The many shades of nude

Sephora Collection Matte Perfection Powder Foundation’s selection of saturated browns and terracotta shades.
Sephora Collection Matte Perfection Powder Foundation’s selection of saturated browns and terracotta shades. PHOTOS: NYTIMES

Cosmetics brands are increasing their ranges of neutral shades to match the skin tones of customers of diverse ethnic origin

NEW YORK • There is no shortage of neutral foundations and lipsticks on the market, but for many shoppers, finding just the right "nude" is still a challenge.

Cosmetics companies have traditionally relied on a concise range of colours to theoretically accommodate what are in actuality myriad complexions. Now that is changing, as more brands increase their ranges of nude offerings to match the skin tones of customers of diverse ethnic origin.

"Marketing teams are more and more aware of trying to speak to a customer that was just unspoken to," said Mr Troy Surratt, a make-up artist and founder of Surratt Beauty. "She's been marginalised in the beauty arena for sure. Can you imagine how disheartening it is to see just six shades, to see a beautifully packaged range and to admire it and then realise that it's not for you?"

This year, Surratt Beauty introduced 15 shades of its Surreal Skin Foundation Wand, from a fair beige to a deep caramel-toned bronze; five more are expected to be added in late spring, including three dark brown options.

Sephora Collection Matte Perfection Powder Foundation, introduced a few months ago, offers a wide selection of saturated browns and terracotta shades. It is a handy, leakproof option to throw in a handbag or make-up case.

This month, Dior will extend the range of its Diorskin Forever Foundation to include three shades of almond and a deepened beige called Praline.

Can you imagine how disheartening it is to see just six shades, to see a beautifully packaged range and to admire it and then realise that it's not for you?

MR TROY SURRATT, a make-up artist and founder of Surratt Beauty, on the need for more varied neutral foundations and lipsticks

The formula is sheer, more like a tinted moisturiser than a traditional foundation, and includes SPF 35.

Also next month, Lancome will add five nuanced shades of dark cream to its Teint Idole Ultra Wear Foundation collection. Last year, the company introduced a made-to-order product, Le Teint Particulier Custom Made Makeup, that is blended according to a customer's skin tone. It is available at 11 Nordstrom stores and is expected to be added in five more next year.

Cosmetics companies are also becoming more sophisticated in the way neutral-hued products are developed, eliminating the ashy or orange patina of some earlier foundations.

"The formulation strategy is different," Ms Balanda Atis, the manager of L'Oreal's Women of Color Lab, said. "For Caucasian skin, you may start out with titanium dioxide, which is white, and then build the colours. For the deepest shades, we use ultramarine blue and, from there, can add reds, yellows and blacks to make it more natural, more realistic."

For some of the products she worked on, Ms Atis incorporated data the company acquired in a study of American women from 57 countries of origin.

Advancements in ingredients have also made it easier to create more natural-looking shades.

"There have been incredible technological advancements in the pigments and how you coat them, so you get what we call cleaner formulas that allow skin to come through a little more," said Ms Susan Akkad, a senior vice-president at Estee Lauder. "It gives so much more flexibility for nuance in formulations."

A widening range of nude lip colours is also reaching beauty counters. Hourglass has Girl Lip Stylo, a highly pigmented, chubby pencil designed for full coverage; half its 20 shades are neutrals.

"We made a big effort to create a nude for every skin tone," said Ms Carisa Janes, the company's chief executive.

The product, made with shea butter and sunflower seed oil, leaves a subtle, moist finish on the lips.

Also this month, Maybelline releases its Inti-Matte Nudes: 10 shades, from pale beige to milk chocolate. And early this year, Marc Jacobs Beauty will extend the shades offered in its New Nudes Sheer Gel Lipstick line. Especially pretty is May Day, a slightly sparkly deep brown.

Inclusivity is commendable, but the fiscal incentive for more shades is not insignificant.

"Customers have been demanding it and the brands are really listening," said Ms Jennifer Miles, who oversees the beauty selection at Barneys New York. "You don't want to send a customer away."

NYTIMES

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 05, 2017, with the headline 'The many shades of nude'. Print Edition | Subscribe