50 Shades of Brown: Your Guide To Picking The Perfect Foundation For Darker Skin Tones

Shilpa Bhim
Gritty Pretty

Finding the perfect foundation shade for darker skin tones always seemed like mission impossible. Until now. We’ve broken down how to pick the right foundation shade for your skin tone – you can thank us later.

Raise your hand if you have ever felt personally victimised by a foundation shade that’s either too light, too dark, or makes you look more orange than an Oompa Loompa?

We feel you! Picking a foundation shade is tricky business and even more so for darker skin tones – especially when shade ranges don’t align with the glorious spectrum of melanated skin tones.

We caught up with two makeup experts, Kim Pham, a Sydney based makeup artist, and Valerie (Val) Barrero from Marielou Makeup to help darker skin tones pick the perfect foundation shade.

Know Your Undertone

The secret to putting foundation on top of your skin is to understand what your skin undertone is.

As Pham highlights, people of colour tend to experience ‘ashiness’/ ‘greyness’ in their foundation because it doesn’t match their skin shade or their undertone. So, in the words of the lyrically acclaimed Notorious B.I.G, let’s go from ashy to classy.

Skin undertones can range from warm (golden/yellow), cool (red/blue) and neutral (olive/green), and there’s a method to finding out which is yours.

“The best way to determine the undertones in melanated skin is to stand next to or in front of a white background. This technique will help your eyes focus on the hues that your skin is projecting as it becomes more apparent against the white backdrop,” says Barrero.

Next Up, Skin Type!

Once you know your undertone, the next step is to consider your skin type. “Getting this right will ensure that you get the most wear out of your makeup,” notes Barrero.

She recommends choosing a foundation with a dewy or satin finish if you have combo-dry to dry skin, or a foundation with a velvet finish if you have combo-oily to oily skin.

“Observing how the foundation sits on the skin is also key!” states Pham. She suggests letting foundation sit on the skin for around 5 minutes so you can observe any oxidation and level of coverage.

Wise words by Pham. There’s nothing worse than looking in the mirror and seeing your foundation has turned 50 shades darker throughout the day!

Test, Test, Test Your Foundation

Because it’s a good idea to try some samples before you buy. As with skin undertone, there’s a method to testing foundation on darker skin tones and it’s a little more complex that just swiping some product on your face.

“Skin is not just one colour, especially darker skin tones. There’s usually a minimum of 3 shades on the face and body,” says Pham.

There’s two points on the body where you should test, according to Pham: the cheek down to the jawline and the chest.

The cheek is the first area of the face that people see, so Pham suggests matching a shade to your cheek, or between your jawline and your cheek. But do not, we repeat, do not match a foundation to your jawline as it’s almost always darker than the whole face!

Pham also double checks foundation shades on the chest as it shows a more accurate colour of the skin. “The face is subject to sunlight more than the chest, so fluctuations of colour are higher due to pigmentation.”

The Best Foundation Brands For Darker Skin Tones

Let’s face it, not everyone offers foundation shades that cater to the rich range of darker skin tones. That’s where our expert’s recommendations come in!

Both Pham and Barrero recommend Fenty Beauty, Lancôme, Too Faced and NARS for their shade range.

MAC Studio Fix is also highlighted by Pham as a classic for all skin tones. “They hold one of the best shade ranges for darker skin tones due to the wide range. Beautiful full coverage too.”

In addition to recommending these brands, Barrero shares her pro-tip for the perfect foundation match: acceptance. Because more than anything, it’s important for darker skin tones to love and appreciate the skin colour they were born with!