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August 7, 2017

K-Beauty For Deeper Skin Tones: What Works, What’s on a Wish List

Let’s get real: K-beauty has a ways to go before their color options encompass most of the skin tones in the world. (But then again, Western brands only recently started offering a wider range of shades.) In the meantime, one woman of color talks about what really works for deeper skin tones (and her wish list!).



For most K-beauty fans, Korean skincare is our common ground. We all love our multiple-step routines, rave over our favorite cleansers, and help each other on the search for our holy grail products. However, for women of color, Korean makeup may seem exclusionary. With most brands only offering two to three shades for each BB cushion release, even someone as faired skinned as I am find themselves locked out of a lot of face makeup options.


Nothing makes me feel more frustrated in the beauty world than discovering a new favorite BB and knowing that I can’t share the excitement with my friends. But the market is slowly making headway, and Korean makeup does not start and stop with the BB cushion. There are a wide range of products for both the paler and the deeper skin tones among us.


When thinking about this story, I also immediately thought of my dear friend Tiffany Peterson, a longtime K-beauty fan, active in the K-beauty scene in NYC and beyond. Tiffany is from the Bronx in New York City. She’s a health advocate who fell head over heels for Korean pop culture and beauty.


Tiffany’s Korean beauty journey started with her searching for solutions for her acne scar woes online; four years later she’s now a self-taught aficionado. She’s well-known in the NYC K-beauty scene and has even been featured on South Korean television. Tiffany is one of my favorite people to shop with, so I wanted to get her take on the issue as a woman of color with a deeper skin tone, starting with her favorite K-beauty brands.



Clio - Peripera - Pro Single Shadow - 30 colors



The brands


“It can be challenging as a Black women to find Korean beauty brands with makeup I can actually wear. So far I’ve been surprised and wonderfully delighted by Laneige, Tony Moly, Clio Professional, Peripera, and The Face Shop. I hope more Korean brands begin to expand their product ranges to encompass women of all shades. As frequent users of their skincare, it would be amazing to see them branch out so we can also experience their makeup lines.”


Eye makeup


“When it comes to eyeshadow, I absolutely adore the Clio Professional brand. Their formulation always delivers a smooth, creamy, and opaque application every single time.


“I also love how playful they are with such an extensive color range that you’re sure to find a shade to fit your complexion. Their Pro Single Eyeshadow is super convenient and wonderfully equipped for the gal on-the-go. Their pro single eyeshadow in the color Cat Breeze is what I currently use to accentuate my natural everyday look.


deeper skin tones
Some of Clio’s highly pigmented Pro Single Shadows, including Tiffany Peterson’s favorite, Cat Breeze.



“Another convenient travel eyeshadow I’ve grown to love is the Over Girl Edge Stick Eyes from The Face Shop. It comes in a slim tubular package you can twist and apply without using fingers or a makeup brush. My two favorite Over Girl shades are PK02, which is a shimmering mauve with gold specks & BR01, which is a shimmering copper brown gold.”



Lipstick & blush


“I absolutely adore the packaging of Peripera Rouge Pang. Each color glides on smoothly with a creamy satin finish. My favorite shades are PP02 and RD09. Their lipstick shades are very pigmented, which is perfect for brown skin girls looking for a Korean makeup brand to try.”


deeper skin tones
Peripera Rouge Pang


I asked about blush, and the outlook wasn’t so rosy. She says that she hasn’t found a Korean blush she loves yet, so she sticks to Western brands, opting for a bronzer in lieu of a blusher. She prefers IMAN sheer finish bronzing powder as a complexion enhancer. “It’s a featured Ebony Magazine Best in Bag Winner, so you know it’s good!”


BB cushions


As I mentioned before, most BB cushions are only available in woefully few shade options. I wanted to know if she had any workarounds to cope with the lack of BB cushions available to her.


She says: “The lack of cushion compact offerings for women with darker skin tones is something that honestly breaks my heart.” (It’s a sentiment I’ve heard time and time again from my women of color friends and blog readers.) “I’m lucky to be able to use the Laneige BB cushion in Dark. It’s still fairly light for my skin tone, so I can only use it during the winter months when my skin is fairest due to less sun exposure. It’s one of my favorite base makeup options; I love that it contains SPF 50+ and leaves me with a moisturized ‘no-makeup’ look.”


deeper skin tones
The women on the cover of the author’s book.



In the days before the Laneige BB cushion, I personally struggled to find a BB shade dark enough to cater to the models we used in our book, Korean Beauty Secrets. For two of our models, there was only one shade in the entirety of the K-beauty that worked, Missha’s #31 Golden Beige. So I’m glad to see there is at least one cushion option out there now, and with its success, hopefully more and more will follow.


The wish list


In that vein, I wanted to know if Tiffany had a wish list that could be fulfilled: Which K-beauty products would she like to see made with women of color in mind.


First on the list, not surprisingly, is a BB cushion. One with “a deeper shade range showcasing at least five to eight or more variations of dark shade.”


Next on the list was blush. “Deeper berry hues are preferable for women with darker skin,” she says.


