The complexity of complexion

The complexity of complexion

The lack of inclusivity in the make-up world has been a hot topic for a while now, but ever since Rihanna launched her Fenty Beauty line last year, releasing 40 shades of foundation ranging from very pale to very deep, never have the voices been louder. And rightfully so - many make-up companies still offer shade ranges that leave much to be desired, often including only one or two token shades for dark to deep skin tones, if any at all.

Finding one's exact shade of foundation is a fairly recent trend. Throughout the decades, foundation was widely used to give one's skin whatever complexion was on trend, and a deep complexion was never even acknowledged. As the cosmetic industry grows and the trends in make-up evolve, having at least one foundation that matches one's skin tone has become part of the basics of everyone's personal makeup arsenal. Unfortunately for people of deeper complexions, that may have to involve several different foundations and a lot of mixing for a close-enough shade match.

It shouldn't come as a surprise that formulations have evolved to accommodate those of skin tones on the lighter end of the spectrum, which are mixed by adding colourants to a white base. As we go deeper into the spectrum, the white must disappear, and the colourants become dominant. A tailored mixture of red, yellow and blue, which will vary according to richness and undertone. Deeper shades of foundation rely heavily on undertones, and for that reason, they require a thorough understanding of colour theory to be mixed properly.

Undertones are important when it comes to foundation. We're usually told we should find out whether our skin's undertones are cool (pink), warm (yellow) or neutral (in-between) and choose our foundation accordingly. The problem here is that as foundations get deeper, the pinks become reds and the yellows become green/gold - and, according to colour theory, red is decidedly warmer than yellow, green or gold. And green is definitely a cool colour. Look for pink in a deep skin tone and you won't find any, and that is because these categories weren't made with deeper complexions in mind. Why should a deep, red-based foundation be considered a cool-tone just because a version of the same foundation with more white mixed into it looks pink?

While this is the standard way we classify subtle skin tone differences, every brand has their own system regardless of how extensive is the shade range they offer, making matters all the more confusing for the average consumer.

So, I recommend tossing all those ideas aside, and just looking at the colours on your skin! Simple. If you're someone who wears make-up, you have probably noticed already if your skin is particularly pink, red, yellow, green or golden. So I would recommend that you go to a store that carries a lot of variety - not so simple, if your skin tone usually isn't catered to, you also have to take into consideration that a lot of retailers only stock a few light to medium shades from each brand. Choose a few shades that could possibly match and ask for samples. Blend them side by side on your cheeks and look at them in natural lighting to see which one is a good average between the varying tones on your face, neck and chest and will harmonize well with your overall skin tone.

At a higher price point, it's easier to find brands with extensive shade ranges. Like Fenty Beauty, there's Bobbi Brown, Lancôme, Nars, Cover FX, Make Up For Ever, MAC, and a few others. As for more affordable brands, the choice becomes more limited but No7, Sleek Makeup, L'Oreal's True Match range, LA Girl, and Nyx all offer very good gradients of colour. Nyx also has their Pro Foundation Mixers, not just in white! So if you have a hard time finding your shade and are looking for something to adjust the undertone or make your foundations darker, it might be a great investment.

While it's impossible to cater to every single nuance in skin tone, there is absolutely no excuse for makeup brands and retailers not to offer a complete gradient of light to deep. There is also no excuse for a makeup professional not to carry deeper skin tones in their kit, a problem that is also very real. It's so common that I always get asked about it before a job where I will have to do make-up on people of a darker complexion, a lot of the times by the people I will be doing the make-up on. Not being considered is something no one should have to get used to!

 

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