Have brands finally become fairer in their shade ranges? From budget beauty to beyond, here’s my pick of the very best

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When I started writing  Not Fair  four years ago, the beauty landscape for darker skin tones was a bit barren to be completely honest. Better than it was a decade before, but still nowhere where it should have been in 2012, my column’s inspiration came from the frustrations that I (and many people who I knew) had experienced growing up when shopping for makeup and hair care to fit our needs. Now, in 2016, the terrain is lot more fruitful however, it could do with some further development - especially on the cheaper side of town.

Building analogies aside though, it would be easy for this introduction to be hugely negative, but I think it’s definitely worth celebrating the greater presence and awareness in the public sphere of the ever evolving face of beauty. I can’t recall a time when the discussion about inclusivity was more prevalent. And are changes being made? Slowly, but surely.

The recent news that Topshop Beauty was extending their shade range to cater for darker skin tones delighted me as I love their makeup offering - two shades at the moment, but certainly baby steps in the right direction - with model Leomie Anderson set to model the range. Superdrug’s Shades of Beauty campaign  has definitely gone some way to opening up the debate about high street equality for all sides of the complexion spectrum, working directly with brands to open up shelf space to carry their full foundation roster. Max Factor, L’Oréal Paris and YSL have also made noticeable strides towards total racial inclusivity, but my hope? That all brands carry a comprehensive shade selection across ALL their foundation ranges - not just a select few and that all local pharmacies stock them too. There’s no point making darker shades available online when I can’t go in-store to try them out first-hand. Surely, this is something that brands and stockists should be shouting about and us, the consumer, celebrating as a result.

Moving from niche to mainstream one shade extension at a time, it’s an area of the beauty industry which the spotlight is shining particularly powerfully on. It’s this very fact on which Not Fair’s inspiration was based - to highlight that dialogue and push it forward. However, speaking with the Get The Gloss team, it seems that we can send a greater message out there about greater equality in beauty - something the team has always been passionate about - by ensuring beauty for all skin tones and skin and hair types is incorporated into our editorial as a whole and not necessarily separated into Not Fair solely. Not Fair will still have its place, and I’ll make sure to report on the biggest stories as they emerge, but the subject of diversity is something that everyone can be talking about - regardless of their skin tone - to give the message further strength. Coverage by topic rather than skin tone seems the way forward and my new hair care column called ‘Who, what, hair,’ will be launching on GTG in November in which I’ll be looking to cover news, the latest launches and must-try trends for all beauty readers, whether they be black, brown or white, or Caucasian, Afro, Asian or mixed-race in hair type.

So expect more of that on GTG, but in the meantime, I thought how best to consolidate what I’ve learned over the past four years? Perhaps a rundown of the makeup brands that I feel best cater for darker skin tones across most if not all of their ranges, or, have come up with a development so innovative, that it definitely warrants praise. From high street to high end, here are the best of the bunch.

High street


As far as budget beauty brands goes, Sleek offers both fantastic pigment for your pennies and a far-reaching shade range to amplify the message that all high street brands should have your back. Its Crème to Powder foundations are of particular note offering portability and practicality in equal measure, with its range of blushers and incredible highlighter palettes qualifying as makeup must-haves in my book.

The Body Shop

The Body Shop made for an important part of my teen years - not a Christmas would go by without a box of its multi-coloured bath pearls or one of its sweetly-scented gift sets having graced my stocking. So much so in fact, that I never really took much notice of its makeup line however, much like my wish list to Santa, my visits to The Body Shop have taken a noticeable change of direction in the last four years. While its Papaya Body Butter will always have a special place in my heart, its range of Fresh Nude foundations  and Shade Adjusting Drops  prove that Body Shop makeup is in fact, for everybody. I would highly recommend combining bath with beauty on your next visit.


Are darker foundation shades harder and more costly to make? My visit to No7 HQ  revealed that contrary to what some brands would have you believe, the answer is in fact no. Providing a real insight into the time, resources and research the brand has invested in ensuring that a wide spectrum of ethnicities are catered for, its Match Made service is of particular note in ensuring that those who book in take a tailored, rather than a token, dark shade away with them.


Providing great colour payoff and sophisticated formulas, a KIKO launch is always met with an audible gasp of ‘Ooohs’ and ‘Aaahs’ at the GTG offices. From colour to coverage, they always deliver and the brand’s Liquid Skin Second Skin Foundation  has found pride of place in my makeup bag as a result. Offering rich pigment at a surprisingly low price point, I’m sure our reactions will continue to only increase in volume as the years go by.


Excuse my French, but I bloody love this brand. Offering the perfect balance of experimental and wearability, the high quality of this high street brand for its comparatively low price point never fails to astound me. Its Soft Matte Lip Creams  and Hydra Touch Powder foundation  are among my favourites in their respective categories and its range of high impact neutrals and vibrants make for ample day or night inspiration to choose from.


