The Black Beauty Guide: How To Master Make-Up On Dark Skin

From foundations to powders and everything in-between…

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I remember a time, worryingly not too long ago, when finding a foundation to complement my deep caramel complexion was like finding a needle in a haystack.

Beauty shelves were filled to the brim with products that privileged light-to-medium skin-tones, and make-up campaigns followed suit.

I spent far too much money on bottles of mismatched make-up - think grey, chalky-white tones to brick-red and muddy-mahogany hues - hoping to find the perfect base for my black skin.

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Donning an apron, I would often blend and whip-up my failed foundation purchases in a bowl like batter-mix, until I arrived at a more suitable shade. When I recall some of my make-up faux pas, I can't help but imagine other women of colour have gone through similar things.

It's not quite true to say, as some have, that before Rihanna's Fenty Beauty came onto the scene, there were no big brands doing foundations for darker skin.

Some of the most reputable beauty brands have, in recent years, made an effort to be more inclusive. L'Oréal, Maybelline and even designer make-up house YSL, have all expanded their colour catalogues. And then in 2015, Superdrug launched the 'Shades Of Beauty' campaign to 'give a voice to women of colour'.

According to Superdrug's Head of Beauty, Sarah Gardner, Superdrug 'challenged all cosmetics suppliers to expand their shade ranges and have since launched 55 new darker foundation shades including our own brand B. Makeup'.

But it certainly is true to say that it took Rihanna's debut Fenty Beauty campaign - that features Black-British model Leomie Anderson, Somali-American hijabi model Halima Aden and African-American model Indyamarie Jean and has a foundation range with 40 shades - for the bar to be significantly raised.

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Now that we have more beauty options to choose from than ever before, it's time to discover how to master make-up on dark skin, once and for all.

How To Colour Match Like A Pro

With over 40 shades to choose from, Make Up For Ever's Ultra HD Foundation is a prime example of a full-coverage formulation that works wonders on all skin-tones. 'When colour matching, first observe the complexion and notice the dominating colour,' says Makeup Forever's Senior Make-up Artist, Curro Martinez.

He adds: 'There are usually two main variations, the first is a red-to-pink under-tone, and the second is yellow-to-golden under-tone. The second step would be to classify this tone as light, medium or dark and then test out three different shades - that are very close to each other - by minding the previous steps. The three shades should be tested on the chin and neck. The shade which blends perfectly is the correct match.'

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Make Up For Ever Ultra HD Foundation, £27

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Get That Good Light

If you've ever tried and tested a foundation in dimmer settings, then you'll know that it's the quickest way to get your make-up match completely wrong.

'When shopping for the perfect shade, step into the natural day-light for the best lighting for colour matching,' says celebrity make-up artist and B. ambassador, Cassie Lomas.

So, even if your colour has been matched-up by a professional, don't shy away from popping outside with a hand-mirror to get a closer look – lighting is everything!

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B. Flawless Matte Foundation, £9.99

Out Smart Oxidisation

Most foundations tend to oxidise after application, which can cause the skin to look noticeably deeper with just a of couple hours wear. On black skin, oxidised foundations can drastically transform from the perfect match to a patchy amalgamation of burnt-orange and terracotta hues.

'A great tip is to look at your body and the depth of colour you see in the chest, neck and arms – ultimately we want our face and body to balance,' explains MAC's Senior Artist Debbie Finnegan. 'Always go for a foundation that is one or two shades lighter than your skin-tone, so that your face doesn't end up looking darker than your body.'

Colour Correcting 101

Hyper-pigmentation is a condition that causes patches of the skin to become darker than the surrounding areas, which commonly affects Black and Asian women. To create the illusion of a more even skin-tone, the darker areas of the skin should be neutralised prior to foundation application.

'On an area of discolouration like the under eyes on a deeper black skin, I would first use a MAC Studio Conceal and Correct Duo in Pure Orange and Ochre on the area,' says Debbie Finnegan.

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She adds: 'A dot or two of the orange will help to neutralise the darker skin, then if it needs to be brightened, a dot or two of the Ochre shade will help to lift the area. This may then be lightly veiled with a concealer that matches the clients skin-tone using MAC Studio Finish Concealer Palette in Dark.'

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MAC Studio Conceal & Correct Duo in Pure Orange/Ochre, £20

MAC Studio Finish Conceal And Correct Palette in Dark, £36

Set Your Skin

Loose powders can be used to 'bake', or in other words highlight, areas of the skin such as fore-head, chin, nose and under-eyes.

If the right product is used, this technique can instantly add dimension to the skin and helps brightens the overall finish of the make-up, without leaving behind an ashy-grey residue. SACHA Loose Buttercup Setting Powder is a favourite amongst black beauty bloggers online.

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SACHA Loose Buttercup Setting Powder, £19.99

A traditional setting powder can then be applied to the rest of the skin, and should be selected based on your skin type and texture.

'Avoid any powders that have too much beige and look for ones with more olive or mahogany tones depending on your skin,' Debbie Finnegan advises. 'For women of colour who want a powder that will offer some coverage to perfect the skin and has the best range of shades to suit all, I'd really recommend MAC Studio Fix Powder compact.'

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MAC Studio Fix Powder Plus, £23.50

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