How to Find the Right Foundation for Your Skin Tone

Shopping for foundation? We can help. Here's how to match your foundation to your skin tone

How to Find the Right Foundation for Your Skin Tone

Finding the best makeup foundation color for your skin can be a real guessing game. Or worse, a gamble, because a good foundation will cost you some money, and there is nothing worse than paying a premium price for the foundation that everyone’s been raving about only to find that it doesn’t look the same on your skin as it did in the bottle, and it will now join the jumble of other makeup failures that clutter up the space under your bathroom sink. So how exactly do you find a foundation that blends seamlessly into your skin and provides natural looking coverage?

Tone vs Undertone in Foundations

It turns out that finding the perfect foundation to match your skin tone isn’t as easy as just holding the bottle up to your face or wrist. Finding your perfect match involves matching your skin color, and your skin’s undertone. Looking for a match for your surface color isn’t enough. Before you begin to shop for a new foundation, you must also know what undertone your skin has.

All skin colors fall into three undertone categories: warm, cool, or neutral. If you’ve purchased a foundation that has warm undertones, and your skin has cool undertones, the makeup is going to look like it’s sitting on top of your flesh rather than blending in to become one with your skin. It may appear too yellow or orange. Looking for light, medium, or dark colored foundation is not enough. You must also find the correct undertone. In fact, in the summer you may want a darker shade to match your tanned skin, and you might need a lighter shade in the winter, but your undertone will never change. The undertones of a foundation must match the undertones of your skin in order to look natural.

Tips for Matching a Foundation to Your Skin’s Undertone

People with pale to light skin generally have cool undertones. If this is you, you’ve probably been described as having porcelain skin, or translucent skin. It’s most common with light-haired, light-eyed people. If your skin has pink, red, or red-blue tones, you are in the cool category. You probably burn in the sun, or tan a rosy color. You can confirm this in two ways. First, think about whether you look best in silver jewelry or gold. If you shine in silver, than you have cool undertones. If you glow in gold you have warm.

Another way you can determine your undertone is to look at the veins on your wrist. If they appear blue or purple, you are cool. If they look greenish, you are warm.

Those with darker hair and eyes are generally warm-toned, with yellow or olive undertones. They may be described as olive, golden, or peachy. These people glow in gold jewelry and the veins in their wrist will appear greenish. If this is you, you probably don’t sunburn easily and tan a beautiful bronze.

Neutrally toned people will notice that they can easily pull off either silver or gold jewelry, as there are no clear signs of either tone, or they have signs of both. The veins on the wrist may be more indeterminate in color.

If you have cool undertones and wear a warm-toned foundation it will look too orange or yellow on you. If you have warm undertones and wear a cool-toned foundation it will look too pink. Neutrals can wear either one and pull them off nicely. (Lucky!)

How Can I Tell if a Foundation is Warm or Cool?

If your skin is warm-toned but pale, look for foundations that are described as peachy, coppery or a yellow-toned ivory. If you are warm-toned with medium to dark skin, move toward golden beige, deep tans, and golden brown tones.

Cool-toned foundations will have pink undertones rather than golden. Stay away from golden beige foundations and try pink-toned beige. For dark skinned people with cool tones, steer clear of coppery browns and look for chocolate brown, or a rosy brown shade.

If you are neutral, look for colors like neutral beige, sand, or ivory for lighter skin, and tan or ebony for dark skin.

Try Before You Buy

Once you’ve determined your skin color and undertone, it’s still important to test a foundation outside of the bottle before you buy it for your DIY makeover. This isn’t always possible in drugstores, but a good department store may let you sample. Try out a foundation by blending it on the inside of your wrist, or on your neck or jawline. If it blends into invisibility, you’ve found your ideal shade and a flawless face is one step closer!

Resources — Loreal Paris, Allure, Leaf.com, Makeup Geek