5 Ways to Get the Perfect Foundation Shade if You Have Dark Skin

1. Let brand spokesmodels guide you. From Beyoncé to Lupita Nyong’o, makeup brands everywhere are signing on more black women of various skin tones as spokesmodels in order to show off a range of foundation shades. Celebrity makeup artist Sam Fine, who counts Queen Latifah (the face of CoverGirl’s Queen Collection) as one of his top clients, advises black women to use ad campaigns or in-store displays with darker-skinned models as a guide when foundation shopping. You can usually find the exact shades that are shown in the ad, and that can help you find your foundation fit a little easier.

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2. Apply swipes of foundation close to your jawline and chin to test different shades, while also paying close attention to the shade of your neck to find the perfect match. Your face isn’t the same shade as your neck or chest, so “you need these areas to be harmonious and match when applying your base,” advises L’Oréal celebrity makeup artist Sir John. “Otherwise, you’ll look like a ’90s prom gone wrong.”

If you can’t swipe the foundation on, hold the bottle up to your chin and jawline to make sure the colors match up. If you are able to test out a few foundations in-store, use your ring finger to dab a bit of each shade onto your chin, jaw, and neck. The shade that basically disappears into your skin will be your perfect match.

Sir John also recommends getting close to a window so that you can view the shade against your skin in natural light. “Daylight will always show you the closest match,” Fine says. “It shows the truest color and undertone of a foundation.”

3. Always get at least two shades of foundation: one that’s close to your skin tone and another that’s a bit lighter. The skin on your face isn’t all the same color — the center tends to be lighter and darker around the perimeter — so it’s a good idea to use two shades of foundation for the most natural finish. Also, if you can’t find an exact shade match, you may have to play makeup artist and mix your own by blending the lighter and darker shades together in order to match certain parts of your face and to contour. “There’s no reason a woman of color shouldn’t be able to sculpt her face too,” Sir John says. “The goal is to make sure that blend, blend, blend. This isn’t Cats on Broadway. You shouldn’t see the [foundation] lines on your face.”

4. Don’t depend on your foundation to cover up dark spots and discoloration. Most dark-skinned women aren’t strangers to hyperpigmentation (stubborn dark patches on your face that are caused by increased melanin that take time and serious effort to make disappear). Your foundation may minimize the appearance of dark spots, but it won’t be your savior when it comes to hiding pigment patches flawlessly.

“Having just one foundation isn’t going to be enough because you’re going to need more coverage in general,” Fine says. This is where cream concealer comes in. Fine suggests applying your foundation first, and then dabbing on a concealer (stick formulas usually are thicker than creams) one shade lighter than your skin tone to hide spots.

5. Avoid the ashy look by paying close attention to your undertones and not applying a chalky sunscreen under your foundation. Everyone has undertones in their skin (i.e. olive, yellow, pink), but the majority of black women have either gold or red. “The foundation can be your color but can appear ashen when you try it on,” Fine says. “This happens when you don’t use the right foundation with the proper undertone.”

Darker-skinned women tend to need foundations that contain red undertones that will show up deeper on the skin, but everyone’s skin tone is different. To find your perfect match, visit a makeup counter so a pro can at least tell you what tones you should be looking for.

As far as sunscreen goes, opt for a clear or super-sheer formula so it doesn’t alter your foundation, likeL’Oréal Paris Invisible Sheer Advanced Suncare Clear Cool Lotion SPF 50+.

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