Beauty and its intersections.
Past Masque Up Entries
11 Summer Essentials
My Favorite Sunscreens for Dark Skin
Winter Skin 101
8 Acids That Will Fix Your Skin and Your Life
A Conversation on Beauty
Setting the Tone
Some Scars Are Cool. Some Scars Are a Pain in the Ass.
Learning Curves: A Skincare Guide
Pores: Not That Big of a Deal
Masque Up by Alesia Pullins
Setting the Tone
The foundation struggle does not have to be so real.
I contemplated whether I should begin this piece with a tender story about discovering foundation after I sneaked into my mother's makeup stash filled with hard-to-find Fashion Fair goodies, or if I should go directly into a rant about how years later, makeup options for dark-skinned beauty lovers are still inaccessible. The childhood memory brings back the joy that was the beginning of my love affair with beauty, but even through the tenderness I’m reminded that what should be one of the most basic parts of your makeup routine is often the hardest, due to companies that refuse to provide options for anyone darker than Rihanna. Thankfully, we live in the times of Lupita Nyong’o, Kelly Rowland, and YouTube. Companies are realizing that excluding dark skin tones isn't just racist, but also bad for business. Sure, some brands have been rocking with us from the start (love you NARS and Make Up For Ever), but there are definitely some that seem to have only recently received the memo that beauty is for everyone.
My general rule when it comes it buying makeup is “if they refuse to make a foundation in your skin tone, don’t bring them home,” so it makes me really happy to see brands getting it together. We still have a long way to go, but focusing on the brands that are focusing on us makes things a bit easier.
Before we apply makeup let’s discuss primers. Primers are the foundation for your foundation. A good primer will make the application of face products seamless so you use less product to achieve your desired look. Often times I will opt to wear primer on it’s own because it lightly transforms your face. Not only will a primer give you a smooth, poreless canvas, you can also find primers that combat oiliness, dryness, and discoloration. There are also primers that will give you an intense glow. You may resemble a disco ball after applying them, but after you apply your foundation the end result will be sun kissed skin even if you’re a beautiful hermit. Don’t be afraid to layer primers, either. If you want to try strobing (which is where you essentially dip your entire face in highlighter) but think it won’t work because you have oily, discolored skin - layer a primer made for oiliness with one made for discoloration! Nothing can hold you back.
Now let’s get into it! Foundation, whether you're going for light or full coverage, will diffuse imperfections, even out your skin tone, and generally pull your desired look together. In an effort to make this as simple as possible I’m going to break down my favorite looks into three sections: spot concealing, light coverage, and full coverage, with some tips for finding your foundation match in between.
Spot concealing is in the name: covering problem areas (such as under eye circles, blemishes, and/or darkness around the mouth) with concealer. Concealers are usually thicker in consistency than foundation, which is perfect for targeting specific areas of your face, but definitely not meant to be used all over your face. Think of it as the lightest of coverage. Perhaps you’re going for the no makeup look, or maybe you’re just uncomfortable suffering through humidity with a full face of makeup, and you fear for your pores. As a desert dweller who is terrorized by the sun for nine consecutive months, this is often my go-to. Applying a creamy concealer like my tried and true NARS Radiant Creamy Concealer will do. After priming and color correcting (you’ll want to complete these steps regardless of what look you’re creating), dab concealer onto your trouble areas (if your chosen concealer doesn't come with an applicator use a concealer brush), and blend blend blend with a damp beauty blender (or a cheaper but equally great alternative) until you see your desired result. Regardless of the coverage you choose, in order to preserve your look throughout the day and/or night you’ll want to set your face with powder. This will ensure that everything stays in place and doesn’t transfer onto your clothes or onto someone else’s face. Lightly dust a powder that is in the same color family over your face with a fluffy powder brush. Don’t go to heavy or you’ll look like you’ve been attacked by flour. Black Up, NARS and Lancome make excellent setting powders for deep skin tones.
