Several brands have expanded their foundation shade ranges to be inclusive of people with darker skin tones – making it easier than ever to find the perfect hue.
But identifying the perfect colour match can still be a challenge. “The best way to find your true foundation colour is to pick a shade that is nearest to your skin tone, then apply it directly to your face – if it disappears seamlessly and evens out the complexion, without changing your skin colour, you have found a good base,” explains make-up artist Ruby Hammer.
When it comes to choosing your base, consider your skin undertone, type and the coverage you are comfortable with. Do you like a sheer finish or do you prefer a matte look? Perhaps you are after something with longer staying power?
Your skin type can also help you decide. “If you have oily skin, an oil-free formula may work, while drier complexions or those with mature skin may prefer a more hydrating base – it all depends on your personal preference and priorities,” adds Hammer.
Make-up shopping during a pandemic can be tricky. If you don’t feel comfortable hitting the shops just yet, take advantage of the virtual shade-matching services and online consultations that many brands are now offering.
To help narrow down your search, we’ve tried a range of foundations from brands offering inclusive shade ranges that deliver on colour accuracy. We’ve considered coverage, finish and staying power across all skin types – here are some of our favourites.
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 to fund journalism across The Independent.
Giorgio Armani neo nude glow foundation
Best for: Natural glow
If achieving an even skin tone without looking like you’re wearing a ton of foundation is a priority, this base may become your everyday product. Enriched with hydrating hyaluronic acid and glycerine, it has a lightweight and silky texture that feels more like a serum – you could forget that you’re even wearing it.
Generously pigmented (it provides light to medium coverage) it does a good job at evening out irregularities and giving the complexion a fresh finish that allows the skin’s natural texture to show through. It’s available in 24 shades to enhance all skin tones.
Buy now £32.00, Lookfantastic.com
Gucci fluide de beauté fini naturel foundation
Best for: All skin types
With a line-up of 40 shades, the fashion house’s first liquid foundation offering caused a great deal of buzz when it launched earlier this year. Gucci recommends applying the thin formula with the fingers, but we felt the finish was much smoother and longer-lasting when buffed on with a brush.
A small amount beautifully diffuses minor imperfections and lines. It settles nicely into the skin, giving a natural, velvety finish that is neither too dewy nor too matte. Offering light to medium coverage, it may not be ideal for those, for instance, with stubborn pigmentation or acne scars to conceal. One caveat – it is subtly scented, so if you’re sensitive to fragrance, bear that in mind.
Buy now £46.00, Gucci.com
YSL touche éclat le teint foundation
Best for: Medium coverage
YSL’s bestselling foundation comes in a 30-strong shade range and has been revamped with the addition of mallow flower and marigold to protect skin from dryness and the effects of pollution. These ingredients add to its moisturising abilities, which last for hours without causing any greasiness.
It has a creamy texture that doesn’t dry off too quickly, allowing you to buff it in and move it around the face. One pump is enough to disguise blemishes, but if you do need more coverage, it builds well without feeling cakey. It also contains SPF22 sun protection, making it a great multitasker for those who are time-starved in the morning.
Buy now £36.00, Yslbeauty.co.uk
e.l.f. flawless finish foundation
Best for: Those on a budget
This affordable buy has an oil-free formula that delivers medium to full coverage with a flattering, demi-matte finish. It’s heavily pigmented, making it a good choice for those with stubborn blemishes to conceal. But, despite its generous coverage, it enhances the complexion without masking it, and the added glycerine keeps skin comfortably hydrated.
Go easy on application, as a little goes a long way. It’s available in a whopping 40 shades and the price tag is a bonus.
Buy now £7.50, Superdrug.com
Fenty pro filt’r hydrating longwear foundation
Best for: Combination skin
Thanks to an astounding selection of 50 wide-ranging shades, picking a suitable colour match in the Fenty foundation range was never an issue. But, if you found the original Fenty pro filt’r foundation too matte or drying, this latest formula fixes that problem, with the addition of hydrating grape seed oil.
With a soft, lotion-like consistency, the base is easy to blend and build. It provides medium to full coverage and you shouldn’t need more than one squirt to give skin a uniform look. It has a velvety matte finish that keeps shine at bay in all the right places, without drying out the skin. Its sweat and humidity-resistant formula stayed put throughout a vigorous HIIT session, making it a good option for the gym and the impending warmer months.
Buy now £27.00, Boots.com
Pat McGrath Labs skin fetish sublime perfection foundation
Best for: Long-lasting coverage
Developed by influential make-up artist Pat McGrath, this foundation covers the entire light-to-dark spectrum with 36 shades for varying undertones. The formula has a lightweight, milky consistency that applies like a dream. It provides medium coverage and is infused with “soft-focus” pigments that blur blemishes and fine lines.
