The Black Girl’s Guide to Shopping at Sephora

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I’ve been shopping at Sephora since they first opened a store near me in Long Island circa 2001. I remember one of my first purchases quite vividly: an older Black woman was the associate who helped me and told me I would love a neutral NARS eyeshadow duo and NARS Blush in Outlaw (I did!). That trip was basically the beginning of the end for me…lol. Having a Sephora so close to my dorm at the beginning of my makeup thirst was no good BUT I guess it worked out because that experience sort of led to my creating this blog.

I can go in any Sephora (and I’ve been to stores outside of NYC including Paris and Warsaw) and I’ll know exactly which brands to gravitate to and usually where in the store they’re located. The other day I went to help my homey La Loca pick out a foundation and we wound up going to two Sephora stores: the one on 34th and the one inside JCPenney at the Manhattan Mall. The 34th street store was recently renovated and although I was there at an early morning press event (which yielded this HUGE bag) it didn’t seem as massive until I walked in to shop. IT’S HUGE IN THERE. Almost like the Sephora on Champs-Élysées in Paris. Even the Sephora Inside JCPenney can be overwhelming. While I was helping La Loca, another shopper asked me for my help (“what are undertones?” she asked) and it sparked me to write this post. Sephora can be an overwhelming place to most makeup shoppers, but to people just trying to figure things out? It’s INSANE! It was also insane trying to find a good shade match for my homey—she has light skin with yellow undertones and it was pretty hard finding a good match. When it came to the lighter shades, the ones that were light enough were too pink or too orange/red and then the shades that had the yellow undertones were too dark. I wound up finding a great match for her in NARS Natural Radiant Longwear Foundation in Valencia and Cover FX Natural Finish Foundation in G60 and G+60 (both looked pretty good depending on the look).

So I decided to do this guide to make it easier for those who are newer to makeup and/or for those who don’t have the time to sift through all the brands at Sephora to find products for them. You’ll definitely want to bookmark this one and don’t forget to share it with your friends—there are links at the bottom to share on Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, and through email, but it’s also super easy to copy this post link and text it to your friends ;) Sharing is caring, ya know!

One reason why Sephora is such a beloved place to shop for beauty is the open format of the merchandise. You can roll right up on products and there are testers for just about everything. You can also ask for samples of just about anything in the store that can be sampled—so you can try out that foundation before you buy it along with skincare products, perfumes, and more.


This is probably the area that causes the most amount of frustration for people of color. On the lighter end of the spectrum, the undertones might be too pink or too range and then the shades that do have yellow or neutral undertones are too dark. On the darker end of the spectrum (if we even GET to the darker end with some of these brands), there isn’t enough variety in undertones—we sometimes may get TWO darker shades and they both are very red in undertone. Now this isn’t to say that people don’t exist with deeper skin tones and red undertones, but we ALL don’t have them. So here are brands to zero in on that have a decent shade range for people of color.

One VERY important thing to note: there is NO standard foundation range in the beauty industry. Two brands can have foundations described as something like “dark with yellow undertones” and still look very different. One could have more yellow in it than the other. I talk about this more in this post, so make sure you give it a read to understand. This is also why you can’t really use MAC as a foundation guide anymore. For one, there are way more foundation shades out now and also a lot of people were put into MAC shades that weren’t a good match but might have been the best match out there at the time. Read more in Why MAC is Not a Foundation Guide.


Can I just take a second to give this newcomer some praise? Like, Fenty is it, ya’ll. And yes, they aren’t the first brand ever to come out with such an extensive shade range, but I follow the brand on Instagram and they are killing it when it comes to being inclusive. I’ve seen beauty influencers who look like me (like seriously, they could be my cousins…lol) doing Instastory takeovers countless times. You also don’t have to have 5 million followers for the brand to repost you.

So far this brand only has the one foundation formula—a liquid with a soft matte finish, so it’s not going to be the be all, end all for everyone (no brand is anyway). On the darker end of the spectrum (400s), I would love to see more undertones (I’ve heard rumblings of the brand coming out with even more shades) as there isn’t a great shade match for me in what’s offered (either the undertones are off or the shade is too dark). The 200 and 300 ranges (medium and tan skin tones) have a good amount of undertones so if you’re on the lighter end of the spectrum and don’t have pink undertones, you’ll likely find a match.

