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My Favorite New Clean Foundation Has 43 Inclusive Shades

That rarely happens in clean beauty. Here's my review.
exa foundation
Image: Exa.

Although I pay close attention to ingredient lists and product labels, I wouldn’t call myself a “clean beauty” obsessive. “Clean” means something different to every brand and/or retailer and it can be tough to sort through the marketing lingo. But when I heard about Exa, Credo Beauty’s new in-house beauty line, I was intrigued. You see, part of what I don’t love about the clean beauty space is the way it continues to market to white people, and older ones at that. Although I never have trouble finding my foundation shade, I have no interest in supporting a brand that caters to only a few skin tones. But Exa is different.

Right out the gate, Exa launched its foundation with 43 shades, taking into account warm, neutral and cool undertones. While that’s pretty standard for makeup brands at this point, clean beauty brands have been far behind in terms of inclusivity. According to makeup artist Katey Denno, who works with Credo, it took two years for the company to develop the first drops: Jump Start Smoothing Primer and High Fidelity Foundation.

exa foundation
Image: Exa.

What makes Exa “clean?” Well, it’s all according to Credo’s Clean Standard. It bans 2,700 ingredients, looking at safety, sustainability, how the ingredients are sourced and the ethics of labor conditions and animal welfare. In short, Exa is cruelty-free, vegan and gluten-free. The packaging is eco-friendly, with the box made from 100 percent post-consumer waste and the tray from compostable sugarcane waste fiber. After you throw the cap and pump in the trash (they’re too small), you can fully recycle the rest.

You know what Exa doesn’t have but what it does contain is skin-nourishing ingredients. Jump Start Smoothing Primer is more skin care than a sticky makeup primer with cocoa fruit powder, collagen-stimulating CoQ10 and fatty acids. It’s semi-matte and for all skin types and tones. The High Fidelity Foundation has a medium-to-full buildable coverage with a semi-satin finish. It contains microalgae actives, maqui berry and hyaluronic acid, as well as anti-pollution actives to shield your skin from environmental damage (key for those living in major cities!).

I chose shade Allie 390 (all colors are named after models or company employees) but it was a little golden for me. I’ll probably be using James 410 (a neutral) going forward. Still, I loved the formula and the way it hugged my skin without settling into my dry spots and fine lines. The primer helped the foundation stick without mattifying my skin too much. I prefer a satin foundation so this is pretty much perfect for me when I want a little coverage. If you have oily skin or prefer matte foundation, a setting powder will help.

exa foundation review
Image: Elizabeth Denton.

Exa is out now at Credo stores and online. Don’t sleep on it.

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