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Whether you’re a full-blown devotee with a weakness for Target’s beauty aisle, or simply makeup-curious, you’ve likely toyed with a range of different foundations. As the basis of most makeup looks, the market is inundated with an unfathomable amount of foundations—each boasting a different formulation, finish, consistency, coverage level, and shade range. And while the beauty industry has made strides in terms of inclusive shade offerings, they still have a long way to go.
For South Asian women, our skin tones exist in a wide range of shades. What differs in our skin and makes it so challenging to shade match is our unique mix of undertones. That’s why I consulted with makeup artist David Maderich. The beauty expert understands how to work with all skin tones, having worked with everyone from Indian brides to singer-songwriter Prince. “Indian skin is very hard to match,” says Maderich. “The bulk of Indian skin has a yellow undertone, but it also has a mix of red and peach. You have to be careful to hit all of those, or you’ll end up looking grey or pink.” Ahead, Maderich shares the 13 foundations he keeps stocked in his kit for his Indian clients (and friends).
Best Overall: Ilia Super Serum Skin Tint SPF40 Foundation
This is one of my favorite foundations for several reasons. It was made with warm and neutral undertones in mind, and the product’s reef-safe SPF doesn’t leave a grey finish on my skin. The dewy finish offers light, buildable coverage that perfectly melts into the skin. Because Indian skin is predisposed to genetic hyperpigmentation, the niacinamide in the formula is another plus as it visibly improves and smooths skin texture while you’re wearing it throughout the day.
Best Weightless: Benefit Hello Happy Air Stick Foundation SPF 20
Nearly every foundation in this line has options for neutral or warm undertones, so you can’t go wrong with any of them. The aptly-named stick foundation truly delivers an air-like finish on my skin. It’s my go-to for hot, humid summer picnics or beach days because it provides weightless, matte coverage without flaking on my dry skin and protects my skin from the sun. Plus, the compact stick makes it the ideal touch-up product to keep in your purse or pocket.
Best Satin Finish: Kosas Tinted Face Oil Foundation
Kosas’ line of Face Oil Foundations has various undertones beyond just warm, cool, and neutral. They offer golden and olive undertones in their shade range, too, which fit perfectly for the mix of peach, yellow, orange, and red tones that Indian skin has. The medium, buildable coverage looks flawless on its own, and I’ll often skip on my glow-inducing highlighters when I wear this. If wearing an oil-based foundation scares you, fear not. The acne-friendly jojoba oil in this makes it feel totally weightless. I have large pores around my nose and cheeks, and this non-greasy formula never settles in them.
Best Hydrating: Sephora Collection Best Skin Ever Liquid Foundation
We love the 50 shades this foundation offers, but Maderich warns us to make sure we stay away from anything with any pink. Instead, opt for the ones marked for yellow or neutral undertones and match it to your neck rather than your face. "A lot of my Indian friends have a lighter face and darker neck, and choosing a foundation with pink undertones will just make that stand out, so I always tell them that the best way to find the most natural shade is by matching it with their neck." This formula is infused with hyaluronic acid, and red algae extract, so it delivers intense hydration to skin that’s especially parched. It also has inflammation-healing sunflower oil, which my acne-prone skin particularly loves.
Best for Blurring: Milk Makeup Blur Liquid Matte Foundation
This Milk foundation has a rich range of shades for skin with red undertones—a rare and hard thing to find. "I use a lot of red pigment on Indian skin in my kit," says Maderich. "It’s hard to find, but the finish is really beautiful and natural." My sister wore this cruelty and silicone-free foundation for all of the crowded, Bollywood dancing-heavy events leading up to her wedding. It provided completely budge-proof coverage on her acne-prone skin. Plus, the blurring microspheres in the formula diffuse light, creating an ethereal effect that photographs beautifully.
