For centuries, the beauty industry has struggled to provide inclusive products that cater for darker skin tones. The sector's slowness in expanding shade ranges has left many darker-skinned consumers feeling excluded and reluctant to support brands that don't support them, however, the tide is finally turning. We are starting to see a shift thanks to AI and increased personalisation to create the perfect foundation shades.
According to celebrity South-Asian make-up artist Mira Parmar, who recently worked Bollywood actress Deepika Padukone: "foundations have definitely changed and progressed over the years massively and are still changing as we speak. Finding colours to match your skin tone has never been easier and there are so many new brands out there with a wider range of shades for matching."
We spoke to beauty industry leaders like Lisa Eldridge, DCYPHER co-founder Claire Triantis and Fenty Beauty's Pro MUA Evie Bonnie to find out more about the role of foundation in a makeup routine and the inclusive shade revolution. Keep reading below to learn more.
What's the Purpose of a Foundation?
The right foundation can even out skin tone, camouflage imperfections and protect your skin against damage. It can serve as a barrier between the skin and environmental aggressors such as pollution and UV rays, a factor which is particularly important for darker skin women who have more melanin in their skin. It is seen to boost confidence and self-esteem with huge psychological benefits, providing the perfect base for make-up. Beauty expert, Lisa Eldridge, refers to foundations as "an oil portrait in a gallery where you'll see the artist has used a whole rainbow of shades to create realistic representation of skin (whatever the tone)."
How Important Is Undertone in Foundation?
Working out the undertone of a foundation is extremely important for women of darker skin tones. The undertone can guide you to the perfect shade, whether that be warm, neutral or cool, and represents the surface of your skin which then affects your overall hue. Neutral undertones have a mix of cool and warm undertones, while a warm undertone is more peachy and golden or yellow and cool undertones are generally associated with skin that has hints of blue and pink. Claire Triantis, co-founder of DCYPHER, who uses AI to provide limitless shades describes the importance of undertones: "our perception of our own skin tones can often differ from reality. Selecting the correct foundation shade involves navigating complex colour theory, making it a challenging task even for those well-versed in beauty."
She adds, "Understanding your undertone is crucial in finding the right foundation match, but it's not an easy feat. For instance, individuals with lighter skin may struggle to identify their undertones due to less noticeable colouration. Also, common tricks like examining your veins may not work for darker skin tones. Additionally, accurately estimating the depth of your skin (how light or dark it is) and the chromaticity (the intensity of colour) adds further complexity. These dimensions of colour, combined with human bias, can lead us to choose shades we want to be rather than what matches our actual skin tone."
What's the Best Way to Apply Foundation?
Whilst some make-up artists test the shade on the jawline, Fenty make-up artist Evie Bonney, likes to test on the cheek and mouth first, where many of us are prone to having pigmentation. Brush up your technique by using good quality foundation brushes that will aid to a flawless finish and always start with applying just a little foundation at first, starting from the inside out and adding as necessary. Apply a primer beforehand and finish with a setting spray.
Now that we've got the technique down, let's take a look at some of our favorite foundations for darker skin.
[shoppable brand="DCYPHER" product="Custom Foundation" link="https://dcypher.me/products/foundation" store="DCYPHER" price="£42 GBP/approx $50 USD"]
The advanced AI measures your skin tone taking lighting and pigmentation into consideration to arrive at your perfect skin reading. Every shade and formula is made from scratch for every customer's unique skin tone. All you need to do is remove your make-up, have your image scanned and choose your preferred coverage and finish. A full size product will be delivered within a matter of days. If for any reason you're unhappy with the shade or formula, DCYPHER will make any changes free of charge.
[shoppable brand="E.L.F." product="The Camo Hydrating CC Cream" link="https://www.elfcosmetics.co.uk/camo-hydrating-cc-cream/300235.html" store="E.L.F." price="£15 GBP/approx $20 USD"]
E.L.F cosmetics recently launched its new Camo Hydrating CC Cream, arriving in 30 shades. Offering full-coverage colour correction with a dewy, hydrating finish, the multitasking SPF 30 dream cream is infused with hyaluronic acid, niacinamide and vegan collagen to plump the skin's appearance.
