Full Spectrum

August 25th, 2016

August 25th, 2016

When model Leomie Anderson re-ignited the discussion about the lack of products and awareness of brands for darker skin tones earlier this year, Warpaint set to work on unearthing the best brands and products to cater for all colours.

Leomie Anderson - Image Source

Leomie Anderson – Image Source

When it comes to colour range, it’s well known that the high street brands fail to deliver for the vast majority of darker skin tones.  We spoke to Rupert Kingston, MUA and co-founder of boutique British brand delilah, about the prevalent lack of shades.


Rupert Kingston

“I really sit in two camps on this subject.  As a make-up artist, the lack of darker shades in the UK market has always been frustrating – for years I had to mix lipsticks and even eyeshadows into foundations to get the colours I wanted.  But now, as a brand owner, I understand the commercial side of it; investing heavily in darker foundations is a risk as those shades tend to sell slower, especially if your marketing and imagery does not reflect those shades.  For many brands that becomes a vicious circle – the more foundations you sell in certain shades then the more you invest in restocking those shades, and eventually the darker shades all but disappear from your line up because the demand isn’t as great.

delilah is a British brand, we understand that British women come in many shapes and colours.  Although we only have 8 shades of foundation it was important to us that we had a good spread of colours – no more mixing in lipstick and eyeshadow!”

Looking at what is on offer, we have three distinct camps from which we can draw products.

The Colour Adjusters

These are the products which can be used to mix in with your favourite foundation formulas to adjust the colour, creating your perfect custom shade.  Cover FX have this niche locked down, with their Custom Cover Drops (£36) designed to blend seamlessly with your foundation while adjusting the shade.  There’s a good mix of shades available, including deep shades and olive undertones.


Another excellent option can be found right on the high street, courtesy of The Body Shop.  Their Shade Adjusting Drops (£10) are available in two options – one for lightening and one for darkening.  With each drop equivalent to half a shade in tone, it becomes very simple to custom-match colour.


NYX have their Pro Foundation Mixers (£7.50) which come at the issue from a slightly different angle, with different shades available to add Warmth, Olive undertones or Depth, as well as options to make bases more pink-toned, yellow-toned or paler.  We have to give credit to NYX as a high street brand for their range of shades in their base products – while it might not be the largest variety of colours, they have made a concentrated effort to include deeper tones.


The Dedicated Brands

These are the brands which have seen this gap in the market and decided to fill it themselves.  Black Opal is one such brand from the US, priding themselves on creating pigment-filled colour cosmetics and base products with plenty of variety when it comes to shade options.  Their True Color foundation is available in Stick, Crème to Powder and Liquid formulas to suit your preference, and you can find them on Amazon.


More readily available is the brand Black Up, which can be found in larger Debenhams stores and online.  The brand’s appeal stems from their claim to enhance dark skin tones, rather than simply trying to match them.  The Two Way Cake powder (£27.50) is one of their best-sellers, offering the versatility of both a lightweight powder and a foundation when used with a damp sponge.  Their double-ended Contour Stick (£29) also comes in a range of great colours for deeper complexions, without ever having to worry about the shades appearing ashy on the skin.


Fashion Fair is another US brand which has been around since the ‘70s, with its beginnings backstage at fashion shows and the inaccessibility to products which cater for models of colour – a problem which, according to Leomie Anderson, is still highly prevalent.  Their Perfect Finish Concealer (£15) gives you three deep colours to choose from, all with a soft matte finish.  The rich tones of the Beauty Blushes (£16) give a natural look and featherlight feel thanks to their mineral-enriched formula – ideal for subtly enhancing cheeks.


If anyone knows of the inequality of products backstage it is supermodel and icon Iman, whose own line of cosmetics have helped to imbue women with the same confidence she displays thanks to her vast shade range.  The multi-award winning Luxury Radiance Liquid Makeup (£23.95) is one of the brand’s biggest hits, winning rave reviews thanks to its gently hydrating, oil-free formula and lightweight feel.  We also love the Luxury Moisturising Lipsticks (£12.95) for their bold bright colours and, perhaps more importantly, nude shades which are properly designed for darker skins.



Image: black Up Cosmetics

The All-Around Heroes

Though they are more few and far between than we would like, there are a handful of brands which have a decent selection of deeper shades available.  While they do tend to be on the more expensive side, brands such as Giorgio Armani, NARS, Lancôme, Make Up For Ever, Becca and MAC have won loyal fans though their more diverse shade ranges.  Beyoncé’s make-up artist Sir John swears by the Giorgio Armani Luminous Skin Foundation (£37), which is a fantastic base for weddings or events.  Cover up in all colours with the NARS Radiant Creamy Concealer (£22.50), or join spokesmodel Lupita Nyong’o by trying Lancôme’s pigment-rich products – we love the new Cushion Blush Subtil (£28) in ‘Sparkling Framboise’ for a perky pink which is easily buildable.


Few brands offer as many shades as Make Up For Ever, making it almost impossible not to find a match.  We’re currently loving the revamped formula in their Water Blend Face & Body Foundation (£27), although for sheer spectrum of colour you can’t go wrong with their coveted HD Foundation (£29).  Known for their glow-getting products, Becca’s Shimmering Skin Perfectors (£32 for the Pressed powder version) are available in a variety of textures and shades to help create the perfect highlights, and their Beach Tints (£20) are available in fresh shades to create a natural, dewy flush of colour.  Last but not least, MAC are perhaps the most relied upon of brands in the UK when it comes to catering to skin tones. Whether it’s the vibrant hues of their lipsticks and eyeshadows, or their foundations going up to an NC50, people of all colours are welcome.

What are your favourite brands for darker skin tones? Comment on our Facebook page or tweet us @Warpaint_Mag.



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By Deborah Murtha

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