Expert Advice: Should I Go Darker With my Foundation?

By | March 13 2012 | 26 Comments


Q: I’m naturally pale but prefer to look more tanned as I’m freckled. I usually go a bit darker than my natural skin tone with my foundation. Whenever I wear pale foundation I’m convinced I don’t look as good as when
I go darker

“I can understand your desire to look more bronzed,” says makeup artist Zoe Clark, “but as a general rule make-up artists do not
use foundation to give their clients colour. We use bronzer and blusher to add colour as well as definition. However if you are quite freckled and your face is therefore darker than your neck you have two options: you can either lighten your face or darken you neck.

“The only issue with darkening your neck is how far do you go, is it blended properly and are you wearing a collar which will stain? Darker make-up than your natural skin-tone can look artificial. However although I will sometimes go a shade darker on my clients in certain situations, I am also very wary of what they are wearing and I will make sure it is blended to perfection. I personally think it is ok to go half a shade darker on certain skin tones, but be careful!

“You have to be very sure that you don’t look orange and your face is not darker than your neck. Ask your friends what they think of your make-up (but be prepared for honesty!). Also I would embrace your freckles and not cover them, as again you can very easily look caked. Pale can also be beautiful. Remember your skin should look like your own only better!” recommends

Cheaper bronzers can often deposit a lot of colour; they can also often play up to orange tones that don’t look natural or realistic, especially if you’re using them all over the face and not just on the high points. If you’re really determined to add colour to your complexion, then invest some money in a high-quality product like one of the following:

  1. Chanel’s Soleil Tan du Bronzer is a soft mousse-like cream that’s a classic for a reason. It’s easy to apply, build and because it’s siliconey in texture, gives a veil of colour. Pricey and there’s a learning curve involved due to the formula but this is the one all makeup artists rave about for the natural finish it imparts
  2. Bobbi Brown also does a great range of bronzers in about five shades that are tailored to skintones. Again, not cheap, but well formulated and realistic looking
  3. Guerlain’s Terracotta bronzers are fantastic. In Blondes and Brunettes, you can really match your skintone and get a product that won’t oopmpa-loompa you, but give you extra colour that will actually work for your complexion

Application tip: less is more so go slow and build up to a colour you like. It’s easier to add than take away! We recommend buffing bronzer on with a duo-fibre brush if you’re looking to add colour all over the face, rather than a kabuki, as you’ll be able to really control how much you’re layering, and keep it looking realistic. Mac do great duo fibres, but Gosh’s one is ideal – it’s very good for powder products.

Blushers & Bronzers, Foundation, Tutorials , , , ,

26 Replies to "Expert Advice: Should I Go Darker With my Foundation?"

  • Michelle says:

    I have been seeking High and Low for that Chanel Tan De Soliel for aaages now. It’s always sold out..any ideas where it’s in stock? Thanks!

  • Caitríona says:

    I was told that Chanel’s Soleil Tan du Bronzer is being discontinued. I also couldn’t find it anywhere, even online and a few different people told me this including sales assistants in an airport and a department store in town. I would LOVE if this isn’t true, I used it for years and amn’t having great luck replacing it :-(

  • Trillian says:

    I have to be honest, I’m pretty sure I can always tell if someone goes darker with their foundation, and I’ve never seen it look good. A better bet (in my completely non-expert opinion!) is to use a gradual self tanner and then match your foundation to your fake tanned skin tone.

  • OtherMary says:

    “I can understand your desire to look more bronzed,” says makeup artist Zoe Clark, “but as a general rule make-up artists do not
    use foundation to give their clients colour.

    Yessssss, preach it!

    To be honest, if some chest skin is showing then even if the foundation is blended down the neck, a brown face and a pale chest looks off.

  • Sandy says:

    I use Soleil Tan De Chanel Moisturizing Bronzing Powder in Desert Corail and I find it brilliant. Its a lovely light natural colour which perks up the complexion without a hint of orange!

  • missyL says:

    i was told by the lady at the chanel counter that they are having difficulty sourcing one of the ingredients in the soleil tan du chanel – and thats why its sold out/hard to find?

  • O Great One says:

    I love the Chanel Soleil du Tan, a pot usually lasts me about 2 years and I use it EVERY day. Its got such a natural wash that you need very little. They had it in Debenhams Henry Street only recently.

  • I am Casper the ghost pale, and it would not come to me even in my worst nightmare to color my face. In any way!

