A black woman applying make-up
A black woman applying foundation. © redav - Fotolia.com

According to a 2009 study by Essence magazine, black women spend $7.5 billion a year on makeup — a number that is 80 percent higher than the amount shelled out by women of other races. The cause? The need to try many different products in order to find the best foundation match for one’s particular shade of black skin. The browns, hues and undertones that black people can exhibit present a spectrum that most makeup companies cannot entirely accommodate. Some may have your shade, others will not. This leaves black women trying multiple brands in search of the Holy Grail of foundation that will provide them with that flawless look.

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The new Sephora + Pantone Color IQ system addresses this issue using technology that perfectly assesses a customer’s shade — then recommending the exact makeup products that will provide perfect foundation coverage.

“The technology behind Color IQ is advanced, but the concept is simple: a handheld device allows Sephora makeup artists to digitally scan various spots on a customer’s face, resulting in 27 images in less than two seconds,” Time.com reports. “The color capture technology then assigns each person a Pantone skin-tone number, which when entered into the coinciding iPad app, brings up a list of foundations — of the more than 1,000 Sephora sells — that are the closest match for the customer’s skin tone.”

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Sephora will unveil Sephora + Pantone Color IQ in New York City on July 26 at five locations. The service will also be offered at one San Francisco location beginning in August. There are no plans for the beauty emporium to expand availability beyond these two major metros, but hopefully this limited release will lead to a larger roll-out. As Margarita Arriagada Sephora’s senior vice president of merchandising told Time.com, picking a foundation is a very tricky business. For black women, the factors she listed make the act costlier, in addition to being time consuming.

“Foundation matching is the hardest because you are dealing with pigmentation, undertones, ambient lighting and the season of the year,” Arriagada said. “And for a client to navigate through all the shades in our store is a huge task. Color IQ gives you a precision on your skin tone — a universal code — instead of digging through all the formulas.”

Sounds great! Hopefully Sephora + Pantone Color IQ will soon be available to all women, regardless of their skin shade.

Follow Alexis Garrett Stodghill on Twitter at @lexisb.