Today we are talking about essential products to have on hand when doing makeup for Black actors. These items are my best-kept secrets, but I am ready to share these secrets with you!

Makeup for Black Actors: Moisturizer and Liquid or Cream Foundation 

The key to radiant skin is moisture and when dealing with melanated (highly pigmented) skin, the moisture gives stage lights something to reflect off. Light doesn’t bounce well off of matte surfaces, so remember that the reflective qualities in moisturizers and liquid or cream foundations help accentuate the features of the talent. Cool, eh?

But wait! Moisture does even more than just reflect light. Since moisturizer is usually the first product to touch the face it serves as a barrier between skin and other makeup products that will be applied. The pores in your skin are not endless pits so if your pores are full of good things like your favorite moisturizer, the yucky stuff can’t get in (like that third ingredient you can’t pronounce in that one product that you really love). Tip: Invest in good moisturizers!

When choosing foundation for the stage, I love going with a cream-based product like Ben Nye. Ben Nye and other theatrical makeup brands were designed with the talent in mind. With a wide range of colors and undertones for deeper skin tones, I am rarely let down by this brand. Cream-based theatrical foundations have the coverage and durability to withstand a sweaty night of performing. This is the main factor that sets theatrical makeup apart from streetwear makeup: durability. Liquid or cream foundations that are typically used for streetwear can be used for theatrical purposes, but note that the coverage and durability may be an element you sacrifice. All in all, use what you have access to. The product will work if you know how to work it, honey!

Matte Eyeshadows with Yellow and Red Undertones

Want some Brownie points? Have matte eyeshadows on hand when applying theatrical makeup unless the application calls for a specific modification. It is essential to me to have a range of brown eyeshadows on hand that have different undertones; they are game changers. It is a common occurrence to come across multiple shades in your talent’s facial skintones. You will find cooler tones and warmer tones. Having a range of matte brown eyeshadows on hand gives you the freedom to pivot if you need a brown to compliment the makeup application and give a flawless neutral eye. Recently there have been a couple of brands worth mentioning that have beautiful matte eyeshadows for deeper skin tones like Morphe and Juvia’s.

We all know that all nude pallets are not created equal. The way I like to navigate this issue is to assemble my own nude pallet for a specific skin tone by handpicking the eyeshadows for my Z-palette. This magnetic palette is a genius invention that lets you deposit your eyeshadows, blush, and lip colors all in one place. 

Tinted Setting Powders

It is common practice during a makeup application to set your liquids and cream with powder. Setting powders reduce unwanted shine on skin. They lock in your liquid and cream products to reduce them transferring things like clothes or props. Too much of anything is a bad thing, and the same is true for setting powders. Too much powder can give your talent a ghost-like quality, especially if the powder is not tinted. Ben Nye has a beautiful range of setting powders that can be mixed to give you the perfect shade. You can also use this setting powder to even out highlight or contour that may have gotten a little intense during the makeup application.

But wait (again)! If powder reduces shine and gives a mattifying effect, doesn’t that conflict with the reflective quality of the moisture we have added to the skin? I’m so glad you asked. Balance is the key. Setting powder is very thin but is a product that can be built up for more coverage. Think about powder foundations that people use just to buff out uneven colors in their face. This is the same concept. Using thin layers of tinted setting powder will take away the excess shine without removing the radiance from the skin. We need that radiance and reflective quality to accentuate features under stage lights which brings us back to the importance of moisture!

I think we have gone full circle now about the basics of  makeup for Black actor. Pop over here for a quick Black hair tutorial! And then watch for even more Tips, Tricks, and Takeaways with Destinee!  ♦

Destinee Steele has an MFA in wig and makeup design. She is the CEO of The Beauty Menagerie, LLC. She is also a Founding Board Member of Black Hair and Makeup United. Destinee is a regular content contributor to To learn more visit her at

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