Several years ago, I penned a story titled, “All I Want Is Foundation That Matches” in which I visited several department stores in search of makeup that went with my skin tone. The story idea was developed on the couch in my former editor’s office. We were chatting about everything and anything and I casually mentioned how difficult it was for me to find foundation for my skin. She, a Caucasian woman, was shocked and appalled, whereas I was shocked that she was shocked in the first place — it had been an issue for my friends and I since we were teens.
For this story, even before I hit the likes of Barneys and Bergdorf Goodman, I knew my options were limited. I had traveled down that road before. What I didn’t anticipate was the incredible amount of sadness I'd feel when I bounced from counter to counter. Some salespeople were empathetic, while others force-fed me shades that clearly didn’t match. I cried. Cried because things hadn’t changed much over the years and cried because I felt like a fool walking the streets looking like a clown wearing makeup several shades too light.
I interviewed beauty executives to get their sides, and the fact of the matter is that darker skin tones are more complex. While they want to service everyone, sometimes the business side of things makes that difficult. Clearly, companies recognize the buying power, but will we buy their products if they produce them? It’s almost the beauty version of which comes first, the chicken or the egg?
I’m one woman with one opinion and I obviously don’t represent every shade on the color spectrum, so in fairness, I created a panel to help figure out which lines best service darker skin tones. I had a little foundation party over at my place and my friends (and friends of friends) of varying hues and skin concerns, gathered together, downed some wine and tested foundations, concealers, and BB/CC creams from around 30 brands.
The great makeup debate often turns into a discussion that resembles men yapping about their favorite sports team. It gets passionate and sometimes heated. Clearly, there are several lines that aren’t featured in this story and that’s because there were concerns over texture, lasting power, limited color options, issues with undertones...the list goes on. The goal wasn’t to simply list brands that cater to women of color or lines with large skus — the brands had to perform, too. Everyone has an opinion, and while a brand works for some, it may not work well for others. However, the discussion should continue so they can step up their game — we should never feel as if we have to settle — and we shouldn’t stop until beauty becomes all-inclusive.
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NARS has shown improvement over the years. Its latest cream compact foundation comes in 20 shades, with about six options for darker tones. In a couple of cases, testers had to combine two shades to find the perfect match, but everyone was covered.
MAC continues to be a top brand with around 35 shades, and several of those are suitable for dark skin.
A few years ago, I attended the U.S. launch of blackUp, a European line created specifically for women of color. While the name still makes me cringe, the line offers a variety of shades in varying undertones.
Becca impressed the panel of highly opinionated ladies with its mattifying abilities.
Sacha Cosmetics — a family-owned business founded in Trinidad — received rave reviews from my focus group. The Second Skin Liquid Foundation offered top-notch coverage, while remaining impeccably light. They’ve been the official cosmetics brand for the Miss Universe, Miss USA, Miss Bahamas, and Miss Jamaica pageants, so clearly, this homegrown company is on its A-game.
b.la.c. Minerals' natural makeup dishes up mineral foundation minus the chalky look in seven pretty colors, from almond to espresso to deep mocha hues.
Lamik Beauty’s mousse-like full coverage foundation was lightweight and left skin looking flawless.