We Found the Most Shade-Inclusive Foundation Lines on the Market

Maya Allen

You’d think that with the ever-changing racial climate of our society, the beauty landscape would follow suit and uphold diversity. For a while, many mainstream beauty brands excluded themselves from that narrative and catered their products to a limited number of skin tones.

Growing up, I’d walk down the makeup aisle in the drugstore and peruse the beauty counters at department stores and sometimes see two to three shades for dark skin tones. This sparked the onset of my long and drawn-out struggle with finding a foundation shade that matched my unique dark complexion and undertones. Unfortunately, many women of color share the same story and have dealt with this for years.

But it’s 2017 now, and it’s important to note the progress in expansive foundation shade ranges from brands who make an effort to cater to all skin tones. Inclusive beauty matters, and it’s refreshing to see lines with more than 30 foundation shades that speak to women of all racial backgrounds.

We’ll forever be applauding the success of Rihanna’s Fenty Beauty’s foundation line of 40 shades. Rihanna said it best: "Fenty Beauty was created for everyone: for women of all shades, personalities, attitudes, cultures, and races. I wanted everyone to feel included. That's the real reason I made this line." She can say that again.

Before we get into foundation brands, it's important to understand how to go about finding the right shade. We tapped celebrity makeup artist Malika James, who has worked with Gabrielle Union, Kelly Rowland, Lauren London, and more. We also called on celebrity makeup artist Meredith Baraf who has a star-studded client lineup like Adriana Lima, Lea Michele, Olivia Munn, Kim Kardashian West, and more.

James believes you should always start by swiping foundation on your jawline. "Women should keep in mind that we're more than one complexion," explains James. "Having a shade that matches and one that is slightly darker is ideal. Try using a warmer color along the jawline, then using a slighter lighter or matching color under the eye area. These two shades blended together will be your perfect match and add dimension to your face." 

The first thing Baraf does when choosing foundation is a visual scan of the face, neck, chest, shoulders, arms, and legs. "Your face really ends at your cleavage unless you're more exposed," says Baraf. "Your face can often be a different color than your neck, which is usually a different color from your chest. The top of your shoulders and chest are often the darkest tone on your upper body. Using the tonal info from those key spots, you can find anything from your perfect sheer foundation to your full coverage contour package."   

When choosing foundation, Baraf swears by natural lighting. "This will help you find the truest match," she explains. "Honestly, when I worked at the MAC counter back in 1996, I did my best to get my clients outside with a mirror to look at a three-swatch jawline test. Also, remember that based on your skin type your foundation may oxidize after it sets into your skin. Be sure to account for this too or do a test wear before purchasing. When you look in the mirror, check out both sides of your profile to make sure that the blend is seamless." 

Now that you're schooled on finding the perfect match, we think there’s no better time than now to pay homage to shade-inclusive beauty brands who’ve been down since day one. Let’s all continue to spread the message that there’s no such thing as one cookie-cutter “dark” complexion. These brands put in the work to go beyond the average two to three dark shades and created impeccable formulas that represent an array of undertones and complexions.

Read on for the 10 most forward-thinking brands with more than 30 foundation shades.

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