10 best foundations for black skin that deliver on colour accuracy and coverage
We find the formulas to flatter darker skin tones and leave you looking flawless
In the past, shopping for foundation was a futile exercise for many black girls who grew up in the UK. A typical scenario would transpire as follows: you’d visit your local high street in the hope of finding the perfect budget foundation that you’ve seen in a glossy US imported black women’s magazine. But alas, you’d come away empty handed as it was extremely rare that such products would make it this side of the pond.
Things have certainly improved in recent years. Premium brands continue to extend their shade range and high street brands are currently punching above their weight, vastly improving their colour accuracy and formulas.
Moreover, we’ve recently witnessed the emergence of celebrity as credible beauty entrepreneur: Rihanna’s success with Fenty Beauty has been nothing short of phenomenal, and renowned make-up artist Pat McGrath eponymous beauty line Pat McGrath Labs is allegedly valued at $1billion by experts.
Equally encouraging are the independent beauty brands created by black women like Florence Adepoju from MDM Flow, who are forging their own paths and showing just how much can be achieved in absence of a big corporate investors bankrolling your brand.
We have put over twenty foundations through their paces to present to you with our favourites. We tested a range of products from high street, high end and niche brands, considering shade accuracy, consistency, longevity, performance and finish.
Testers wore each product for at least a day and noted how the foundation wore, how they looked in different lighting and whether they oxidised. Here's our roundup of the best on the beauty market.
You can trust our independent reviews. We may earn commission from some of the retailers, but we never allow this to influence selections, which are formed from real-world testing and expert advice. This revenue helps us to fund journalism across The Independent.
Nars natural radiant longwear foundation: £35, Nars Cosmetics
The first thing we noticed about Nars’ latest foundation release is that it’s quite thick in consistency for a medium coverage foundation. Our tester only applied a quick pump, and the payoff was two layers of coverage. Although the finish is matte, it didn't feel cakey at all. This formula includes “skin recognition pigment” technology, which is able to identify your skin tone and adjust accordingly. We can attest that the colour match was spot on, leading to that “my skin, but better” sweet spot that all foundation wearers aim for. The foundation comes in 33 shades, 10 of which are suitable for black skin, which is quite impressive.
Shade tested: Med/Dark Marquises
bareMinerals barePRO performance wear liquid foundation SPF20: £29, bareMinerals
BareMinerals is still relatively new to the liquid foundation market, launching its first in 2014, having previously only produced pressed powder formulas. But this is a great all-rounder that matched our tester's skin tone perfectly, giving her complexion a natural-looking, post-holiday glow. The consistency is fairly fluid, yet despite that it adequately covered blemishes and it was at least four to six hours before a touch-up was needed.
BarePRO contains a technology called "mineral lock long wear", which blends pigments and lipids naturally found in the skin for colour-true coverage. It’s also hypoallergenic and non-comedogenic (it won’t block your pores), with the added bonus of SPF20 to protect you from harmful UV rays. There are seven shades for dark skin, but only two colours are darker than our shade (Clove 28), which is the only downside to an exceptional range.
Shade tested: Clove 28
MAC pro longwear foundation: £28, MAC Cosmetics
For many years MAC has been the gold standard of foundation for black and brown women. In fact, studio fix was the first foundation we started to use when our budget was able to stretch beyond high street brands. The new pro longwear foundation promises 15 hours of wear in any environment. We applied early in the morning and wore throughout the day without any powder on top, and didn’t have to remove any excess oil during the day. There are eight shades available for black women, and generally tend to be within the range of NC (neutral cool) or NW (neutral warm). The consistency is an ideal in-between of medium coverage. MAC definitely still has it after all these years.
Shade tested: NW45
Bobbi Brown skin long-wear weightless foundation SPF15: £32, Bobbi Brown
Out of all the foundations we tested, this offering from Bobbi Brown looked the most natural, and we attribute this to the brand’s commitment to providing make-up that enhances a woman’s authentic beauty. The finish is matte perfection: light in texture, but covering all marks and blemishes, while still allowing your skin to breathe. This is ideal for everyday use, and is easily buildable if you want a fuller coverage for special occasions. There are 11 shades available for women with black skin.
