As a teenager, I remember hanging out in the drugstore with my friends swatching everything, and while they bought foundation, I secretly acted like I didn’t want it. Instead I would buy every pastel pink lip gloss and powdery blue eyeshadow on offer.. and wear them together! *Sigh!*
I used to envy anyone who could walk into a drugstore and pick up cheap foundation, powder and concealer. I’m not saying it was a good match(!) but shades such as ‘ivory’, ‘biscuit’ and ‘beige’ are much more suited to Caucasian skin than they are to Asian skin.
My mum’s entire make-up collection consisted of a couple of lipsticks and one blush and so she didn’t understand what all the fuss was about, but let’s be honest, she didn’t really want me wearing a full face of makeup at a young age either. And so I didn’t, but mainly because I couldn’t find anything!
Yellow undertones were unheard of in the 90’s and although I don’t remember there being as much choice available in the drugstores as we have now, sadly, I think it’s fair to say that it hasn’t really changed. There are so many foundations, bb creams, cc creams and tinted moisturisers available, with most brands selling more than one range. While it’s great that they cater for various skin types, such as oily, dry and combination, it’s sad to see that skin tones are still overlooked.
In my late teens, I discovered MAC, which I’d heard cater for all skin tones. I couldn’t have been happier when I was matched to the Studio Fix Fluid in NC42. I didn’t care about the cost, I was just glad to have finally found a product that matched my skin perfectly, and so I was loyal to them for more than a decade.
However, since starting my blog and youtube channel, I’ve been keen to experiment with other brands and find affordable alternatives for myself and my readers. I quickly came to the realisation that shopping at the drugstore for base products is still a nightmare, and not just for women of colour, I’ve learned that people with really pale complexions struggle too.
There are deeper shades on offer, but I find that they nearly always have a pink/cool undertone. I understand that it’s hard for brands to cater for every skin tone because there are so many types.. but I think they simply don’t understand the importance of undertones.
My complexion isn’t particularly deep; I would describe it as medium, tanned or olive, with a yellow undertone. Asian skin tones can vary so much, and I think that I am somewhere in between fair and deep, so I can only imagine the struggle people with darker skin than mine face when searching for foundation.
I wrote this post last year about my drugstore dilemma, and since then have recognised that L’Oréal is one of the better brands, well, at least they try. Their True Match range isn’t quite a ‘true match’ for me; the shade W6.5 is the closest match. The W stands for warm, which should mean that it has a yellow undertone, but it’s very neutral and, although it appears to suit my tone, my skin looks very dull and lacks that natural glow.
It’s so unfair as it seems as though these brands don’t want our custom and unfortunately, not everyone can afford to spend £20-30 upwards on a foundation. I’ve lost count of how many foundations I’ve wasted my money on, and to date I have only found one that is a decent match. I have also discovered an affordable foundation that matches my skin perfectly, but I’m sure you’re all bored of me raving about Kiko. Just in case you missed it, you can read about it here and here.
I feel that if they invested their time and resources into expanding their foundation range, this would be more lucrative for them instead of reproducing yet ‘another contour kit’ or neutral eyeshadow palette every few months.
I came across this great article in Stylist magazine that has given me a tiny glimmer of hope for the future, but I still wonder how long it will take for drugstores to wise up. It’s so disappointing to see that many of these brands have a bigger selection of shades in the USA (and possibly in other countries too). I have tweeted a couple to ask if and when we’ll have a particular shade available in the UK and I’m sure you can guess what the response was; “Unfortunately, we don’t have any plans to launch this in the UK yet” This is the problem with drugstore foundation for POC!
I should also point out at this stage that I haven’t tried every foundation that the drugstore has to offer and that I generally don’t have any problems with finding a good high-end foundation. Brands such as MAC, Nars, Bobbi Brown, Makeup Forever, Illamasqua, Giorgio Armani and many more have an amazing selection that caters for varying skin tones.
I get a number of requests for drugstore makeup tutorials, and I hope this answers why I don’t do many of them. Foundation was the first hurdle, but corrector and concealer is a whole new story for me. I don’t want to say that I’ve given up on the drugstore entirely, but I’m certainly disappointed most of the time. I have put myself on a drugstore foundation ban for now, but that won’t stop me from window shopping and swatching everything in the hope that one day I’ll make an exciting discovery! As for the other products.. I can never have too many lipsticks, right?
I appreciate that this issue isn’t often talked about, but it’s one of the things I wanted to address when I first started my blog, it’s just taken me a while to get here!
I’d love to hear about your experience in the search for the perfect foundation. Have you found any great affordable products? Please leave me a comment below or tweet me (@nishiv_).