Trying to find the right foundation match as a black woman is no mean feat. No matter your complexion, mixing three different shades to achieve a finish that is just good enough is usually the norm, and it's something we've been struggling with for a while.
Even in 2019, many beauty brands still offer a limited number of shades. When they do turn their hand to a wider range, accessibility is rarely part of the conversation. Lots of darker shades tend not to be available in store and consumers are forced to shop online, taking a wild guess at their perfect match. Then there's the argument of undertone. Your range might have 50+ shades, but if the finish is ashy, what's the point?
When Rihanna debuted her Fenty Beauty line with an impressive 40 shades of foundation, with concealer to follow, the beauty world shook, and many brands got the memo to do better. Fenty's success showed that, when thoughtfully considered and not deemed an afterthought, black consumers will spend money and continue to support that brand wholeheartedly.
Thankfully, the 'Fenty effect' is helping change the experience of shopping for foundation for black women. Brands like Dior, Smashbox and Maybelline now carry up to 40 shades and MAC Cosmetics trumps them all with 60. Black-owned beauty brands like Beauty Bakerie are making waves in the industry, too. In fact, more black influencers are collaborating with companies: Jackie Aina is currently with Too Faced, Patricia Bright is with MAC and Alissa Ashley with NYX. Black women are not only being given seats at the table, they're totally owning them.
To celebrate the brands who are providing better shade ranges for dark skin tones, and to let you in on which products are worth your money, we spoke to the makeup experts.
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"Black Opal has been catering to dark skin tones for years now and they don’t have a one-size-fits-all mentality when it comes to shades. A favourite in the kit is the Black Opal Total Coverage Perfecting Stick Foundation. I love that it's a stick so I can use it as a foundation and concealer." –Vee Chanda, international makeup artist
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"I love Fenty Beauty, not only because it has changed the beauty conversation around diversity and inclusivity but also because it has sent a clear message that it’s not okay to under-represent or pay lip service to people that fall outside of 'Light-Medium'. It carried that principle through into the production of Fenty Beauty Pro Filt'r Instant Retouch Concealer. To me, it’s not about the number of shades, because you could do 50 shades and they could all be beige. What makes this concealer great is that it considers undertone. The undertones represented in these concealers make sure that dark skin does not look ashy or grey." –Janine Bird, makeup artist
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"I love the Bobbi Brown Foundation Stick as it's so creamy and lightweight and allows you to achieve medium to full coverage. There are also many warm and cool tones to pick from. I also love that you can use lighter or darker shades to contour, which makes it a perfect all-rounder." –Letitia Sophia, international makeup artist
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"I like a full coverage concealer with a brightener built in, like the benefit Boi-ing Airbrush Concealer or Bobbi Brown Instant Full Cover Concealer. Combined with a lighter coverage foundation, this will ensure a gorgeous, natural, skin-like finish." –Laurretta Power, senior makeup and brow artist for benefit Cosmetics
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"This foundation feels like butter on the skin, includes a range of brown shades and works great as light to medium coverage. It does cost £42, though, so I refuse to build it. Medium coverage it is!" –Joy Adenuga, global makeup artist
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"The new concealers from e.l.f are a good start for the brand when it comes to offering a range of shades. The formula blends out very well and gives a matte finish. You do have to work pretty quickly as the product is fast to dry." –Vee Chanda
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"My favourite concealer for darker skin tones is the NARS Radiant Creamy Concealer. Considering the darker shade range isn’t too wide, they’ve still managed to get the tones right and cater to both warm and cool undertones. I love that the concealers are full coverage with a flawless finish, yet you can still achieve a natural, medium coverage depending on how much product you use. An affordable dupe would be the LA Girl HD Pro Concealer." –Letitia Sophia
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"The Kat Von D range has improved in its offering and representation for black skin, and anyone who suffers from scarring or pigmentation will love this. It’s a really lightweight feel foundation that gives amazing full coverage from a single pump, as well as 24-hour wear. This makes it particularly good on set or in any situation where you need to ensure your makeup goes the distance." –Janine Bird