See Fenty Beauty swatches and reviews here.

Shop the brand in the widget below—click on any image for shopping info.


This is probably the brand I personally have the closest connection to. As a former ambassador for the brand, I’ve had the opportunity to meet so many members of their team including the people who make the products. The passion they have for getting the formulations and shades right REALLY shows especially in the products. Cover FX not only has a good shade range, but they also have different formulas for different skin types and lifestyles: Total Cover Cream for normal/oily skin (yes, a cream for oily skin); Natural Finish for normal/dry skin; Mineral Powder for all skin types, and there’s a new Power Play that I can’t wait to try.

This brand’s shade range is very easy to follow: N means neutral; P means pink (or red as you get into the deeper shades); and G means golden. Then the letter is followed by a number and the shades get darker as the number goes up. I personally really love the amount of neutral shades they have for darker skin tones as I personally have neutral undertones AND it’s not very often you see neutral undertones in darker shades in many brands.

See Cover FX swatches and reviews here.

Shop the brand in the widget below—click on any image for shopping info.


NARS is a brand created by makeup artist Francois Nars. As a makeup artist brand, it has products that help you get that runway look BUT that translate into everyday. This is a great brand for pigmented, bold colors but we’ll talk about that more in the color section of this post.

NARS has a pretty decent shade range. There is definitely room for more shades. If you have lighter skin and yellow undertones, you’ll likely find a match among their various foundation options. On the darker end, the shades tend to run either red or yellow with a few on the olive side.

See NARS swatches and reviews here.

Shop the brand in the widget below—click on any image for shopping info.


This French-based brand is a luxury makeup brand made specifically for people of color. They have a number of complexion products under their belt and do a pretty decent job of having lighter shades with yellow undertones and darker shades with red undertones. If you have neutral or olive undertones, you might find something workable in the lighter coverage options, but for the most part, you might not get as good of a match.

They have a full coverage cream foundation, a mattifying fluid, a mattifying tinted moisturizer, and a powder.

See BlackUP swatches and reviews here.

Shop the brand in the widget below—click on any image for shopping info.


Like NARS, MUFE is a brand created by a makeup artist. They’ve always had a pretty decent shade range for people of color and their formulations are pretty spectacular. They have a stick foundation, the holy grail HD, a face and body foundation, two powders (that Duo Mat is the bomb!), and a liquid lift—so there’s quite a variety to choose from depending on your skin type and lifestyle.

See Make Up For Ever swatches and reviews here.

Shop the brand in the widget below—click on any image for shopping info.


Lancome has a great range and in recent years has gone even deeper due to signing spokesmodel Lupita Nyong’o. Their most popular foundation formula is the Teint Idole Ultra Long Wear Foundation which comes in 40 shades. They have a good amount of neutral and yellow undertones on the lighter end, but on the deeper end they mostly run either cool or warm so if you have neutral undertones, you might not find a great match.

See Lancome swatches and reviews here.

Shop the brand in the widget below—click on any image for shopping info.


Estee Lauder has some of the best technology behind the creation of their products. In recent years they’ve extended their shade range and I swear there’s like 50 variations of their popular Double Wear line. Estee Lauder also has a good range of foundations based on skin type and needs—there’s something for the person who wants a nude, fresh faced look as well as for someone who wants full coverage that won’t sink into lines and wrinkles.

Double Wear Stay-in-Place is likely their most popular foundation (it’s a liquid with medium to buildable full coverage), but they also have a Double Wear powder, a Double Wear nude (liquid), Double Wear Camouflage (maximum coverage), Double Wear Light (liquid), Double Wear Nude (cushion), as well as skin-type/need based formulas like Perfectionist and DayWear. Note that Sephora might not carry the brand’s full range of foundation formulas so you might also need to check out an Estee Lauder for more formulas.

See Estee Lauder swatches and reviews here.

Shop the brand in the widget below—click on any image for shopping info.


