Full Coverage Makeup Tips for the Racially Ambiguous

As a biracial woman, I've picked up a few tricks over the years to enhance my skin tone instead of conceal it — experimenting with bronzers, highlighters, and brushes.
Publish date:
January 28, 2015
shoppables, foundation, nars, glowy skin, smashbox cosmetics, Make Up

As the only biracial member of my family and the proud oldest sibling of two blonde-haired, blue-eyed sisters, I’ve spent a fair amount of time feeling out of place. I’ve been asked if I’m a friend of the family. I’ve been asked if I’m a distant cousin or a nanny. As a teenager, I did everything I could to blend in and that included wearing makeup that muted the olive tone of my skin.

In college, I took courses in political science and psychology and realized that my internalized racism was not only problematic, but also destructive. I ditched my blue contacts, stopped SPF-ing so hard, and started experimenting with bronzers and highlighters that enhanced my natural skin tone, instead of concealing it. At the end of the day, embracing my physical appearance is a small part of accepting myself, but it’s a still a part of it. So, here are the three rules I use when applying full coverage makeup. Are they basic? A bit, but if I had kept these three things in mind, I wouldn't have struggled with one-shade-fits-most makeup throughout my teenager years.

Starting with a strong base, blending colors, and using the right tools when applying make up helps make me feel beautiful in my own skin. My skin. Not a skin that is a few shades lighter or as few shades darker. Not a skin that is almost white or kind of black or possibly Middle Eastern. Just me exactly as I am.

1) Seek Professional Help

When your skin tone shifts with the seasons, the best way to achieve the photo finish all beauty junkies dream of is to enlist the help of a professional. It took about half an hour with a very patient Sephora consultant to find my ride-or-die foundation: Ardency Inn Americana Custom Coverage Concentrate ($38). I wear Light Medium Olive in the winter and Medium Beige in the summer. Ardency Inn is great for us mixed chicks because it's made for blending with other foundations, moisturizers, or concealers. I use a pea-sized drop with a dime sized amount of Laura Mercier primer ($33). Since it's so mixable, the tiny bottle lasts up to three months longer than other brands.

(If you’re opposed to dropping obscene amounts of money on make up, and more power to you if you are, you can take the wisdom of a beauty consultant and replicate their recommendations at your local drugstore.)

2) Mix It Up

Even with the powers of cosmetology professionals on my side, my “perfect match” foundation and cover up isn’t always 100 percent on point. A day in the sun or a week holed up in the office equals a subtle shift in my coloring that negates the purpose of full coverage makeup. So, I like to use easy blending products that can be mixed together to give me the perfect shade. NARS, Josie Maran, and Smashbox make some of my favorites:

Illuminate: In the winter, I like mix two liquid illuminators: the NARS Illuminator, and Josie Maran Argan Oil Illuminizer for a more-silver-than-gold glow. When summer comes around, I add bronzer from my favorite Too Faced palette into the mix for a deeper hue.

Blush: Smashbox O-Glow blush comes out clear and warms up to your perfect shade (I'm not sure how it does this; could be science, could be witchcraft) once you've applied it. It's very sheer which makes it great for mixing with other deeper blush stains or creams.

Bronze: I've been a fan of the NARS Multiple for a while (hello, easy application) and gone through favoring the "Orgasm" (peachy pink) and "Copacabana" (opalescent shimmer). Right now, I'm very into the "Na Pali Coast" which is a rosy peach that can be used to deepen blush tones or lighten your bronzer of choice.

3) Get Technical

Even the most perfect products can be rendered ineffective by a heavy hand or a dirty makeup brush. Once you’ve got the goods, you need the skills to make magic happen. I haphazardly applied bronzer, foundation, and blush until I discovered the joy of Pinterest contouring maps. I've linked my go-to guide here, but you can find a slew of them by doing a simple search on Pinterest. Having a map to follow makes a world of difference.

Once you’ve plotted your contouring course, blending everything together is key. I swear by the Beauty Blender ($19.95) which is worth every penny as I'm sure you have heard and a good foundation brush. Lately, I’ve used Sephora Pro Airbrush #55 ($34), but it’s worth spending a little time finding the right brush for you.

I am not entirely confident. I have yet to reach true self-actualization, but I work on appreciating myself exactly as I am and part of this self-acceptance is highlighting my unique coloring and rocking it for all its worth.

Does this make me superficial? Do you use cosmetics to deal with your personal baggage? Leave me a comment and let me know.