Finding Your Perfect Foundation Color Match

There is nothing worse than shelling out big bucks on a foundation and then having the color be just a tad too dark or too light. Of course, if that does happen you can always try and even out the color by mixing it with other foundations but the goal here is to find your perfect shade match. There are several different ways to go about finding your ideal match.

Swatching foundations on the back of your hand just isn't going to cut it because your hands and face might be different shades due to sun exposure. It's also important to consider whether you have warm or cool toned skin. If you have pink undertones, you have cool skin and if you have more golden undertones you have warmer skin. An easy way to figure out where you fall is to try on a piece of gold jewelry (warm) and a piece of silver jewelry (cool) and whichever blends in with your skin tone is the winner. Many foundations differentiate shades with a W or C for warm and cool shades and it's important to be aware of it.

To test out shades try working with a range of 3 shades to determine where your color falls. Clean off your makeup on your jaw line and apply the shade you think is closest to your own color to your jaw. Whichever color seems to blend seamlessly with the color of your neck is the correct choice. If the shade is too light, try the next darkest color in the range, or the next lightest for a shade that's too dark. Sometimes it's a bit hard to figure out if the color is just right, which is why I recommend getting a second opinion.

Whether you're at a beauty counter at your local department store or in a Sephora or MAC store, you can always ask a representative to help you get color matched. Essentially, they will apply a couple of swatches on your jaw line (as you would) and determine which color matches you best. It's always good to have a second opinion when trying to determine what matches you best and who better to ask than someone who works with makeup on a day to day basis. Because your makeup looks different in various lighting and some foundations change color once they have had some time to oxidize, I would suggest asking for a sample of the shade you get matched to, going home and trying it out for the next day or two before committing. See how the formula wears and how the color looks in natural lighting. This could save you some heartbreak down the line.

Several stores, like Sephora, now have devices which will color match you to your perfect shade. The Sephora + Pantone Color IQ System is a small hand-held device that will scan the surface of your skin and assign it a Color IQ Number, and then find your scientifically precise foundation match from over 1,500 options. The whole process takes about 4 minutes and the sales associate can even email you your number so that you have it for reference if you want to buy something at a later date. The system will match you to many different foundations from different brands and give you the perfect shade in each. I have been matched in store using this system (my Color IQ Number is 1Y03) and actually ended up buying a foundation that was the best color match I've ever had. I would highly recommend getting it done, and it's completely free so what do you have to lose?

While looking at some random beauty blogs online I actually stumbled across a site that will give you a whole list of color matches based off of foundations that you already You just put in the exact foundation and shade of several products that you've owned and it will generate your list.
Hint: The more foundations you input the more accurate your results will be. I find this especially useful when you are looking to buy a drugstore foundation as most drugstores in the US do not have testers for you to try the colors on before purchasing. I actually used Findation when purchasing the Revlon ColorStay Foundation and it matched me to the shade Ivory, which worked perfectly for my skin tone. Here's another trick: If you don't own many foundations but you have a Color IQ Number you can search Sephora's site for foundations and shades that match your number and use those for reference on Findation.


  • Seasonal Changes -Your foundation shade will change as your skin tone changes with the seasons. Keep in mind that if you just got a serious tan, it might not be the best time to go shopping for a new foundation that will work into the winter months. Mid-Spring and Mid-Fall are probably the best times to get color matched. 
  • Ask For A Sample - Just because a shade looks right in the store, doesn't mean it will look right in natural light or in photographs. Ask for a sample, take it home and give it a try for a few days. You might find that after a few hours the formula cakes in certain places or slips right off your face. Or the color might oxidize to a weird Cheeto-like color. Take it for a test drive before investing.
  • Keep The Receipt - If you do decide to purchase right away and the color ends up not working for you once you get home or you have issues with oxidation, most storeseven drugstorestake back used makeup with a receipt. I've done it before and trust me, it's much better than keeping something that just isn't right for you.
  • Avoid SPF & HD Products - If you are looking for a foundation for a special occasion—like a wedding—where there will be lots of flash photography, avoid purchasing a product with SPF in it. SPF often causes flashback, or a ghostly, white cast to the face in pictures, as do products labeled HD. If you want sun protection on a day-to-day basis then I suggest just using a moisturizer with SPF under your makeup and avoiding using that moisturizer for special occasions with flash photography.
  • Take A Picture - When in doubt take a picture with and without flash and see how it all looks on camera. 
  • Consider The Professional's Makeup - Now, this might sound really weirdand it has more to due with coverage and formula rather than shadebut I think it's still important to consider when purchasing a new foundation, especially if you aren't exactly sure what type of foundation you want. When taking advice from a representative in store, consider their makeup. Does it look like way more coverage than you are looking for? Does their look have a very matte or very dewy finish? Is their taste in makeup a bit too bold for you? I know it sounds a bit unusual or even prejudiced but I have found that people will often make suggestions based on their favorites if the customer doesn't really know what they want. You can take this with a grain of salt but it is something to consider if you have no idea what you're looking for and are letting yourself be guided completely by a representative. It's kind of like the reason I refuse to get my eyebrows done by someone with bad brows.
  • Speak Up - If you don't like the way something looks or you feel like it's just looking a bit too heavy on you, say so. There's no shame in voicing your opinions or concerns. Explaining what you like or don't like will make it easier for a professional to steer you in the right direction.
  • No Pressure - If after the whole experience you are still unsure or feel like you need more time to decide, there is no pressure. You can always walk away and come back on a different day. What matters is that you find a product that suits you and that you're happy with.

Those are all my tips and tricks for finding the perfect color match for your foundation. Have you ever been professionally color matched? Did the foundation work for you in the long run? I want to hear your experiences!

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