The words “You look tired” have been all too familiar to me since I was 16 years old. Unfortunately, most of my South Asian friends have similar (and, oftentimes worse) stories of being bullied at a young age for the differences in their skin.
For the bulk of my makeup journey, concealing the genetic dark circles and hyperpigmentation on my medium-toned, Indian skin was mostly about layering as many primers, concealers, foundations, and powders on top of my skin as possible. Not only did this totally clog my pores and make my acne-prone skin even more sensitive, but my face would also look cakey and oily within hours of application. To try to combat the greasiness, I would usually layer on even more powder mid-day.
A few years ago, when I started writing about beauty and talking to South Asian makeup artists, I realized I wasn’t alone at all. In fact, some South Asian-owned brands like Sarah Shah’s Journ specialize in color correcting products. Brands like Shah’s aren’t just making products that are effective and make us feel beautiful. They’re also building a sense of community for those who have struggled emotionally due to being ridiculed for their dark circles.
But, it’s not as easy as choosing any red corrector and dabbing it on scars or under eyes to combat their blue, ash grey color. Many correctors on the mass market cater to lighter skin tones and look unnatural on medium-toned South Asians.
Since our pigmentation is genetic, it can be harder to treat than ever. “South Asian skin is really tricky,” says board-certified dermatologist Dhaval Bhanusali. “When it comes to hyperpigmentation, those patients need extra care.” It’s not enough to find a good color match, though. Bhanusali warns that it’s important only to use products with the most high-quality ingredients. Also, whether you have sensitive skin or not, it’s essential to be careful with the under-eye area. "The skin under the eyes is thin, so it’s extremely sensitive," he says. "You have to be careful not to put any aggressive ingredients or treatments on it because you can actually make any pigmentation you have worse," Bhanusali adds.
There’s still work to be done to dismantle colorism in the beauty industry, but these four Asian-owned brands lead the charge by making effective color-correcting products. I swear by each of them for their pigmentation, ease of use, and high-quality ingredients.
Meet the Expert
Dhaval Bhanusali is a board-certified dermatologist based out of New York City.
For Skincare Benefits
Like most South Asian women, Sarah Shah was incredibly frustrated with the lack of efficacious products catered towards medium to deeper skin tones in the beauty space. Out of that frustration, the busy lawyer founded Journ—a vegan, cruelty-free brand that exclusively specializes in color-correcting products for all skin tones.
Though this is the latest color corrector to be added to my arsenal, it’s one I can officially no longer live without. I have sensitive, dry skin, so the sweet almond oil, carrot seed, and rose-infused formula give this product skincare benefits. The creamy formula doesn’t just feel luxurious either. It delivers the perfect red-orange tint to combat discoloration under my eyes. I take a pea-sized amount and dab it all over my jawline, where I have the most prominent scarring. It’s like Photoshop in a tube (but this is way more travel-friendly).
For the Right Amount of Pigment
Influencer and CEO of LiveTinted Deepica Mutyala rose to fame when her viral YouTube tutorial of her using red lipstick to correct her under-eye circles led to an appearance on The Today Show. So it was only natural that years later, she founded a beauty brand to share more of her makeup secrets with the world.
It can be hard to find a color corrector that’s pigmented enough to counteract the color of my under-eye circles but not so pigmented that it shines through underneath concealer or foundation. However, this is my favorite everyday product for how easy the crayon is to use, especially on the acne scars around my jawline. The pointed tip allows for easy, targeted application, and the formula's consistency allows me to blend it lightly with my finger.
It’s also hard to find a warm, red shade flattering with my undertones, so I love that this multi-use stick looks great on my lips and eyelids. I can use it to create a full face that looks like I spent way more time on my makeup than I actually did. Plus, this is infused with proven hydrator squalane, making sure the product won’t settle into any fine lines.
For Sensitive Skin
It’s impossible to talk about high-quality products made for sensitive skin without mentioning Amy Liu’s Tower28. Born out of her personal frustrations with sensitive, eczematous skin, the Tower28 balms are some of my favorite products. It’s not marketed as a color corrector, but I first used this a year ago when I ran out of another product I was using. I haven’t gone back since.
The gold undertones in this shade don’t just counteract the blue-ish tones in my under eyes, but it makes that area even brighter. The slippery texture makes this easy to apply, and the radiant finish with the orange tint is really flattering on the lips and cheeks of South Asian skin, too. I wouldn’t use this on acne scars unless I had a small brush to dab this on with, so I mostly use this under my eyes.
Tower28’s cruelty-free, non-toxic balms are some of the most hydrating products I’ve ever put on my skin. Bonus: they say they're the only makeup brand out there to 100% follow the guidelines of the National Eczema Association.
For Acne Scars
When Pinki Gosal moved to Chicago for her dream job (working for a supermodel-owned beauty brand), her second day was filled with the excitement of meeting her famous boss. However, the celebrity founder walked into a room filled with people and singled Gosal out by saying, "Who is this? Someone get some concealer on her!"
Gosal came back home to Canada to build Vasanti along with her three sisters with the mission of building an inclusive beauty brand that creates products that target unique skin concerns.
Their hero product, the VO2 Undereye Color Corrector, is an orange-hued concealer that has the perfect skin-like satin finish. The brightening tones in it work as a great highlighting product, too. For days I want something low-maintenance and lightweight, this is what I’ll reach for. The doe-foot applicator works great for targeted application on small acne scars. The lightweight consistency feels super breathable on my skin, so I let myself pack this when I want to prime my skin for contour and heavy highlight.
Sethi A, Kaur T, Malhotra SK, Gambhir ML. Moisturizers: the slippery road. Indian J Dermatol. 2016;61(3):279-287. doi:10.4103/0019-5154.182427