Finally, Tiffany hopes for “richer pigments so that the color can be seen prominently on women of all shades. Not everyone can do a pale gradient lip color, so expanding opacity would be best.”


Most importantly, Tiffany recommends doing your research. “As an avid user of K-beauty who understands the difficulty of finding Korean makeup brands that work for women of color, I’d suggest searching the online Asian Beauty community for others like you. We’re not alone! There are so many of us online on Facebook, Instagram, and even Twitter. Try searching the Instagram tags #BlackGKbeauty or #BlackGirlsofKbeauty.”


Here’s to hoping for more diversity in K-beauty — a diversity that accurately represents its fans around the world.


What are some of your favorite products for deeper skin tones? Do you have a wish list for K-beauty brands for your particular skin tone?


Coco Park is an author, beauty journalist, blogger, podcast host, and all around oddball living in Montreal Quebec with her family. Originally from the southern USA, she worked for several years in the makeup industry as a professional makeup artist and holds a certificate in esthetics. She is a proud member of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma. Want to know more? Check her out on the Beauty Beyond Basics podcast, on her blog, on Instagram @thebeautywolf, and in her book "Korean Beauty Secrets: A Practical Guide to Cutting-Edge Skincare & Makeup."




Honestly, this was (and still is) one of my biggest concerns when looking at beauty outside of the Western market. I'm glad to know that there are more POC with the same mindset and I'm excited to see what the future holds as these brands expand. Also, the suggestions here are still a great start to at least make some great combos of Western and K-Beauty!


I completely understand the frustration with searching for foundations/bb/cc creams in darker shades. It frustrated me that I couldn't "participate" in the bb cushion craze. But after searching for weeks, I found 5 Korean brands that offered darker shades! I still strongly believe that Korean brands have a long way to go with incorporating more shades into their ranges, especially since most dark/tan shades will oxidize and turn you orange. But I can't help but be happy and excited that they are now finally branching out! Here's my review on the darker shades offered by Innisfree, Missha, AmorePacific, Laneige, and... Read more


I, too longed for a cushion that matched my shade. (For reference, I use Urban Decay's All Nighter in '10').

Then came Laneige to the rescue!

The cushions they sold in Target were an awful match for my skin, the dark shade left me ashy and dull, but the Pore Blur cushion in 37/Cacao works beautifully. It actually looks better as the day goes on. I'm not sure how that works -- probably magic.

As soon as I open the refill, I place an order for another one; I don't ever want to be without it!

The Hydra Radiance cushion... Read more


Thank you for writing this article. I am a black women and I love K Beauty.


I reviewed 5 Korean BB cushion brands and the darker shades that they offered. Hopefully this helps you find something in your shade as well!


Really, really appreciated this post being a woman of colour myself. I started k-beauty when I was introduced to it from a South Korean roommate in college and had wonderful results, but couldn't find many bloggers that looked like me to help with the complexion questions. Would all these great brightening products turn me into Dracula? How do I keep the melanin poppin' while getting rid of the blemishes? Are there dark skin swatches for Jun Ji Hyun's droolworthy lipsticks in My Love From Another Star (bought it anyway ?)? It's been an interesting ride, and I understand only a... Read more


Really glad that the beauty industry is FINALLY coming out with different shades suitable for all skin colours. I remember when BB cream started becoming a was so hard to find something that didn't make me look like a pale ghost.


I'm really happy to see that some Korean brands are trying to reach a wider market. Being Mexican my skin tone is a little darker than Korean skin care range. That´s why I feel more comfortable using a BB Cream that adapts to my skin tone (I'm currently using Skin 79 Hot Pink), but even so, in some days my face tends to look a little paler than usual, and I do extend my foundation to the neck to diminish this. I really hope that one day darker skin tones will have more options from where to pick.

This... Read more


Even as pale as I am sometimes the darkest shades are too pale for me, so I can imagine how frustrating it is. I also hope they branch out soon.


I reviewed 5 Korean BB cushion brands and the darker shades that they offered. Hopefully this helps you find something in your shade as well!


Thank you, I'll be sure to check it out :D


And the new Innisfree cushions! But as far as I know they're only available in the States or on the Innisfree site?


As far as I know, you are right, the Innisfree cushions are only available in the U.S. and online through their U.S. ?? store, which is kind of a let down because it may be difficult and/or expensive for people with darker skin tone to get them?.

But I guess that in the end what is really important is that K-Beauty brands are trying to incorporate different undertones and shades of dark and deep skin tones ??


My skintone is one that is well catered to in both Western and Kbeauty brands, but I am hoping that with the rapidly expanding market, Kbeauty brands realize they have a lot more people that want to try their makeup products. Western brands are offering shade range expansions pretty regularly, and I hope Kbeauty brands start soon, too. It's not as fun when not everyone can join in.


Sooo agree with you, Jules. Especially when I'm Korean by ethnicity, and most of K-beauty's foundation/cushion offerings don't work for me.


Anna I live in fear of only shade 21 being available sometimes.


Haha, at least 21/23 works for you! 23 is oftentimes too pale for me, and I'm Korean!!! ?


It's a sad state of affairs when I get excited that a line has "four whole shades" to pick from!