Shades for Days: 12 of the Best Foundations for Dark Skin

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Byrdie / Lecia Landis

Foundations are the base upon which you build your entire makeup look. But with an endless amount of textures, coverage levels, and finishes, it can be difficult to find the right foundation for your skin. Historically, shade ranges have not always been part of that list, making it difficult for people of color to find a perfect match for their darker skin tone.

Thankfully, many beauty brands are becoming more inclusive in their shade offerings, eliminating the need to go on a wild goose chase (or even mix and match multiple products) to find your shade match. Now you could truly say there is an all-star foundation out there for everyone.

However, shade selection is only half the battle in finding the perfect foundation. There are so many other factors to consider, including skin type (oily, combination, dry), finish (matte, dewy, natural), coverage (light, medium, buildable, full), and texture (liquid, cream, stick, powder, cushion), and the list goes on and on. Plus, thanks to the latest beauty technology, there are a slew of other benefits we can expect from foundations, from ingredients that impart a blurred filter effect to built-in skincare that helps address everything from oil control to anti-aging.

Below, we rounded up the best foundations for darker skin tones.

Best Overall: Estee Lauder Double Wear Stay-In-Place Liquid Foundation

4.8
Estee Lauder DoubleWear Stay In Place Makeup SPF 10

Nordstrom

What We Like
  • Long-lasting

  • Contains SPF

  • Doesn't settle into fine lines

What We Don't Like
  • Not ideal for dry skin

Who also recommends it? Allure and Who What Wear both picked the Estee Lauder Double Wear Stay-In-Place.

What do buyers say? 85% of 6,200+ Nordstrom reviewers rated this product 5 stars.

This foundation comes in a variety of shades and was created with undertone variations in mind. The formula is for all skin types, but the matte finish will be appreciated by those who have oily or combination skin. Although on the pricier side, it's worth the splurge because the foundation glides flawlessly onto the skin and doesn't settle into fine lines or wrinkles. An added bonus is the addition of SPF 10.

Coverage: Medium to full | Shade Range: 56 | Finish: Matte | Size: 1 oz. | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: No

Best Blurring Effect: Uoma Beauty Say What?! Foundation

4
UOMA Beauty Say What?! Foundation

UOMA Beauty

What We Like
  • Comfortable wear

  • Pump bottle

  • Long-lasting

What We Don't Like
  • Can settle into fine lines

This foundation is available in—count 'em—51 different shades, a true gem for all skin tones. The formula itself is hydrating, but it dries down to a matte yet comfortable finish. Plus, thanks to a special blurring technology, it can help reduce the look of large pores and fine lines for a flawless base. Say What?! is right.

Coverage: Full | Shade Range: 51 | Finish: Vibrant matte | Size: 1 oz. | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No

What Our Testers Say

"No matter your skin tone or type, the Uoma Beauty foundation can give you the customizable matte finish you've been looking for, all while wearing nicely throughout the day." — Celeste Polanco, Product Tester

Best Long Wear: NARS All Day Luminous Weightless Foundation

NARS All Day Luminous Weightless Foundation

 Courtesy of Sephora

What We Like
  • Long-lasting

  • Lightweight

  • A little goes a long way

What We Don't Like
  • Can cling to dry patches

NARS is home to a number of cult-favorite makeup products, and their All Day Luminous Weightless Foundation is certainly one of them. As its name suggests, the formula lasts all day long (up to 16 hours) with light-as-air wear that you'll barely feel. Still, it is highly pigmented and offers full coverage over redness and discoloration; one drop can extend across the entire face. Choose from 20 different shades.

Coverage: Full | Shade Range: 20 | Finish: Matte | Size: 1 fl. oz. | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: No

Best Matte Finish: Black Up Matifying Fluid Foundation

Black Up Mattifying Foundation

 Courtesy of Macy's

What We Like
  • Controls shine

  • Long-lasting

  • Lightweight

What We Don't Like
  • Shades don't match online pictures

If a matte finish is what you desire, then add Black Up's Matifying Foundation to your list. Through the years, this iconic foundation has been revamped to ensure an immediate mattifying effect on application. It comes in 18 shades, and we love the sebum-regulating and astringent active ingredients that help the formula look bright and just-applied all day long.

