Women of Color | How to Shop for Foundations + Free Shopping Guide & Checklist

black blogger applying foundation in the mirror

Hello my loves!  I hope you all are doing well, and thanks so much for checking out today's blog post!  So excited to share with you this information today, finding the perfect foundation for black women.  I know as black women, or any woman of color, it can be SUPER frustrating trying to find a matching foundation shade.   Well, I hope to give you some hope in this post, as I share with you my top tips for finding a perfect shade for you, and dig out some professional tips I use as a makeup artist!  I even throw in a free checklist at the end of the guide, just in case these tips overwhelm you.  Don't worry, I got you!  Keep on reading:-)

Black Women & Foundations: The Many Dilemmas

fenty beauty chanel glossier kevyn aucoin foundation flatlay

When it comes to finding a cosmetic brand that we can depend on to carry an extensive range of darker shades, we unfortunately fall short!  Since the beginning, the beauty industry has often designated much of their focus towards the needs of fairer skinned women.  Albeit, exclusive, lazy, and trifling, lol, there are several reasons for this behavior I've concluded.  There are plenty of reasons women of color have anxiety when shopping for foundations, but here are the main problems I've noticed and some possible reasons why.

Shade Range

The most obvious problem black women encounter when shopping for foundation is having enough options when it comes to color range.  A ton of beauty brands simply do not produce an extension of shades for women with dark skin.   I know.  I know 😥 .  This is why the few cosmetic companies that DO put out darker shades in their foundations are so celebrated, such as the new Fenty Beauty line--putting out a whopping 40 shade foundation range in it's premiere launch!  Talk about impressive.  I did a mini review and makeup tutorial using the Fenty Beauty brand, and I think the brand will be around to stay!  See the tutorial HERE !

Why do brands fail at making enough foundation shades for ALL consumers?!  Well.  I think this particular problem is the result of several other dilemmas:

  • a lot of chemists aren't actual makeup artists, and don't always work with one-- to properly CREATE the makeup shade options
  • many geographic locations that don't have a lot of Black women residents, won't have a large number of products catering to them available on shelves (ex. there won't be many nw50 shades at MAC in Idaho, feel what I'm saying?)
  • a lot of brands are under the influence that there's not a big demand for darker shades (in other words, if it's not broke...
fenty beauty glossier chanel kevyn aucoin foundation colors for darker skin

One Shade Does Not Fit All

One of the most intriguing things about women of color is no doubt the uniqueness in skin tones.  Darker skin women a lot of times, have more than 1 shade to their faces.   This is why rarely can they find 1 color to match their full face.  This condition is referred to as hyperpigmentation.  It involves one or more patches of skin on the face being darker than the surrounding areas.

For example, many women of color are darker around their mouthes and under their eyes.  Because of this, more than one shade of foundation may be required.

If you don't want to buy multiple foundation shades (I TOTALLY get not wanting to!  Those coins add up! ), I have some great options to save your dollars and your sanity later in the post, lol!

Possibly makeup brands aren't aware of this concept when creating foundation shades.  So stopping at the token "medium, medium tan, dark" options when formulating, simply won't cut it!

Buying Power Doubt

Finally, we get to the money!  A lot of cosmetic companies don't believe that black women have the proper buying power to support them spending the coins to produce products for them.  They simply don't see women of color as being big spenders for their brand, so, if it won't make dollars, it don't make sense!

Now. Wayment.

We ALL know that black women will spend a coin on something they like.  ESPECIALLY something they like that will make them look good!

But here's some quick data to go with this perception:

Tarra Jackson (also known as Madam Money), a money expert who specializes in economic empowerment, says:  “Marketers should pay attention to African American women because they control over 50% of the annual adult black purchasing and spending power”

Tarra's quote was found in the Nielsen Study highlighting the power of Black women as consumers, read the full report HERE, it's a great read on things like this!  The report also stated that Black women are 2X likely to shop as Neiman Marcus than the general public.

Women of Color & Foundations: Where to Start

fenty beauty glossier chanel kevyn aucoin foundations for darker skin

Okay.  Now that we've identified the problem, let's work on attacking some solutions!  As a professional makeup artist for 10 years, and beauty enthusiast for even longer, lol, here are my top tips for finding the right foundation shade.  These tips are ones I've accumulated when working with women of color of VARIOUS shades, I'm talking the honey caramels, all the way to the darkest ebonies!  So there's bound to be a gem or 2 in here for everyone:-)

Really quick I'm going to tell you the 3 main things to consider when buying a foundation, then follow up with how to use this info to actually shop at the makeup counter!

