Growing up as a dancer, makeup has always intrigued me. The bold shades of eyeshadow that I would wear to match with my costume, the fierce eyeliner that elongated my eyes, and of course the loads of “translucent” powder that my mom caked on me before going on stage were all staple dance makeup items. However, when my mom turned me into Casper the ghost in 8th grade, I decided I needed to figure out how to do makeup on my own (no offense Mom!) As I started to learn how to do more natural makeup for everyday wear and to enhance my facial features, I was drawn to YouTube makeup tutorials. I would search up “brown girl friendly makeup,” and although these videos were helpful as a beginner, none of those products ever seemed to fit my skin tone. The word “dark” is extremely subjective based on where you’re from, but it took me thousands of YouTube deep dives and hundreds of dollars worth of makeup to truly find the very best and affordable products for my dark skin. Without further adieu, here are some of my favorite makeup products that I believe suit dark brown skin, along with the shades that I use.
These products are my absolute ride or die’s, so if you have a deeper skin tone like myself, I hope you enjoy these recommendations! Also, huge shoutouts to YouTubers like Jackie Aina, Deepica Mutyala, and Arshia Moorjani for providing makeup advice and tutorials for POC’s like myself and teaching me everything I know about makeup!
If you’re anything like me, your search history has been a bit of a wild roller coaster over the last few weeks. With everything ranging from “how to survive a coup” to “kanye jeffree star”, perhaps one of the most common search terms I found myself aimlessly entering was “when the f*ck does quarantine end”. I think it’s safe to say that at this point quarantine has gotten really old, and work from home has gotten even older.
When the boundaries between work and life start to blur, it can be hard to remember to take time to decompress and pamper yourself. As your Outlook calendar starts to fill up after the post-holiday slump, you should keep a couple beauty essentials at hand to help revive you throughout the day and keep you looking fly as hell for your Zoom calls. Here are my five favorites from South Asian-owned brands!
WFH (Working From Home) has me waking up 15 minutes before my first Zoom meeting just so I can unmute myself to ask someone about the weather and say “thank you!” at the end. For the days where I can get away with keeping my camera off, I love keeping these eye patches from Wander Beauty in the fridge so I can pop them on and mindlessly scroll through Tik Tok during my call. The calendula extract helps depuff tired eyes while hyaluronic acid leaves your under-eye area feeling plump and hydrated. The glittery gold design is luxurious and makes me feel like I have my life together (even though my entire productivity flow is derailed the moment I get a stressful email.)
Lip & Cheek Tint: Live Tinted Huestick in Dusty Rose or Origin ($25)
Unfortunately there will be some days where you’ll be required to keep your camera on (although this should be illegal). When that happens, I love to grab a multi-tasking lip & cheek product to quickly add life to my face and prevent me from looking like a Dementor. This Live Tinted Huestick is extremely versatile and can be used as a cream blush, lipstick, or eyeshadow. The shade Dusty Rose suits my lighter skin, but Origin is a great pick for deeper complexions.
Face Mist: Vasanti Rose Water & Pomegranate Toner + Refreshing Spray ($23)
I fully believe in the power of scents to lift up your mood, and I’m a sucker for rose scents in particular. In pre-pandemic times, I would always keep a rose face mist on my desk in the office as a quick refresher between meetings. I insisted on forcibly misting several of my male coworkers who turned out to be huge fans of the concept and seemed visibly less stressed post-mist. This face mist from Vasanti checks all my boxes and provides me with a refreshing, hydrating spray in the middle of my work day. Rosewater and pomegranate provide antioxidants and nutrients to your skin while fighting bacteria.
Hand Cream: Avya Nourishing Hand Treatment ($26)
Lets face it, our hands have been through a lot this quarantine: excessive sanitizing, frantic online shopping, sourdough starter nurturing, and doom scrolling. This nourishing hand cream from Avya is perfect for massaging into your hands throughout the day and is hydrating without making your skin feel greasy. I make sure to spend a little extra time working the cream in around my cuticles to kind of make up for the fact that I haven’t gotten a manicure in the last year.
