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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
“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.
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