    I love the delicacy of this skin tone, and adore to just dab on a bit of pink blusher on my cheeks for that “I am alive” effect :) Not to mention being this pale, I look way younger than I actually am.
    I find that bronzed skin (even if fake and without wrinkles etc) looks much more “aged” than pale.

    Besides, foundation was never meant to give color. Period.

  • LoCo says:

    This could be me I have very pale skin but a lot of freckles that are quite dark.

    My face is covered but I have none on my neck and have freckles on my chest but they are much lighter than my face.
    I wear SPF 50 on my face neck and chest every day to try and get them pale.
    Oh to just be all the one colour.

    But foundation is a pain in the ass. MUA and SA in most department stores always try and match to my face. But then my face ends up of different racial origin to my neck and chest. I hate putting on tan so I can get them all to match.

    So I now I try to match to my neck as it’s more similar in colour to my chest and try and blend my face in. I tend to use as little foundation as possible. I have a lot of redness on my cheeks and around nose and just concentrate on this area really.

    This is the very reason that I don’t wear foundation every day to work it just to much hard work first thing in the morning.

    I was really excited to see Lisa Eldridge do foundation on 2 girls with freckles but was really disappointed they barely had any just a few across their noses not full on face of freckles would love to see a tutorial for people with proper full on Irish freckles and pale skin.

    Sorry for such long post.

  • Aileima says:

    Accept what you have and dont try to fake it – because it ALWAYS looks fake. I am very pale and wear a foundation that suits my skin tone yet i can wear a peachy blush on my cheeks and a very light dusting on my nose and that gives a credible sun-kissed look.

  • gobo says:

    I’m very pale with freckles. My approach is to match my foundation to my main skin tone, not the freckles. This evens out my skin tone. Having said that I have absolutely no qualms about being pale. Or freckled for that matter :)

  • Sugar says:

    “You have to be very sure that you don’t look orange…” Amen to that! Oh how I loathe seeing Irish girls with beautiful pale skin covered in awful dark orange make up with tide marks on their necks! Pale can be beautiful dammit! If you feel the need to use darker products, just enchance your features a little bit, sculpting can look good and not scream for attention in a bad way.

  • C says:

    I recently decided to go easy on the fake tan and get a foundation that matches my actual skin tone and not the one usually from a tan bottle. I’ve gone to four different make up counters between Brown Thomas and Debenhams and every single one has gone way too dark!!! The annoying thing is that the foundation always looks great initially but then I go home and realise that in natural lighting I’ve a brown face and pale neck. It also makes the foundation look really noticeable and I’m looking for a more natural look.

    I think most beauty counters seems to use the mantra- the darker the better!!!I

    I did eventually find my perfect foundation in the form of Givenchy Éclat Matissime which is perfect for my combination skin.

  • Cailín deas says:

    This is a great topic – very informative.

    Can anybody recommend a Bobbi Brown bronzer shade for a pale-faced brunette? I’m terrified of the oompa loompa look! Based on the above advice, Bobbi Brown looks like a good bronzer option for Spring/Summer.

  • sevda says:

    MizzyL – was it harvey nicks that told you that? She told me they had in fact sourced the required ingredient and expected it to be back in stock – that was September.

  • freckleface says:

    would love to see a tutorial for pale/freckled skin that shows how to embrace them.

  • MsMaryMc says:

    i do use a warmer one but i wear tan every day!

  • Nicola says:

    I have the bobbi brown bronzer in ‘golden light’ which is shade 1, I’m blonde with fairly pale skin and this is the first bronzer I’ve ever bought that I actually use regularly! I was a real fan of Rimmel Sunshimmer bronzer when I was a young wan, used to paint brown stripes down the sides of my face with it, sort of early attempt at contouring! :P the bobbi brown bronzer was pricey enough, but I’ve had it since October and have barely made a dent in it because you really only need a small bit, so in terms of cost per wear it’s good value!:)

  • S says:

    Bourjois has some great drugstore bronzers that don’t have any unnatural orange tints to them. Very similar to my Dior Original Tan Bronzer which is great for people on the paler skin spectrum!

  • Siobhán says:

    hi all,
    I’m new to posting to the site…have been reading it for a few months and I think it’s really excellent!
    I’m looking for a new foundation at the moment (Estee Lauder have discontinued Nutritious?!) and have really pale skin with freckles….a girl in the store tried some foundation me, thought, oh this is too dark and took it off,only then did she notice that my face was actually darker than my neck naturally! Madness! Anyways, she did find one to match, but it didn’t suit – made my skin go flakey after a few hours – quite dry skin as well. so, still looking….wish me luck! if I find a suitable one, i’ll let ye all know :)

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