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beauty lessons:

FOUNDATION 
FOR DEEPer
COMPLEXIONS

The Violet Files presents its foolproof guide for finding foundation for darker skin tones.
Written By Jayme Cyk

PHOTOGRAPHED IN THE STUDIO WITH VIOLET GREY

The key to a glowing, even complexion? Discovering the foundation that best suits your face. For those of us with deeper complexions, one unique challenge is that there’s often not a one-size-fits-the-whole-face foundation. As makeup artist Carola Gonzalez (who keeps Kerry Washington looking luminous) explains, women with darker complexions tend not to have a uniform skin tone, so using a single shade alone can fall flat. Instead, she advocates applying two or more colors for different parts of the face. Zoe Saldana’s go-to artist, Vera Steimberg, adds that it is essential to keep an arsenal of varied colors and textures on hand for mixing.

But your guiding light for finding the perfect shade for darker visages is understanding your undertone. In other words, figuring out not the precise color of your skin, but the hue beneath your skin. Below, Gonzalez and Steimberg, along with Viola Davis favorite Autumn Moultrie and VIOLET GREY flagship artist Christopher Miles, explain how to find your undertone—and your flawless foundation.

ZOE SALDANA (LEFT) / PHOTOGRAPHY BY JOE SCARNICI / WIREIMAGE
VIOLA DAVIS (MIDDLE) / PHOTOGRAPHY BY STEVE GRANITZ / WIREIMAGE
KERRY WASHINGTON (RIGHT) / PHOTOGRAPHY BY JOHN SHEARER / GETTY IMAGES

The undertone is the color that lies beneath the skin (essentially it’s the color of your veins). When you select foundation with your undertone in mind, the makeup will emulate your skin versus acting as a secondary layer. (When improperly matched, makeup may appear too orange or too copper, too pink or too rosy.) And while your complexion can change in response to environmental elements (a rigorous boot camp session; an afternoon at the beach), the undertone never does.

For darker complexions, you may need to use two to three colors to make sure your skin gives off a natural radiance. “When applying foundation to darker skin tones, make sure it has full coverage,” says Gonzalez. “Darker skin usually has various tones on different parts of the complexion, and you have to be able to conceal the darker areas with a full-coverage foundation.” She also recommends testing the shade on your neck and chest, as your face is usually a different shade.

COOL UNDERTONE
If the base tone of your skin is pink, red, or blue and the veins on the inside of your wrist appear blue...You have cool undertones. 

NEUTRAL UNDERTONE
If you have a mix of cool and warm undertones and it’s difficult to tell whether the veins on your inner wrist are blue or green...You have neutral undertones. 

WARM UNDERTONE
If the base tone of your skin is yellow or gold and the veins on the inside of your wrist look green...You have warm undertones.  

What next? Read on for our deeper skin-friendly foundation picks for every undertone. 

“With darker skin tones, it’s very important not to use one color for the entire face,” Moultrie emphasizes. “The color underneath the eyes, for example, can be different than the color on the chin.” Miles suggests using multiple shades: Match the inner part of the face with one foundation, then match the outer portion with another, blending the two where they meet with your hands or a Beautyblender. For those with relatively even complexions, he recommends using a corrective brightening product on the outer edge of the face in lieu of a second foundation. “The Nars Radiant Creamy Concealer is perfect because it provides extra coverage for spot treating,” notes Miles.  

Women of all skin tones most often benefit from using a different shade of face makeup when the warmer months come around. (A unique challenge for darker complexions is that using winter makeup in summer and early fall can make skin appear ashy.) No matter the season, Steimberg suggests prepping with skincare so foundation appears smoother, lighter, and softer. “You can mix the foundation with a moisturizer and use less of a color so it looks more natural,” she adds.

for deep
skintones

a few of our favorite formulas

1

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5

This is the perfect solution if you have a yellow or golden base and you like to choose between sheer, medium, or heavy coverage. 

2

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5

A great option for neutral undertones that favor a matte finish and a subtle shimmer.

3

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5

Lightweight and buildable, this gel-based formula is perfect for cool undertones that want an antioxidant (rosemary, green tea, and rice bran) boost.

4

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5

Neutral undertones should take advantage of this water-light foundation that will have you emerging with a post-spa–like glow.

5

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5

A favorite for red carpet, this creamy foundation is best suited for warm undertones, whether you prefer a sheer finish or heavy coverage. 

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