[shoppable brand="Fenty Beauty" product="Fenty Pro Filt'r Foundation" link="https://fentybeauty.com/products/pro-filtr-soft-matte-longwear-foundation-420?variant=35178864508973" store="Fenty Beauty" price="£30 GBP/approx $40 USD"]
Now described as 'The Fenty Effect' by Rihanna, Fenty Beauty's classic Pro Filt'r ushered in a new wave of beauty inclusivity when it first dropped. The expanding range comes in 59 foundation shades with a wide range of undertones as Rihanna continues to refine the Pro Filt'r to truly provide a colour match for all skin tones.
[shoppable brand="MAC" product="MAC Studio Radiance Foundation" link="https://www.maccosmetics.co.uk/studio-radiance" store="MAC" price="£39 GBP/approx $50 USD"]
MAC has been a cult classic for women of colour for decades and now with this impressive serum powered foundation, it's offering is even better. Promising skin-care level hydration to tackle skin concerns, the foundation comes in 56 shades to compliment a range of unique skin undertones.
[shoppable brand="Lisa Eldridge" product="Seamless Skin Foundation Foundation" link="https://www.lisaeldridge.com/products/the-foundation-shade-no-10" store="Lisa Eldridge" price="£44 GBP/approx $60 USD"]
This seamless foundation comes in 43 shades to tackle all undertones. Speaking about the process behind the product, Eldridge explains, "I have worked on thousands of faces, and finding the right shade match used to involve me mixing several shades to create the perfectly nuanced match. So for my Seamless Skin Foundation, I wanted to bring my personal attention to creating a nuanced, natural range of subtle shades, that would include even the most complex of undertones.
[shoppable brand="HUDA Beauty" product="Faux Filter Luminous Matte Foundation" link="https://hudabeauty.com/us/en_US/foundation/fauxfilter-luminous-matte-foundation-HB00509M.html" store="HUDA Beauty" price="£44 GBP/approx $42 USD"]
HUDA Beauty is known for her extensive shade range, designed to cater for all skin types and tones. This buildable coverage has staying power for up to 24 hours as it blurs skin to give a radiant finish, perfectly matched to your skin tone -- thanks to the brand's online shade finder.
[shoppable brand="Charlotte Tilbury" product="Beautiful Skin Foundation" link="https://www.charlottetilbury.com/uk/product/beautiful-skin-foundation-7-neutral" store="Charlotte Tilbury" price="£39 GBP/approx $45 USD"]
Available in 39 shades, this hydrating foundation has been expertly formulated with curated ingredients to combine buildable coverage with an instant glow. Developed with brightening rose complex and hyaluronic acid, the foundation aims to hydrate and brighten all skin tones.
[shoppable brand="IL MAKIAGE" product="Woke up Like This Foundation" link="https://www.ilmakiage.com/uk/face/foundation-bff/212-66010-woke-up-like-this" store="IL MAKIAGE" price="£39 GBP/approx $45 USD"]
IL MAKIAGE is setting the standard for diversity with its innovative shade matcher tool, Power Match, asking a range of questions about undertones and skin color to determine its user's perfect match. With 50 shades to choose from, over half of the brand's offering is developed for darker skin tones.
[shoppable brand="Armani Beauty" product="Armani Beauty Luminous Silk" link="https://www.armanibeauty.co.uk/makeup/face/medium-coverage-foundation/luminous-silk-foundation/AP10101.html" store="Armani" price="£45 GBP/approx $60 USD"]
This lightweight, silky foundation aims to even tone and smooth out skin texture. It comes in 40 shades and is known to suit every single skin type. Depending on your preferred coverage, the foundation can be super sheer or easily build into a fuller look. Arriving as an oil-free fluid, the silky concoction is crafted with exclusive micro-fil technology which helps to brighten the skin and infused with glycerine to provide all day hydration.