It’s no secret that finding a good foundation is frustrating at the best of times. And for those of us with darker skin, the struggle to find a shade that actually matches our complexion is only intensified when many beauty counters are too often limited to variation on variation of beige, perhaps with the odd shade of “dark”, “deep” or “mocha” thrown in if you’re lucky.
As with all skin tones, the key to achieving a good base is to get to grips with your undertone. When it comes to dark skin though, we commonly find more pigmentation in some areas of our faces and less in others, so finding a shade that works with your warm, cool or neutral undertone, instead of masking it, will make a huge difference to evening out your complexion.
Thankfully, in recent years leading beauty brands such as Lancôme, L’Oreal and Estée Lauder have started to expand the spectrum of colours on offer to better reflect the diversity of the market. We’ve tracked down some of the best dark foundations out there and put them through their paces, to find out which ones give an even coverage for a flawless and true-to-tone complexion.
1. Estée Lauder Double Wear Stay-In-Place Make-up: £31 for 30ml, Estée Lauder
We all know that oily skin can put a dampener on your best make-up efforts, but Estée Lauder’s oil-free foundation really doesn’t budge. It’s a bit on the heavy side and without a pump to distribute it’s easy to pour out more than needed, but the brilliant range of shades and undertone options boosts its appeal, with more than 40 on offer. And the strength of its coverage means that you might be able to skip using a concealer.
2. Lancôme Teint Idole Ultra 24H Foundation: £30 for 30ml, Lancôme
Even when built to medium coverage, this foundation melts into the skin, enhancing its natural tone. There’s 18 shades in the range, and they’re pretty well distributed between "Ivory", "Fair", "Olive" and "Dark". Teint Idole glides onto the skin effortlessly - although we preferred applying with a brush instead of our fingers. It also sets well, without transferring onto hands or clothing and extra points for lasting into the afternoon, without any need to re-apply.
3. Hourglass Vanish Seamless Finish Foundation: £42 for 7.2g, Space.NK apothecary
Offering a line of foundations in 26 shades that cater to varying undertones, Hourglass could be the answer to your ‘not dark-enough’, ‘not-cool enough’ foundation woes. Although a little more on the expensive side, this triangular stick foundation makes for easy, precise application to particular areas in need of attention. It blends best when buffed into the skin with a foundation brush. Although we found we needed to apply a little extra than the two to three dabs advised to achieve an even, medium coverage.
4. Smashbox Studio Skin 15 Hour Wear Hydrating Foundation: £29 for 30ml, Smashbox
If you’ve ever wondered why Smashbox has such a dedicated following, this foundation just might be your answer. This member of the Studio Skin range blends into the skin without much effort and if it’s a full coverage you’re after, you don’t need to use too much to steadily build your base. It’s great for combination skin, having withstood the trials of an oily t-zone. The only slight downside is we’d love to see warm, dark and neutral variations for the darkest shades in the range.
5. Charlotte Tilbury Magic Foundation: £29.50 for 30ml, Charlotte Tilbury
Any product with ‘magic’ in its title comes with some weighty expectations, and Charlotte Tilbury’s foundation does pretty well to meet them. Promising “perfect looking skin for all ages”, this is a full-coverage foundation that’ll hide any blemishes. Despite being on the thicker side of liquid foundations, it left skin looking brighter than we expected. Added bonus for SPF 15 (crucial in both summer and winter, let’s not forget), however, a powerful primer wouldn’t go amiss to give it some added staying power.
6. Illamasqua Skin Base Foundation: £32.50 for 30ml, Debenhams
Illamasaqua may not be a brand you’re familiar with, but if you’ve ever tried and failed to achieve that coveted dewy glow that Lupita Nyong’o rocks on every red carpet, we found that this is a name that’ll get you there. Available in an impressive 26 shades, the foundation also works to soften your skin, thanks to a dose of Vitamin C and E. A little goes a long way with this one, so you won’t need to purchase a replacement too quickly. We only wish there were some extra in-between tones for their darker shades.
7. Dior Diorskin Star Foundation Spectacular Brightening Weightless Perfection Foundation SPF 30: £32.50 for 30ml, Boots
The super-light formula of this foundation means it’s easy to blend, without suddenly building to a heavy coverage. It feels like you’re applying liquid silk to your face and with SPF 30, you can be sure your skin is well protected. It’s a great choice if you’re looking for a lighter, brighter finish. However, a few extra shades to fill the middle ground between "dark beige" and "ebony" would make the range even more pleasing.
8. L'Oreal True Match Foundation: £9.99 for 30ml, Boots
This high street favourite blends well to leave a healthy natural finish that’s not often achieved with cheaper foundations. Having recently launched a campaign around their 23-shade offering, the True Match range caters to various tones on the dark skin spectrum. It also sits comfortably on the face, although those with oily skin might find themselves needing to reapply as the day wares on.
9. Bare Minerals BarePro Performance Wear Powder Foundation: £27 for 10g, Bare Minerals
If you're normally reluctant to use powder foundations, the versatility of Bare Mineral’s pressed powder might nudge you towards giving it a try. Slightly more laborious than it is to apply a liquid foundation, but using a light non-drying powder, means you really get to control how much coverage you build in targeted areas. You're left with a matte finish that isn’t cakey and the compact mirror makes for easy touch-ups on the go.
10. Nars All Day Luminous Weightless Foundation: £32 for 30ml, Nars Cosmetics
As soon as this foundation leaves the bottle, you'll notice that it’s first and foremost a full-coverage product. It comes out pretty thick and hides your blemishes as soon as it hits your skin. Nevertheless, when we applied the All Day Luminous foundation, it was indeed weightless as promised and left the face with a nice, not-too-matte finish. We’d recommend waiting a little longer than usual to allow the foundation to dry before applying any bronze or blush on top though.
The Verdict: Foundations for dark skin
Ticking our boxes for even complexion, lasting coverage and a wide range of shades for dark skin, the ever-popular Estée Lauder is a reliable purchase. If you’re looking for something lighter that’ll worth with your skin tone and still keep an oily t-zone at bay Lancôme should do the trick.
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