How To Find The Perfect Foundation For Darker Skin Tones

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I’d say shopping for foundations for deeper complexions is a minefield, but as it’s still not yet the norm to come across a brand with myriad darker shades, it’s more like a treasure hunt. It’s for that reason you need a ‘map’ of sorts to navigate them and ensure you come up trumps with a shade and quality formula that flatters and boosts a deep complexion. 

Here are the four points to know…

Start With Your Undertone

If you’ve ever applied a foundation and appeared flushed or hot, or, looked too pale even though the shade of the bottle appeared to match perfectly, you likely have the wrong undertone, and it’s a myth that all darker skin tones have a golden base. 

“The easiest way to be sure is to head to a beauty counter for an assessment,” advises Becky Moore, senior artist at NARS. “But if you’re shopping online, check out your veins. Blue veins signal a red or pink undertone, while green means you’re likely yellow or golden. If you can’t differentiate between the two, you likely have a neutral undertone.”   

When testing foundations, always head to a brand with an extensive medium to dark shade range so that you can try a few, and with tons of brand names under one roof, Space NK is ideal: Hourglass, Laura Mercier and NARS are great for this.

Know Where To Colour Match

I’ll bet that any time you’ve tested a foundation shade you’ve headed straight to your jawline, right?

“For deeper skin tones, it’s actually best to swatch three different tones of foundation onto the cheeks. Start from the apple of the cheek down to the chin, in ‘strips’. This way you’ll be able to see both the different tones in your skin, and the foundation. Once you’ve found the closest match, test it on your forehead to be sure,” counsels Becky. 

By the time you get to your jawline, your foundation layer should be sheer and thin to avoid the dreaded tide line, so applying a tester there first will always look slightly off. 

Timing Is key

Just returned from an air-bridge holiday? If you’re tanned, it may not be the best time to invest in a foundation, as it will only suit your skin at this stage. Equally in winter, darker complexions get a little paler, so aim to go foundation shopping in the spring or autumn. A great makeup artist, however, will also help you future plan your shade, or adapt your current one, for when your skin gets deeper or cooler with the change in season. 

Watch Out For Oxidisation

If a foundation gradually becomes one or two shades darker after you’ve applied it, it means it’s oxidised. Those with oily or combination skin will be familiar with this. I’ve definitely been guilty of writing off a foundation if it does this, but technically speaking, oxidisation isn’t the foundation’s fault.

“Individual foundation formulas react differently to the oils in the skin,” advises Becky. “While they might not fully prevent it from happening, a good primer and a finishing powder will help.”

It’s All In The Base

A high quality primer is just as important as the perfect foundation, and if your chosen one has a primer in the same range, test that, too. It will have been made to complement the formula perfectly. 

Becca’s Backlight Priming Filter, and its Ultimate Coverage 24-hour foundation are a dynamic duo. They’re my go-to when I know I’ll be out for a full day and can’t touch up my makeup. NARS’ Pore and Shine Control Primer does a great job of keeping your skin’s natural oils at bay and preventing oxidisation. Pair it with NARS’ Sheer Glow Foundation (which doesn’t oxidise) for a seamless look.

The key thing to note is that if your skin appears flat or dull with a particular shade, give it a miss. Your perfect foundation should boost and depth to your complexion, allowing it to almost glow from within.