Exfoliating Mask: Aavrani Glow Activating Exfoliator ($70) When you finally hit send on your last passive-aggressive “just checking back in on this” email, try to log out completely and avoid compulsive inbox-checking for the rest of the night. Instead, use the down time to deep clean and exfoliate your skin with this Glow Activating Exfoliator by Aavrani. This product doubles as both an exfoliator and a face mask and contains turmeric, neem, jojoba, and honey to brighten and even out your skin tone. I recommend exfoliating 1-2 times per week to keep your skin looking glowy without leaving it overly stripped.
Riya Godbole is a beauty writer for South Asian Productions. She graduated from UCLA in 2019 and currently works as a financial analyst for Venmo. Her dream is to start her own company in the makeup or skincare space. In her spare time she loves baking, hip hop music, crossword puzzles, and escape rooms.
I’d always observe mama as she applies her makeup. The cherry blush kisses her caramel skin. The dark kajal eyeliner contrasts against her large honey eyes while her thick lashes flutter like butterfly wings. Her bindhi, the small decorative sticker above her eyebrows, known as the third eye, completes the finishing look of a beautiful Indian woman. Then she’d repeat the same steps on my face, brushing her foundation onto my darker skin and applying excessive shades of pink onto my cheeks. She’d let me choose a bindhi and I’d pick my favorite from the collection, hoping the small ornament could magically make me look like her. I never looked like her. My monolid eyes were unsuitable for thick black eyeliner as I did not inherit my mama’s double eye creases. Her powdered foundation was far too fair for my skin and the bindhi always failed to compliment my ambiguous face. As much as mama attempted for her daughter to look like a typical Indian girl, no makeup brush was successful for that kind of transformation. No makeup was designed for me.
There is an instant magnetic force between the public and my family. Whenever mama and I are in any large crowd, every individual stares in disarray, wondering how an Indian woman ended up adopting her “Malaysian” child. As mama tells her doubtful friends that I am actually her daughter, they become silent, often amazed by our physical differences. “I love your high cheekbones and freckles and large arched nose,” one aunty comments, “you are exotic. ” To which mama would proudly respond “the Aryan nose is all mine. Thank her father for her sharpened cheeks and almond eyes.” I’d simply nod in agreement as I stare at mama’s round face layered in light makeup. Makeup did not conceal mama’s natural Indian features, it exhibited them profoundly. While her friends praised me for my foreign looks, I developed an insecurity over my own mama. She is exceptionally beautiful in makeup because she is fully Indian. I thought. But I don’t have enough eye creases for eyeliner. I don’t even have enough “Indian” in me to be beautiful. Not like her.
I believed the public was attracted to mama and I for the wrong reasons. They admired our mixed backgrounds by identifying particular physical differences, all of which were my biggest insecurities. That’s why I loved when mama applied her makeup on me. I loved how her right index finger cautiously painted tinted cherry red onto my lips. I loved how she made me laugh for my cheeks to compress, just so she could place glitter on them. I loved makeup, because I always anticipated looking exactly like mama–for looking exactly like an Indian. However, every anticipation was automatically destroyed. Makeup simply exhibited my exoticness, making me more distant from being mama’s Indian girl.
During high school, my fascination for makeup grew more as it made me feel put together and confident. I wore the infamous MAC Lash Zoom Black Mascara, an extravagant, yet successful approach that made my lashes thick just like mama’s. I studied Bollywood actresses and their iconic looks: long black hair, full pink lips, and the notorious bindhicentered on their foreheads. I mimicked these styles during several Indian parties and honestly, I enjoyed many Indian parents exclaiming “Ananya! You look very Indian today! Just like mama.” These comments were my coupons, easily giving me public approval that I was a brown girl. To clarify, I love my father and his east Asian features. I never was ashamed of his background and his struggles as a minority in India, yet there is a great level of insecurity when my mama’s own best friends do not believe I am her daughter. Right before I began college mama took me to visit her friend Ms. “Octavia”, a successful makeup artist from Indonesia. In her salon, Ms. Octavia examined my face closely, smiling at both of our physical similarities. She gave me her golden highlighters, lash curlers, Korean face masks and eyeliner specifically designed for east Asian eyes. I remember Ms. Octavia telling mama “now these are the correct beauty products to enhance Ananya’s face.” After mama took me to Ms. Octavia’s, my worries of not looking Indian enough slowly vanished. Indian culture has their own unique methods for applying makeup and while that works on mama’s face, it doesn’t work on mine– but that’s okay! The truth is mama never worried about the public’s approval of our family’s ethnic mixtures and neither should I. While we couldn’t look more different, Mama and I still share the same laughs and love. Nowadays, she observes me applying my own makeup and is fascinated how different the traditional Indian method is from mine. “But it works,” mama always says. “Your face, the eyes, that smile—it’s so different, but it works jaan, it works.”
