How to Find the Perfect Foundation Shade for Your Skin

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Perfect foundation for your skin

When I worked for Prescriptives, one of the 25+ brands of The Estée Lauder Companies, I learned the art of choosing the perfect foundation shade for any skin tone. They created what was called “The Basic Face,” which consisted of a foundation, concealer, and powder that was right for you. I learned a lot in those days about first perfecting the canvas which will enable all the color, shading, and highlighting to look more flawless and effortless afterward. Still, it starts with finding the perfect foundation.

What Type of Foundation Is Best for Your Specific Skin?

How do you pick the right formula for your skin? Look in the mirror, then ask yourself what is the biggest concern you have about your skin? Are you trying to even out discoloration, sun spots, or age spots? Are you trying to give a smoother appearance to fine lines and wrinkles? Are you trying to cover up adult acne or possibly a lot of redness, broken capillaries or skin irritation? Or, do you think your skin looks relatively good, and you are just trying to even-out your complexion a tiny bit? Uncovering your biggest concern will help determine the coverage of foundation that is best for your overall needs.

A Natural Makeup Look

I typically opt for a more sheer coverage because it is going to give you the most natural effect on the skin. I mention this in my article, “How to create a natural makeup look over the age of 40”. Some foundations are buildable. I prefer these types because they allow you to apply coverage options on different areas of the face. However, if your concerns are more complicated and you feel the need to cover, then chose one that will provide more coverage.

Finding the Best Formula

Next you need to determine what type of formula is best for the condition of the skin. Does your skin feel more normal, oily or dry, and where? If you are more oily in the t-zone, don’t be concerned this is quite normal. However, if you have a sheen across your entire face all the time, including your cheeks, you are more oily. Choose a foundation that is more oil-controlling. Most of us over the age of 35 tend to be on the dryer side. This doesn’t mean that your skin is flaking or peeling, it just means that if you do not apply a moisturizer, your skin would still feel tight. If this happens, you need to select a foundation which is more hydrating to the skin.

I think there are more types of foundation than there are ice cream flavors (by the way, my favorite is Salted Caramel by Wink if you ever want to send me a gift). Once you answer the important questions above, you will considerably narrow down your options when buying. Also, remember that your skin is changing all the time. My skin typically behaves differently in summer versus winter and if I am traveling to an extreme climate, like when I traveled to the Australian Outback. So be sure to adjust your foundation needs according to how your skin feels.

How to Test for the Perfect Foundation Shade

Nothing is worse than having a foundation color that doesn’t disappear into your skin. Honestly, I don’t know which is worse wearing a foundation shade that is too dark or too light. Applying a shade that’s too dark will emphasize fine lines and make deeper shadows on the face. Wearing a shade that’s too light will make your face look more prominent, which increase the size of your forehead, nose, cheeks, and chin as well as emphasize any imperfections. Like in the story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears, finding the perfect porridge, chair or bed (or in this instance, the ideal foundation shade), will make everything ”just right”.

Start with a Clean Face

To get an exact match, you must test shades on a clean area of your face before you buy. The makeup artists and sales associates in the beauty department can assist. If you are wearing any makeup in the area to be tested, remove it with a makeup remover and make sure it is dry to the touch.

Test a Few Shades

Some of us can have either discoloration or redness on the chin, cheeks or forehead. So, I strongly recommend testing it on the lower jawline just below the cheek as it tends to be a more neutral area of the face. The easiest way to check is to pick out the 2-4 shades you think will best match your skin tone (shade of light to dark) and undertone (warm, cool or neutral) in the formula that is right for your needs. Use 2-4 clean Q-tips. Take one Q-tip and dip it into the first foundation. Next, swipe your jawline vertically with about a half an inch to an inch of a thin line of foundation. Slightly blend the bottom half of the stripe down toward the jawline/neck (but you can still see the shade). Then repeat with the remaining 1-3 shades, each time using a clean Q-tip and blend as you go. Look in the mirror to see your 1-4 strips. Which option disappears the most? That is the perfect shade for your skin tone and undertone.

Ask a Sales Associate for Help

If you have trouble seeing which shade disappears, move to a different area in the store for better lighting or move near a window or a glass door to see it in natural light. Sales associates are used to helping people in these different situations, so do not be afraid to ask. Natural daylight is always the best. I call it the rear-view mirror test. Have you ever looked in the mirror and thought, what the…? It is still the best lighting to uncover any flaws. Kind of like measure twice and cut once. It is better to look twice and buy once so you don’t have any color faux pas.

Do not test the foundation on the back of the hand as it is almost always darker than your face. Additionally, do not use inside of the wrist or on the neck as these areas are typically lighter than your face. Always experiment where you are going to be wearing it.

Look for Foundation Samples

So the Q-tip approach makes purchasing in a drugstore or online a bit more tricky. But it can be done with a little more finesse (that is my fancy way of saying, by trial and error). Sometimes you can find foundation samples online either through a retailer or on the specific brand’s website. Typically they are less than five dollars, and you will receive multiple shades of the same formula on a sample card. If you are in a drug store, then hold the bottle up to the jawline area and try to make a match while looking in a mirror. This technique works better with a clear versus frosted foundation bottles as a frosted glass makes the foundation appear lighter than the actual product. If you are ordering a new shade for the first time online, then choose a site that honors a return of an opened bottle just in case it doesn’t match perfectly.

Shop Foundation Essentials

How to Apply Your Foundation Flawlessly

I am not a big proponent of a foundation sponge or beauty blender. I can not get past the thought of wasting foundation, which is soaked up into a sponge. Plus sponges harbor a lot of bacteria. Even though your fingers are swift and agile, they don’t deposit, spread, and blend foundation flawlessly.

My Favorite Foundation Brushes

The most flawless way to apply foundation is with a foundation brush. If you have been following Golden Tribe for any length of time, you know my favorite brushes are by Trish McEvoy, and her Brush 76 Perfect Foundation is no exception. Using a brush is super easy with no mistakes. Some makeup artists like to pour the amount you are going to use on the back of the hand and then pick up the product with the brush. I actually think it is easier to pour or pump out the amount of foundation you will use onto your fingertip. Then lightly dot your forehead, nose, cheeks, and chin to distribute evenly. Next, blend with the foundation brush. A good foundation brush makes it so easy to swirl and buff a complexion to a flawless airbrushed finish. Remember, you don’t need the same density everywhere on the face. I concentrate on where I have more areas of concern and build with more foundation if necessary. I am not trying to cover all over like a mask, just to blur the lines of imperfection.

When putting together different makeup looks, your goal will always be a base of smooth, flawless and radiant-looking skin which begins with the perfect foundation that is “just right” for you.

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