I think most people have a feel for what suits them. With foundation, it’s easy enough to make a ballpark match. Still, when it’s not quite right, it can be hard to put your finger on why. I’ve broken down the steps to getting a perfect foundation shade match, whether your totally lost or just need a new perspective.
What’s in name? When it comes to picking your foundation shade, feck all. Take it with a whole salt shaker, never mind a pinch. Some brands call their lightest shades porcelain or ivory, but what’s in the bottle can be builder’s brew beige. Shade title is such a weak indication. Don’t let it influence your decision too much. And never, ever buy based on it alone.
What Should It Match?
Your face gets more sun than your body. Unless you go out of your way to tan evenly, and good luck doing that in Ireland, it will be a little bit darker than your neck, chest and shoulders. So, the depth of shade that blends seamlessly into the skin on your face will probably be one or two shades too dark to the surrounding skin.
To avoid tide lines (the sharp edge of colour on your jaw, where dark foundation meets your natural skin colour) match your foundation to your body.
Most foundation ranges offer shades with different undertones. That’s different to the depth of colour. Some brands list the undertone explictly, like YSL in the Le Teint Touche Éclat range with BD40, BR40 or B40. MAC do the same, only cool in MAC means yellow and warm means pink. So, NC20, yellow, NW20, pink. Same depth of shade, different undertone.
You will either be cool or pink toned, warm or yellow toned, or neutral toned. Some people have very obvious undertones, others need to get really familiar with the mirror and squinting.
Cool, pink tones are very common in pale skin. If you don’t tan with ease or just burn after sun exposure, if your veins look blue, and if you get very ruddy in the cold, you probably have a cool undertone. If you have very dark skin, your cool undertone might look more blue than pink.
Warm, yellow tones are more common in medium to dark skin. You’ll get a golden tan with little redness when you’re exposed to the sun, your veins look green and you don’t go as rosy in cold weather.
Neutral tones are harder to spot, but that’s how to spot them. If none of the indicators above apply to you, and you can’t really tell what colour your veins are, you might have a neutral undertone.
High Colour, Pigmentation, Redness
This ties in with tone, and can throw off your match if you don’t look out for it.
Redness is really common in Irish skin, but it can be in patches or caused by a skin condition like acne or rosacea. That redness isn’t a guarantee that you’ve got a pink undertone. The same goes for pigmentation, like sun spots or melasma, which causes warmer, olive areas.
When you’re picking your foundation, don’t take these patches into account. Like in point one, check your foundation against the skin on your neck and body in general.
Ugh. This is the the worst. Some foundations, on some people, oxidise. That means they settle into a darker shade after a few hours. It’s a stupid chemical reaction thing. SCIENCE.
There are tips and tricks on how to beat it, but they’re all a bit fussy for me. Powder before primer kinda stuff. If it’s an issue for you, I say try a different foundation and be sure to get a tester before you part with your cash.
Bonus Point – When You Don’t Fit In
I’m very pale, so have trouble finding a foundation that matches me. I’m loving Bobbi Brown’s relaunch of Alabaster, which is super fair, but I also get tons of use out of foundation shade adjusters. You can get them in pure white, very dark brown, yellow or pink. Mix a drop in with your foundation and you can get a custom-blended shade.
Got any of your own tips for a perfect foundation shade match?