The One Beauty Struggle Us Black Girls Are Still Facing in 2016

7:23:00 PM

Photography: Amelie Rehm / Makeup by me / Model: Lebo from Max Models.

When there's 50 shades of tan but only 4 shades of face makeup for dark-skinned girls...this struggle is sadly still real.

Did you know that a recent study on the consumption of cosmetics in South Africa revealed that 1 in 5 black women still struggle to find foundations that perfectly match their skin? 

Jokes, I just made that up; but I wouldn’t be surprised if these stats were legit cause this still seems to be the reality for us black girls in 2016.

My question is how? When we live in a society so advanced we can literally bring back Tupac for a day remember Coachella? yet, whipping up a few extra dark-colored foundations is still mission impossible?

If you’re still reading this article, I’m going to assume you’ve connected with my struggle on a spiritual level, which probably means you’ve almost certainly fallen victim to some of the most disastrous beauty counter makeovers.  
Is there anything more disheartening than having your makeup done professionally and having to walk out the store looking like a ball of ash because the only dark-toned foundations available at the store were two or three shades too light for you? What’s crazier is that there have been numerous public outcries on this matter, but nothing seems to change. For example, runway model Nykhor Paul who addressed this exact issue on her Instagram last year in an open letter to the fashion world, in which she slammed runway makeup artists whose kits never seem to cater for African women:

‘Why do I have to bring my own makeup to a professional show when all the other white girls don’t have to bring anything but show up! Don’t try to make me feel bad because I am blue-black.’

As a trained makeup artist, I completely understood where Nykhor was coming from. ‘Til this day I still find myself mixing more than one foundation to create the perfect shades for clients or models with darker complexions because many beauty brands are still getting our undertones wrong.

FYI: Understanding Mass Tones and Undertones
If you’re unfamiliar with the terms ‘mass tone’ and ‘undertone’, consider ‘mass tone’ as the surface colour of your skin – so how you would describe your complexion (i.e. light brown, dark, tan, fair etc.), while ‘undertone’ is a concealed hue that lies beneath (and show's through) your skin’s surface.

Women of colour are usually divided into three undertones: yellow, red and blue.
Women with yellow undertones are lighter in complexion – think Meaghan Good and Kerry Washington; while women with red or blue undertones have deeper and much richer skin tones – Viola Davis, Lupita Nyong’o and Nykhor Paul are perfect examples.

So why are some of us STILL struggling to find our ideal foundation matches?

As mentioned earlier, incorrect undertones are usually the primary culprits behind grey foundation finishes. 


Well quite a few international cosmetics brands that are locally available actually produce their makeup in Europe. The problem with this is that most complexions in Europe feature visibly pink undertones and as a result, these complexions are then prioritised in their market as well as by brands; these are the skin tones that are researched or tested on and consequently catered for. Therefore, when it comes to producing faultless foundation formulas for dark-toned women, European manufacturers often struggle to do so. 

Another factor that may contribute to ashy foundation finishes is SPF. It's known that the higher the SPF in a foundation, the more likely it'll leave a grey tint on brown skin. However, there are brands that have managed to supply formulas that don't cause this – Lancôme being one of them.

So what changes are beauty brands implementing?

Some are actually listening to us and taking our needs into consideration – with brands such as Rimmel, Bobbi Brown, Inglot and Lancôme expanding their foundation ranges to account for a lot more tones of black girl magic. My tip? Don’t give up. Even though you haven’t found “the one” yet, it doesn’t necessarily mean that it isn’t out there. The cosmetics industry still has a long way to go in terms of providing for dark skin, but I'm glad this issue has been vocalised a lot more lately and is being acknowledged. As for now, try other brands that you're not familiar with and research; you might be surprised by what you’ll find. 

Photography: Amelie Rehm / Makeup by me / Model: Lebo from Max Models.
Below are foundations I've tried and approve of. However, in the future I hope I'll get to test out a few more because two hand full's of foundations is far from enough.

L'ORÉAL 24H-Matte Mattifying Infallible Foundation (R139.95).
MAYBELLINE Dream Matte Mousse Foundation (R135.95).
BOBBI BROWN Stick Foundation (R460).
INGLOT HD Perfect Coverup Foundation (R479).
LANCÔME Teint Idole Ultra 24H Foundation (R499) – which I used on Lebo in the photos above.
RIMMEL Match Perfection Foundation (R149.95).
BLACK OPAL True Colour Liquid Foundation (R255).
MAYBELLINE Dream Satin Liquid Foundation (R135.95).

Read more beauty posts HERE.

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  1. You really hit the nail on the head with this post. I'm an avid makeup collector and beauty blogger and I still get challenged when it comes to finding an exact foundation shade for my skin tone. I resort to mixing foundations which 1. is obviously more expensive and 2. a complete nuisance in this day and age. International brands are clearly missing the picture so I hope articles like this will prompt an entrepreneurial movement in our cosmetics industry (Africa) that will see local cosmetics brands developing and catering to the needs of the 'multi-shaded' African.