Know Your Undertone

When deciding to buy a new foundation, knowing your undertone is CRUCIAL.  Your undertone is basically they underlying or hidden color that makes up the base your skin.  It's the color beneath the surface of your skin.  

Undertones are categorized by being either:

  • warm -- Yellow, gold, peach 
  • cool--Pink, blue, or ruddy (reddish)
  • neutral--mixture of these 

Undertones have nothing to do with whether your skin is light or dark, white and fair skinned people can have warm, cool, or neutral undertones as well. This is simply a measuring tool to decide what tone of foundation will complement your skin's natural color beneath the surface.

skin undertones warm cool neutral

Understand Skin Types

Another measuring tool that has nothing to do with light or dark skin, is skin types.  Skin types are the degree to which your skin holds moisture or oil.  The 3 types of skin are:

  • dry-- needs moisture, doesn't make much moisture on its own.  
  • oily--makes too much moisture, often appears "greasy" or "shiny"
  • combination--mixture of dry & oily; if oily, usually in the T-zone area (forehead, nose, and chin)

Black women tend to fall more into the oily and combination to oily skin types.  A lot of my clients who are women of color complain endlessly about their oily skin, but I tell them they'd rather be  healthy oil slick than a dying sahara! Why?  Because oilier skin produces less inflammation--which means less wrinkles and stays youthful looking much longer!  So rejoice in your extra sebum production, it's for the win!  lol :-)

Choose to Invest in Multiple Shades

As I touched on earlier, women of color, are often multiple shades across their face.  When making the goal of finding the perfect foundation, you have to decide beforehand if you're going to go ahead and make the investment of purchasing 2 shades.  Now, I totally understand not wanting to--

a) time--who's gonna sit there and mix 2 shades everyday?!


b) money--a lot of times, the foundation of a brand is often the most expensive item in the line, ranging from $24-$70 average

However, I'd also like to point out, if you choose to invest in multiple shades, you most likely won't have to purchase again for a LONG time, as you'll use less product when mixing, versus as with 1 shade.

Let's Talk Oxidation Real Quick

But, if you know you ain't got time for that, don't lose hope.  I got you!  Buying 1 shade is still a good option when buying foundation.  You simply want to chose the shade that appears a tad lighter.  I mean a true TAD, not one that leaves you ashy all over.  Usually, this will be the shade that matches perfectly to the center of your face (the lightest section), and not so perfectly to the perimeter of your face.

You want to choose this shade, because often the darker foundations will oxidize a few hours later--leaving the final result a bit darker than what it went on as.  Oxidation is defined as the process of minerals and fats in foundation  reacting to the pigments in the skin.  Since women of color have much more pigment (melanin) than fairer skinned women, we are often the recipients of oxidation occurring.

The concept of oxidation is similar to painting.  A lot of times when you're painting, be it a house or a picture canvas, when the paint dries completely, it will dry down more matte and darker than when you painted it hours before.  Sometimes oxidation can cause they skin to look more orange or red, rather than darker.  And then, some foundations won't oxidize at all!  It's all about the chemical makeup of the cosmetics, which can often force us into a bit of a waiting game, trying to see how it will react with our skin.

Figuring it All Out

how to shop foundation women of color makeup in a mirror

Okay, let's apply all of this knowledge and get an idea of how to shop for foundation, according to your own skin type and undertone.  And hopefully by now you will have decided if you want to commit to multiple shades or go for buying 1 shade lighter!  Don't worry if you haven't, as long as you decide before shopping day, you're all good!  I say choose before, because you don't want to be persuaded into buying multiple shades last minute, and then regret the whole experience!  Be in control beforehand and do your research on brands, so you're prepared as a consumer!

How to Determine Your Undertone

Figuring out your undertones is probably the trickiest part of this whole thing.  Because we women of color look at ourselves as "brown", we often think that means, "Red".  Yet, these 2 aren't the same when it comes to the foundation of your skin.