Coverage: Medium | Shade Range: 20 | Finish: Natural | Size: 1.01 oz. | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No

Runner-Up, Best Matte Finish: Clinique Stay-Matte Oil-Free Makeup

Clinique Stay-Matte Oil-Free Makeup

 Courtesy of Ulta

What We Like
  • Controls shine

  • Lightweight

  • Long-lasting

What We Don't Like
  • Can oxidize

Available in 20 shades, this foundation controls oil and helps reduce the appearance of excess shine—choice for anyone with oily or combination skin. The texture is a lightweight gel, and it delivers medium coverage over imperfections for up to eight hours.

Coverage: Medium | Shade Range: 20 | Finish: Natural matte | Size: 1 oz. | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: No

For extra mattifying action, apply powder over top.

Best Dewy Finish: Beauty Bakerie InstaBake Aqua Glass Foundation

Beauty Bakerie Insta Bake Aqua Glass Foundation

 Courtesy of Ulta

What We Like
  • Vegan

  • Long-lasting

  • Hydrating

What We Don't Like
  • Can oxidize

Drawing inspiration from Japan's minimalist aesthetic, the InstaBake Aqua Glass foundation is ideal for those who desire a dewy and radiant look. The creamy formula boasts full coverage and long-lasting wear; you'll love the hydrating benefits and the natural glass skin effect it provides—not to mention how easily it glides over the skin, just like a layer of frosting.

Coverage: Full | Shade Range: 30 | Finish: Dewy | Size: 0.9 fl. oz. | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No

Best Sheer Coverage: Lancôme Teint Idole Ultra Long Wear Foundation

4.7
Lancôme Teint Idole Ultra Long Wear Foundation

Nordstrom 

What We Like
  • Lightweight

  • Hydrating

  • Contains SPF

What We Don't Like
  • Can oxidize

This is a foundation, but it's so lightweight and hydrating that you might confuse it with a tinted moisturizer. We recommend it to anyone who's after sheer coverage or a no-makeup makeup look. As an added bonus, it's formulated with SPF 19, which is among the higher end for foundations, so you get sun protection plus coverage. Choose from 50 different shades.

Coverage: Full | Shade Range: 50 | Finish: Natural matte | Size: 1 oz. | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: No

Best Medium Coverage: Fenty Beauty Pro Filt'r Soft Matte Longwear Foundation

4.9
default image
What We Like
  • A little goes a long way

  • Long-lasting

  • Pump bottle

What We Don't Like
  • Not ideal for dry skin

Comprising a soft, matte, and buildable liquid formula, which contains pineapple and papaya extracts, this award-winning foundation re-defined inclusivity as we knew it with 50 available shades. But beyond that, it does a stellar job at diffusing the look of pores and smoothing out the skin. Oh, and thanks to the climate-adaptive technology, it is sweat and heat resistant, so you can wear it in any season without worrying about makeup meltdown.

Coverage: Medium to full | Shade Range: 50 | Finish: Soft matte | Size: 1.08 oz. | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No

Byrdie / Bianca Lambert

What Our Testers Say

"The oil-free formula evened out my skin, kept my T-zone matte, and the shade matched my skin tone seamlessly." — Bianca Lambert, Product Tester

Best Full Coverage: Huda Beauty #FauxFilter Full Coverage Matte Foundation

Huda Beauty #FauxFilter Foundation

 Courtesy of Sephora

What We Like
  • Long-lasting

  • Fragrance-free

  • Waterproof

What We Don't Like
  • Dries quickly, can be hard to blend

This full-coverage foundation does not disappoint, especially because the 39-strong shade range celebrates all skin tones and undertones. With a long-lasting, matte finish formula, it's packed with skin-unifying pigments that impart an airbrushed finish. Use it to cover up anything from breakouts to dark spots and acne scars with ease, and then get ready for your close-up—no filter needed.

Coverage: Full | Shade Range: 39 | Finish: Luminous matte | Size: 1.18 oz. | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No

Best Splurge: Pat McGrath Labs Skin Fetish Sublime Perfection Foundation

4.7
Pat McGrath Labs Skin Fetish Sublime Perfection Foundation

Sephora

What We Like
  • Long-lasting

  • Pump bottle

  • Vegan

What We Don't Like
  • Pricey

Offering one of the most inclusive shade ranges out there, this 36-shade foundation from makeup artist Pat McGrath stays in place all day. Apply one layer for sheer coverage or build up to medium coverage, depending on your skin's needs. Because it's formulated with high-purity pigments treated with amino acids, the end result is always smooth, and the infused diamond core powder ensures a luminous finish that's sure to get you plenty of compliments.

