantly proud of the face that you have. I wear mine plain skin no matter what. I may not look like a model, but at least I look like me, warts and all.

    I really don’t have warts, though.


  5. My oldest daughter is the counter manager for Clinique at Macys in my former hometown. I seldom wear makeup anymore so she got me some tinted moisturizer to wear. I really like it, I don’t look like I have a mask on.
    They even sell Clinique here in Mérida at the Liverpool Department Store!
    She has the opposite problem from you (gets it from my Cuban mother,so much for stereotypes about hispanics), she is as fair as you can get without being an albino. She has only found one company with the right shade of foundation but she can´t use it at work since it’s not Clinique! She is a fanatic about getting the right shade for people.
    Anyway, the skin care products are excellent, so just do that and the lipstick like Chris said.
    As for people noticing, they notice because you are probably going from no make-up,so do the lipstick.


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