How To Find Your Perfect Foundation Match

Megan McIntyre
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Photo: © Dominique Charriau/WireImage

We’ve all been there: You go to your local shop and buy a new foundation, only to get it home and find out it’s so not your shade. Choosing a foundation at the drugstore can be frustrating because you don’t have the luxury of trying it on like you do at the department store. With that in mind, we spoke with L’Oréal Paris Consulting Makeup Artist Collier Strong to get his expert tips on how to find your perfect foundation match, as well as his best application tricks to guarantee a flawless finish, every time.

Have A Type
Foundations today come in so many different types–cream, powder, liquid, mousse–that it’s overwhelming to try and figure out which is best for you. “If you have dry skin, go for a hydrating liquid or a cream. If you have oily skin, then a mineral, powder or oil-free liquid formula is best,” says Strong.

Know Your Undertones
You’ve probably heard someone talking about undertones–the subtle tint or cast of color underneath your skin–before. Knowing your undertones is essential to finding the right foundation because only a foundation that matches both your skin tone and undertones is going to blend in seamlessly. There are three types of undertones: Warm, neutral and cool. If you’re not sure what you are, Strong recommends looking at the inside of your wrist. Does the color look more pink or yellow, or does it fall somewhere in between? Pink means you have cool undertones, yellow is warm and somewhere in between is neutral. “If you are still unsure, simply take a piece of pink and gold fabric and lay it on your arm to see which one your skin looks more like. If it’s neither, then your skin is neutral,” he says.

Match Point
So now you know your formula type and your undertones, but how do you find a match without testing it on your skin? Strong recommends bringing in a shade that you already own and know works for you and using that as a reference point. Hold it up against all the other shades and see which one is the closest match. If you don’t have a go-to shade, Strong says to choose the two or three hues that comes closest to your skin tone. “Grab a mirror from an aisle and go to the front of the store where there is more natural light,” he says. “Hold the bottles up to your face and see which shade looks more like the skin along your jawline.”

Stuck In The Middle
Having trouble deciding between two shades? Strong says to buy them both, then try them out at home to see which works best. “By figuring it out now, you will save money in the long run,” he says. It’s also important to keep in mind that your skin tone changes with the season; it will be lighter in the winter and darker in the summer. It’s a good idea to have two shades on hand, one a little lighter than your skin and one a little darker. You can also blend the two shades together to create a custom shade that is just right.

Salvage A Shade Snafu
Worst case scenario: You bought the wrong foundation color. See if the store has an exchange policy for used cosmetics. If they don’t, Strong says you can still use it, just very sparingly and only where you really need it. Don’t use the wrong shade all over your face: It will give you that creepy mask effect that looks good on absolutely no one. You can also try mixing the shade with a lighter or darker foundation to try and get a closer match.

Apply Like A Pro
The whole point of foundation is to enhance your skin, not hide it. You want to apply it so that it looks natural and blends in seamlessly–you shouldn’t be able to tell where you put foundation on. “Apply your foundation with a dense foam sponge or foundation brush so you use as little product as possible and it appears the most natural,” says Strong. “For an even, more natural look, go over the face with a damp sponge after you’ve applied the foundation, being careful not to remove the makeup–you just want to give it that final ‘touch’ of blending. Finish by setting with a light dusting of loose powder.”

Try on foundation in the Makeover Studio!