Makeup should always be adapted to the different morphologies, features and skin colours. This article concerns makeup for Asian women. Also available: makeup for dark-skinned or black women.
Many different face-types can be found among Asians. I’ll have to generalize of course for this article but I’m aware that facial characteristics can vary according to different countries such as Japan, Korea, Vietnam, Thailand, China, Malaysia, etc.
The main characteristics of the asian face are first of all a warm skin-tone, usually with a yellow or olive undertone, which can vary according to the region of origin. More specific features include almond-shaped eyes, often dark brown, very few dark circles or puffiness, small, almost-invisible mobile eyelids, domed upper lids which can have a hooded effect over the eye, thin, fan-shaped eyelashes pointing downwards, sparse eyebrows, a rather wide, flat nose and a well-defined full mouth.
Here’s how to make the best of your Asian beauty for each category of makeup (complexion, eyes, lips)!
Asian skin is often oily or combination. Sometimes, Asian skin can be dry, just as black skin can but oily skin is more frequent. So we’ll use skin-care and makeup adapted to this type of skin.
One great advantage for Asian women is that they have very few wrinkles as they age. This is due to genetic characteristics and also to the combination-oily skin type. (Dry-skinned people wrinkle more easily).Lucky Asian women look younger longer!
Choosing the right foundation is very important. Consult my article “How to chose the right foundation”, which will certainly help you. You must also take into account the yellow or olive undertone that I mentioned earlier so that you don’t create a dividing line.
Here are two frequent errors made by Asian women when choosing a foundation:
1: Choosing a pink-toned foundation
A pink-toned foundation will look greyish on Asian skin, just as for black, Indian or Hispanic skin. It can make you look ill, sad or even ghost-like. You must select a yellow or gold-toned foundation.
2: Choosing a foundation that’s too pale
Many Asian women want to look paler. This can be because of tradition or even due to the influence of the media, I’m not really sure. I’m Caucasian, so some oriental cultural aspects can be difficult for me to understand. But don’t use a foundation that’s too pale; you’ll be able to see a dividing line and that won’t look natural at all.
Here are two ways to lighten the Asian skin:
A: By applying two different shades of foundation
Buy one shade the same colour as your skin and another one shade lighter. Apply the first all over the face and its contours and the second one in the centre only, to create an oval shape.
B: Use a highlighting powder
After applying the right-coloured foundation, finish with a lighter-coloured highlighting powder on the cheekbones, on the bridge of the nose, in the centre of the forehead and on the chin. But use a gold or yellow powder, never white or pink: you don’t want to create the greyish look I talked about before.
If you’re still determined to use a paler foundation, don’t forget to apply it on the neck and the décolleté (depending on what you’re wearing) and even your ears! Only go one or two shades lighter. Half a tone lighter is ideal because you won’t really be able to see the difference but the brightening effect will be visible.
Let’s talk about powder: it’s important to match it to your foundation and again, never use one with a pink tone. You could however use a powder with a light-reflecting effect.
Many foundations and powders destined for Caucasian skin look golden but do in fact contain a light pink undertone. This is because even Caucasians who have a gold-toned skin don’t have the same gold as Asians whose skin tone is a deeper yellow.
So look for brands which offer a wide range of colours. These brands are recognizable by their wide choice of dark colours, destined for black skin. Usually, these brands are a good choice for Asian skin too. But if the range only has 6 beige-looking colours, don’t bother; they’ll all look grey in the end.
Of course, brands like Shiseido, Shu Uemura or Anna Sui have a lot more choice, but brands like Estée Lauder, M.A.C (try the colour NC42!), MAKE-UP FOREVER or Clinique also have a good choice of colours to suit all ethnicities. Take a look also at brands for dark skin such as Iman, Fashion Fair, Black’Up, Nacara, etc., and choose the lighter colours. Often, these formulas contain less pink than the ones destined for Caucasians.
I won’t go into detail on this because Asian women aren’t prone to under-eye dark circles. So it’s not necessary to use a heavy concealer. A creamy version will do the trick. As with foundation, don’t go for pink, use a yellow tone. You should choose a concealer the same colour or one shade lighter than your skin.
