Foundation is one of those products that is notoriously hard to shop for. Like picking out jeans or bras, the process takes time, commitment, and patience. The trial-and-error situation gets even harder when you only have a handful of choices — all of which are typically nowhere near your actual complexion shade. Unfortunately, this is the harsh reality for women of color. There's a whole spectrum of "fair" shades on the market, while those with more melanin are left choosing between "tan" and "brown." (And don't even get us started on "one shade fits all.") But in 2019, makeup brands are finally getting the memo. We need more shades! It seems like every other day a brand is launching a new foundation range or adding more shades to an existing lineup. "Many brands are offering shade extensions catering to a much wider range of skin tones and complexions," says makeup artist Jennifer Fleming. "As the world continues to become more blended, there will always be work to do." Bobbi Brown, CoverGirl, and Dior are all advertising their 40-plus shade counts — it's what we like to call the Fenty Effect. But if it means we can walk into a Sephora and have options, we don't care who started the frenzy. We're just happy that diversity has finally hit the foundation counter in a meaningful way. Ahead, get some of those best offerings — which includes a 2019 Beauty Innovator Award winner — along with foundation-picking wisdom from the pros and their go-to brands for women of color. At Refinery29, we’re here to help you navigate this overwhelming world of stuff. All of our market picks are independently selected and curated by the editorial team. If you buy something we link to on our site, Refinery29 may earn commission. Check out the rest of the 2019 Beauty Innovator Award winners. UOMA Beauty Say What?! Foundation
UOMA Beauty disrupted the category when it launched earlier this year by taking a whole different approach to shade ranges, releasing a line of foundations in six unique formulas for six shade groups driven by the belief that different skin tones have different care and coverage needs.
"One of our main principles is celebrating individuality, and that is what drove the way we formulated our foundation," says UOMA Beauty founder and
2019 Beauty Innovator Of The Year
, Sharon Chuter. "Different skin groups have different concerns and needs, and we wanted to create a product with those concerns in mind."
UOMA Beauty Say What?! Foundation, $, available at
Ulta Beauty More Fenty Beauty By Rihanna Pro Filt'r Soft Matte Longwear Foundation
Fenty, Fenty, Fenty. It's the word that's been on everyone's lips since the brand launched in fall 2017. Consumers shout the name in praise, and competitors whisper it in curses. The debut collection started an industry-wide upheaval with a 40-shade (now, 50) foundation range. The full-coverage formula is especially
popular among Black and Latina customers
, who have struggled for years to find a perfect foundation fit.
Fenty Beauty By Rihanna
Pro Filt'r Soft Matte Longwear Foundation, $, available at
Sephora More Too Faced Born This Way Foundation
After giving Too Faced some tough feedback about its foundation shades, Jackie Aina signed on to help the brand with a much-needed update. This summer the Born This Way foundation formula got 11 new shades (nine of which were designed by Aina to cater to deeper skin tones). And of course, the darkest hue was a sell-out hit. "Most of my audience comes to me as the authority for dark-skinned beauty. I didn't want to let anyone down," Aina told
. "I didn't want to come out with shades just for the sake of coming out with them. I genuinely looked at everything that existed in the line, and I tried to identify where the gaps were."
Born This Way Foundation, $, available at
Sephora More Dior BACKSTAGE Face & Body Foundation
This formula has over 100,000 "loves" and four stars on Sephora for a good reason. It's lightweight, has buildable coverage, and looks like skin once you put it on. It comes in 40 shades that can be used on your face
body (perfect for pros!), and it won't ever feel sticky or heavy.
BACKSTAGE Face & Body Foundation, $, available at
Sephora More Cover FX Power Play Foundation
Cover FX's latest foundation comes in 40 diverse shades that are grouped by undertone. So whether you're golden, pink, neutral, or olive, you can enjoy the full-coverage, skin-like formula.