Although there are several tests to find your undertone, we'll use the veins test, as I've seen the most accuracy with this one.  You'll want to flip over your wrist in bright, natural sunlight, and take a look at your veins.  The color you see should match up with the info below to determine your skin's undertone.

Warm undertones  are golden/yellow and peachy; veins are usually green or olive.  This is because you're seeing the veins under "yellow" based skin (warm under toned), and yellow + blue = green.  (See I knew I'd use that Biology degree some day! lol 😋 )

Cool undertones are reddish, blue, or pink; veins are usually blue or purple.

Neutral undertones are a mix of warm & cool; veins are usually a mixture of blue & green

How to Identify Your Skin Type

Figuring out your skin type is the easiest part of all this!  In fact, I'm sure you've probably known your skin type for some time now, but I'll plug in a quick lesson for those who don't :-)

Dry skin feels rough and patchy.  It will often flake and peel, especially during colder months.  Dry skin will also feel super tight after cleansing, and will only feel refreshed with thicker moisturizers, or several applications of cream a day.

Oily skin is usually shiny looking after a few hours.  When you wear makeup as an oily girl, you'll often have to blot away grease from your forehead, nose, or chin.  If you have oilier skin you'll usually avoid heavy creams and thick moisturizers.  **But don't avoid moisturizers altogether!  Just choose a lighter formula--such as a gel based or lightweight cream. ***

Combination skin is a mixture of dry & oily skin.  Usually combination leans more towards oily, especially the T zone area (forehead, nose, chin), with normal to dry skin everywhere else on the face.

What Foundation  Formulas Work With What Skin Types?

Dry Skin
  • Dry skin does well with: cream or mousse  foundations, liquids. 
  • Drier skin doesn't do well with: powder foundations, "long wear" or anything that implies it stays on all day.
Oily Skin
  • Oily Skin favors mattifying liquid foundations , long wear formula foundations, and powder foundations;
  • Oilier  skin does not do well with cream foundations--it is possible, but there will be some touch ups to be made!  
Combination Skin
  • Combination skin can wear cream, powder, or liquid formulas.  Most combination skin girls do prefer something in the middle like a 'satin' formula or 'natural' finish. 

The Key to Mixing Foundations

Okay!  To mix or not to mix?  Well, it's entirely your choice.  I will say though, that I only recommend this option if you don't see 1 shade you can get away with.  If you've found 2 foundation options, and the lighter one is just TOO light, and the darker one is just TOO dark, then you suck it up and mix.

However, if you can get away with the lighter one matching the center of your face well, go with that one!  You can warm up the perimeter (outer part) of your face with a darker setting powder or bronzer later!

fenty beauty by rihanna pro filt'r foundation

Psst!  Click HERE to watch my Fenty Beauty tutorial + foundation revew :-)

The Big Day:  How to Actually Shop for Foundation

Pre Shop Day

Alright girl, you made it to shopping day!  I know it hasn't been easy getting here, lol, but you did it:-)  Now let's put all this newfound cosmetic information to use, and buy your next favorite foundation!

Before you go to the makeup counter, you will want to do a few things.

First, you should have already read this blog post thoroughly, and from it have determined your undertone and skin type.  Second, you should look at my FREE guideline for which brands are carrying the most women of color foundations right now (as of September 2017).  Grab it by subscribing to my email list HERE!  In the guideline you'll find the best brands I've seen to cater to the range needed to support black women, and checklist for your shopping day!

black female blogger fenty beauty by rihanna

Click HERE to get your free guide!

Or you can just take the time to look everything up online, lol!

Sephora is a good place to start. However, I know how overwhelming it can be to have 20 different brands staring back at you!   That's why I formulated the guideline to give you a good jump off point.  You're welcome boo, I told you I got you!

Third, if you don't grab my free guide, go ahead and look online and narrow down your interests to just 3 makeup brands that you'd like to try foundation from.  This can be luxury or drugstore, but narrow it down to 3, taking note of how wide the color range goes at each company.  From this, have an idea of what 3 shades you think will be best for you.  Write thee shades down alongside the corresponding makeup brand, so you can have something to work with when you visit the actual brand's counter!

Also, make sure you've taken into account the right formulations you'll need according to your skin type.  For example oily skin does well with matte formula liquids, etc.).

