Finding the right foundation match for darker complexions can be difficult to say the least. Growing up, I always struggled to find the perfect product. More often than not, I had to work with an ashy formula or a shade with an undertone that was completely wrong. Unfortunately, my struggles are common for the majority of Black beauty consumers — the beauty industry has long neglected our skin tones and specific makeup needs.
“As a teen growing up with problematic, acne prone skin, my mother had such difficulty trying to help me find a complementary foundation to meet my needs that did not give the ‘casket ready’ look,” Danessa Myricks, makeup artist and founder of Danessa Myricks Beauty, tells Bustle. Fortunately, things are changing and broad foundation shade ranges are the norm. But there are still tons of Black women (myself included) who don’t know how to find their perfect foundation shade, and what products will work best for their skin.
It’s a multilayered challenge. First, there’s figuring out your undertone. “It's hard finding foundations that match the warmth and coolness of the skin, especially as the shades get darker,” explains Brittany Lo, professional makeup artist and founder of Beia. Then, there’s finding the right shades (yes, shades). Most women of color have multiple tones in their skin, and one foundation shade isn’t going to cut it. “There’s rarely one perfect shade match,” AJ Crimson, celebrity makeup artist to stars like Angela Bassett and Missy Elliot, tells Bustle via email.
Not sure how to find the foundation for you? Below, Myricks, Crimson, and Lo share shade-matching tips and foundations for those with darker complexions. Read on for game-changing tricks and must-have products.
1. Use Multiple Shades Of Foundation
The idea of having one flawless match is nice, but women of color usually have multiple tones within their skin and may need to play around with a few foundation shades to create a flawless base. “[It’s] a common misconception that there is always just one tone that can do the job,” Myricks explains. “More melanated skin often has multiple tones and sometimes even multiple undertones that appear throughout the face and body.” Myricks says she often uses “multiple tones on clients and models to create a base that is the most representative of that person’s skin tone.”
2. Let Your Body Give You The Clues
Since your face most likely has multiple tones and shades, both Myricks and Crimson suggest turning to other parts of your body to figure out the right color for you. “Match [your foundation] to the center of your face, then find a shade that matches your neck,” Crimson instructs. “The chest can oftentimes be much lighter than the face for many women of color,” Myricks explains. “I always recommend matching the interiors of the chest to the interiors of the face, the neck, shoulders, ear, and hairline. They should all be aligned in tone.”
3. Try The “Tapping” Application Technique To Blend Foundation Shades
Once you’ve found your shades, try the tapping technique to blend your hues. “When using multiple shades, the key is to make sure you’re blending where the two colors meet,” Myricks says. To use the tapping technique, she says drag “your brush, finger, or a sponge across the face to mix the multiple shades on the face together. By targeting your application tools and tapping on the product, you can easily build coverage slowly and naturally while also effortlessly blending unsightly demarcation lines between the two shades.”
4. Check Your Jewelry To Find Your Undertone
Lo suggests considering if gold or silver jewelry looks better on you as a way to determine your undertone. “Gold would suggest a warm undertone where silver has cool undertones,” she explains. “If both look great against your skin, then you probably have a neutral undertone.”
5. Apply Foundation To Your T-Zone First
When applying your foundation, Crimson says you should always start in the T-zone. “You’ll use less product and likely achieve the coverage you want,” he says. “Start light and build coverage as you go.” Starting in this area will also help you blend multiple shades on your face. If your in need of formula recommendations, check out the makeup artists’ top picks below.
5 Expert-Approved Foundations To Try
Fenty Beauty is the MVP when it comes to melanin-friendly complexion products. The brand’s launch product — the Pro Filt’r Longwear Foundation — is beloved for its blend-ability and groundbreaking 50 shade range that includes a large selection for those with darker complexions. That’s why it’s one of Lo’s favorites.
This Luminous Silk Foundation by Armani Beauty is another OG that’s great for women of color. It’s another one of Lo’s go-tos, and comes in deep shades.
Another one of Lo’s favorites? “Bobbi Brown's Soft Matte Complete Foundation is great because it is lightweight and buildable,” she says. This foundation has nine dynamic shades under its deep category with several undertones.
Want a radiant glow this winter? This foundation will make sure your melanin is popping, even if the sun isn’t out. “AJ Crimson Beauty Dual Skin Creme Foundation is my first choice for melanin-rich skin for beautiful second-skin radiance,” Crimson says.
You get a two-in-one with this innovative product: The Danessa Myricks Vision Cream Cover actually functions as both a concealer and a foundation. Myricks herself uses the product to “blend multiple tones reflected in [the] skin.”