I've lost count of the times the women behind make-up counters have told me that I "don't really need foundation" when I ask if they have any in my shade. Flattered as I am, that's not the point. The beauty industry would collapse if, every time you tried to buy a product, the sales pitch said that you didn't really need it. I'd rather they were honest and said their firm couldn't be bothered to come up with anything darker than a light beige, than pretend that theirs was an industry based on needs (food, water, Dawson's Creek) rather than wants (longer lashes, fuller lips, red nails). Nothing makes you want something more than knowing you can't have it - and, since many black women have the choice of foundation taken away, the temptation to pick anything remotely similar to our skin colour is overwhelming.
"It's much better to wear no foundation than bad foundation," says Elizabeth Reeves, make-up artist with Becca. Reeves, a former model, knows first-hand the frustrations a black woman has in finding the right foundation: "On jobs, I'd have to mix different brands and colours to make my own shade," she says. Reeves is also refreshingly suspicious of the notion that black women don't need foundation: "We do not need it for colour," she concedes, "but we certainly need it to even out our complexion."
Reeves used to model for Becca founder Rebecca Morrice-Williams until Morrice-Williams turned to her for advice when developing darker colours for the range, and was so impressed by Reeves' response that she made her the company's international make-up artist. That instinct paid off, because Becca now has a great collection with a fantastic range of colours suitable for all skin types.
As for applying foundation, Reeves says, "When choosing a colour, match it with what's going on on your neck. Don't go for blanket coverage. Instead, build up coverage where you need it, so only use concealer or stick foundation on blemishes, rather than all over. Look at yourself at arm's length to get a proper perspective, in good natural light - and take time blending."