Foundation 101 – Tips To Focus On When Seeking Your Perfect Match

Foundation is one of those makeup products that you don’t want to notice on your skin. We want the final result to be utterly seamless while enhancing our skin to appear even-toned and flawless.

I hear all too often that a foundation choice seemed ideal when it was in the bottle, but once applied to your skin, it was not as good of a match as you hoped. As a Makeup Artist, I apply foundation on many skin tones for a living, and there is no greater satisfaction than matching the exact foundation colour with the most skin-like finish on talent sitting in my makeup chair.

Here are a few tips to take into consideration before purchasing a foundation or tinted moisturizer, to avoid buying that “almost perfect” colour:

Discover Your Skin’s Undertones

Your skin’s undertones are an essential factor in matching your foundation correctly and will narrow down your choices substantially, so swatching will become easier. When scanning through various brands and their colour options, you will find that there are typically three different undertones to choose from: warm, cool and neutral.

  • Warm undertone’s colours are olive, orange, yellow, coral, gold, or peach.
  • Cool undertone’s colours are pink, red, blue, purple.
  • Neutral undertones are a combination of both warm and cool tones.

For women who have too many foundation shades at home — and none of them are the right one — it’s time to experiment. Mixing a lighter foundation shade with a darker one to find the perfect medium for you.

Figuring this out can still be a daunting process so if you’re still unsure in which direction to go, here are some more topics to help:

Believe it or not, your veins on your inner wrist can give you some insight into this department.

Blue/Red veins indicate cooler skin tones; Green veins indicate warmth and bluish/green veins mean you have neutral undertones. In most cases, people who have cooler tones in their skin will turn pink or burn with exposure to the sun, while people who have warmer tones will bronze and tan.

If you are still undecided, then purchase a neutral shade closest to your skin tone. A shade that is not too warm (yellow) and not too cool (pink).

Master Your Skin Type

Mastering your skin type is another vital aspect when purchasing the best foundation to fit your needs. There are endless options available for you to take into consideration. Your skin type can be normal, oily, dry, combination, or sensitive skin:

  • If you have oily skin, then search for a matte finish that is an oil-free liquid, non-comedogenic, cream or powder.
  • If you experience a dry skin type, then choose a moisturizing or hydrating formula in liquid form. Skin prep is going to be critical for your foundation to become one with your skin.   
  • If you experience sensitive skin, look for a formula that is hypoallergenic and scent-free.

Decide on a suitable coverage level for you.

Foundations offer various levels of coverage. If you are someone who has a lot of reds in your skin, then considering a full coverage foundation would be ideal. However, if full coverage is too heavy once applied, consider mixing it with a small amount of your moisturizer to sheer out the coverage.

More often than not, when I am on the hunt for a new foundation for my kit, I usually aim for medium buildable coverage. As an artist, having the flexibility to build or sheer out the coverage where needed is everything. Using a sponge applicator will allow you to build coverage with a stipple motion.

Do Your Research And Read Reviews

No matter what I am buying, I always research before making a purchase. My advice is to compare multiple brands to ensure you are purchasing the best foundation to suit your needs. Also, read reviews and look over customer photos to get an overall idea of the product’s performance. Anyone who has a difficult time matching a foundation shade that includes both your skin tone and undertones; this next one is especially for you.

Test Your Top 3 Foundation Shades On Multiples Areas Of Your Face

Once you understand your undertones and the coverage you are interested in, pick three shades that you believe are closest to your complexion. Match these to your lower jawline so you can consider the skin tone on your neck as well.  Apply each of them 1/2″ apart from your lower cheek to your jawline. Blending in each colour separately, the one that completely disappears into your skin will be the correct foundation colour for you. Your goal is to match the tones closest to your face/neck area to avoid looking like you are wearing a mask. After your precise match, if this colour is slightly light for your comfort, add colour back into your skin with bronzer and blush.

Women of color on occasion have different shades on their face in which some elements of their skin tones are darker, and others are lighter. Aim for your  foundation to match your décolleté, so your overall foundation tone looks more natural and realistic to your tones. 