Created originally for olive skin tones, founder Farah Naz’s inspiration drew from her own experiences struggling to find the right shade match. Cleverly formulated to mimic the natural pigments in yellow-based tones like her own, it wasn’t long until EX1 soon became a favourite among beauty bloggers. Now available in eight new shades  to cater for those on the lighter end of the colour spectrum, its offering may be larger, but its price is still refreshingly small at £12.50 a bottle. Nice.

MORE GLOSS: The 10 best concealers for olive and dark skin tones

High end


With its NW (neutral warm) and NC (neutral cool) shade system, MAC has fast-become the go-to makeup counter of choice for light and dark complexions alike. Providing a pretty hard-to-beat choice in the shade spectrum stakes, its message of accessible beauty for all styles and skin tones is one that makes it a real trail-blazer in the field. Its Face and Body Foundation  has (deservedly) reached cult status, as has its 52-shade strong Studio Fix Powder Plus Foundation  - a base that my early twenty-something self couldn’t have done without.

Tom Ford

Everyone has that one brand reserved for only most special of occasions and Tom Ford very much falls into that category for me. I’m usually pretty worried about splurging (as is my bank account) on a beauty product in case it doesn’t deliver however, after a visit to Harrods for a colour match consultation, I am now a believer (bordering on the maniacal) in its complexion perfecting prowess. Its colour correcting and tinted primers work like a dream for darker tones, effortlessly gliding over skin to act as the perfect brightening base. Its range of foundations beautifully enhance rather than mask and its Cream Colours for Eyes , Shade & Illuminate  (to be found inside the kit bags of many a makeup artist), cream highlighters and dual-ended Eye Defining Pen  shows skin and features off in the most flattering of ways. The only prohibiting factor is its price, which although perhaps for most, reserves it more for birthday or Christmas wish lists, is a gift of the most valuable in more ways than one.


As far as desert island products go, NARS’s Pure Radiant Tinted Moisturiser  joins liquid liner as my ultimate picks. Healthy looking skin in a tube, it’s come in particularly handy on many a hungover Sunday as well as providing a lighter weight alternative to my more heavy-duty foundations. Its Radiant Creamy Concealer  not only blends like a dream, but is effective on dark circles and pigmentation alike, with its blushes and range of Multiples being among the best in the business. With a range of textures and finishes that provide a varied and results-driven helping hand, I’d be looking a lot more tired these days were it not for these complexion essentials at hand.

Laura Mercier

As far as great skin goes, Laura Mercier has the formula nailed. Whether it be in the form of her cult Tinted Moisturiser , her Radiance Primer , (I love, love, love this), her amazing Candleglow foundation  (a personal favourite of mine) or the expertly formulated Secret Camouflage concealer , her tools of the trade are favourites among beauty pros and consumers alike. With her choice of bases among the best around and her colour ranges delivering on both colour payoff and their claims to jaw-dropping degree, her products form the foundation of my makeup bag and will carry on to do so for many years to come.

MORE GLOSS: Laura Mercier's 10 makeup dos and don'ts for darker skin tones

Estée Lauder

The name ‘Double Wear’ has become synonymous with both longevity and inclusivity - and for just cause. The line’s best-selling foundation  has reached the kind of popularity to make it eligible for iconic status and is often the base of choice for those looking for the type of budgeproof coverage that’ll stay put come sweat, sun or shine. Its racially diverse shade selection (and of the following Double Wear additions that followed) is definitely worthy of praise, as is its newest brand extension - The Estée Edit  - for helping provide a wide representation of beauty for all ages and audiences.


I’ve been a big fan of Becca for a long time thanks to its wide range of bases, illuminators and finishes that provide the type of natural, seamless finish to suit both a range of skin types and skin tones. Whether matte or radiant, sheer or full coverage, it provides a veritable smörgåsbord to choose from when it comes to giving complexions a dose of concentrated yet cake-free coverage.

Bobbi Brown

One of the best brands around for celebrating natural-looking makeup, I have been a loyal devotee of Bobbi Brown thanks to its message of accessibility and inclusivity since I was a teen. With a solution for every skin type, I can always rely on it in my time of need. On days when my skin is feeling particularly dry, it drinks up its Intensive Skin Serum foundation ; when feeling patching, its hero Stick Foundation Stick  comes to my aid and when concealer alone won’t rectify my dark circles, its Intensive Skin Serum Corrector , £28, brightens them with ease. Suffice to say Bobbi Brown has been my beauty BFF for as long as I can remember, and although we are yet to meet, this is one friendship set to withstand the test of time.


