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The term nude doesn't mean the same thing for everyone, and the boom in brands now offering foundation ranges of 40-plus shades is proving that inclusivity is beauty's new normal. Our Style Squad beauty guru Bobbie Thomas highlights the brands to know and offers tips to finding your perfect shade.
From drugstore to prestige: The brands to know
While she wasn’t the first to jump-start the trend, Rihanna and Fenty Beauty have helped put a spotlight on the need for more diversity and inclusivity in makeup thanks to incredible sales and continued customer demand.
This month, Flesh Beauty debuted — along with 40 shades of their Firm Flesh Thickstick Foundation — a portable, easy-to-apply buildable stick. And when all eyes were on Meghan Markle at the royal wedding, it was rumored she wore a prototype of Dior's new Backstage foundation, which also launched in 40 shades
Fenty Beauty by Rihanna Pro Filt'r Soft Matte Longwear Foundation, $34, Sephora
Flesh Firm Flesh Thickstick Foundation, $18, Ulta
Backstage Face and Body Foundation, $40, Dior
Since 1984, Make Up For Ever has been a pioneer in the beauty industry and offered up 40 shades back in 2015, while Cover FX takes pride in being complexion experts and began the brand to help patients with skin conditions. (Fun fact: "F" stands for foundation and "X" stands for unknown.)
Ultra HD Foundation, $43, Make Up For Ever
Also available at Sephora.
Cover FX Pressed Mineral Foundation, $36, Sephora
Cover FX Natural Finish Foundation, $42, Sephora
If you think 40 options represent a full spectrum of foundation shades, what about 50? Both Jouer and Il Makiage have as many in their collections, and in August, Estee Lauder will launch Double Wear Stay-in-Place Makeup in 56 shades!
Essential High Coverage Creme Foundation, $38, Jouer
Woke Up Like This Flawless Base Foundation, $47, Il Makiage
Double Wear Stay-in-Place Makeup, $42, Estee Lauder
And you don’t have to spend big to find your perfect shade of foundation. Two of the biggest drugstore brands, CoverGirl and Maybelline, have makeup collections with 40 shades for around $9 that aim to absorb oil, minimize pores and mattify. And budget-friendly cult favorite ColourPop just launched 42 shades of their No Filter foundation this June, while NYX Professional Makeup is set to debut 45 shades of their Can't Stop Won't Stop long-lasting foundation this August at Ulta stores for $15.
Maybelline Fit Me Matte + Poreless Liquid Foundation, $8, Ulta
CoverGirl TruBlend Matte Made Liquid Foundation, $8, Target
Also available at Amazon.
No Filter Natural Matte Foundation, $12, ColourPop
If custom makeup is what you’re after, Lancome has released Le Teint Particulier, a foundation program that goes beyond their 40 ready-to-wear shades to create your perfect match out of 8,000 options, plus three coverage levels and three hydration levels ($88 at select Nordstrom stores). Another personalized option is BareMinerals' Made-2-Fit custom foundation ($49), which uses photos you take and submit via their app to create a custom shade — no in-store trip required.
Lancome Teint Idole Ultra Long Wear Foundation, $47, Sephora
Made-2-Fit Fresh Faced Liquid Foundation, $49, BareMinerals
Finding your match
With 40 or 50 shades to choose from, how do you find the best hue for you? Drugstores often don't supply testers, which can make finding a match difficult. Luckily, major brands like Maybelline, CoverGirl, L’Oreal Paris and Revlon offer online shade finders to help narrow down your options beforehand, and most drugstores will allow you to return makeup even if it’s been opened.
In addition to in-store testers, Sephora also offers their Color IQ technology, which takes a picture of the skin in total darkness, allowing the tool to focus on the skin's physiology while eliminating variables that can distort a proper shade assessment. The tool is available in stores, but once your Color IQ is identified, you can enter it online and use it to shop a variety of brands and products including foundation, lips and concealer.
When you’re testing brands and products on your own, the jawline is your best spot. Remember that you want your face and neck to match, and for that color to match the rest of your body, too. It can be misleading to test on your hand or arm because those spots tend to get more sun exposure. The underside of your wrist where veins are visible is better, and can help identify if you have more warm or cool undertones. Remember to look for natural light, since the overheads you’ll find in stores can be harsh (they’re usually too white or too yellow). Find a window or even walk outside to see a few shades in normal daylight!
Try and give the foundation's formula an hour or more to adjust. The color in the bottle may not be exactly what it will look like on your skin; some products can oxidize and change color a bit when they come into contact with your personal pH. If you’re wavering between two shades, go with the darker one. You can use less and blend it more easily for a sun-kissed look, or buy both and combine them for a do-it-yourself custom shade.
And If you have a foundation shade you like but are interested in switching brands due to budget or discontinuation, for example, try Findation.com or Temptalia, which help in finding another match based on your current foundation.