Makeup,  Tips and Tutorials

‘Why does no shade of foundation suit me?’ How to choose the right shade

This is a phrase I have heard so often! A right choice of shade should make the foundation on your face blend in seamlessly with the rest of your body, and look as if you are not wearing much at all. So what is the secret and why sometimes it feels like an endless chain of bad choices when it comes to the right shade of foundation?



      Not long ago I wrote a post about the undertones of our skin tone. The right shade of foundation is connected to the undertones in our skin. To find out what undertone you have, please check here. In short terms, there are three undertones: warm, cool and neutral. They are key elements in choosing the right shade of foundation. If usually you find that any foundation you use looks too pinkish on you, that means you are probably using a shade with a cool undertone when your skin needs something more neutral or warm.

      In the picture bellow I used five foundations on my arm in order to show how much of a difference the undertone creates even if the shades are very similar (all shades are light).



In light of all this, make sure you research which shades of the foundation line you desire have cool, warm or neutral undertones. Some brands advertise the undertones to each shade on their website (with Y from yellow undertones, N from neutral and P from Pink, for example), others require a bit more research in order to find out. From my personal experience, usually the cool toned foundations have a tint of pink, while the warm toned ones have a tint of gold or yellow. The neutral ones will be balanced between pink and yellow, offering a more neutral combination. If you cannot tell that easily, swipe different shades of foundation next to each other. Comparing and contrasting the shades should make it easier to spot the differences in undertone.


How The Ordinary advertise their foundation shades on their website


If for clothes any colours suit a neutral undertone, it is different for a foundation. A neutral undertone would need the perfect balance between cool and warm, with the possibility that the undertone is inclining more to one side than the other.




      Our skin tone changes depending on the season. This means that in winter we are paler, while in summer our skin gets slightly darker. The solution to this is to buy two shades of foundation (with the suitable undertone!) and either mix them or use them accordingly depending on the season and on how our skin changes.


Testing Samples


      After you have found out your undertones and decided that you need at least two shades of foundation (winter/summer), you need to keep in mind another very important aspect: how to see if the shade really matches. The correct shade of foundation does not only blend with your face, but it also blends beautifully with your neck, chest, and (very important) to your arms and hands! When choosing the right shade, make sure you take a step back from the mirror and put your hands next to your face to make sure that the rest of the skin on your body fits well the foundation on your face. The last thing we want is a much darker shade on our faces than the rest of our body, or a very pale face that stands out when our very tanned hands are close to it!

      Lisa Eldridge speaks beautifully about where to try on the sample in order to see if it matches the rest of our bodies, as well as about the important of natural light when trying it on. Unfortunately, most shops have artificial lighting, so do not rely completely on how well the shade is looking on your skin in the shop. The best solution is to ask for a few samples to take home, so that you can try them on in natural lighting. If you are on a budget and can only afford low end (drugstore) foundations, they do not have samples to give you home. However, most shops would be more than happy to allow you to take a few samples home if you provide your own container.



Example of testing swatches: In the image above, I tried on the same foundation shades as previously shown on my hand. I used my neck and décolletage as my face has a lot of redness and therefore it would not help in seeing the actual undertone of my skin. The Ordinary foundation is too yellow toned for me, The Vichy one is too dark and pink and No7 is slightly too dark with a tent of grey. Meanwhile, Maybelline Superstay looks good on my skin because it is cool toned but closer to a neutral one, while the Maybelline Fit Me’s yellow shade blends so well that the swatch melts into the rest of my skin becoming almost invisible (because it is yellow toned but not as yellow as The Ordinary one). Therefore, a balanced yellow (warm) or pink (cool) undertone suits my skin’s neutral undertone best.




      The last aspect to consider is oxidation. Sometimes the hydrating creams, primers that we use or even the foundation’s composition make it oxidise. Oxidation for a foundation can be explained in simple terms as the change of colour over time once it has been applied on your skin. This can happen in a matter of a few minutes or hours after application, which is why it is best to try out the shades in the shops on our arms, jawline or to take samples home first, in order to see if the shade oxidises with time passing after application. If it does, then it is worth considering the tone it oxidises to, and to consider buying a lighter shade, so that when it oxidises does not cause major differences between our face, necks and body. Oxidation is why when we test a foundation shade we think it looks great, only to dislike it in a matter of hours, and, therefore, it is a major factor in choosing the right shade of foundation.



In the picture above, there are the same swatches of foundation photographed one hour later. Major changes can be seen for Vichy and No7 which become significantly darker. Maybelline Superstay oxidises slightly into a pinker toned foundation, while the Maybelline Fit Me remains the same.


      In the end, keeping in mind these four factors (undertone, season, testing samples and oxidation) when choosing a shade of foundation should help you to find the perfect match. Before investing into many foundations that do not blend in seamlessly with your skin, it is worth spending time testing in front of a mirror, in natural light. Also, do not be scared to mix different shades of foundation to achieve the perfect match!

This blogpost is not sponsored and does not contain affiliate links.


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