Ananya is originally from India and currently is a student at the University of Richmond. She’s grateful and excited to be a part of the South Asian Productions family!
Like many of us watching Indian Matchmaking, I experienced a roller coaster of emotions: pure joy (when I saw Rashi and Vysar beginning to connect), unadulterated disgust (when Akshay rejected 70+ girls despite looking like every Indian boy from San Ramon), and temporary embarrassment (when one of Aparna’s relationship criteria was that a person should “know Bolivia had salt flats” when I was not at all aware that Bolivia had any such thing). I was inspired to create this edition of “Indian Matchmaking Contestants as Beauty Products” as a way to reflect on the show and on what beauty products (and contestants) I believe are actually worth the hype. These are all based on my own knowledge and experiences so please do your own research to make sure they’re right for your skin! Ultimately, my efforts are meaningless if the stars are not aligned.
Product:Pixi Glow Tonic, $15 Like Nadia’s fun ‘n’ flirty personality, Pixi Glow Tonic is a zingy but gentle exfoliant that uses 5% glycolic acid to dissolve dead skin cells. Big bonus points for brightening dull skin overall, because even though we’re all currently dead inside, doesn’t mean we have to look that way 🙃 I’d recommend using it 1-2 times a week with a cotton pad and following up with a hydrating moisturizer and definitely sunscreen!
Product:Cetaphil Gentle Skin Cleanser, $7
Vysar (and Cetaphil) are like golden retriever puppies: they’re reliable, authentic, adorable, and would never hurt a fly. I’m a strong believer that cleanser should be the most no-nonsense step in your routine: it should cleanse your skin without leaving it feeling tight and dry and generally shouldn’t have a lot of active ingredients. This cleanser definitely fits the bill and is gentle enough even for all you eczema betches out here (aka me).
Product:Accutane, Price Varies
Similar to Accutane, Aparna is who you turn to when you’ve tried literally everything else and are at your wit’s end. If you’re not familiar with Accutane it’s a prescription acne pill that you take every day for a few months, usually to treat severe cystic acne. I don’t know if Bolivia has salt flats, but I do know that there can be some pretty gnarly side effects including super dry, cracked skin and nosebleeds. Definitely has worked for some people I know but I would definitely be careful about using it and trying other treatments first!
Product:Johnson’s Baby Shampoo, $5
Ah yes Akshay: the primary reason for my bulging forehead vein in Season 1. Similar to this shampoo, Akshay gets the job done but in the most immature & childish way possible. If you’re still wandering the drugstore aisles looking for a great pick, I love the Nexxus Keraphix Damage Healing Shampoo ($12) or Kristin Ess’ The One Signature Shampoo ($10)
Product:La Mer The Eye Balm intense, $235
If there’s one unpopular opinion that I fully endorse, it’s this: eye creams don’t do sh*t. As my friend Jasmine poetically put it, “eye cream is an expensive yet tiny jar of impossible hopes & dreams”. Although eye creams (and Sima) make life-changing promises like healing past damage, brightening your face, and finding something that lasts, the truth is that both are overpriced products marketed as way cooler than they are. If you want my advice, I’d ditch the pricey eye creams for some occasional eye patches or spoons (stick them in the fridge to help depuff!) or invest in an all-over brightening serum (like Volition Strawberry C Brightening Serum, $31).
Riya is from the Bay Area but spent the last 4 years at UCLA #gobruins. She is currently living in SF, working in finance at Venmo, but her dream is to start her own company in the beauty space! She loves graphic design, baking, and hip-hop and has a beauty insta where she posts funny reviews of products and other tips!!