Kat Von D is a brand started by a tattoo artist so a lot of the formulations are meant to be durable enough to cover tattoos (as well as discoloration of course). There are only two foundation formulas the Lock-It Foundation (liquid, matte-finish, full coverage) and the Lock-It Powder. They’ve recently added a few more shades on the darker end of the spectrum, but they mostly run either cool or warm (there’s one neutral shade). On the lighter end of the spectrum, there aren’t many with yellow or neutral undertones.

See Kat Von D swatches and reviews here.

Shop the brand in the widget below—click on any image for shopping info.


Another brand started by a makeup artist, Bobbi Brown is a brand that gives great coverage, but the aesthetic is more to make skin look like skin. Yes, you could go IN heavy with Bobbi Brown complexion products if you wanted to, but the products are made with a more “everyday” sort of aesthetic. There aren’t many formulas to choose from what’s sold at Sephora: there’s a stick foundation (called Skin Foundation Stick—a lot of the formulas have “skin” in the name because that’s the aesthetic I explained earlier…lol), there’s a BB cream, there’s a liquid foundation, there’s a long-wearing liquid foundation, a setting powder, and a foundation powder.

If you have lighter skin and have yellow, neutral, or olive undertones, Bobbi likely has one of the bigger selections in these undertones. On the darker end of the spectrum, there are more options for yellow and olive undertones than most brands, but also a lot of red undertones.

See Bobbi Brown swatches and reviews here.

Shop the brand in the widget below—click on any image for shopping info.


Being a skincare brand, Clinique’s approach to makeup is on the cleaner end as compared to most other beauty brands. Their foundations have a skincare focus to them and they have more formulas than most brands. If you have acne-prone skin and want a complexion product to cover while you’re treating your acne, Clinique has options for you. If you have very dry skin, Clinique has options for you. If you have oily skin, guess what—Clinique has options for you! Pretty much any skin type or concern has a formula at Clinique. See the widget below for options—seriously too many for me to name…lol.

Now shade options among the various formulas can get tricky. Not every formula has a vast range—but some formulas don’t need to have a vast range—lighter formulas can be more flexible so a number of people can wear the same shade. In the formulas that do have a vast range, on the lighter end there’s a good mix of yellow, neutral, and golden undertones. On the deeper end there isn’t a ton of undertone diversity, most shades are golden or neutral.

See Clinique swatches and reviews here.

Shop the brand in the widget below—click on any image for shopping info.


BECCA is another brand created by a makeup artist. Australian MUA Rebecca Morrice Williams started the brand when she wanted to get that gorgeous airbrushed skin look you see in editorials but she wanted to have a range that would work on the fairest of skins and the darkest of skins. The BECCA lineup you see now differs greatly from the original lineup that started with the stick foundation and dual-sided concealers. Back around 2004 when I first tried the brand, I could NOT believe how many undertones were available for darker skin. My shade back then I believe was Almond—it was perfect! But then the lineup changed and the brand seemed to have found a way to make an extensive shade range without having as many shades with their flexible Aqua Luminous foundation.

The aesthetic for BECCA is very beach-beauty—like you see makeup is used but it’s so clean and pretty it’s like “I woke up like this!” Their current foundation formulas are pretty impressive: they have a full coverage liquid that feels extremely weightless, the flexible shade Aqua Luminous I mentioned earlier, and a liquid matte foundation.

See BECCA swatches and reviews here.

Shop the brand in the widget below—click on any image for shopping info.


Anastasia Beverly Hills launched their foundation range within the last few years and I’d say they did pretty good with the shades for a first run. So far they only have the stick foundation formula (and the contour kits if you want to count that).

The beauty of any stick foundation is in how resourceful it can be: you can use it to spot treat, as an all-over foundation, to brighten the under eye area (depends on the shade) and to contour (also depends on the shade). This one has a matte finish and a 30-shade range. On the lighter end, you’re not going to get much in the yellow/golden undertones. They mostly tend to be either cool or warm. On the darker end they also tend to run either cool (blue) or warm (red). There are a lot of people with these undertones though, so if that’s you, check it out.

See Anastasia swatches and reviews here.

Shop the brand in the widget below—click on any image for shopping info.


Huda Beauty. I have not tried any of the foundations nor any products from Huda Beauty aside from a pair of false eye lashes (Samantha #7s), but it does look like effort was put into making a diverse shade range.