Best Everyday Foundation: Laura Mercier Flawless Lumière Foundation
Consider this the perfect everyday foundation. It provides medium coverage and has all-day lasting power. "With this foundation, steer clear of anything that has 'cool' in its shade name," says Maderich. "Those will look way too pink on Indian skin." The shades labeled with neutral undertones have a beautiful glow to them that will really bring out the golden hues in our skin. Plus, the vitamin C in this formula gives the skin an instant radiance—a huge plus on the days you want to sustain your glow without touch-ups.
Best Full Coverage: Smashbox Studio Skin 24 Hour Full Coverage Waterproof Foundation
Complete with 39 available shades, this Smashbox pick is perfect for the days you want a full-coverage, matte look. It’s my go-to on days when I have a lot to do, as it looks so good on video calls and in photographs. It can be hard to know what undertones a foundation has just by looking at it, which is why I especially appreciate how these shades are labeled. Shades include descriptors like "warm peach" and "neutral olive," making it easier to find your match. Because I have such dry skin, I’m usually wary of mattifying foundations that tend to dry out my skin. This one is infused with hydrating hyaluronic acid and vitamin E. The formula also contains mattifying ingredients like kaolin clay and bamboo powder, which my sweaty T-zone appreciates.
Best For Oily Skin: Maybelline Fit Me Matte + Poreless Liquid Foundation
Maybelline's Fit Me Matte + Poreless Liquid Foundation has been a staple since high school. The increasing variety of shade offerings in this range is part of what makes it stand out to Maderich. "I’m so impressed by Maybelline’s formula and shade offerings," says Maderich. "They’ve been an old standby for many years, and I really appreciate that they added so many shades to their recent offerings." When I had oilier skin in my teen years, I loved using this. These days, I’ll typically mix this with a bit of jojoba or sunflower seed oil for a bit more moisture.
Best Natural Finish: Fenty Beauty Pro Filt’r Hydrating Longwear Foundation
Everything Rihanna touches turns to gold, and her foundations are no exception. Maderich is a huge fan, too. "I love Fenty Beauty and am so impressed with the line," he says. "There are so many shades, and they all have warmer, mixed undertones that are great for Indian skin." No matter what your tone is, Fenty Beauty has you covered. Their hydrating longwear foundation provides comfortable wear and medium-to-full coverage that still feels light on the skin.
Best Dewy Finish: Urban Decay Hydromaniac Glowy Tinted Hydrator Foundation
It’s rare to find a foundation with a radiant, glowy finish that’s long-wearing. So, as a dry-skinned girl, finding this foundation was like striking gold. The line includes entirely warm and neutral-toned foundations, making it a must-have for any South Asian person. Infused with hydrating marula oil and antioxidant-rich kombucha filtrate, it’s my go-to when I want to have a sun-kissed glow.
Best Spot Coverage: Bobbi Brown Skin Foundation Stick
This is my favorite product on days I want to cover up a couple of spots or hyperpigmentation rather than wear a full face of foundation. The handy packaging and dry formula offer a lot of control that makes it easy to apply and blend. While Bobbi Brown is renowned for its incredible ability to shade match, Maderich does make a point to mention this foundation is best for those with more yellow undertones (which most Indian skin has). "I love Bobbi Brown for medium, Indian skin tones,” adds Maderich. "They have beautiful shades of yellow for golden undertones."
Best For Touch-Ups: Merit The Minimalist Perfection Complexion Foundation
Merit's foundation packaging is super chic and easy to keep in your purse. I reach for it to touch-up throughout the day. It’s long-wearing and has a natural finish, so you’ll just need to swipe on one layer. The foundations cater to a range of caramel, golden, yellow, peach, neutral, and red undertones.
Best Waterproof Formula: Hourglass Vanish Seamless Finish Foundation Stick
This easy-to-apply formula was my go-to throughout graduate school when I needed something that would last from early 8 a.m. classes through to late-night happy hours. While I was dealing with stress-induced acne, I appreciated the coverage it delivered. The natural finish, along with its golden undertones, gave me a glow that combated the dullness of my acne scars, too. Throughout my long, sweaty walks to the different classroom buildings on campus, I used to get tons of compliments on my complexion whenever I wore this sweat-proof stick foundation.