Power Play Foundation, $, available at
Sephora More Hourglass Vanish Seamless Finish Foundation Stick
This comes in 36 shades and delivers one of the most natural-looking finishes we've seen from a stick formula.
Vanish™ Seamless Finish Foundation Stick, $, available at
Sephora More NYX Professional Makeup Can't Stop Won't Stop Foundation
If you're looking for an affordable foundation that'll give you matte, full coverage, then prepare to be hooked on this formula from NYX. The best part? It comes in 45 truly diverse shades, so everyone can get their hands on a bottle.
NYX Professional Makeup
Can't Stop Won't Stop Foundation, $, available at
Ulta Beauty More Giorgio Armani Luminous Silk Foundation
This creamy foundation is a makeup artist and editor favorite for good reason. Not only does it have excellent medium-to-full coverage, the finish is extremely natural.
For those who are wondering how to find your perfect match, celebrity makeup artist
shares this application trick: "If you put your foundation near your jawline and it matches your neck and your décolletage area, then you’re in a good place."
Luminous Silk Foundation, $, available at
Nordstrom More Kat Von D Lock-It Foundation
Kat Von D has over 40 shades in her Lock-It Foundation range, making it easy to score your perfect hue — sans mixing.
Kat Von D
Lock-It Foundation, $, available at
Sephora More BareMinerals Original Loose Powder Foundation SPF 15
This line of classic mineral foundations was expanded by 12 shades, so you can find your unique color without excess trial-and-error. If you dig mineral makeup that smooths on to a creamy finish, this is your pick.
Original Loose Powder Mineral Foundation SPF 15, $, available at
Sephora More Black Up Mattifying Fluid Foundation
“The shade range is the real star of this foundation line,” says celebrity makeup artist
Tasha Reiko Brown
. The foundation also boasts some big benefits for oily skin types by providing medium coverage and mattifying without settling into lines or looking heavy. “The undertones are spot-on and you get a lot of pigment in a lovely texture. The coverage is buildable and sheers out easily when mixed with moisturizer,” she adds.
Matifying Fluid Foundation, $, available at
Macy's More Iman Cream to Powder Foundation
Iman — yes,
— has made it part of her mission to bring a more complete range of colors to her namesake cosmetics line. We suggest this creamy powder foundation: It's lightweight and you can easily build the coverage as needed.
Cream to Powder Foundation, $, available at
Target More Lancôme Teint Idole Ultra 24H Foundation
There are long-lasting foundations that slough off on your collar/scarf/significant other pretty much immediately. Then there's this 24-hour workhorse, which sticks around until you choose to wash it off. Also? Even though the formula is heavy-duty, the matte and oil-free finish is completely elegant.
Teint Idole Ultra Long Wear Foundation, $, available at
Sephora More MAC Studio Fix Fluid Foundation
MAC’s Studio Fix Fluid SPF 15 foundation is renowned for not only helping to control oil throughout the day, but also for delivering a matte finish in a whopping 60+ shades.
Studio Fix Fluid SPF 15, $, available at
M·A·C Cosmetics More Becca Cosmetics Ultimate Coverage Complexion Crème
Becca is well-known for its shade varieties when it comes to foundation. And the Ultimate Coverage Complexion Crème is a full-coverage foundation that doesn’t feel like one — basically, what everyone is looking for. If your skin tone is between shades, choose a shade lighter because of the full-coverage pigments. Or, you can always mix and match.
Ultimate Coverage Complexion Creme, $, available at
DermStore More Tom Ford Traceless Foundation Stick
If you're willing to splurge a bit more for the perfect coverage, Sir John says Tom Ford has amazing shades for women of color. "Both the stick and the liquid foundation called Traceless are genius," he raves. "He’s quite a modern man, and he uses multicultural and multiethnic women in his advertisements and shows. So, he took that global perspective...to start a cosmetics brand, which I can applaud.”
