A few years ago, I worked as a Product Formulator under Maxfactor, Cover Girl and Dolce & Gabbana Cosmetics in Procter & Gamble. My main project whilst working there was on Long Wear Foundation – Maxfactor Face Finity All Day Flawless Foundation, Covergirl Outlast All Day Foundation and Dolce & Gabbana Perfect Matte Liquid Foundation. Those were great times. I did not have to buy my foundation and all I had to do was measure my skin colour with a spectrophotometer (an instrument that measures colour), step into the lab and whip up something for myself. I miss those days!
What freshly made foundation looks like!
The struggle can be real when it comes to finding the perfect foundation fit for women of colour. If you’re on the fair skinned spectrum, you’ll run into the problem of finding foundations that are too light and, once applied, leave an ashy top layer on the skin. If you’re darker, there’s also the ashy issue as well as the fact that most brands don’t even make shades that are even close to fitting your skin colour. From my personal experience, making foundation for women of colour is not an easy task. We have so many different undertones and the main powder used for coverage in most foundations is white – Titanium dioxide. Foundations with high levels of titanium dioxide make dark skin look dull, grey and ashy. Titanium dioxide is used often because it is cheap and readily available. Apart from providing good coverage, it helps reduce colour intensity and is a cheap alternative to “chemical” sunscreens for sun protection (SPF). It is known as a mineral sunscreen.
The truth is that most cosmetic companies do not spend the time, money and effort to create suitable products for women of colour because that market segment does not bring them as much money as they would like. To successfully create products especially foundation for women of colour, a cosmetic company will need to dedicate a lot of resources. And then there’s the perception that women of colour spend less on makeup than Caucasian women, which means that the path of least resistance for many companies is to stick with the products they know best. It’s true that women of colour have historically spent less on makeup: A recent NPD survey found that only 42% of black women use makeup, compared with 64% of white women. Thankfully, in recent years, some brands have started expanding the spectrum of colours on offer to better reflect the diversity of the market. like L’Oreal (Lancôme, Giorgio Armani Beauty, Maybelline), Estee Lauder, Nars, Make Up Forever, Becca e.t.c.
Here are some tips I have for you! Unfortunately, you can’t pick your correct shade by looking at the ingredients list but here are a few guidelines you may find helpful:
- When you want to purchase a new shade or type of foundation, apply it all over your face and see how it wears the whole day before purchasing. Usually, foundation shades change slightly some hours after application. There are some formulations that change drastically after mixing with the oils on your skin and sweat. The only way you can find out how much it will change is by wearing it for a few hours.
- Trying it on for a few hours will also reveal the foundation wear. When you buy a foundation, you want one that will last at least 10 hours without touching up. Some products claim they are long lasting but a lot of claims are false. The only way to find out is by trying it on.
- Never ever judge a foundation shade on your skin using a store light. Always look for natural light. If there is no natural light in the store, take a mirror outside and look at it under the sunlight.
- If you don’t have the time to apply foundation all over your face before purchasing, apply it on your jawline (not the back of your hand or your neck), and be sure to use enough foundation so that you get a clear idea of its true color.
- If a foundation claims to have SPF but has no “chemical” sunscreen like Octinoxate or Ensulizole, it means it most likely has high levels of Titanium Dioxide or Zion Oxide in it for sun protection. As a woman of color, you really want to avoid foundations with high levels of Titanium Dioxide or Zinc Oxide as they are normally the primary cause of the “ashy” look we get with some foundations. The “chemical” sunscreen used in the formulation is usually clearly stated on the packaging.
- If you have oily skin, I advice you avoid “luminous” foundations. Luminous foundations usually have “effect” pigments, which are like sparkly particles. Sparkly particles on oily skin will make your skin look even oilier. Luminous foundation will work perfectly with dry/normal skin.
- This tip is a bit technical but it’s very useful. People with oily skin are usually advised to use “oil-free” foundation. The truth is cosmetic companies hardly formulate oil-based foundations anymore, most of them use silicones instead because of the silky texture it gives the formulation. However, there are 2 types of silicones, volatile (e.g. Cyclopentasiloxane, Methyl Trimethicone) and non-volatile (e.g. Dimethicone). Volatile silicones evaporate from the skin quickly and non-volatile silicones stay on your skin like oils (usually not as heavy as oils). Look at the first 3 ingredients on the ingredients list of your foundation; if you find Dimethicone there, it will most likely make your skin look greasy (e.g. Nars All Day Luminous Weightless Foundation).
My favourite foundations are Lancôme Teint Idole Ultra 24 and Estee Lauder Double Wear.
Photo Credit: Gorgeous In Grey, Lux Afrique