When we considered which expert to reach out to for a story on foundation tips for darker skin tones, one name immediately sprung to mind: Nick Barose. For the unschooled, Barose is most widely celebrated for being the man behind Lupita Nyong’o’s stunning red-carpet makeup looks, but he’s also worked with everyone from Zoe Saldana to Gugu Mbatha-Raw to Laverne Cox, not to mention he got his start in the industry by assisting the legendary Kevyn Aucoin.
Here’s the thing about dark foundation shades: There aren’t that many of them (something we really hope cosmetics companies start to change in the future). That means most women usually just give up altogether and stick to their sheer SPF, or end up wearing the wrong shade. To help solve this conundrum, we asked Barose to share his best tips on working with what we’ve got. From choosing the right shade, proper application technique, and favorite product picks, keep scrolling for five game-changing foundation tips for dark complexions!
When it comes to foundation formulas, Barose says he prefers liquid over powder. “It lets the skin peek through, so it doesn’t look like a mask,” he explains. Barose warns that one of the most common mistakes women with darker complexions make is trying to make their foundation too matte, which he says can end up looking cake-y and unnatural. “Dark skin has its own magical glow, so sometimes when foundation or powder is too matte, it can look strange even if the shade is correct,” he explains. “I don’t think most women want to wear foundation to look like they are wearing foundation. You just want your skin to look great!”
When it comes to choosing the right shade of foundation, Barose suggests ditching the notion of matching it to your skin tone perfectly. “In general, if you get the undertones right, it’ll work,” he says. “On really dark skin, normally I go for more orange-y [undertones] than anything too yellow, which will turn gray, and anything too red, which will look red.”
On the red carpet, Barose usually mixes two or more shades together for the perfect coverage, but he acknowledges most women might not have this luxury. “Just make sure the shade you pick blends into your jawline and isn’t too dark,” he says. “It should make your face glow.”
Speaking of glow, Barose says that darker complexions can be difficult to match because any formula too matte can look cake-y, while glow-inducing products can appear greasy. “Always start on the matte side,” he suggests. “Dark skin tones reflect light, so you’ll still look glowy even if you’re somewhat matte. Embrace your natural glow!”
If you simply can’t let go of powder, he suggests MAC’s Blot Powder ($26) in Dark and Deep Dark, Black Opal’s Invisible Oil Blocking Loose Powder ($9), and Chanel’s Les Beiges ($58) in shades 50 to 70 (it’s his go-to when getting Mbatha-Raw for a big event). “Mally Beauty’s Face Defender ($40) is another great product to tone down shine without looking powdery,” he says.
Barose was full of recommendations when it came to the best foundations and concealers for dark complexions. “For under the eyes, I swear by MAC’s Studio Conceal and Correct Palette ($40),” he shares. “I also use Laura Mercier’s Secret Camouflage Palette ($34) in shades 5 through 8 a lot.” For a natural, on-the-go touch-up, he recommends Surratt’s Beauty Concealer ($50) in shades 6 through 8.
For foundations, he reaches for MAC’s Matchmaster Foundation SPF 15 ($35), as well as Lancôme’s Tiente Idole Ultra 24H ($46) and Tient Miracles ($43), which he says are his go-to picks for Nyong’o’s red-carpet appearances.
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