Shade tested: Almond 6.75
Maybelline fit me! matte + poreless: £7.99, Superdrug
Conventional wisdom tells us we have to pay a premium for quality foundation. However, Maybelline has disrupted this belief by producing a range that is shade-inclusive and offers a quality product at a purse-friendly price. As the name suggests, it provides a matte coverage ideal for our tester's skin, which is prone to oily patches along her T-zone, particularly her forehead and nose. It remained matte for hours after application, and the consistency is just right – not too runny, not too thick. You’ll find 13 shades available for black women.
Shade tested: 350
Fenty Beauty pro filt-r: £27, Harvey Nichols
This exalted foundation famously comes in 40 shades, quite a bold undertaking for a new launch, even one that comes from a global superstar such as Rihanna. What’s even more exciting is 17 of those shades are created for black women. Ironically though, our tester was initially quite sceptical about the shade they were matched with, as it looks a lot lighter in the bottle. But once applied it melted into her skin and oxidised shortly thereafter.
The consistency is definitely on the light side; if you prefer a fuller coverage, this probably isn’t the product for you. But if, like our tester, you love that “barely there” make-up look, you’ll love this. The longevity is surprisingly shorter than the other products tested (we started to feel a bit shiny around four hours after application). But the finish is so soft and silky; our tester couldn’t stop stroking her face, a skincare faux pas if ever there was one.
Shade tested: 420
Fashion Fair fast finish foundation stick: £24, Fashion Fair
We've always been a bit sceptical about foundation sticks, finding them to be a bit fiddly, but we're now converted by this formulation by Fashion Fair. We tested the shade Brown Sugar and the beauty of it is that everything is light: it’s dainty in weight, barely transfers colour onto your hands, and the product itself is extremely sheer in consistency, but still does a great job of covering blemishes. Due to the matte texture, it lasted for a considerable amount of time, around six hours. Available in 19 shades, all designed for black skin.
Shade tested: Brown Sugar
Lancôme teint idole ultra wear: £33.50, Debenhams
Lancôme’s popular foundation falls into the medium-full coverage category, and is ideal for those who want a “done-up” look that will last the distance. Our tester applied when my skin was looking a bit lacklustre and pimply, and it did a great job of camouflaging her imperfections. The product contains SPF15 (which is important, even for those of us with dark skin), lasts for up to 24 hours and offers an impressive 14 shades for black women.
Shade tested: 09 Cookie
Yves Saint Laurent touche eclat le teint: £35, Escentual
YSL’s bestselling touche eclat le teint foundation was championed by our tester for its sheer consistency that diminishes shadows and blemishes despite being weightless in formulation. This foundation must also be commended for its innovation, it contains translucent pigments that provide full coverage, but also allow for a natural looking complexion. Skincare enthusiasts will also be happy to hear that its enriched with vitamin E, and ruscus extract to improve skin quality.
Shade tested: B70 Mocha
e.l.f flawless finish foundation: £6.75, Superdrug
Our tester expressed complete joy when she tried out this foundation, as she was so pleased to find a full-coverage formula from high street brand. Only a small pump of product was required to achieve a full-face which comfortably covered her blemishes and skin discoloration. Another plus was despite the thick consistency, the finish was semi-matte, so skin didn’t appear cakey and felt fresh and breathable. This comes in 30 shades, many of which are suitable for dark skin tones.
Shade tested: Cinnamon
The verdict: Foundations for black skin
This was such a close call, but my favourite foundation was Nars natural radiant longwear foundation because it offered the best of both worlds – a full matte coverage while feeling breathable on the skin. This is closely followed by barePro by bareMinerals, which offers similar benefits but is slightly lighter in consistency.
IndyBest product reviews are unbiased, independent advice you can trust. On some occasions, we earn revenue if you click the links and buy the products, but we never allow this to bias our coverage. The reviews are compiled through a mix of expert opinion and real-world testing.