Many Asian women don’t have high cheekbones but you can create the illusion with the help of makeup. You should first structure the cheekbone with a dark shadow (a few tones darker than your skin) which you apply under the cheekbone at a 45 degree angle to create a hollow. Then apply a highlighter from the top of the cheekbone to the temple to create a lighter area. See the photo for details.
Choose a blush with a satiny or pearly finish. Contrary to foundation and face powder, you can use a pink blush with no problem. There are lot of colours you can use but don’t use purplish tones like plum, or brown which will make you look tired, or copper which is too reddish (not to be confused with coral which is super on an Asian skin). The best colours are natural beiges, peaches and pinks (but a pink without too much blue in it) for light complexions, or corals, pinks and golden coppers for dark complexions. My favourites are :Clinique Aglow, Nars Orgasm, Anna Sui #302, Dior # 943, Guerlain Soleil couchant and rosée du printemps, Cargo Tonga, Bare Minerals Fruit Cocktail, Benefit Coralista, The Balm Hot Mama, etc.
I’ve written an article about the makeup technique of balancing out eyes with a very small mobile lid and a hooded upper lid. To consult this article, click on the link. This technique is ideal for the Asian eye.
The most important aspect of eye makeup for Asians is eyeliner. As you can’t really see the mobile eyelid, you can line the eye as thickly or as thinly as you like but it’s vital to end the line at the right place so that it’s visible. You often have to go down quite a long way; almost as far as the bottom of the eye because of the fold caused by the upper lid. When you’ve gone down far enough, the line should turn upwards to get rid of the droopy effect.
Choose long-wearing smudge-proof eyeliner, preferably liquid or cake rather than a creamy pencil. That way, you’ll prevent the eyeliner from staining the upper lid which is directly touching the line. The stain would be visible when you look down or close your eyes. Applying powder helps too.
The best way to flatter the hooded eye is to apply dark shadow on the prominent area, continue outwards and then downwards under the eye to create a sideways V shape : <. Stop about three quarters of the way along the eye (don’t apply dark shadow in the inner corner of the eye).
The mobile eyelid itself is invisible but I suggest you apply a pale shadow on it nevertheless. And you should highlight the inner corner of the eye. So apply the light shadow so that it meets the dark in the centre of the eyelid and under the eye.
Of course this is not the only technique for Asian eyes. If your eyes are not so narrow, you could opt for any other makeup style. Consider the size of your eyes and the visibility of the mobile eyelid. You could do a smoky eye which is great for certain Asians. Grey is a colour which is often flattering for the Asian complexion.
Don’t forget to define your eyes with black eyeliner or a coordinating colour.
Many Asian women ask me if they should use kohl pencil on the inside of the eye. Normally I don’t recommend this for small eyes; but I can’t explain it, this looks really pretty on Asian eyes! So go ahead and do it if you like the look!
As with their lashes, Asian eyebrows have a tendency to grow downwards and not sideways. What’s more, they’re often very sparse. So making up your brows is essential.
You should groom your brows before applying makeup. If your brows obey you, just brush them upwards and use a gel or wax to keep them in place.
For undisciplined brows, you could trim them. This is not the same as plucking them, you just trim them. The aim is to get a neat line. For best results, consult a brow stylist or a beautician who specializes in brows. If you want to do it yourself, you have to decide how thick you want your brows to be and to place a template to determine where you’ll cut them. Then just trim the ends of the hairs which go over the line. Don’t touch the root and don’t cut the hairs too short or they’ll point straight upwards. You should trim only the ends. This photo will illustrate my explanation.
If you have very sparse brows, use brow makeup. For techniques and advice on brow makeup and plucking, consult my article on the subject.
Asian women are lucky because they often have nice full lips and a well-defined mouth. They can get away with simply applying gloss. They can use almost any kind of lipstick. For those with a lighter complexion, avoid too-pale colours which can make you look ill or tired. But almost any other colour will be fine. Red, coppery-orange, and fuchsia are often extremely flattering.