The Best Foundations for Caramel and Chocolate Skin

The struggle is real


Foundation isn’t a part of my everyday routine (and I know the same goes for a lot of us). That’s why you take good care of your skin, isn’t it? To show it off! When I do slap foundation on, it’s because there’s a reason–an event I’m speaking at, an interview, generally anywhere where I’ll probably be (ugh) judged first by how I look, or photographed a ton. (Like, oh, a wedding. Well at least for the photos part.)

As someone with darker skin who has lived in Southeast Asia most of my life, I’ve had makeup artists pile on foundation that’s four shades lighter than my skin and claim that the color will “oxidize” into my natural skin (which is when your color darkens over the course of the day; particularly true of oily skin). Hah! (Yes, oxidation happens but not that dramatically.) When you have dark skin, foundation shopping can get a little confusing. The variety of products available aside, darker skin tends to have more variation in color so it can be tough trying to figure out what tone you have, what undertones you have, and how to match them. It can mean a ton of trials, errors, and looking like you’ve had a romp between the sheets with Casper.

If you’ve never used foundation before and want to dip your tippy toes into it, there are options. You can buy something affordable from a drugstore that’s easy to pass on to a friend if you decide you don’t want it anymore, or just get a sample from Sephora or your local makeup counter. If you’re clueless as to how to apply it, there’s plenty of tutorials on YouTube (lord and savior of beauty bloggers). I’ve listed a few of my favorites below. My number one recommendation? Invest in the Beauty Blender. You dampen the sponge before use, so the foundation gets a little diluted and goes on sheer. Then, you have the freedom to build up from that base layer (if you want to!).

Foundation Application Tutorials:

1. This is a great 101 tutorial for beginners. It takes you through the steps from washing your face right to setting your face. This tutorial also teaches you how to use the Beauty Blender.

2. This tutorial is definitely for those who have more experience with makeup because she uses a variety of tools. If you’re looking for full coverage for days when you’re going to be photographed a lot (like, uh, you wedding?), this is a tutorial you should try to replicate. Of course, each face is different and you will only learn through trial and error.

3. This tutorial works for you if you have uneven skin tone. She goes through a very basic concealer and contouring routine too!

How To Shop for Foundation:

Finding the correct color and formula is the first, and probably the most daunting task. Here’s how:

  • Don’t test foundation on the back of your hand, or on your neck. Darker skin tones usually have a mixture of skin color thanks to pigmentation in different areas, and scarring takes longer to heal for us.
  • Don’t test foundation on your jaw or the back of your hand. Instead, look at your body as a whole and match it from the chest upwards. If you’re wearing clothes that expose your chest, test it there.
  • check your tested area in daylight.  I know, it’s tempting to go buck wild in Sephora. But step outside! If the color disappears into your skin without having to blend, you’ve got the right shade.
  • You can take it with you. Remember that you can always ask the beauty adviser at the department store or in Sephora for a small sample. That way, you can take it home and try the product using your own tools, and at your own comfort. Get as many samples as you can.
  • Don’t be afraid of returns. Most drug stores and big box beauty stores like Sephora have amazing return policies (contrary to what you’d expect), so if something doesn’t work, bring it back!
  • Shop around! You can also use the sample to find a drugstore dupe!

While there are heaps of foundations out there, here are some of my favorites for well, non-white girls:

Master_nakedfoundationThe Foundation: Naked Skin Weightless Ultra Definition Liquid Makeup from Urban Decay ($39)
Coverage: Medium
Comes in: 18 Shades
Works best for: Normal to dry skin
The Bottom Line: This product mimics skin, so it while it’s buildable, it doesn’t look like capital-M Makeup. As promised, it makes your skin look naked, which would work very well for those who love lightweight products. It’s not for oily skin, though, and neither does it work for those who want thicker coverage over acne scarring.


The Foundation: True Match Super Blendable Makeup from L’Oreal Paris ($9.99)
Coverage: Light to medium
Comes in: 33 Shades
Works best for: Normal to oily skin
The Bottom Line: If you don’t have $40 to spare for foundation, we’ve got you covered (get it?). This product evens out your skin, and feels very light on the skin. It doesn’t have much lasting power on its own, but you can give it more staying power by using translucent powder and setting spray to finish it off. In my opinion, it actually delivers better results than some of the foundations by higher end brands. It’s also great for anyone who doesn’t use or has never used foundation because it’s very affordable. Apply it with a damp beauty blender so it goes on sheer, and you can build it up gradually.


The Foundation: Matifying Fluid Foundation from Black Up ($40.50)
Coverage: Light to medium
Comes in: 12 Shades
Works best for: Normal to oily skin
The Bottom Line: For anybody who’s never found a foundation shade to match their skin, Black Up may just have the answer to your prayers. The brand caters to darker skin tones, so you can expect a cornucopia of shades beyond beige. It gives you a light matte finish, but the product is buildable.


The Foundation: bareSkin® Pure Brightening Serum Foundation
 Broad Spectrum SPF 20 from bareMinerals ($29)
Coverage: Light to medium
Comes in: 20 Shades
Works best for: Dry to normal skin
The Bottom Line: Maddie has raved about the foundation here, and I second everything she says about the product. While there is a range of colors available, the darkest may actually not be dark enough for some skintones. Also, you might have to pat yourself down throughout the day if you have oily skin (or you run the risk of getting shiny).


The Foundation: Cream to Powder Foundation from Black Up ($41)
Coverage: Light to medium
Comes in: 16 Shades
Works best for: Normal to oily skin
The Bottom Line: I’m not a big fan of powder foundation. I feel that it ages you because it tends to cake up in your fine lines, no matter how oily your skin is. If you want something that is compact, however, Black Up’s Cream To Powder Foundation offers a smooth, mattifying finish. The range for darker skin is also commendable!


The Foundation: Ultra Foundation from Face Atelier ($48)
Coverage: Light to full, buildable
Comes in: 16 Shades
Works best for: All types
The Bottom Line: I’ve used this foundation for years now and it continues to be a favorite. When I need a light coverage, I apply it with a damp beauty blender, or I use a foundation brush and build it up for more full coverage. What I love most is that I never need primer or concealer, and this baby sticks to me right till the end of the day. What’s also worth purchasing, instead of a whole new foundation, is their color adjuster (which you can order a sample of for just a dollar). They come in shades like Zero Minus, Zero Plus, Zero Plus Plus, and Heat, and help you adjust your foundation if it changes in the warmer, or colder months.

The Foundation: Fit Me Matte + Poreless Foundation from Maybelline ($7.99)
Coverage: Light to medium
Comes in: 16 Shades
Works best for: Normal to oily skin
The Bottom Line: The product gives you a light to medium coverage, and is buildable to create a more finished look. The foundation sets matte, so if your skin is constantly oily, you should give it a spin. It also helps that won’t even set you back ten bucks.

What are your favorite foundations for caramel to chocolate skin? Leave us your tips and tricks too!

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