Foundation ingredients: What do they mean? Part I

Posted by Saji on 26th Nov 2021

So you are looking for that perfect foundation or bb cream for your dark skin tone. You know that you want to find something that will benefit you skin, or at the very least, not give you a bad reaction. But when you take a look at the ingredients, the often long list may be somewhat intimidating or have little meaning to you. In this first post, you will  learn about some of the different categories or classes of ingredients and what their purposes are.


The main purpose of these types of ingredients is to soften, moisturize, smooth and nourish the skin. This ingredient type is particularly important when in comes to dark skin as darker skin tones can appear ashy when there is a lack of moisture. Additionally, consistently dehydrated skin can eventually lead to visible damage in dark skin. The emollient used in a foundation can determine how the foundation feels on the skin. There are a few different subcategories of emollients that work in different ways:

  • Humectants: These particular ingredients attract water from the surrounding environment and thus bring moisture to the skin.
  • Occlusives: These ingredients actually form a film or barrier over the skin thus trapping moisture inside (or outside) the skin.


As many foundations contain ingredients that do not naturally mix together (such as oils and water) therefore, ingredients of this category are often necessary. The function of surfactants (emulsifiers) is to blend and stabilize immiscible (incompatible) ingredients together by lowering their surface tension. The results of this blend is an emulsion. 


These are of course necessary to prolong the shelf-life of your product. Most importantly, they protect your health by preventing the growth of pathogenic bacteria, mold, and fungus inside of your product. This is most important for products that contain water.


These are not always included in foundations, but when included they can be of great benefit to your skin. These biologically active ingredients often address particular skin issues. The melanin producing cells in dark skin can be more sensitive to inflammation and injury. This can often result in noticeable skin issues such as discoloration and hyperpigmentation. Therefore, if you wear foundation daily, selecting one that contains ingredients known to sooth, repair, and/or protect your skin would be beneficial.


Of course pigments are necessary to give the foundation its colour. They are added in varying amounts to produce the particular shade of foundation that matches your skin tone. And the amount of pigment added determines the coverage.


Added to make the foundation more aesthetically pleasing and to mask any less pleasing smells that may come about from the combination of ingredients.

In the next post of this series, I will go over some common ingredients from the above categories that are added to foundations. I will discuss which ingredients would most benefit your dark skin and if there are others that you should steer clear of.