Finding Your Foundation Match
Now onto more coverage and degrees of coverage. This usually requires a product meant to be used as base for your entire face: foundation. The more coverage you opt for the more product you’re applying to your skin. For all levels of coverage, though, you need to find the right color match to avoid the dreaded ghost face, where your face looks gray or ashy in comparison to your neck and chest area. The first step in choosing a foundation is figuring out your undertones. Jackie Aina (have I mentioned that she’s an angel on earth?) has made this very simple. But maybe you’re still a bit confused, which is ok! Sephora offers a free service where you can breeze on in one of their stores and get color matched in minutes using a gadget that detects your undertones and then matches them to colors in the store. The most important part of finding your undertone is determining whether you’re warm (red) cool (blue) or neutral (yellow/golden). Keep in mind that your undertones can change with the seasons if you tan easily. You can be neutral in the winter and warm after a day at the beach.
Once you’ve determined your undertones the hard part is over. Now you can confidently find your foundation match. However, if you’re new to the world of makeup, this too may seem like an impossible task because, as mentioned earlier, a lot of brands are hanging out in the dark ages with their lack of options for deep skin tones. I’m going to list some of my favorite brands that are checking for us. One thing: because drugstore brands are notorious for offering 15 shades of beige with maybe two to three dark but not dark enough colors I tend not to waste my time and go directly for department store/high end brands. Also, I’m a firm believer in you get what you pay for. Real talk, when you opt for a lower end foundation you are also getting lower quality ingredients which can lead to breakouts. There are always exceptions to this rule, and I believe I have found a few, but historically drug store brands haven't been friendly.
My biggest tip for finding your foundation match is be proactive. Go to Ulta, Sephora, and mall makeup counters. Lightly swatch colors onto your jawline until you find a color that disappears into your skin (if you have discoloration on your face you’ll want to swatch the foundation onto your neck or chest area for color consistency). Don’t feel pressured to buy a foundation on your first trip. Ask for a sample, enough to cover your face, and wear it for a day or at least several hours. Look at your skin in natural light. Check to see if the foundation oxidizes leaving you gray and note whether it leaves your skin feeling heavy or irritated. If you don’t detect any problems go back and buy the full size.
For days when I want a look that is more pulled together than spot concealing, I reach for a tinted moisturizer. Ideally, you would use a BB or CC cream for this because they're formulas meant to conceal and perfect in one step. Unfortunately, there aren’t many brands that make these magical products for dark skin. No worries though, because tinted moisturizers are the next best thing, actually they’re the absolute best thing if you ask me. A tinted moisturizer will give you a dewy refreshed look while evening out your skin tone. They tend to include SPF so they’re a one-stop shop of moisturizing, perfecting, and protecting. I am a NARS Pure Radiant Tinted Moisturizer devotee.
You can build coverage with a tinted moisturizer, but if you find yourself adding more than a couple layers it’s time to take it up a notch with an actual foundation. For this, I like to use something blendable like a cream or liquid product. I love Too Faced’s Born This Way foundation. It hides everything, making it perfect for when you want a full face of makeup or for those who need a bit more coverage than what a tinted moisturizer provides.Tip: if you’re having trouble finding a tinted moisturizer in your color, purchase a full coverage foundation and mix it with a moisturizer to lighten the consistency of the formula. You’ll have two products in one. Use your fingers or a brush to apply (this goes for both tinted moisturizer and foundation). I’m of the opinion that you receive a cleaner, streakless look if you use a brush made for the application of foundation. Luckily, you don’t have to break the bank when it comes to brushes because Real Techniques and Sonia Kashuk have you covered.
As with the spot concealing method, you’ll want to set your face with a loose powder. If you want to go a step further in preserving your look, including making your face sweatproof, follow up with a heavy duty setting spray. Your face will not budge, crease or crack.
And there you have it, a lovely canvas ready for whatever magic you have in store.