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Albinism,  Hair & Beauty

Albinism & Makeup: The Challenges of Choosing a Foundation

Makeup is such a huge part of our society these days, but it’s not just about beauty. It’s often a way to boost confidence in ourselves and our bodies. Many of us, especially those of us who stand out in more obvious ways, don’t start out feeling comfortable in our own skin. Sometimes makeup helps with that feeling. I know it did for me as someone who dealt with cystic acne as a teen and in my early twenties.

It’s important that I remind you that albinism is a huge spectrum. Some people with albinism resemble their genetic relatives, some fall to the extreme pale end of the spectrum, and others fall somewhere in between. My story is about me personally, and I happen to fall on the extreme end of that pale spectrum. If you also fall on the pale end, or you’re curious, please keep reading.

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I covered this topic in a YouTube video for you guys as well!

My Makeup Misadventures

My first experience with makeup was as a teen. I was sixteen and competing in a talent competition. My grandmother took me to one of the department stores in my town to get some makeup to enhance my features. blush, lipstick, and a small eyeshadow palette. These are the items I remember. Somehow, I still have the blush, a rosy pink Clinique shade called Smoldering Plum and the eyeshadow duo also by Clinique called Beach Plum containing a nude and a purple. The makeup counter worker struggled to find a shade to match my skin and undertone (more on that later), and I think that memory made me hesitant to try makeup for a few years. It just didn’t seem worth the headache or the money at the time.

two photos of two small Clinique makeup palettes

Then, as I started college and smartphone cameras became a thing, I wanted to beautify myself. That was my way of seeing it anyway. I also struggled with severe acne. Around this time I started seeing a dermatologist who prescribed a regimen of Aczone gel, Doxycycline, and another topical spot treatment that I cannot remember the name of. As my acne slowly cleared up, my interest in makeup expanded. I discovered the land of YouTube makeup tutorials.

Even with the huge variety on YouTube, I struggled to find beauty influencers with skin as light as mine. This was ten years ago, and makeup companies weren’t quite as inclusive as they are now, so matching a foundation usually involved mixing in white foundation with a standard shade. I started with Manic Panic Dreamtone white foundation and used it for a few years.

For years after that, I used a mix of different drug store foundations and eyeshadows, dark mascaras and liners, and more. I’m not sure I ever got used to the dark lashes, liner, and eyebrows on me. Eventually I gave that up, and focused on ways of enhancing my natural colors.

What is foundation makeup? For the uninitiated, foundation is the base on which other makeup is laid: blush, highlight, contour, and whatever else your heart desires. Though there are more aspects to building a full makeup look, and those aspects vary from person to person, foundation is often a key part of that look. It can come in cream, liquid, and powder forms, various weights, and more. Let’s get into that below.

Several bottles of foundation makeup sit on a table

Exploring Undertones

Undertone refers to your skin’s underlying amount of cool or warm tones. There are three: cool, warm, and neutral. Cool undertones contain blue, pink, and reddish hues. Warm undertones contain golden, yellow, and peach hues. Neutral undertones are a combination of both cool and warm hues.

Choosing a foundation with the wrong undertone can result in an unnatural look. I have a cool undertone, and if I use a foundation with a warm or even neutral undertone, I tend to look yellow. The same thing happen when I use a foundation that oxidizes or darkens when exposed to oxygen over time. It’s not a natural look, and that is why matching your foundation to your undertone is important. The same is true for those of you with a warm or neutral undertone.

Oily, Dry, or Combination Skin

Your skin’s oil level is also important in choosing a foundation. Most makeup companies have lines specifically aimed at oily, dry, or combination skin. These formulas are often meant to counteract the natural oil level of your skin to result in a more even appearance. Look for these on the bottle, box, or labels of your makeup as shown below.

two foundation bottles featuring the words: Normal to oily and Normal to dry skin

This topic, like the rest in this article, can be broken down into some very specific tips and guidelines. If that’s something you would be interested in, please let me know. I’m no makeup expert or guru, but I’m always more than happy to do my research and gather that information together for my wonderful readers.

Foundation Weight

Foundations also come in different weights ranging from full coverage to light coverage. These terms describe the makeup’s feel on the skin as well as its appearance and ability to cover blemishes, even out skin tones, and more. Many lighter weight foundations can be layered for a more full coverage look as well. The tools you use to apply your foundation also dictate its weight. Applying with your fingers or a brush usually gets a more full coverage look, and using a sponge results in a lighter coverage. But, you can use the application method you’re most comfortable with and layer your foundation for the desired level of coverage. Makeup is the ultimate customizable beauty product for sure.

two photos of foundation makeup bottles highlighting the weight of the makeup: sheer glow foundation and full coverage foundation

Shade or Color Range

This is where things really get fun. Those people whose skin color falls toward the extreme ends of the spectrum often struggle to find a matching shade. This is true on both ends of the spectrum. On the lighter side of the spectrum, my issue is that a foundation line’s lighter shade often does not have a cool undertone.

The image below shows off seven foundation swatches.

seven foundation swatches on an inner forearm

From left to right:

  • L’Oréal Infallible Pro Glow; shade 201
  • Maybelline Fit Me Matte and Poreless; shade 201 (these shades appear to have been reformulated since I bought mine)
  • L’Oréal True Match; shade C1 (they have since added a C0.5 shade)
  • Makeup Revolution Conceal and Define; shade F0.5 (there are now three lighter shades in this line and a white foundation)
  • Clinique Even Better; shade CN 0.5 Shell
  • Revlon ColorStay Natural Finish; shade 110
  • It Cosmetics CC Cream; shade Fair Light (this color looks so light on their website but appears darker in person)

The variance in these shades is incredible. Some are obviously cool toned while others look quite yellow on my skin. I need to try some of the updated colors for the L’Oréal True Match, Makeup Revolution, and Maybelline Fit Me lines. The most recent one I tried was a CC cream from It Cosmetics, but it was quite dark on me. I’ve tried even more foundations over the years, and plan to keep trying them. I am also currently testing out Nars Sheer Glow Foundation in shade Oslo, which is their lightest shade with a cool undertone. So far, it seems to match well, but I’ll be including updates in the future.

My Current Routine and Future Posts

My current makeup routine is fairly simple and minimal. I use a pore perfecting primer, foundation, blush, highlight, translucent powder, setting spray, white mascara, and lipstick. I will highlight my current favorite products and how I apply them in a future post with some photos for you guys. I also plan to make a video featuring those products, so keep an eye and ear out for that in the future.

If you have product requests, specific questions, or suggestions, please check out my About Albinism Up Close page for my contact information and social media.

Don’t forget to protect that beautiful skin! Learn all about choosing the right sunscreen for you in this previous post!

Thanks for reading. Stay curious.

I have Albinism and am legally blind. I have a Master's degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling. I'm currently pursuing my passion of writing through this blog and for the Albinism InSight magazine.

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