I asked makeup artists to find my perfect foundation match, and of course it went horribly wrong
Have you people ever even met a black person before?
by Ari Bines
I know the celebrated launch of Fenty Beauty and it's 294924 shades might have you convinced otherwise, but trying to find a matching foundation shade for darker skin is still hard. While we're basically swimming in thousands of versions of beige, I basically have a better chance of sleeping with every guy in the Babe Bracket than finding a perfect match at Sephora.
The problem isn't necissarily the colors, though. They exist (kind of) but makeup artists and employees usually have no idea how to match women of color.
'Sephora' needs to step up their game & hire more dark skin workers .. can't have little miss Lucy tryna match my 'Fenty foundation' shade 🙄 pic.twitter.com/9S5Obwerwg
— efuaPanyin🇬🇭 (@thetwinvalery) September 10, 2017
But I'm always up for a good experiment.
I went to the employees of MAC, NYX, Ulta and department store brand counters to see if anyone was properly trained on how to match a person of color. Let's begin:
Before the hunt, I took a pic of my foundationless forearm
Before executing my plan to test every so-called beauty expert, I first had to take a look at what my natural complexion was before placing a drop of brown onto my skin.
First, I started at MAC
Coincidentally, it was a Black man who helped blend a shade of MAC's Studio Sculpt Broad Spectrum foundation in NC50 across my jawline. I was impressed with the result because he applied the makeup with a 99 cent sponge instead of a professional MAC studio brush. He blended it right into my sideburns, and voila!
Alright, checkmate, MAC. I was pleasantly surprised, but I guess it's no surprise one deeper-toned makeup addict could help another. However, things quickly got dicey when I dashed to the next location.
Then I made my way to the NYX cosmetics flagship
The one makeup artist available was evidently unaware I was darker than a brown paper bag because she paired me with a foundation shade that was practically the same color as my coat.
I'm not sure what orientation is like for a new beauty expert in the retail industry, but I'm convinced new employees don't practice color matching on anyone darker than peanut butter. In what world is that yellow stripe on my arm a match?
I braced for battle as I entered Sephora
Anytime you go to Sephora, you should prepare for war because you'll be fighting to the death for an associate's attention. I went to various beauty kiosks because I had an inkling that many wouldn't be carrying my shade—if any Black tones at all.
First, I took a chance on the world-renowned Anastasia Beverly Hills
People were going apeshit when ABH launched a spread of darker foundation colors but when I asked an employee to match me, none of their suggestions had any affiliation to my Black ass. These colors might even be too light for fucking Rachel Dolezal.
The Sephora specialist said "fuck it" and just handed me ABH's darkest colors, not even applying any of them to my actual face. Thanks girl, love you too.
NARS liquid foundation was…interesting
I attempted an application of NARS Sheer Glow Foundation because my (light-skinned) friends had been raving about it nonstop. I applied New Guinea, the darkest shade they had in-stock and the second-darkest shade in the entire line. This is what it looks like in the bottle:
Unfortunately, I came out looking having a reverse sun burn. Yes, Black people tan, too ya'll.
The sad part about going through NARS collection was that most shades were for white women. There were only about three shades even remotely representative of me, and most were completely out of stock while there was significant backstock of the dozen-plus white shades.
Finally, I tried the much-laude Fenty foundation
Robyn Rihanna Fenty has reached legend status for her super-inclusive foundation range. But while Rih knew what we needed, the Sephora employees decidedly didn't.
When I finally found a display that wasn't trashed with a completely sold-out ethic section, the associate at the kiosk recommended Fenty's warm shade in 450.
Just when I thought I had finally met my match (literally), the color was hella red for me. The specialist who helped me might as well have passed me a red crayon and told me to go wild.
Next, I headed to the holy grail of makeup—Ulta
I had high expectations going into Ulta as they offer customers both drugstore and high-end makeup. They seem to really know what the people want, right? Yeah, not so much.
First, one of the Ulta staffers gave me Urban Decay's Naked Skin's liquid foundation in shade 9.75 to try on, but it was super sheer and didn't match any of the other tones in my face. Plus, creasing started the minute it was applied:
So, then I took a chance on Bare Minerals' BarePro, and the speacialist pretty much smeared mud on my face. At first glance, I thought my problem would be that the color would be too red (again), but the color was just way too dark:
While some associates spattered colors onto my face that were far from my skin tone, the Ulta trip wasn't a complete failure. One girl was able to recommend me a shade that actually looked like a winner.
She used a Becca foundation on me in the shade Sienna:
The minute she started blending it into my skin, I wanted to cry. This was the first time I'd ever been to a makeup retailer and the color actually made me look natural and even-toned. Once pay day comes, I'm snatching this foundation from the shelf ASAP.
Once I finished at Ulta, I tried Sephora ooone more time
I wanted to see how different the employee recommendations would be if I went to a Sephora in my own hood rather than one downtown.
One employee raved about Lancome's Ultra Wear. She grabbed me the shade in 555C…and I had a 5 o'clock at 3 in the afternoon:
By this time, I was over it and ready to accept the fact that I'd have to spend $40 on the Becca foundation that worked.
A particularly persuasive associate got me to try my last attempt was Kat Von D's makeup and selected the shade deep neutral for me.
While that was the most generic name of a foundation I'd heard of and desperately wanted to write off, it turned out to be a decent look on me:
Surprisingly, this foundation gave me just the right amount of coverage for my discoloration while staying true to my shade of brown. Who knew a white woman's makeup would work for colored girls?!
One of the craziest things about conducting this research was the fact that most employees just looked at the bottle and tried to guess from there. It was clear they didn't have a lot of experience applying makeup to women of color, and it showed in every aspect of our interaction — and it might be because we've known forever that most things in that store won't match us anyway.
Beauty specialists could definitely use another lesson in customer service because they're making me look like I willfully participate it whiteface. That said, at least I know where to not spend my paycheck this Friday.