Every time I go to Macy's to find a new foundation for my nut-brown skin, I'm amazed at how great I look after the the professional makeup artists do their work on my face. In the store, under their soft lights, they routinely declare that the foundation they've used is perfect for my skin. It matches! Hallelujah!
And then I go outside. And then I notice the stares.
Are they admiring my new eye shadow or is there something wrong with me? I take a selfie in the sun to triple check how I look in natural light. I look at the picture and see that the color is slightly off. It's not quiiite right—it's lighter than my skin. It's not completely awful, but I have that terrible ring of mismatched color around the edges of my hairline and chin. So then I send the selfie to my bestie and ask her: Does this foundation match?
The answer is always no. It's not quite right. It's too yellow. It's too pink. It's too light.
I desperately want to try the products being marketed to me, but they just aren't made with me in mind. (It was only a decade or so ago that products started being produced in colors beyond just beige). For a while I settled for dusting the oil off my face and rocking great lipsticks, eyeshadows, or mascara. But it frustrated me to no end that white people had 500 different shades of pink, tan, olive and beige to choose from while Black people had two shades–neither one deep enough for me.
For too long now, the beauty industry has been way behind in making adequate foundation colors that match the *various* skin types for women of color. At least Fashion Fair, a line for women of color, figured out that there were millions of dollars to be made when starting the iconic company in the 1970s. Other companies didn't bother to catch up until maybe the last 20 years or so. Maybe. And most of them didn't even bother until fairly recently. And even now, with the exception of a handful, I swear my color is barely ever an option.
Another issue? The foundation for my summer skin. Black people tan too, and my November-May color is lighter than my June-October color. I love my sun-kissed, burnished-bronze look, but then my hair also turns reddish in the warm months, so my makeup routine has to change. I used to go entire summers without makeup because there was no makeup available to me.
While I have pretty skin, I do have large pores, a little acne, and pregnancy melasma. My skin also needed major help after my mom and dad died. I guess the grief got to me. So it would have been nice to have some appropriate coverage.
It frustrated me that white people had 500 different shades of pink, tan, olive and beige to choose from while Black people had two shades.
Due to my job (I've produced magazine shoots), I've seen a lot of makeup artists work. Those artists always blended different foundations for the Black models. Up until my first shoot, I never knew that was even an option. Watching someone blend up a color was a game-changer for me: I started thinking about brands and shades differently. I knew that Iman and Mary Kay carried powders that kinda sorta matched my skin. When I mixed those two brands together (they had names such as Dark Mocha and Deep 3) I would wind up with something that looked pretty good after it sat on my face for a little while.
Then I happened on Cover FX. At the time it was a new-to-me brand, so the makeup artist took the time to help me find a match. It was January, so without my summer tan, Cover FX's darkest shade worked! I was shocked. It was a major step up from my go-to hack: mixing eyeshadow and primer.
So, in trying everything, I have discovered a few things that work for me: MAC broadly. Maybelline works well with my powder–a great pre-summer look on me. Touche Eclat carries a dark brown. Yves Saint Laurent offers colors on the dark side of the spectrum. Brands like Becca and Tom Ford come in increasingly diverse shades, too. Still, I wish there were more.
That said, watching people like Sam Fine and Iman figure out how to influence the makeup world gives me real hope. It seems that all the brands are hustling to catch up to the ones that are getting it right, and I can't wait to try them all.
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