Traceless Foundation Stick, $, available at
Sephora Photo: Via Tom Ford Beauty. More Make Up For Ever Ultra HD Invisible Cover Foundation
If you're looking for fuller coverage, opt for Make Up For Ever's Ultra HD foundation. "This product is great...you can be anywhere within a shade or two of this foundation's range, and it just blends in,” Sir John says. "It’s water-based, not oily, and won’t clog the pores or sit in the skin."
He adds that today's options aren't the foundations of our moms and grandmothers. "Even if you’re super oily or dry, the products nowadays are skin-care based and have a philosophy of skin at the core."
Make Up For Ever
Ultra HD Invisible Cover Foundation, $, available at
Sephora More Black Opal True Color Skin Perfecting Stick Foundation SPF 15
If you're going to go with a drugstore brand, Sir John recommends Black Opal. At the end of the day, it's not just about finding the right foundation — you have to know what to do with it. Sir John suggests creating dimension in the face. "When you put on foundation, it sort of wipes the face clean," he says. "And, your goal as a makeup artist is to bring it back. You’re going to be playing chemist, highlighting and low-lighting — you’re going to lend your artistry to a slight contouring effect." This means focusing on the darker areas: the hollows of the cheeks, around the hairline, and near the eyeball sockets.
True Color Skin Perfecting Stick Foundation SPF 15, $, available at
Black Opal Photo: Via Black Opal. More Cover FX Custom Color Drops
If you still can't find the exact right shade of foundation (or your skin tone fluctuates slightly by season), these drops are a godsend. Use them to alter the tone of another foundation that isn’t quite right. “You can [also] customize your level of coverage by mixing a few drops into your serum or moisturizer,” makeup artist Tasha Reiko Brown says. “And because you can mix it into a water, oil or silicone-based product, it's wearable for any skin type.”
Custom Cover Drops, $, available at
Ulta Beauty More Clinique Beyond Perfecting Foundation + Concealer
With a natural finish and lightweight feel, this 27-color collection is essential for summer. Bonus: A little bit goes a long way, so this stuff should last you all season long.
Beyond Perfecting Foundation and Concealer, $, available at
Clinique More Lancôme Teint Idole Ultra Longwear Foundation Stick SPF 21
Lancôme is famous for offering lines with plenty of options for all skin tones, which is why we love the brand so much. With 30 shades and the easiest applicaton ever, this full-coverage stick foundation is a must-have.
Teint Idole Ultra Longwear Foundation Stick SPF 21, $, available at
Sephora More Kevyn Aucoin The Sensual Skin Enhancer
Celebrity makeup artist
, who works with Rihanna, uses this base to tackle under-eye circles, too. "And is not drying on the skin!" she says.
The Sensual Skin Enhancer, $, available at
DermStore More Neutrogena Healthy Skin Liquid Makeup
For another drugstore pick, we look to Carola Gonzalez, makeup artist to Kerry Washington and Uzo Aduba. "I love this foundation because it adds radiance and makes skin look healthy," Gonzalez says. "It has great coverage and feels light on the skin. The two shades I suggest for darker skin tones are Cocoa and Chestnut." (Fun fact: Washington's shade is Cocoa.)
Healthy Skin Liquid Makeup Broad Spectrum SPF 20, $, available at
Neutrogena More Iman Second To None Stick Foundation O.G. supermodel Iman
has been very vocal about her experience as a model of color in the '70s and '80s. Due to an overwhelming lack of shades offered by mass-market cosmetic brands, Iman launched her own makeup range — Iman Cosmetics. Our pick from her collection? This creamy stick foundation which boasts 14 shades specifically formulated for darker complexions.
Second to None Stick Foundation, $, available at
Target More Urban Decay Stay Naked Weightless Liquid Foundation
This completely lightweight foundation finishes matte (like your dream skin) and is available in 50 different shades, that play to undertones as well. So, if you know you have dark golden undertones to your skin or you have a hint of a warm undertone in there, there is a shade for you.
Stay Naked Weightless Liquid Foundation, $, available at
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