For many women of color, shopping for foundation is a challenge. Even with new brands meant to appeal to a wider range of consumers, the wealth of options can be difficult to sort through in order to find that perfect match.
But don't let that discourage you. While it probably won't ever be as simple as glancing at the shades on a display (for any woman), hopefully it gets much easier with a better understanding of these four steps.
Step #1: Decide What You Want Your Foundation to Do
Before you even start seeking out the ideal shade, think about what you want your foundation to accomplish. Are you interested in evening out your skin tone or do you want a product that can camouflage acne, hyperpigmentation or scars?
Full-coverage foundations, like Dermablend Cover Creme SPF 30 or Maybelline Dream Matte Mousse, can conceal blemishes and can be used all over the face or for spot coverage. If you are interested in a product that offers medium coverage, a cream foundation is most ideal. Try:Lancôme Teint Idole Ultra 24H, MAC Studio Fix Fluid SPF 15 or L'Oréal True Match Super Blendable Makeup. Tinted moisturizers and bb creams can provide sheer coverage, but a watery formula like YSL Perfect Touch Radiant Brush Foundation can also deliver the look of natural skin that shines from within.
Step #2: Figure Out Your Undertone
Knowing whether you're light-skinned, dark-skinned or smack dab between the two is only half the battle in deciding which foundation shade will look best on you. Your undertone—defined as the temperature of the underlying color beneath your skin—is equally as important.
Think about it. Have you ever worn a foundation that seemed like a perfect match in the bottle, but appeared more like a mask on your skin? That means you purchased a foundation in the wrong undertone. For women of color, this can often be an issue as many foundation lines are formulated for those with warm undertones, when a vast majority actually have cool undertones.
To determine your undertone, take a look at the veins in your wrist and forearm. If they're blue, you're most likely cool and should seek out a foundation with a pink cast. If they're green, you're probably warm and should focus on a foundation with an olive or golden hue.
Step #3: Perform a Swatch Test
The very best way to find your second-skin foundation shade is to pinpoint three or four shades that look like they'd be a match and try them out. Swipe each on your cheek and along your jawline. These areas are ideal because they're basically wide-open spaces where you can really see if the color truly works. Plus, you can test several shades against each other to see which one actually blends in perfectly.
To perform a swatch text, you should always go shopping for foundations wearing no makeup. If you're wearing makeup, apply your sample colors onto your collarbone. You can tilt your head down to see how the color matches your face and see how natural it looks against your neck.
When choosing a foundation shade, never sample it on the back of your hands. If you look closely, you'll notice the skin in this area is slightly darker than the skin on your face. Testing the product where you'll be wearing the product is always best.
Keep in mind that you may go through several different brands before you find a few that complement your coloring.
Step #4: Wait It Out
When you think you may have found the right color, wait five or ten minutes to allow it to warm up and settle into your skin. You'll know if it's wrong for you if it changes colors. It may oxidize into a darker shade, which will leave your skin looking dull and pallid. Or it may oxidize into a lighter hue, and come across as a bit gray and ashy.
Also, in-store artificial lighting isn't great for reading colors. Step outside into natural light for a better look. If the foundation color has blended beautifully into your complexion and is virtually undetectable, congratulations. You've finally found your perfect match.