Having worked with Alek Wek and Naomi Campbell, makeup artist and Get The Gloss Expert Caroline Barnes really knows how to make black skin look its best. So, I therefore thought there was no one better to ask really with regards to how I should go about finding my perfect colour match when it comes to foundation.
Shopping for a foundation that suits darker skin tones is one thing, but what about ensuring it also matches our undertones too? The devil is in the detail and identifying whether you’re warm or cool-toned could hold the key to finding The One. “Yellow and red undertones are the two main undertones in very dark and black skin tones,” explains Caroline. “When you have darker skin, you end up having a lot more variation of colour, so it can be really hard to understand firstly, which tone you are and secondly, which one you want to become.”
“Usually dark skin tones will have a mixture due to pigmentation in different areas. As darker skin tones have more pigment in them, scarring takes longer to heal. It can often be harder to lift those darker patches.”
With far too many pictures of me displaying a different coloured head to my body (before Facebook thankfully - I’ve burned the evidence), I asked Caroline about her advice for finding the best shade to suit your colouring and the makeup tips we should all try before we buy. Here are the definitive dos and don’ts for creating flawless skin at home.
Do colour match according to your body, not your face
“My biggest tip when applying makeup (which would be the same for those with white skin too), is to try and unify your body with your face,” advises Caroline. “The biggest mistake you can make is to look at your face in the mirror and isolate it from the rest of your body."
This is one mistake that definitely resonates with me - I now see that I’ve been going about shopping for foundation in completely the wrong way for far too long. Rather than looking at how the shade matches my body as a whole, I’ve concentrated on evening the skin tone on my face and my face alone. It goes some way to explain those dodgy pictures...
“When I work on dark skin, I ask that they show me a bit of their chest so that I can identify that colour and bring it into their face. Normally it’s just a case of lifting the colour slightly but with golden tones,” says Caroline. How about old school rules for colour matching? “It’s about trial and error. Don’t test it on your jaw or on the back of your hand - you need to look at it as a whole from the chest upwards so that it’s uniform to make it look more natural. Unifying the colour - that is the secret to getting matched correctly.”
Do choose a lighter coloured concealer
With dark circles and pigmentation being key problems for darker skin tones, what’s the best concealer shade to use to cover them up without dulling the skin at the same time? “For concealing dark circles, concealer’s got to be lighter - don’t match it to the same colour as your foundation as it needs to create light in the face. It’s the same for lighter skin tones too. I use hues of gold and apricot or a concealer that’s two shades lighter than the foundation around the T-zone to give dimension,” suggests Caroline. “For pigmentation on the cheeks or forehead though, I would recommend using the same colour as your foundation, otherwise it’ll look patchy,” she adds.
Do use daylight
So how exactly do we identify our specific undertones? “For darker skin tones, the best way is to look at yourself in a mirror or by taking a selfie while facing the daylight. Ask yourself, ‘Am I more golden or red?’ Those tones really come through in the daylight.”
Having trouble seeing them? Seek the help of the pros at a beauty counter, “When you’re wearing no makeup, ask if they can give you either a warm or golden-toned foundation as you’re not sure if you’re red or yellow - normally they’ll have different levels of warmth of the same colour. There’s a very subtle difference.” MAC foundations are brilliant for this.
Do adopt a trial and error mentality
“Get as many testers as you can, take them home and in the privacy of your own home try it on your chest to see if it’s darker or lighter,” recommends Caroline. “If you have a lot of pigmentation on your face (which is usually very common), you’ll find that a foundation shade which is lighter than you expected might be best, but it’s better to go lighter so that it appears less dense.”
Don’t choose a foundation that’s too light though
“If a base is far too light, it’ll give an ashen finish to dark skin,” warns Caroline.
Do opt for a heavier texture at first
Due to pigmentation and irregularities in skin tone, choosing a foundation with a heavier texture, which allows you to build up to the level of coverage you need works best. “Opt for a heavier base and apply it lightly, building it up where you need it for more uniform coverage,” recommends Caroline. “For correcting pigmentation, a CC cream won’t cut it. I find that I need to use a heavier base to get to the right level.”
Do go for the premium brands (for now)
Unfortunately the cheaper brands still need to catch up when it comes to foundation ranges that cater for a wide variety of undertones. Caroline rates Giorgio Armani Luminous Silk Foundation , £35.50 the new Dior Star Studio Foundation , £32 (showcasing their darkest shades yet - YES!), Bobbi Brown, NARS and MAC - in particular the brand’s cream Studio Tech foundation , £25.
For oily skin types, I’d suggest trying Bobbi Brown Skin Weightless Powder Foundation , £33 which comes in an impressive 20 shades. If you’re looking for one that offers some anti-ageing skin care benefits too though, Estée Lauder Perfectionist Youth-Infusing Makeup , £37 is great for giving skin a dose of hydration and medium coverage.
“On Alex Wek I used Illamasqua,” says Caroline. That’s reason enough to set up shop at your nearest Illamasqua counter asap in my opinion!
Don’t forget about colour correctors
Identifying which colours work to cancel out discolouration and the new wave of colour correcting makeup can prove to be the most valuable of allies in your quest for perfect skin. “Yellows and strong peaches on the T-zone area are great,” recommends Caroline. “It’s all about neutralisation and adding warmth to the other areas. Reds can be too strong, so opt for the warmer end of the colour spectrum instead.”
Don’t be afraid of bright colours
What about matching your makeup to your undertones? “The darker the skin tone, the richer the colour you can take to it,” suggests Caroline. “Darker skin tones really suit dark chocolate browns, bright pillar box reds and bright fuchsias.”
“Avoid cold tones though, for example pale blues, i.e. ice queen colours such as pearlescent pinks or those with a silvery undertone.”
With regards to makeup that is strong enough to show up on our darker skin tones, unfortunately we might have to spend a little more money for the best products for the time being. “If you’re buying a cheaper brand, sometimes you don’t get the right level of pigment payoff so you can’t see it.” Fingers crossed the beauty industry continues to head in the right direction and provides the tools that darker skin tones need to make them look their best, at a more affordable price point.