Finding the perfect foundation, in the perfect shade, is often a case of trial and error. But for black women, in particular, it can be a real challenge.
Most black women will know all too well the struggles of combining two, sometimes three, different foundations to try and match their skin. Only to get a completely different result when they mix the same combination the following day.
It’s not just a shade issue either. Many beauty brands are starting to develop a greater selection of darker shades, but they’re still not right and often make the skin look ashy.
Why? Because these brands haven’t thought about undertones: the colours that come through the skin’s surface to affect its overall hue.
All shades can have three different undertones: warm (gold, yellow), cool (red, pink, blue) and neutral (no obvious tones of pink or yellow). A lot of cosmetics companies forget about this — especially when it comes to creating darker shades.
Hyperpigmentation is a common problem for black skin. To counteract this, most woman will reach for a darker foundation shade in an attempt to cover the patches. But if the undertone is all wrong, this will end up looking unnatural.
Many black women also tend to favour full-coverage foundations to help conceal blemishes and uneven skin tone. But these types of foundations will often contain oxides, which can react with the skin’s pH and alter the colour of the foundation throughout the day — ruining even the best colour match.
Colour matching will help find the most suitable foundation shade for a person’s skin — and help to avoid an expensive mistake.
Finding the right undertone
The first step of colour matching is to determine the skin’s undertone. There are a couple of different ways to do this.
Looking at the veins in the wrist is the most popular method. If they appear green, the skin’s undertone is warm; if they appear blue, the skin’s undertone is cool. However, seeing the colour of the veins can be tricky for women with darker skin.
Another method is to consider what colour of clothes and jewellery suits someone best. People with cool undertones often look best in blues, reds, jewel tones and silver jewellery while those with warm undertones tend to suit yellows, oranges and gold jewellery.
Comparing three shades
Once the undertones have been determined, it’s a good idea to choose three shades: one that looks just right, one that is a little lighter and one that is a little deeper. These should be swatched next to each other, without blending, for comparison. Choosing three shades will also make it easier to select noticeable yet natural contour colours.
People often try to match foundations on their wrist, but the skin in this area tends to be two or three shades lighter than the neck and face. The best place to test the shade is along the jawline, where the makeup can set properly into the oils of the face.
Natural lighting is ideal for seeing a true match, so it’s worth swatching the shades near a window or at home — not under artificial store lighting. Whichever of the three shades is the hardest to see in natural light is the one that matches the skin best. The foundation should then be worn for at least a few hours to check it doesn’t oxidise.
Doris Michaels makes cosmetics purely with black women’s skin in mind. Have a look at our range of colour palettes and foundation comparison guide to find your perfect match.