Cookie Policy Limitations : Foundations for Dark Skins - Untainted Magazine

Limitations : Foundations for Dark Skins

issue three : fear they neighbour

Now, as a nation, we don’t promise equal outcomes, but we were founded on the idea everybody should have an equal opportunity to succeed…

Barak Obama

There is no denying that women of colour got the short end of the stick when it comes to having makeup made to suit their skin tones. Caucasian makeup has far too long been considered the ‘standard’, with some high street companies even brandishing it as “normal”. WTF?! Beige is boring.  Trust me, if I only had to apply beige coloured makeup all day long, I would rip my eyes out or at the very least, look for a new profession. 


When it comes to untainted colour cosmetic brands, there is even less choice for dark skinned girls and boys, unfortunately, but I want to put this into a little perspective, because this is not about exclusion, it is also out formulation. The ingredients used to create natural makeup comes from the earth. Ingredients like titanium dioxide and zinc oxide, which are unavoidably white in their natural state. These ingredients are used for their adhesion properties and their ability to take on other colours in the form of oxides and mica. Oxides and mica’s are what give all cosmetics their colour and shimmer density. But it is these base ingredients that leave dark skin ashy and grey when applied to darker skin tones.

The reason iron oxides are preferable to pigments as an ingredient for products that sit on the skin, such as foundations, is because natural pigments (think beetroot) stain the skin, where as minerals sit on the surface of the skin, so it can be easily removed at the end of the day.

colour theory

You may remember junior school art class where you learnt about primary, secondary and tertiary colours?

 A colour wheel illustration primary, secondary and tertiary colours, as well the difference between pure colours, tints, tones and shades.
A colour wheel illustration primary, secondary and tertiary colours, as well the difference between pure colours, tints, tones and shades.
 By mixing black and white, you get varying degrees of grey.
By mixing black and white, you get varying degrees of grey.

You can make any colour under the sun with red, blue and yellow (but no other colours can make these three colours). Tone simply means how light or dark a colour is. You can change the tone of a colour by adding black or white (which, technically, are not considered colours).

grey scale

Grey’s are made by mixing black and white in equal or varying parts. The more white, the lighter the grey, the more black, the darker it becomes. 

Now you might be wondering why am I giving you a lesson on colour theory? Well, it is the only way I know how to explain how colour cosmetics behave on the skin. The darker your skin tone, the harder it is to add makeup that has a high concentration of white pigments as their base – and most makeup – untainted or otherwise – need white based ingredients to create a range of colours. The same goes for trying to cover up dark circles under the eye; if you use a light colour, it becomes grey, but by using a contrasting colour – generally the under eye area throws a lot of blue or purple hue, so by using a product that is high in orange pigment – it will neutralise the undertone instead of turning it grey. 

Equal opportunity

Firstly, black skin is (usually) naturally oilier than Caucasian skin, which is a wonderful thing, because oily skin the shows signs of ageing much slower than us pasty white girls. Besides the obvious blemishes associated with oily skin – which are actually caused by hormones that over stimulate oil glands, and not just down to oily skin – oily skin usually means you’re blessed with not needing to wear much makeup because your skin looks youthful and glowing, the type of look drier skin-types are trying to mimic with illuminators and highlighters.

Secondly, black skin simply has more visible tones and shades than your paler counterparts, so using only one shade of foundation doesn’t always cut it (unless you’re into that flat-as-a-pancake-look). We spend hours trying to contour and highlight our faces to mimic what your skin does naturally, often with disastrous outcomes.

At the end of the day, we all want what we don’t have. Society has said light skin is the ideal, which has sadly led to this awful idea that beautiful women of colour need to lighten their skin to feel beautiful, and fair skinned beauties spend hours in the sun trying to boost their melanin production and exposing ourselves to dangerous cancers, or getting those awful spray tans filled with toxic chemicals – in order to get our skin darker, because that is (usually) what makes us feel more beautiful.

throw away the rule book!

This formulation issue doesn’t mean that untainted brands don’t cater to dark skin. They do and quite frankly, some simply do it better than others, and are constantly trying to improve their formulas, as science and technology and new ingredients become available. Even so, there are times where we are still faced with a little ashy residue, so I wanted to share some of my professional tips and tricks with you to ensure that you, the beautiful black women of the world, do have equal opportunity when it comes to finding the right makeup for you!

1. If you have beautiful skin, don’t waste your money of foundation! Play with your eyes and/lips. Add bright pops of colour to the cheek for a fresh, fun look.

2. If you need to or simply, just want to wear foundation, don’t try and make your face one shade. Yes, it means you may need to purchase two, or even three foundations to seamlessly blend your beautiful tones. Rather than buying full-size colours, you can always purchase tester sizes to keep costs down. 

3. Start with your lightest tone, which is generally near the centre of the face on the cheek area. You will be surprised that many of the warmer colours on the market will actually work for you, even if they look too light. Next, take the darkest colour you can find (that comes closest to your skin colour), and lightly apply this along side your lighter shade. Go for shades that match your undertone, which are usually yellow or red. Using a damp sponge or a clean dual fibre buffer brush continue to blend the foundation upwards and outwards until you have a seamless look, but not a single flat colour.

4. If you find that the colours aren’t blending well together, add a little moisturiser to your brush. This will add some luminosity the skin and help eliminate some of  the ashiness by breaking down the foundation a bit more.

5. Admittedly, the hardest skin colour to find a foundation for are you ladies with blue black skin tones. I do have an alternative solution for you!

 Wilson Oryema for Hunger Magazine, shot by Alastair Strong.
Wilson Oryema for Hunger Magazine, shot by Alastair Strong.

I was on set for a shoot for Hunger Magazine and had to make up the wonderful Wilson. Truth be told, none of the colours I had in my untainted kit were going to work. Not even the darkest of my go-to Zao Compact Foundations would cut it alone. I had to come up with a plan, so I threw the “rule book” out the proverbial window and looked beyond foundation. It turns out the RMS Beauty’s Eye Polish in Karma is a perfect colour for the blackest or black skin – as you can see by the image to the left – or above – depending on how you are viewing this article!

have you seen our Melanin editorial, showcasing the untainted brands that are getting it right for dark skin? If not, best you head on over so you can see the brands in action!

untainted |ˌənˈtān(t)əd| adjective
not contaminated, polluted, or tainted: the paper was untainted by age.

UNTAINTED is a directional beauty platform, pushing the boundaries of clean, sustainable beauty. We are inspired and motivated by the Japanese philosophy of Wabi-sabi.

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