Sephora Collection. They’ve changed their range over the years but I haven’t really scoped it out much. They don’t have a very vast range, but worth checking out as the price range is more attainable than many of the other brands mentioned in this post.

Bare Minerals. They’ve made some additions to their shade range and foundation formulas over the years so they have more shade options, but they can still use more. Something like their Bare Performance powder foundation can be more flexible, but what the brand is known for is their original mineral foundation which I feel can use more help in shade range. You might find a great shade match here though, but those with lighter skin with yellow undertones might find it difficult to get a great match. And then on the deeper end, there aren’t enough options—you might just happen to match by chance.

The rest of these brands don’t have great shade ranges (but they’re still a million times better than others), but may have some options that work.


Armani makes some really great performing foundations, but the shade range isn’t always great. They have 24 shades in the Luminous Silk foundation–on the darker end they tend to run more red and on the lighter end you might find a good undertone match—they have a mix of golden, peach, and neutral—not a ton of them of course, but they have a few.

I really love their foundation formulas though so if you can find a match, you’re in for a treat.

See Armani swatches and reviews here.

Shop the brand in the widget below—click on any image for shopping info.


Yet another makeup artist brand! Laura Mercier is widely known for taking the skin to new glowing levels with their foundation primers and secret powders. It’s funny because as I was drafting this post, I was automatically going to put Laura Mercier in the other vast range category because from memory I swore they had a bigger shade range. But after looking at it again, most formulas only have about 10-15 shades. There are a few with over 20 shades, but when you have brands like Cover FX, Fenty, and Make Up For Ever with 40, that isn’t a lot. They’re still much better than most brands.

They do have a lot of lighter coverage options like the famous Tinted Moisturizer and those can be pretty flexible in shade since the coverage is so light, but if you have very deep skin, they don’t come deep enough.

Their foundation formulas are amazing though—the Candleglow Luminous, Flawless Fluide, and Flawless Fusion are all amazing. But there just aren’t enough (or barely any) options for lighter skin tones with yellow undertones nor are there enough for darker skin tones.

See Laura Mercier swatches and reviews here.

Shop the brand in the widget below—click on any image for shopping info.


While Smashbox foundations can work on all skin types, those with normal to dry skin may really love this brand. The shade range isn’t as vast as I’d like it to be. Yes, they do go from light to deep, but there is a lot of opportunity for shades in between. If you have a lighter skin tone with yellow undertones, you likely may not find a good match as the lighter shades here tend to run more pink and red and the ones close to a yellow undertone might be too dark. On the darker end, they tend to lean more red though there is a darker brown with neutral undertones.

See Smashbox swatches and reviews here.

Shop the brand in the widget below—click on any image for shopping info.


Compared to the shade range UD offered not too long ago, their lineup now looks like Wakanda…lol. It can still use some improvement, but it’s way better than it used to be.

They have the Naked Skin (liquid), All Nighter (liquid), and two powders. There’s also a BB Cream-ish hybrid but it has so few shades that I don’t even know why I mentioned it just now…lol.

On the lighter end of the spectrum you may find an olive undertone but they mostly seem to run on the pinky/rosy side. If you’re a caramel complexion with golden undertones, this might be a great brand to look at because they seem to have a number of options. On the deeper end you’d have to try it out in store because a lot of the shades are described as having a soft warm undertone which can mean anything.

See Urban Decay swatches and reviews here.

Shop the brand in the widget below—click on any image for shopping info.


Had it not been for the launch of the Vanish Foundation stick, Hourglass wouldn’t have been mentioned here at all. On the lighter end, you may have more undertone options in the stick foundation. On the darker end, there isn’t much variety and plenty of room for in between shades. These might be better options for contouring or if your skin happens to match one of the few deeper shades. The formula is outstanding though.

Their other foundation formulas aren’t anywhere near as vast in shade options. If you have a lighter skin tone, Immaculate® Liquid Powder Foundation Mattifying Oil Free foundation might have a match for you but they do seem to run more pinky.

See Hourglass swatches and reviews here.

Shop the brand in the widget below—click on any image for shopping info.


