How to Find the Perfect Foundation Shade
An in-depth guide on how to find the best match for your unique skin tone.
Okay ladies, let's talk foundation.
I know I’m not the only girl out there still wearing my summer foundation shade. The tan has faded, the natural bronze glow is gone, and here I am sporting “golden beige” while, in reality, my skin is closer to “classic ivory”.
It's okay, love, we've all been here. It's time to stop this silly shade-matching nonsense and to treat yourself with a new fitting shade for the cold-weather months. By following these 4 simple steps, you’ll have the perfect match in no time.
Step 1 | Amount of Coverage
To begin, you will need to decide how much coverage you would like your foundation to provide. Typically during the colder months, I opt for a higher coverage foundation because my skin isn't as tan and even. However, if your skin is naturally clear, you may want to opt for a lighter coverage product.
Can't decide? Consider these pros and cons when choosing what's best for you…
- Pros: hides blemishes and dark spots easier, great for uneven or flushed skin
- Cons: can look “cakey”, goes on much thicker and can get heavy, hides natural glow, can be harder to match to neck
- Pros: allows skin to breathe, compliments skins natural tone and radiance, can be easier to blend
- Cons: doesn’t conceal blemishes and dark spots as easil
Once you've made the choice on which coverage is best for you, you'll need to know what to look for on the packaging of the foundation itself.
When it comes to full coverage products, look for keywords “high coverage” and “longwear”. Also as a general rule of thumb, cream or stick foundations usually provide more coverage.
For a lighter foundation, look for the keywords “skin tint”, “sheer”, “tinted moisturizer”, “BB cream”, and “CC cream”. Most light-medium coverage foundations also contain SPF.
Step 2 | Type of Skin
Choosing a foundation that compliments your type of skin is vital to the selection process. You want to pick a product that combats any skin issues you have, as opposed to one that highlights them. Refer to this general breakdown to determine your skin type…
Now that you have an idea of what type of skin you have, let's go over which formula type is best for you.
If you have oily skin… try a mattifying and oil free formula. Stick and pressed powder products are a great option.
If you have combination skin… try a foundation with a natural or satin finish. You may have to test out a few brands to find one you love.
If you have dry skin… try a hydrating or water based formula with SPF. Tinted moisturizers and liquids or creams with a radiant finish are your go-to.
Step 3 | Finding Your Undertone
Odds are that your skin has a natural undertone: cool, neutral, or warm. Undertones help give our skin a unique hue and tint. However, they can make matching foundations a real headache. Ever had a foundation that appeared to be the exact color of your face but ended up looking yellow when applied? You can thank your undertone for that. To avoid this from happening, you must find a shade that blends with the natural hues located just under the surface of your skin.
So, which undertone are you?
If you have a cool undertone, your skin will lean towards pink, red, and blue. Women with cool undertones tend to like silver jewelry and find that blues, greens, and grays complement them best. When looking for a foundation, search for one with a slight pink tint.
If you have a warm undertone, your skin will lean towards tan, peach, and gold. Women with warm undertones tend to like gold jewelry and find that yellows, tans, and oranges complement them best. When looking for a foundation, search for one with a yellow or beige tint.
If you have a neutral undertone, you will find that your skin nearly matches the shade of your undertone. You will find that most colors complement your skin.
***Pro Tip: Most shades are labeled with a number and a letter C, W, or N. The lower the number, the lighter the shade. The letter next to the number denotes the undertone. As you can probably guess, C stands for cool, W for warm, and N for neutral. For example, 100N would be a very light shade with a neutral undertone and 510W would be a deep shade with warm undertones. Make sense?
Step 4 | Skin Tone
Last but not least -- skin tone! Lucky for you, this is the easy step. Most foundations come in 5 “color categories”. These are fair, light, medium, dark, and deep. Look out for these shade names when looking for a foundation…
- Fair: almond, porcelain, ivory
- Light: nude, natural or golden beige
- Medium: warm beige, honey, sand
- Dark: mocha, chestnut, truffle
- Deep: cocoa, deep golden, espresso
The Final Result
Once you've collected your desired coverage, your skin type, undertone, and skin tone, all you have left to do is combine them together and search for your perfect fit. Trust me, spending a little extra time now figuring out what will work best for you is going to save you so much time later.
If you're shopping online take advantage of your helpful friends “filter” and “sort”. On most beauty websites like Sephora and Ulta, there is a bar either across the top or side where you can select your preferences. This is where your research comes in! By specifying your coverage, skin type, form, and price range, you can narrow the results from hundreds to round 5 or 10.
When shopping in a store, don't be afraid to ask for help! I promise you that the store workers are more than happy to help you make a decision, especially if you already know the basics of what you're looking for!
After you've found a couple options, use these shade testing tips to ensure a flawless match.
- Test on your jawline or side of your face, not your hand or neck! Most women's hands and necks are a completely different shade than their face. Your best bet is to match it directly to the skin you would usually wear it on.
- Let the foundation sit on your skin for 5-10 minutes before deciding to purchase it. Oxidation is a thing, my friends (more to come on that later)!
- If you get the bottle home and realize that the shade you selected totally doesn't match, chances are you can probably return it. Most beauty stores allow returns and full refunds within a certain amount of days if you have the receipt and if the bottle is mostly full. (No, they do not resell returns!)
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