Test It Out Before You Make The Purchase

It is worth taking the time to test out your foundation and wear it for a couple of hours minimum before making a purchase, and this is why; A foundation can oxidize after applied on your face and change colour as it dries and settles in. Making a purchase based on the colour of the foundation in the bottle is a risky choice. Your pH and body chemistry can also shift the shade of the foundation once applied to your skin. Especially for those with sensitive skin, if you are experiencing a reaction, it will happen almost immediately. Still, if you have sensitivity, it can take a bit of time to show itself.  Ask to take a sample home, or if no samples are available, check the return policy at the store of choice. Test the foundation out for a day to see how the product reacts to your skin:

  • Does it continue to remain the same tone for the entire day?
  • How is the longevity factor?
  • Does your coverage disappear by the afternoon?

Look At Your Foundation Choice In Different Lighting

Makeup products that you apply on your face will change with various types of light. To see makeup products authentic colour on your skin, view it in natural light. This guideline applies for foundations, concealers, eyeshadows, blushes and lipsticks. When I worked as a makeup artist at a retail counter, this was something I encouraged every customer to do when I was applying makeup on them or helping with a colour choice. The reasoning is in-store lighting is typically fluorescent, which shifts the colour of the actual product you are interested in purchasing. With natural light, you will have a realistic perception of the true nature of your colour choice. Another note worth mentioning is when you are on the search for a new product, ensure your skin is in its natural state instead of deciding to go on a quest for makeup after you have gone for a bike ride for an hour, and your face is flush will not work in your favour.

Lastly, think about a selfie with your foundation choice to ensure the foundation does not photograph lighter than expected.  It may appear a bit lighter because your face is closest to the flash, so keep that in mind when making your decision.

Skin Prep Is Fundamental

If this step is incorrect before applying your foundation at home or when you are seeking a new formula in-store, your makeup will sit on the surface of your skin instead of becoming one with it. Exfoliating is essential with skin prep. Skin that is not exfoliated regularly (at minimum once a week) will have dead or dry skin cells sitting on the surface of your skin.  This will show as a lacklustre finish to your foundation. If you would like the VIP treatment for your skin, then also consider adding a primer. As an artist, I mostly apply two primers on my talent—a mattifying primer on the t-zone and a hydrating primer everywhere else on the face. Each primer is chosen based on my client’s facial needs.

Consider Using Multiple Colour Foundations At Various Times Of Year.

Everyone’s skin tone will shift slightly (and for some not as slightly) at different times of the year. With this, I always have two foundations on hand—a slightly darker shade to match my skin tone for the Summer months and a slightly lighter shade to match my skin tone during the Winter Months.

Don’t Be Hesitant To Mix Products. 

Some of you will just not be able to find that perfect individual foundation colour for you. Now, if this is you, do not give up; Mixing multiple foundations will enable you to create an ideal match. Similarily if you purchased a foundation that is almost right but is still a bit off, try mixing products to get that seamless skin-like result. Here are some troubleshooting scenarios to assist you if the wrong foundation ends up in your hands:

  • If your foundation is slightly too pink or yellow for your skin tone, then purchase a second foundation that has a more substantial opposite base (pink & yellow are the two most popular bases), mix and apply.
  • If your foundation provides somewhat heavy coverage (beyond your comfort), then pour a pea-size amount of foundation on the back of your hand and mix in some of your moisturizer, which will lighten the consistency of your foundation. Another option is to apply the original formula with a wet beauty blender which will sheer out the coverage.
  • When you are at that time of year when you are in-between shades, then mix a bit of your summer and winter shades to achieve your match.
  • Look for buildable coverage to ensure you can layer on areas of your face that require more love.
  • If your foundation is too light for you – Mix in a liquid bronzer or darker shade to deepen enough to deliver that precise match.
  • If you apply your foundation in the morning, and you are excessively shiny in the afternoon – Blot using an oil-absorbing sheet and then slightly powder if necessary. If you powder on top of oil, then your foundation will look cakey by the afternoon.Disclosure: This post contains some affiliate links. If you use these links to make a purchase, I may earn a small commission, however that does not affect your price. As always, I only recommend products that I truly love and would use myself.


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