'The plight of the orange-based foundation' by beauty journalist Keeks Reid

Jasmine Wicks Stephens
I’m assuming everyone remembers their first foundation, right? Heading into Boots and scoping through each makeup stand, swiping the testers on the back of your hands until you settled on your perfect match underneath the bright, artificial lights. However, back in the day, no matter how perfectly you thought you matched your melanin-rich skin, your undertone was most likely a beaming orange.

Back in the day, if an affordable high street brand had a shade deeper than beige it was, firstly, a miracle and secondly, orange. And back in the day, who was I to question this? I was a 17-year-old little know-it-all with zero information for finding your correct shade for dark skin in the mainstream magazines piled high in the corner of my teenage bedroom.

The joke is I didn’t even need foundation. I had the collagen-filled, dewy, pepped up, even-toned complexion that today’s ‘me’ would sacrifice her entire enviable skincare collection for. I didn’t need foundation but, boy, did I want it. I watched MTV. I wanted Beyonce, Ciara, Cassie, Rihanna, Amerie… I wanted celebrity skin.

So, one Saturday afternoon in the summer holidays I took some of the money I made from helping in my mum’s vaccination clinics and headed to my local town centre, practically dancing down the aisles of Boots as I swatched the four or five available darkest shades across the whole make-up selection in store. Do you think I realised the horror of the lack of diversity in shades? No! I was a self-involved teenager on a mission for me and me alone. I settled on Dream Matte Mousse in the deepest shade, probably called cocoa or cappuccino or mocha and went on my merry way.

The year was 2009, we were all taking our digital cameras to under-18 raves, downing Red Bull like there was no tomorrow and then frantically uploading the content to Facebook albums for our m8s to comment on in text chat. ‘kl! Dat woz bare fun init!’

But I only have one thing to say as I scroll through my vintage pics 11 years later… ‘y do i lk so ORANGE?’

Orange you hoping to see change?

A lot of conversations are happening now regarding the shade ranges that are on offer from make-up brands and there is no denying that the growth in this arena, compared to 11 years ago, is great. Back in the day, on the high street my foundation shade was always the darkest one and now there are normally five or six shades darker than me. However, when it comes to undertones the progress has been a bit slower, and only now are you starting to see more brands besides MAC, differentiate between warm, neutral and cool undertones for dark skin, as is more frequently done for light shades in foundation ranges.

100 shades in a make-up range is sweet, but if all the dark shades have at least hint of warmth, isn’t that just as unhelpful? I’m not Terry, I’m not in the market for chocolate orange. It wasn’t until very recently I learned that I had a pretty neutral undertone that erred a touch on the warm side. So, luckily when I whacked on my Dream Matte Mousse it didn’t look totally ridiculous pulling the warmth out of the depths of my melanin, but now when I swatch a true, neutral brown (on my jaw, in natural light) it looks… *chef’s kiss*.

I have hope for the undertone game. I have hope that the way we moved forward in shade ranges, brands in the lower price point will create a more even spread of undertones that include neutral and cool, so Black women that can’t splash out on high-end make-up can find their truest match and slay. So, when we look back at our Instagram feed in a decade’s time (because RIP the days uploading albums to Facebook) we can focus on more pressing issues like, ‘why do I look like I’ve lost something in every picture?’ And ‘why do I start all my videos with “Hi guys!”’

You can find beauty journalist Keeks Reid on insta @keeksreid.

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