It builds weightlessly and manages to retain the nuance of real skin – even when it’s layered up – which is no mean feat. You get a refined, “real skin” look. Another advantage is that it doesn’t budge, crease or make the skin feel suffocated, even with hours of wear. It might be pricey, but if you like your skin to look like skin, this one is worth every penny.
Buy now £60.00, Selfridges.com
Sleek lifeproof foundation
Best for: Oily skin
This oil-free formula imparts a medium to full coverage without feeling heavy. It effectively masks redness as well as blemishes, while containing “soft focus” powders that deliver a soft mattifying look.
Shine is kept at bay in oil-prone areas, such as the nose and forehead, and the inclusion of skin-brightening liquorice extract means the complexion never looks dull. There’s an assortment of 24 shades on offer and well over half of these cater to those with medium to deep skin tones.
Buy now £8.99, Sleekmakeup.com
Laura Mercier flawless lumière radiance-perfecting foundation
Best for: Boosting radiance
If you’re after a base that lends skin a veil of radiance, sans the shine, then look no further. This formula is laced with flexible polymers, allowing you to blend the foundation with very little effort. It’s also super buildable: you can switch from medium to full coverage in a few strokes.
It quickly unifies the complexion and makes tired skin appear dewy and well-rested. The added skincare ingredients such as hydrating silver ear mushroom extract and brightening vitamin C probably play a part in this. It’s also available in 33 colour options.
Buy now £37.00, Johnlewis.com
Charlotte Tilbury airbrush flawless foundation
Best for: Full coverage
Described as a “full coverage foundation with a flawless matte, long-lasting finish”, this base does exactly what it says on the bottle. It applies effortlessly and is easy to manoeuvre with your fingers, a sponge, or a brush. A single drop goes a long way and there is no need to build – it obscures blemishes, dark circles and other discolouration, leaving a matte finish that looks flawless, but not flat.
While it conceals everything, it doesn’t feel like a dried out mask, thanks to an infusion of skincare ingredients. It’s also long-wearing –it stayed put for a full nine hours without oxidising or the need for touch-ups. It’s available in 44 shades.
Buy now £34.00, Charlottetilbury.com
Urban Decay stay naked hydromaniac tinted glow foundation
Best for: Dry or mature skin
We recommend sealing oiler areas with a little powder for this product to stay put all day. While the line-up of 12 shades does not seem like a lot in comparison to other brands here, the range is pretty evenly dispersed among the light, medium, and deep categories.
This vegan formula has a light, lotion-like texture that is easy to work with and is best applied with the fingers. It has the hydrating benefits of a tinted moisturiser with a bit more oomph and pigment. Those with dry skin will benefit from the added marula oil, which keeps skin quenched all day. A light layer is all you need to disguise minor imperfections and it lends a dewy sheen to the skin without clinging to dry patches or fine lines.
Buy now £29.00, Cultbeauty.co.uk
Anastasia Beverley Hills luminous foundation
Best for: A natural finish
Although this formula veers on the thick side, it’s a pleasure to apply and allows you plenty of time to work the product into the skin. It evens out irregularities and sets to a believable and luminous skin-like finish that looked better after a few hours of wear.
This water-resistant base doesn’t require setting with powder and offers a medium to full coverage, without weighing the skin down. It stayed put for well over eight hours and there’s a medley of 50 hues to pick from.
Buy now £43.00, Cultbeauty.co.uk
Mac studio radiance face and body radiant sheer foundation
Best for: Sheer coverage
If you are on the hunt for a foundation to wear both day and night, then this one ticks both boxes. We like the buildable formula that allows for versatility in how you want your skin to appear. The super-light liquid goes on sheer and can be built up to medium coverage. When topped with a little powder, it lasts all day.
A backstage favourite at fashion shows, the waterproof blend also covers unsightly blemishes on the body, without transferring onto clothes. Relaunched this month (from 15 April), Mac has introduced 22 new shades, giving you a total of 30 to pick from.
Buy now £27.00, Maccosmetics.co.uk
The verdict: Foundations for dark skin
With such an array of formulas reviewed, it’s not easy picking a favourite, however, Giorgio Armani’s neo nude glow foundation comes out on top. It applies seamlessly, feels comfortable and leaves skin looking natural and evenly toned.
Charlotte Tilbury’s airbrush flawless foundation also deserves a special mention. It conceals the most stubborn blemishes, without caking or creasing.
If you’re shopping with a bigger budget, you’d be hard-pressed to find another base that offers fool-proof application and coverage as glorious as Pat Mcgrath Labs skin fetish sublime perfection foundation.
Still looking for your holy grail base? Read our guide to the best lightweight foundations for all skin types