When it comes to creativity, self-expression and high octane colour, you’d be hard-pressed to find a makeup brand that rivals Illamasqua. Bold, fearless and to some, a little frightening, there’s so much more to this wide-ranging brand than initially first meets the eye. Think expansive shade ranges, fantastic pigment and huge possibilities to provide all the tools needed to be as experimental or pared back as you’d like.

MORE GLOSS: The best eye makeup ranges for olive and dark skin tones

Kevyn Aucoin

A true legend, Kevyn Aucoin’s mark on the beauty industry is one which is certain to be felt for years to come. A pioneer of formulation, technique and product development, his groundbreaking Sensual Skin Enhancer  is the epitome of the name, ‘multitasker’ due to its ability to provide a myriad of possibilities at your fingertips. Use alone as a hugely effective concealer, mix with primer for a foundation or with your day cream for a dewy tinted moisturiser. Plus, a tiny bit goes a long long way to make it the savviest of makeup bag splurges in my book.


Merging skincare with coverage, the brand’s Original Foundation  proved pivotal in the rise of mineral makeup in the nineties. Still as prolific now as it was in its infancy, the brand continues to provide ample choice in all things base control with its Complexion Rescue Tinted Hydrating Gel Cream  working wonderfully for dry to combination skin types and its new BarePro Performance Wear Powder Foundation  providing a more compact variation to keep a wide range of skin types and tones coming back for more.

Cover FX

A real innovator in the concept of customisable beauty, the tech and innovation behind Cover FX’s products truly separates it from the rest of the pack. From solutions to cover deep set pigmentation to options for day-to-day use, its Custom Cover Drops  are changing the way we use makeup one splash at a time. Pint-sized but potent drops of pure pigment to transform any piece of skincare into makeup instantly, it’s a concept that has extended to bronzer, facial oil and suncare variations. Always providing something new and interesting to try, I look forward to a Cover FX launch with the giddiness of a child at Christmas, as so far, they’ve never failed to disappoint.

Charlotte Tilbury

Clicking onto Charlotte Tilbury’s website always proves a delight for me. With models of all ethnicities included to better showcase the varying shades of the brand’s foundations, it’s one of the best e-commerce sites I’ve seen for doing its more inclusive shade range justice. Its Magic Foundation  makes for a great fit for oilier skin types, my personal favourite from the face collection - The Retoucher  - adds a much needed dose of illumination to the high planes of my face and under my eyes (when used in conjunction with an opaque concealer), and its wide range of Matte Revolution lipsticks provides the perfect nude for any skin tone, ( Bond Girl  is one of my all-time favourite lipsticks).


The first foundation I ever bought was from Clinique and so the brand has always been quite special to me having given me a shade range to choose at a time when there was none. Now, the variety has only gotten greater, with a crop of hardworking foundations developed to suit a range of different skin problems on a deeper level. Take for example its Even Better line  for pigmentation or its Anti-Blemish Solutions Liquid Makeup  for spot-prone skin - targeted and diverse, it provides an answer for most skin dilemmas.


On days when my dehydrated skin needs all the help it can get, you can often find me reaching for Stila’s Aqua Glow Serum Foundation  and Serum Concealer . Providing a super plumped up and hydrating finish without providing the slip and slide of other moisturising cover ups, when used with one of their skin tone matched Correct & Perfect All-in-one Color Correcting Palettes , they act as a skin SOS triple threat of the highest order.


A brand who’s built a respected reputation for itself in the primer market, its range of problem-specific undercoats act as an effective first step for giving your base of choice extra longevity and a more even finish. And, speaking of bases, the brand’s wardrobe of racially inclusive foundation shades make for an effective second step with its Halo Hydrating Perfecting Powder  and Photo Filter Powder Foundation  in particular proving firm favourites with all skin tones.


The announcement of Lupita Nyong’o as its brand ambassador in 2014 heralded a new age for Lancôme in the public eye, one which highlighted the extensiveness of its shade ranges and opened the door to an audience who once thought the brand didn’t cater for them. Quite on the contrary, its Teint Visionnaire foundation/corrector  combo provides something a little more heavyweight for helping even out dark spots, while on the other end of the spectrum, Miracle Air De Teint  provides something much more lightweight. With a texture and shade to suit most, its range of formulations and finishes make it a worthy cover up wardrobe addition in my opinion.

Giorgio Armani

Are you team Luminous Silk or team Maestro? Two completely different foundations with equally loyal followings, they provide the type of finish that has seen each become cult products in their own right. As a self-confessed glow obsessive, I’m team Luminous Silk all the way as it provides a healthy radiance to my combination skin type that’s proven highly addictive. For oilier skin types, Maestro is the dream, to leave silkier, smoother, more even skin in its wake courtesy of a few drops of its trademark pipette.

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