Shopping for the right Foundation

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We've all been there. I still find myself getting frustrated when shopping for foundation. There are so many options it can be overwhelming. A ton of factors go into which one may be right for you and how they will perform. I'm going to round up a few steps in hopes to help you when on the hunt for your next foundation.

 I think it is really important to first establish what kind of skin you have.

We all put so much emphasis on picking out the correct shade, which of course is important but with that you need to establish what your skin type is.

Is your skin oily? Dry, dehydrated, combination? Are you prone to acne? Do you struggle with Redness.

There are so many factors to consider when trying to determine what foundation may work best for you and so many available foundations for this reason. They are not all made equal and each will perform better for an individual skin type.

You want to purchase a foundation that is recommended for your skin type. If you have dry skin it would be counterproductive to purchase a foundation claiming to have a matte finish and a lasting power of 18 hours. Long-wearing foundation especially ones with a matte finish tend to be on the dryer side. They don't tend to offer a ton of hydration and typically are not formulated with the moisturizing properties that one with dry skin may desire. It is not to say as a dry skin gal or guy you can’t wear a matte foundation, they simply may not look or perform the best on your skin. Your skin prep will be more in-depth when going in with this type of foundation.

So, do your research.

Establish your skin type

If you are not sure what type of skin you have, see a skin specialist. I rely heavily on an Aesthetician to help me take care of my skin. Frequent facials and peels. She is always the one to guide me in the right direction when it comes to the current state of my skin. Lets be real, your skin is always changing so the current state of your skin, may not always be the state of your skin. Feel me?!


Moving past your skin type. Take a good hard look at your beautiful bare face and try to hone in on the undertones of your skin. The skin on your face, your neck your chest. All may have slightly or drastically different undertones and it is imperative to understand them in order to create the most seamless blend when applying your foundation.

Discovering your skin tone

What I mean by that.

We all have a skin tone. This is simply the colour of your skin. So often described as Fair, Light, Medium, Medium Tan, Dark etc.

We also have undertones.

If you were to paint an image of a person making up their skin is not as simple as using pinks or yellows or browns . A lot of colours go in to creating a realistic skin tone. Reds, Yellows, Greens, Blues. This is why as a Makeup Artist Colour Theory is so imperative.

Naturally everyone will have a higher percentage of a specific colour within their skin tone. Some have a higher percentage of the Yellows, making them more on the Warm side. Some a higher percentage of the Blues or Purples, making their skin more of a cool tone.

It is said you can use your veins to help determine this.

In natural light if you look at the veins on your wrist and find they are more Blue/Purple you likely have more of a cool toned skin. If they lean more on the Greenish side than you tend to have more of a warm toned skin. If you don’t lean dominantly to one colour it is possible you are neutral. All three of these being the primary choices for foundation - Cool ( Pinks )  Warm ( Golden or Yellow ) or Neutral. I have no idea how accurate this is but, go a head and give it a whirl.

So once you have determined your skin tone and which undertone you predominantly are, I would suggest trying a few shades in your desired foundation.

So often warm tones are describes as - Bisque, sand , golden. Cool tones tend to be described as Vanilla, almond, Rosey beige.

It may be that you are lucky and find a shade quite close to your skin, or that you are in the middle of a few shades.

It is not at all uncommon to have to rely on two shades of foundation to really create a perfect match. Applying different tones in different areas to create a balance.

You may have multiple tones to your skin. You may have a darker neck than face, or quite the opposite.

I tend to be darker down my neck and chest and lighter on my face.This is due mostly to my exfoliating routine. I need to consider this when looking for my foundation shade. If I simply went in and matched my face perfectly, without worrying about my neck and chest I wouldn’t end up with a seamless application. My face would end up lighter than the rest of my body. So I need to consider this when selecting a shade or shades that will create an even blend. 

It takes some trial and error, when it comes to really understanding your skin. I don’t often walk away with the perfect match off the hop. If i’m unfamiliar with the brand and its shade range, I will typically ask for samples in a few shades. This way I can take them home ( to better lighting ) and test them out. Mix shades if I need to. Depending on the store, the lighting is usually less than desirable. making an already difficult task harder.

Don’t be afraid to ask for samples and really take the foundation for a test drive. Mix if you need to. It is very unlikely that anyone will get a perfect match from one foundation. I almost always have to mix my foundations to get something as close to my skin tone as possible.

The same is true for my clients, I almost always mix my clients foundations. Be it with different shades or one shade with an adjuster.

So get in do some mixing, try out a few foundation types based on your skin type and try out a few tones.

If the foundation is not working or wearing the way you like it- it may be that you need to adjust your skin prep. Some products will cause your foundation to separate, some will be to emollient causing it to slip. If you find you the skin is pulling oil, you could add a primer to your routine or ensure you are using the right moisturizers for your skin type. There are so many factors what will go into making your skin look the best for foundation application. Also your technique. Some foundations apply better with a brush or a specific type of brush. Some apply better with your fingers !

So a little trial and error will go a long way when determining the best application method is for each individual foundation.

Lastly, when shopping for a foundation What type of coverage are you looking for ?

Sheer, medium, full coverage?

This just means, how do you want your skin to look?

A sheer coverage will even out your skin tone, eliminating some redness and help to give your skin a more even appearance. All while allowing your natural skin to show through.

Medium coverage will simply conceal more- allowing less of your natural skin to show through.
Full of course being the least natural coverage. Allowing minimal or no skin to show through.

Most foundations can be manipulated to some degree. You can build sheer coverage foundations slightly if you are looking for a little more coverage. You can also sheer out full coverage foundations. If you love the way the foundation feels and looks but wish it was slightly more natural you can add in a moisturizer or an elixir or mix it with something like MAC strobe cream. This will help to sheer it out while giving you an added glow.

I personally prefer for myself and a large number of clients ( not all ) a more natural coverage all over the skin. I simply then just go in with a fuller coverage concealer where needed V.S using something full all over the face. Its not always necessary to conceal areas of the face with a full coverage foundation if it is not needed. With that said my foundation selection is also reflective of the event or what type of look is trying to be achieved. Wether you have a client who is after a specific look or a photographer looking to create a specific image this will all impact your product selection.