In reality, I only feel one of the two emotions. Excited for the beauty, but not so satisfied with what’s available for my skin tone. Still to this day brands can release around 10 shades in total – if you’re lucky.
When it comes to foundation, the focus nowadays is mostly on the amount of shades and the importance of tone in this conversation isn’t garnering the same amount of attention. It seems as if, at times, many people are paying attention to shade ranges expanding, rather than realistically seeing if these shades match skin colours.
The issue with creating shades for shades sake only serves to tick a box, rather than make real change in foundation. Being of South Asian descent, the darker foundation shades available were mostly made for those with a completely different skin tone, and so I would be wearing a miss-matched shade without any other options. It was the closest I could get to my own skin tone, but being close, or rather not so close simply doesn’t cut it.
One of the crucial innovators in foundation shades and tones was none other than supermodel Iman. Having to mix her own shades together on fashion shoots and sets, makeup for darker skin on set was sparse. She filled a void in the industry, creating her eponymous cosmetics label in 1994.
“Now, every brand has 40 shades of foundation, but Iman Cosmetics was one of the first that changed the way we think about makeup. That will be my legacy, and I am very happy to be remembered that way” says Iman in an interview with Net-a-Porter.
Brands such as Fenty Beauty, the brainchild of singer and newly established fashion designer Rihanna, have followed suit, bringing varying foundation tones to a global audience. Riri leaves us waiting in anticipation for the next Fenty Beauty drop every single time. Within the first few years of the brand’s emergence, Fenty Beauty has launched over 40 shades all with nuanced undertones.
“It comes in a range of colours, I’m sure you’ve heard. 40 shades we started with and so there’s a colour for everyone here. The first woman I’ve seen put on makeup was my mum and she’s darker than I am, so to think that I would make a line that wouldn’t include even her, I couldn’t do it” says beauty mogul Rihanna.
For me growing up, M•A•C was one of the more accessible brands providing an extended and tonally different range of shades for people of colour. This catered those from African backgrounds to South Asian descent.
“M•A•C has always embraced diversity as its creed has been “All Ages, All Races, All Genders,” and inclusivity has been embedded in the brand’s DNA since inception” says Executive Director for M·A·C’s Product Development, Jaclyn Davis.
“From day one, the founders knew the artist community desired diverse face products, and while being artistic with makeup was essential, the skin-tone was the first element of beautiful makeup”.
Carrying the ethos of inclusivity with them, the cosmetics brand made a range of darker skin tones visible in a time before it was considered a trend. The psychological effect this has on a person shouldn’t be overlooked. More than anything having shades which match and fit your skin feels as if the colour you are is perfectly normal, not that you’re too dark or too light. You don’t have to have the added task of mixing colours together because there isn’t one made for you.
“In my experience, clients with deep skin tones are so used to ‘making do’ that when you actually find the perfect shade for them it sometimes leaves them speechless. One model I know walks around fashion week with a bottle of NW58 Studio Fix Fluid because it’s her shade and she won’t allow anyone to use anything else” says Global Senior Artist, Dominic Skinner.
Getting into the nitty gritty of creating these different shades and undertones, MAC approaches this from a holistic, collaboration standpoint as Executive Director of Development at MAC, Jacyln explains.
“Using our global network of makeup artists, we are able to understand different skin types, textures and finish preferences from all over the world. We also have some of the best scientists and formulators in the industry that are able to translate those insights into high performance formulas.”
“Each formula goes through up to 6 intensive testing processes to ensure safety and performance. Then we take the formulas to the artists and consumers to ensure they meet our standards from an artistry and aesthetics standpoint. Each formula is tested backstage at fashion shows across the globe, with our artistry team and with everyday consumers”.
The key defining feature of MAC foundations then is the research they put into creating undertones. “For us skin tone is an even steady progression which is why our 67+ shades move smoothly from fair to deep without any jumps” says makeup artist Dominic Skinner.
“It’s important to have a wide shade range because people skin tones are so varied with delicate nuances. If you go to a brand with only a hand full of deep shades then you are having to make do which isn’t fair and also will never look good. If the shade of foundation isn’t perfectly matched you can look ashy or just red faced which then will need other products to counteract this just to look like you did before you started.”
Foundations with differing undertones are becoming more prevalent, with Estee Lauder recently expanding their Double Wear Foundation range empowering women, and other brands of this ilk following the same path of relaunches, but this shouldn’t just be a passing phase.
Foundation is here to enhance your already existing beauty, not to be associated with disappointment and challenging your relationship with beauty.