Coverage: Medium, buildable | Shade Range: 36 | Finish: Satin | Size: 1.18 fl. oz. | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: No

Best Budget: Juvia's Place I Am Magic Foundation

Juvia’s Place I Am Magic Velvety Matte Foundation

Ulta

What We Like
  • Affordable

  • Lightweight

  • Long-lasting

What We Don't Like
  • Can look cakey

Juvia's Place is renowned for its bold, colourful and highly pigmented eyeshadow palettes, but don't sleep on this affordable, full coverage foundation—a newer launch for the brand. Each of the 42 shades in this range is formulated by experts, so you can expect it to even out the skin, help refine its texture, and erase the look of blemishes in one fell swoop.

Coverage: Full | Shade Range: 42 | Finish: Velvet matte | Size: 1 fl. oz. | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No

Best Stick: Iman Cosmetics Second To None Stick Foundation

IMAN Cosmetics
What We Like
  • Easy to blend

  • Travel-friendly

  • Affordable

What We Don't Like
  • Small amount

There are so many things to love about stick foundations—easy application, mess-free carrying, and the list goes on. Stick (get it?) this guy into your purse, gym bag, or travel bag for easy access virtually anywhere. You don't have to worry about spills the way you do with a liquid foundation, and the results are just as good. After swiping the formula onto your face, use a sponge or foundation brush to gently blend it out.

Coverage: Medium to full | Shade Range: 14 | Finish: Natural matte | Size: 0.28 oz. | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No

What to Look for in a Foundation for Dark Skin

The Perfect Shade

Finding the color that best matches your skin isn't as simple as swatching a few drops on the back of your hand and making a decision. You'll first need to establish whether you have warm, cool, or neutral undertones. Then try a few color options formulated to that undertone on your jawline and chest to find the best match.

The Perfect Finish

Gone are the days when it was only matte or dewy you had to choose from. Nowadays, there's a finish for every occasion, from classic matte to natural, luminous, even Instagram-ready Japanese skincare-inspired glass skin, leaving you spoiled for choice.

Buildable Coverage

While there's nothing wrong with a one-stop foundation product, the magic words in foundations nowadays are "buildable coverage," which essentially means whatever's inside is like three products in one. They're formulated to be versatile, giving you sheer coverage with one layer, medium coverage with two, and extra coverage where you need it, like a concealer.

FAQ
  • Which foundation is best for dark skin?

    When it comes to finding the perfect foundation for dark skin tones, the ideal candidate will be inclusive of a wide range of shades, formulated specifically for your particular undertone (warm, cool, or neutral), feature the desired finish (matte, dewy, natural, or blurred/pore-perfecting), and provide the coverage you're after (light, medium, or full).

  • How do you pick a foundation color for dark skin?

    To ensure a perfect color match, start by identifying which undertones you have, then trying as many shades as possible on both your jawline and chest. However, you must also consider the amount of coverage you want, type of finish, and consistency of the product to ensure it also complements your skin type.

  • Should foundation be lighter or darker than your skin?

    According to makeup artist AJ Crimson, the face is not all one shade. "The biggest mistake women make is that they perceive that they're one color all over, and I think once they dispel that myth, they'll have a better and easier time in matching the foundation," he told us. This means many women of color may require more than one foundation shade to fully highlight the spectrum of their faces.

How We Researched & Tested

To compile this list, our team of editors and contributors spent hours researching the best products on the market in this category, evaluating their key features—like ingredients, shade range, or design—in addition to reviews from customers and other trusted sources. Our team also incorporated their own personal experiences testing products in their own lives. We then used these insights from our research and testing to assign a star rating from one to five (five being the best; one being the worst) to certain products on the list.

Article Sources
Byrdie takes every opportunity to use high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial guidelines to learn more about how we keep our content accurate, reliable and trustworthy.
  1. The 17 best foundations for dark skin tones. Allure. https://www.allure.com/gallery/best-foundations-for-women-of-color

  2. I just tried over 35 foundations—these are the ones I'd recommend. Who What Wear. https://www.whowhatwear.com/best-foundation-for-dark-skin

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