Dior has a number of innovative foundation formulas, but only two of them have a decent shade range: Diorskin Forever Perfect Foundation and Diorskin Forever Undercover Foundation (there’s also the Diorskin Star but I don’t see it on the Sephora site).

Though the shade ranges aren’t very vast, some of the deeper shades are a bit more flexible. There are a number of neutral (but slightly red-leaning) shades in the deeper end, but not very many options on the lighter end that are yellow or golden.

See Dior swatches and reviews here.

Shop the brand in the widget below—click on any image for shopping info.


People of color tend to need bolder, more pigmented colors in everything from eyeshadows to lip colors to blush in order for them to show up nicely on our skin tones. I’m not going to go through every brand with an explanation (because I’d be here all day) but below is a list of brands that have great pigments in their lip colors, highlighters, blushers, eyeshadows, etc. Note I only included brands that overall have great color—if they have a huge line of products and only like three lipsticks work, then I passed.

Anastasia Beverly Hills (see swatches and reviews)
BECCA (see swatches and reviews)
bitebeauty (see swatches and reviews)
BlackUP (see swatches and reviews)
Bobbi Brown (see swatches and reviews)
Dior (see swatches and reviews)
Estee Lauder (see swatches and reviews)
Fenty (see swatches and reviews)
Huda Beauty
Kat Von D (see swatches and reviews)
Lancome (see swatches and reviews)
Laura Mercier (see swatches and reviews)
Make Up For Ever (see swatches and reviews)
Marc Jacobs (see swatches and reviews)
NARS (see swatches and reviews)
Pat McGrath
Sephora Collection
Stila (see swatches and reviews)
Urban Decay (see swatches and reviews)

P.S. Just because a brand isn’t mentioned here, doesn’t mean I’m saying you shouldn’t buy from them—this post was meant to help with the big items like complexion products and color products. Things like brows, mascara, nail color, and eyeliners can be bought from most brands. Even though I personally do not buy from or mention some brands on my platforms, I tried my best to be neutral in this post. Keyword: tried…lol.

P.P.S. Yes, Sephora sells skincare and hair products as well, but those are whole different beasts to tackle.

Don’t forget to share this post via the social share buttons at the very end or send the direct link to your friends :)

The Black Girl's Guide to Shopping at Sephora

Which brands at Sephora do you shop from the most? Tell me in the comments!

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About Danielle

A former finance girl, Danielle is a New York City based freelance writer and fashion and beauty expert. She's a Hofstra University and Fashion Institute of Technology grad with an obsession with fashion and beauty which she loves to tell you all about every weekday on her award-winning blog. Think of her as your style and beauty entourage all wrapped up into one bubbly brown package. Danielle's work and expertise can be found in print and across the web in Cosmopolitan for Latinas,, and more! She's also appeared as an on-air style expert on CBS New York's "The Couch" and WPIX11's Savvy Shopper segment.

6 Responses to The Black Girl’s Guide to Shopping at Sephora

  1. Natasha Blevins says:

    You always bring on the deets. Thank you for sharing as always. I was introduced to the Laura Mercier brand and that infamous tinted moisturizer through Sephora as well. Their prices are great compared to shopping at other beauty stores. I usually go to Dillard’s or another mall kiosk to try other items from beauty brands such as Clinique’s lipsticks, eye shadows, and mascaras or Estee Lauder’s double wear makeup.

    • Danielle says:

      hey Natasha!

      Thank you!!! Yes, sometimes going to the brand’s counter makes sense especially since not every brand sells every product they make at Sephora.

  2. Akosua says:

    Thank you for the info!!! I’m currently using a full coverage foundation. Love it, however it’s a tad bit red for me. What brand of color drops do you recommend to neutralize the color of the foundation? Thank you!!

  3. Esi says:

    Hi Danielle!
    I am brand new to your posts. I was drawn by the fact that you are a fellow dark-skinned sister. I have been browsing your YouTube channel (and have subscribed!), and look forward to benefiting from your knowledge. You are gorgeous! I feel pretty clueless (and intimidated) by how to figure out my undertone. Do you have some pointers, or perhaps you’ve posted about this previously? Thank you!

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