I remember the moment my mother said I was FINALLY allowed to wear makeup. It was the moment I had been waiting for. I was a junior in high school, and YouTube makeup tutorials had already become my good friends. I knew all there was to know about perfecting my wing tip and filling in my brows long before I even owned liquid liner or an eyebrow pencil.
My mother took me to the makeup counter at Macy’s to pick out four makeup essentials, and I already knew what they would be: foundation, eyeliner, blush, and mascara. I remember walking up to the counter and confidently telling the makeup lady that I would like to buy some foundation — I also remember being shot down seconds later.
“Oh, honey. We don’t have your shade,” she said apologetically. I looked at the row of foundations on the counter in disbelief.
“We have this really pretty eyeshadow, though,” she said, steering me away from the liquid life-changer I had excitedly come in to purchase. My mother used nothing more than compact powder and mascara, so she didn’t fully understand my frustration. She proceeded to buy me blush, mascara, and eyeliner, promising me that we would come back when my shade came in.
What she didn’t understand was that wasn’t the problem. My shade didn’t exist, and it was not going to come in any time soon.
For the longest time, I thought that finding foundation for my skin tone was next to impossible. It wasn’t until my junior year in college that I decided to search for foundation again. People assume that when you have deep skin, all deep shades work. FALSE.
My skin complexion is not as deep as Lupita Nyong’o’s or Khoudia Diop’s, for example. My skin’s undertones are very warm, and that went unaccounted for in the foundation department for quite some time. I tried countless colors and found something wrong with each one — too yellow, too dark, too ashy, etc.
After my failed attempts, I began to mix both drugstore and high-end foundations to achieve a somewhat tolerable shade, and can I just say this: I HATE MIXING FOUNDATIONS. Why on earth do I have to become a cosmetic chemist to create something that should already exist? Answer: I shouldn’t.
Lucky for me, I have relatively clear skin, so next, I tried solely using a finishing powder. However, this didn’t work for me when I wanted to achieve a full face. I always felt unfinished, which defeated the entire purpose of a finishing powder.
Finally, I decided to just go back to where it all began — the makeup counter. Only this time, the woman at Macy’s knew exactly what she was doing. After explaining my skin type and need for a sheer formula, she swiped a few colors on my jawline and handed me *drumroll please* Clinique’s Stay Matte Oil Free Makeup in Clove.
Finally, I had found my shade.
Me without any makeup.
Me with foundation on.
I’ve spent a lot of money trying to find the right foundation that accounted for my red undertones, combination skin, and hate for cakey makeup. It’s been a long and tiring process, but thankfully, the makeup industry has come a long way (although it still has a long way to go), and brands such as Make Up For Ever, Bobbi Brown, and Black Up have made it a bit easier for chocolate girls like me to find our natural finish.
Some tips I’ve learned along the journey?
First, pay careful attention to your undertones! Take a look at your veins to figure this out. Blue veins mean you have more red, pink, and brown undertones. Green veins mean you have more yellow, olive, and gold undertones. Cool undertones and warm undertones should be treated completely different when looking for the right foundation.
Second — and this is a pro tip — shop at stores where you can return open products that you are unhappy with. Sephora and Ulta are some places that allow this. This will save you so much money and frustration in the long run.
Third, swatch foundation on your jawline, inner wrist, and chest. These areas are the closest to your natural complexion and will give you the best idea of whether or not the foundation is a match.
Finally, be patient.