So decide on the formula your skin needs 1st, then look for these types of foundations within the makeup brands that you choose!

Shopping Day

Shopping day has arrived, and you're all set to do some cosmetic damage!  Let's get it:-)

Go to the makeup store with a bare face (just moisturizer and/or primer) and in the morning hours.  This is key, because you want to see the true color of the foundation and want to have enough hours left in the day to see if the formula will oxidize!  Try your best to stick to this approach for the best results:-)  And if you can't leave the house bare faced, big sunglasses are your best friend, lol!

With your undertones, skin type, and pre picked makeup brands w/ color options in mind, you're geared up to pick the perfect foundation for your beautifully melanin soaked skin 😍.

Revisiting Undertones

Upon approaching the foundation section at the makeup counter, scan the testers for the 3 shades you've written down.  Shake the bottle, then look at the foundation.  Can you see a hint (and I do mean a HINT) of your undertone in the foundation.  Make sure you're in good lighting for this!  When you look at the bottle, does the content look like the base of the color is yellow or tan?  Then that's a warm undertone foundation.  Does the content look like the base is blue or pink?  Then that's a cool toned foundation.  If you have a neutral undertone, you're in luck, because most makeup brands formulate foundations to be more on the neutral side, not running too pink, nor too yellow, to suite more people.  Also, neutral based foundations are usually labeled, 'beige, tan, or ebony'.

If you can't tell, it's okay.  This isn't easy for most people to spot, but if you can, you've just made things a little easier for yourself.  You'd naturally want to go with the matching undertone for yourself.

Application Steps

Apply the shade you most think will be a match.  Apply it from the center of your face outward.  Look at it from all angles, and try to get by a window for this, to see it in natural light.  From there decide if you need to go darker or lighter. Ask for a makeup wipe to completely remove the shades in between applications.  Wait a few minutes between each trial, just to keep your skin from getting too irritated.  If you try both a lighter and darker shader, yet neither are a match, you have 2 options:

  • go with the lighter option (as long as it's not God awful ashy!  it should match at least the center of your face well), and use it with a darker setting powder or bronzer
  • buy 2 shades and prepare to have to mix. 

For me to choose to have to mix, I'd have to REALLY love the way the foundation looked.  I'd have to LOVEEE  the formula, and it'd just have to be the BOMB, you hear me?! Cuz I aint got time, lol.

Or you could be a total makeup junkie, and don't mind having 2 shades.  Whatever your choice is,  just make the right decision for you, your lifestyle, and your pocket book!

Post Shop Day

foundation application black girl blogger

After you've picked your foundation and have happily diddy-bopped out of the makeup store, access your makeup stash at home.  Let's say you had to go 1 shade lighter, do you have a bronzer or darker setting powder you can use to balance it out?  If not, you may have to about face and go right back to pick one up!  But, if you do, you're all set!

The next day, apply your foundation and wear it ALL day long!  See how it looks inside, outside, and with flash photography.  Take selfies in it, and just live in it, lol!  you want to see how it behaves under normal circumstances.  If you're totally happy with the wear of the foundation, congrats girl, you made it! lol.  Now come back to my blog and tell me what you found, so others can get it right as well!

Good Luck & My Free Gift to You

Click HERE to get your free foundation guide to make your life a million times easier!

Who would have ever though that by 2017, women of color would still be having difficulty finding a good foundation shade?  Sad but true.  It is  my hope that this blog post, and my free guideline will make things a little easier for you.  In the download you'll find a recap of this blog post with a matching checklist for pre, post, and the actual shopping day.  This way you're guaranteed more success with getting the right foundation color, than you'd be without it!

We, as in women of color, are definitely to be included in the conversation of what's appealing, and deserve SEVERAL seats at the table of beauty.  It's far time cosmetics companies acted like it! For this reason, when Rihanna released her new brand, Fenty Beauty, I hopped on it! It's refreshing to see a line of makeup include us in the range, and do with quality products!   I recorded a look and review of the products on my Youtube , HERE, in case you missed it!  Spoiler alert: It's my new bae, watch THIS now, lol!

If this post has been helpful for you, please share it on your Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, or Twitter, so other women of color can utilize these tips and have better makeup shopping experiences!

fall 2017 free foundation guide black women

Thank you SO much for reading, and until next time, bye loves!  💋