Finding a good foundation for olive-toned skin still seems like an uphill battle, even in 2020. A lot of women struggle to find the perfect shade, simply because there aren’t many brands out there catering to them.
If you think you have olive-toned skin but aren’t exactly sure, here’s how to know: Olive skin tones tend to vary between shades of beige and moderate brown, but they have a bit of green skin pigment that differentiates the skin from “golden tan,” which is NOT considered olive-toned skin.
The Fitzpatrick scale is a numerical categorization of human skin based on colors, ranging from 1 (the palest) to 6 (the darkest). The majority of people with olive-toned skin fall under Type 3, but some can also fall under Type 4 and potentially but rarely, Type 5 ― as you go up the scale, the chances of possessing that green tinge unique to olive skin decreases.
However, beauty brands are starting to recognize this gap and understand the importance of inclusivity. The high-end cosmetics brand Anastasia Beverly Hills consulted with makeup artist Mali Thomas last year to create a foundation line that covers a range of olive shades.
“There are many variations of olive tones that range from very fair to deep olive,” said Claudia Soare, president of Anastasia Beverly Hills. “I wanted to make sure we didn’t exclude those tones because it covers a wide range of colors. Having olive tones within our brand is very important.”
Small brands like Kulfi Beauty have taken the reins when it comes to including olive makeup shades.
“We heard from women who had given up searching for foundation because they were tired of looking too ashy or too orange and having to mix and match complexion shades only to be disappointed by the end result,” said Priyanka Ganjoo, the founder of Kulfi Beauty.
Contemporary brand Mented Cosmetics, which has been making waves since 2017, was born on the philosophy of authentic inclusivity. “Our guiding philosophy has always been, ‘No one should be an afterthought in the world of beauty,’ which of course includes our olive-skinned beauties,” said KJ Miller, one of the brand’s founders.
“From the very beginning of launching our brand we’ve brought in women and men of every shade and ethnicity to be sure our products worked across the skin tone spectrum,” Miller said. “I recall when we launched our original collection of nude lipsticks and featured a gorgeous, olive-toned Indian woman prominently on our site, we got so many emails and messages from Indian women letting us know they had never seen themselves featured in beauty brand marketing. It was such an affirming moment for us to know that we were centering the voices so often left behind in this industry.”
Here’s what makeup artists have to say about their favorite foundations for olive-toned skin.
1. Tiffany Brown, professional makeup artist and influencer
Brown has been serving her clients for over 10 years and still struggles with finding the shades that complement people with olive skin tones. However, there’s one foundation she absolutely loves.
“I have found that the Revlon Photo Ready Candid Natural Finish Anti-Pollution Foundations work perfect for my olive-skinned clients,” she said. “This foundation is perfect for everyday wear or for special occasions. It has a beautiful, natural, light-weight finish and is affordable for any budget.”
Pro Tip: Brown recommends prepping the skin before applying foundation and using your fingertips or a damp sponge for a more airbrushed look.
2. Jessica L. Tan, freelance makeup artist
Tan mentions that not everyone knows how to mix foundation and pigment properly to get a shade right. It’s a tedious process. “This is a market that I believe can still be expanded widely,” Tan said. However, she recommends Cover FX Power Play Foundation because the brand makes it extremely easy to choose the right shade.
“Their foundation shades are labeled with a G, N or P for golden, neutral and pink undertones. For olive skin tones, they add a ‘+’ to the shade.” She also suggests trying Becca Ultimate Coverage 24 Hour Foundation.
Pro Tip: Tan recommends buying an inexpensive color corrector like L.A. Girl Pro Cosmetic Concealer (in green) to get flawless olive skin.
3. Jireh Q, olive skin tone makeup artist and brand finder
Jireh specifically focuses on makeup products and brands for olive-skinned people. Her exploration to bring lesser-known but quality products to her audience has turned into a brand of its own. “It’s not easy being green,” she said.
For light-cool shades of olive, her favorites are Bourjois Paris Healthy Mix Foundation in N 49.5 and Makeup Revolution Foundation in F1. For medium-warm olive, she leans towards Elf Cosmetics in Linen or Cashew and EX1 Cosmetics. “Almost all shades work because EX1 Cosmetics is specific to olive skin,” Jireh said.
Pro Tip: If you’re buying a drugstore foundation, always opt for the ones with neutral shades.
4. Daisy Marquez, YouTube beauty creator
Marquez recalls how frustrating it is to find the perfect shade of olive. “It’s been frustrating at times, but it feels so nice when you find the perfect foundation that matches your skin tone and undertone,” she said. She suggests using Nars Radiant Longwear Foundation: “I highly recommend this foundation because the shade range is diverse.”
Pro Tip: Marquez suggests opting for one shade darker if you also apply powder, and testing the foundation on your neck and wrist first.
5. Gabriela Diaz, certified makeup artist and educator
As a Latina with olive-toned skin, Diaz often struggles to find foundation shades for her clients and herself. She also resorts to mixing green pigment with different foundations. “It’s 2020 and brands should be inclusive of all shades and have a wide color range,” Diaz said. Her go-to brands are Pat McGrath Labs and Fenty.
“Pat McGrath’s Sublime Perfection Foundation is a beautiful luxurious formula and on the more affordable side, Rihanna’s brand Fenty carries a myriad of shades,” she said.
Pro Tip: Diaz uses four points to find the shade for you: the side of your cheek, forehead, chest and neck.
6. Manisha Lokwani, makeup artist
Lokwani advises against mixing two shades, which she says creates a cakey foundation and isn’t economical. She turns to L’Oreal Tru Match Healthy Luminous Makeup and NYX Stay Matte Not Flat. “Micromatch formula in L’Oreal is perfect for olive skin tones and both foundations seamlessly blend in.”
Pro Tip: Lokwani suggests that if your foundation is too dark, mix a little concealer in it. Just make sure they have similar textures.
7. Divya Amarnani, makeup artist and brand owner
Based on the Caribbean island of Grenada, Amarnani serves olive-skinned women the majority of the time. Her biggest disappointment is that there aren’t enough brands that get the undertones correct in a foundation for olive skin.
“The shades usually are too yellow and end up looking wrong or are too warm and end up orange,” she said. She’s a huge fan of Maybelline Fit Me Matte and Poreless Foundation. The line offers many shades for olive skin tones.
Pro Tip: Amarnani suggests comparing one shade lower and higher in number to figure out which one has a better olive undertone. The Maybelline Fit Me line, for example, has a popular shade called Coconut 355 ― the brand has now included a shade called Warm Coconut 356, which has more of an olive undertone.
8. Sudha G, specialized makeup and hair artist
Sudha can’t stop raving about Huda Beauty: the Faux Filter Foundation range carries the ideal undertones for olive skin and never leaves an ashy finish. It is also long-lasting and super pigmented. “It’s also perfect for long, outdoor events and you also really double up on saving money because you know that one bottle is going to last you a really long time,” Sudha said.
Pro Tip: Add Huda’s Faux Filter foundation to your favorite moisturizer for a tinted and hydrated look that also provides lightweight coverage.