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Here’s How to Find Your Perfect Foundation Color Match

Photo by Jonathan Knowles / Getty Images

Makeup is all about self-expression. You should wear it the way you want to, in whatever way makes you feel good. But when it comes to finding the perfect foundation match, most of us can agree on one goal: it should match your skin tone (which isn’t always an easy task). Choosing the right foundation shade for your skin tone almost feels like you’re endlessly swiping left on a dating app. And finding one that delivers amazing coverage, with a glowing finish, while also looking flawless on your skin can be an intimidating task when you’re faced with hundreds of in-store options.

If you’ve ever spent the day unintentionally flaunting the dreaded jawline foundation line, don’t stress it (we’ve all been there). Read on to learn how to find your perfect foundation fit—whether you’re a fan of liquid foundation, tinted moisturizer, powder, or cream—with insider tips from makeup artist Tomy Rivero.

About the Expert:

Tomy Rivero is a makeup artist and beauty expert based in New York City.

How to Match Your Foundation Like a Pro

1. Lighting Is Everything

“As a general rule you should avoid matching your skin indoors with poor daylight,” says Rivero. Trying on foundation in the bright lights of the makeup store or a dimly lit room can lead to an easy mismatch. The key? “Hands down natural light. Ninety percent of the time we are buying foundation for our everyday life, which means it has to be something that goes unnoticed even when you are not surrounded by perfect lighting. Natural light picks up your natural undertones helping you create a seamless application from face to neck,” adds Rivero.

2. Know Your Undertones

Whether you’ve got warm, cool, or neutral undertones, finding your skin’s undertones is one of the most important makeup tips for discovering your perfect foundation match. According to Rivero, “Knowing your undertone will make all of the difference when buying your next foundation. It is as important as knowing which formula is best for your skin type and needs.” It’s kind of like identifying a code that’s unique to you. Figure it out and you can unlock loads of foundation shades and types with a color match that will work for you. Here’s a quick undertone finding hack from Rivero: “Believe it or not your elbows are a great way to match for the perfect undertone. If it's too ashy or gray looking it's too cool—if it's too red or dark it's too warm. If you blend the foundation right in like lotion, bingo you have a winner!”

3. Prep Your Skin

If your go-to foundation shade isn’t settling into your skin seamlessly—for instance, looking a little dull as you apply it, or amplifying the look of dry skin and blemishes, it could be that your skin needs a little pre-foundation TLC. A smooth complexion is key for a foundation base that looks dewy and glowy. Be sure to incorporate exfoliation into your skincare routine two to three times a week after you cleanse to ensure your makeup glides on smooth without looking dull or cakey. And always follow up with a toner, serum, moisturizer (to hydrate dry skin), and skin primer.

4. Use Primer to Prevent Oxidation

Ever feel like your foundation matches perfectly in the morning, but changes color throughout the day? It’s a sure bet that it’s oxidizing (kind of like how apples turn brown after you take a bite). Foundation can oxidize for several reasons, the most common causes are a reaction between your skin’s natural oils, or your foundation being exposed to oxygen and other elements once it dries. The good news is there are tricks to minimize the reaction that allow you to still use a hydrating or oil-based foundation instead of a matte one. “Oil-based foundations with heavy emollients tend to oxidize after a few hours of wear. For an easy fix, use an oil-free primer before you apply your foundation if you feel like your foundation changes tone throughout the day,” Rivero advises. Also, avoid using your fingers (those oils again!) to apply your foundation and instead reach for clean makeup brushes or blending sponge. Try IT COSMETICS Your Skin But Better Makeup Primer+ Oil-Free. Its multitasking formula helps create a lightweight barrier between your skin and makeup to prevent skin from looking patchy, flaky, or fading.

5. Customize Color If You Need

Sure, the thought of finding your perfect match in one bottle sounds amazing, but the reality is that many of us either need our own unique blend since our skin tone might naturally change throughout the seasons. The best way to keep up? Be open to mixing colors to create a match tailored to you. “Mixing two or more base colors can be the difference between looking like you are wearing makeup or just looking refreshed and polished. Try your mix and wear it for a full day. Observe how it behaves on your skin after 3 hours, then 6 hours, and take a final look before washing it off. This will give you the best indication of not only how the coverage stays throughout the day, but if the formula is the correct one and if you will need a secondary product (like a powder or bronzer) to compliment your skin tone,” says Rivero.

6. Spot Test Your Foundation Shades

We’ve all heard of the jawline trick, but it turns out there are other places on your face that can swatch that will lead you to your perfect match. “Choose one color that blends right into your chin and the second shade should blend right into your eyelid. Start with equal parts of each until you reach the perfect tone,” suggests Rivero on the topic of customizing your perfect match.

7. Add Warmth the Right Way

Instead of opting for a foundation shade that’s one or two shades darker for a deeper glow (or to match your summer tan), reach for other products instead. “Never jump more than one shade. For warmth, always use powders and creams, never your base foundation, to look more tanned,” Rivero recommends.

Want to find the best products for your skin tone and type? Take our Beauty Quiz now to get started. Already an Ipster? Refer your friends to earn points, which you can use toward products. Either way, don’t forget to check us out on Instagram @IPSY.

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About the author
Runa Rhattacharya
Runa Bhattacharya
Runa is an NYC-based writer and Registered Nurse with over 8 years of experience covering beauty and wellness. She’s worked for publications like SELF, Cosmopolitan, and more. She’s passionate about beauty, science, and two careers that she loves!
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Article Last Updated December 7, 2022 12:00 AM