Lifestyle & Culture

How Shady: What Makeup Brands Are The Most Inclusive?

Claire Ince investigates how well makeup brands are providing for a broader range of skin tones and which brands, if any, are doing right by their consumers.

As a member of the online makeup loving community, I am constantly SHOOK by the drama that sweeps the globe the second any brand releases a new foundation. The very moment that the rumours of the new product arise, makeup fans arm themselves with binoculars and begin brewing their tea, ready to strike at any moment; and rightly so.

For decades upon decades, the makeup industry has been one of the least inclusive out there, due in part to the extreme lack of foundation shades which cater to individuals on each end of the shade spectrum.

Throughout the past few years, selected brands have done slightly better, and diversity is slowly becoming more and more evident, but the core problems still exist:

  1. Shades are not dark enough.
  2. Shades are not light enough.
  3. Shades available at each end of the spectrum only cater to one undertone.
  4. The good shade ranges aren’t readily available in stores.
  5. Borderline offensive colour naming systems.

I personally have quite fair skin with an olive undertone, and I can count the number of times I have been able to walk into a makeup store and find my EXACT foundation shade on one hand; and that says a lot considering that I am on the end of the spectrum with the most shades available.

When I began planning this article, I thought that I was going to create a complete guide to shade ranges, and investigate each and every brand available at Priceline, Mecca Maxima and Sephora, but it wasn’t long before I realised that it would legitimately be a list in which I dragged approximately 40 brands through the mud.

Because I’m not as shady as said brands, I decided to focus on the positives and formulate a list of the best shade ranges that I could find at good old Charlestown Square.

NOTE: Please keep in mind that this is being written from the perspective of one person, with one skin tone. I have never had any experience with shade matching anyone with deeper skin, nor have I experienced the frustration of being completely excluded by 90% of makeup brands firsthand. The following products are being recommended by me, based on the research that I have conducted, and I strongly suggest that you conduct your own research to guide you in forming your own opinion.

Best Powder Foundation Shade Range

BareMinerals Original SPF 15 Foundation

Number of Shades Price Finish Coverage Naming System Undertones Available at
27 $42 Natural/Radiant Light-medium Traditional names (e.g. ‘Fair’ and ‘Warm Deep’) Warm/Golden



Mecca Maxima


Powder foundations are notorious for having TERRIBLE shade ranges. Typically, only 1-3 are available and they’re all pretty much the same shade of Trump orange (not that there’s anything wrong with being orange).

While the deepest shade available from bareMinerals isn’t as deep as some that are available in liquid form, the range is exceedingly better than any other powder out there.

Fair to tan shades take up the majority of the range and the gradient isn’t the best on the market, but as the foundation is on the more sheer side, there will definitely be one that will work for the majority of people.

If there were maybe 4-6 extra deep shades added, this would be a perfect range.

P.s. I apologise for the lack of visual aid here, but Mecca was the only store which wouldn’t allow me to take pictures.


Best Luxury Shade Range

Dior Backstage Face and Body Foundation


Number of Shades Price Finish Coverage Naming System Undertones Available at
40 $70 ‘Skin-like’ Light to Medium Number and undertone (e.g. ‘0 Cool Rosy’ and ‘9 Neutral’) Cool

Cool Rosy



Warm Peach



Dior Backstage has absolutely smashed it with this release, and this was definitely the most even gradient I saw.

There was a completely even spread of fair, light, medium, tan, and deep shades, and there were no extreme jumps between shades.

If they had included a couple of cool toned dark shades, this would have taken the top spot.


Most ‘Realistic’ Undertones

Make Up For Ever Ultra HD Foundation


Number of Shades Price Finish Coverage Naming System Undertones Available at
42 $67 Skin Medium to Full Letters, numbers and names (e.g. ‘Y215 Yellow Alabaster’ and ‘Y415 Almond’) PINK






Make Up For Ever has by far the most ‘realistic’ range of undertones on the market.

Despite not having as many undertones as other brands, in my humble opinion, the ones they do have look the most like actual skin.

If you’re someone with a more ‘extreme’ pink or yellow undertone, look no further.

Best Affordable Shade Range

L’Oreal True Match Foundation


Number of Shades Price Finish Coverage Naming System Undertones Available at
16 $29.95 Skin-like Medium to full Number, letter and traditional name (e.g. ‘1C Ivory Rose’ and ‘9.5W Mahogany’ Cool





Let’s face it; affordable shade ranges in Australia seriously suck.

L’Oreal True Match was really the best I could find. By cheap brand standards, it’s incredible, but compared to the other products I mentioned… not happy, Jan!

If skin tones were the alphabet, True Match has about C-S covered in a few undertones. But unfortunately, if you’re A, B, T, U, V, W, X, Y, or Z… you’ll have to look elsewhere.

What scares me the most is that the whole advertising campaign for this product was centred around the message that EVERY Australian can find their shade. Nice try L’Oreal. Nice try.


Honorable Mentions 

Rimmel Lasting Finish 25H Breathable Foundation


While obviously this is in need of approximately 50 more shades and is hardly worthy of a thumbs up, I do commend Rimmel for being the only affordable brand that has created great, non-baby pink shades for fair skin.


NYX Professional Makeup Total Control Drop Foundation


Even though there are very few shades in this range and not everyone will be covered, I’m happy that NYX has made good use of those limited shades and not totally disregarded those with deep skin.


Huda Beauty #fauxfilter Foundation

huda beauty

This is truly a great shade range, and was a serious contender for a couple of the awards in this post.

The only thing that stopped it from taking the top spot, is the naming system.

I know for a fact that I’m not the only person out there who’s sick of being compared to food, wood, dirt, nuts, and an infinite list of things that I’m not. Even though Huda’s names are quite nice in comparison to other brands (e.g. ‘Milkshake’, ‘Baklava’ and ‘Hot Fudge’), wouldn’t it be more efficient to avoid offending an infinite number of people and just stick with numbers?


Overall Best Shade Range

Fenty Beauty Pro Filt’r Soft Matte Longwear Foundation

Fenty Beauty

Number of Shades Price Finish Coverage Naming System Undertones Available at
40 $50 Soft Matte/Velvet Full Numbers Cool


Neutral Olive


Warm Peach


 Was it really that much of a surprise?

With her almost year old cosmetic line, Rihanna jumped onto the scene and truly set the record straight.

Building a good shade range is NOT something that should happen in stages. While gradually adding more and more shades to cater to your customers is great, there is really no excuse to treat any shade family as an afterthought. And it clearly speaks in sales; just look at how many shades are currently sold out.

If you’re a human, I guarantee that Fenty Beauty has your shade.

If you’re a brand, I highly suggest you take notes.

*Drops mic*

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