How to Find the Right Foundation Shade – How to Test Foundation

Finding the right foundation is like finding the one. The only difference is you don’t have to settle. If you tick all of the following boxes, congratulations—your skin, like Hiddleswift, has found its happily ever after. Here, your ultimate guide.


“If you want to get the right tone, always try foundation in natural daylight, so at a window or outside,” says celebrity makeup artist Naoko Scintu. Daylight is crystal clear and even, which means it’ll be easier to detect the wrong color match or spots that need more blending. If it’s nighttime, you can use an LED lamp mirror like The Makeup Light, beloved by Blake Lively and Charlotte Tilbury, to mimic the natural stuff. PSA: Beware of department store lighting!

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The *center* of the face (make sure it’s clean and moisturized) is where women often need the most coverage, says makeup artist Jen Fleming. But just as importantly, you need to make sure it matches the rest of your body because a two-toned situation becomes no one. Your neck makes for a great tester palette because it’s typically even toned to begin with, but Tilbury and fellow makeup artist bigwig Troy Surratt have both gone on record saying that testing foundation on the jaw, which showcases your undertones best, in daylight is the most telling way to find the right flattering shade. We say play it safe and investigate both.


Undertones are inherently mystifying, but once you understand yours and know what to look for, you’ll be able to edit out the wrong-hued formulas with ease. At the end of the day, you’re either one of the following and should look for foundations that match:


  1. Cool (Blueish): You have pink, red, and blue undertones . Often times blue or purple veins can be the most obvious indicators.
  2. Neutral (Greenish): You’re somewhere in the middle as your complexion doesn’t lean too cool or warm. Other telltale signs are if your skin appears olive-y in the sun or if your veins are blue-green.
  3. Warm (Yellowish): Your complexion has warmer yellow or peach undertones with greenish veins. It appears yellowish in the sun.

    “The fairer the skin is, the more neutral-to-pink undertones usually are,” explains makeup artist Tina Turnbow. “It’s good to figure out if you are more neutral or yellow so the shade blends in.” Often times makeup artists will suggest identifying your undertones by looking at skin against white clothing or a towel.


    Foundations and concealers exist separately for a reason. “Foundation should always be applied lightly,” says Scintu. “If you need coverage, this should be done with concealer. It should look like real skin, showing off freckles.” But if you want more, albeit non-cakey-looking coverage in addition to concealer, look to a formula that’s layerable, like Oxygenetix’s Oxygenating Foundation.”It will allow skin to breathe, won’t block pores, and let the skin to renew underneath.”


    Dry, oily, and sensitive skin all have different needs. Not to mention, different types of formulas will read—and bake—differently on the skin. If you have oily skin, you’re best off with lightweight, oil-free, and matte-finish foundations that will control shine and work well with loose powder. If you have dry skin, richer and hydrating formulas with moisturizer work best. For sensitive skin, there’s not going to be a one-size-fits-all-solution, but avoiding irritant-heavy and super-thick formulas is always wise. There’s also mineral-based powder which is known to be less aggravating to the skin.

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    • Sheer: The best formula for the no-makeup makeup look, you can this kind of finish from tinted moisturizers, as well as BB and CC creams, which typically provide light-to-medium coverage.
    • Dewy: Has a natural sheen for a healthy-looking glow, but can an add unwanted shine to oily skin. Usually yields buildable, light-to-medium coverage.
    • Satin: Somewhere in between a dewy and matte, it gives you a smooth, satin-y finish and is great for women with normal to dry skin.
    • Semi-Matte: Just like a matte finish, but with a touch of dewiness, it works for most skin types for medium-to-full coverage depending on how it’s layered.
    • Matte: Because of its lower water content, a matte finish controls shine (i.e. is great for oil skin) while giving you baby soft, medium-to-full coverage.


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      You don’t want something that’s going to slide off your skin or gives you dry patches as it wears. As a rule of thumb, sheer coverages tends to not last not as long, which means you have to be ready and willing to reapply once to twice during the day. If you don’t want the commitment, look to a full-coverage foundation. For those with dry skin, beware of formulas that collect and attract attention to dry spots. If your skin looks drier than it was before after a few hours, this is not your match.

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