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DIY Beauty

Makeup Tips: How To Find Your Foundation Shade

by Beverly Hills MD

June 18 2021

With so many formulas out there, it can be tough to know how to find your foundation shade. If you’re looking for the perfect foundation match, you may have to do a little leg work to understand your undertone and coverage needs first. Read on to learn everything you need to know to find your foundation shade match.

How To Tell If You’re Wearing The Wrong Shade

If you’re wondering how to find your foundation shade, you may suspect that your current shade isn’t working for you. Here’s how you can tell if you’re wearing the wrong color:

  • You can see the foundation sitting on top of your skin.
  • Your face is a noticeably different color than your neck.
  • You can see streaks or makeup lines.
  • Your foundation is settling into fine lines.
  • Your pores become more visible after you apply your foundation.1

If any of these sound familiar, it may be time to find a better foundation shade match. Read on for tips on how to find your foundation shade.

How To Match Your Foundation Perfectly

Start With Your Skin Tone

foundation shade match | Beverly Hills MDWhen looking for the perfect foundation match, you’ll start with your general skin tone and then narrow it down from there. You likely already know what your skin tone is. It’s the surface color of your skin: from ivory to ebony — and everything in between. Here some categories that are generally used:

  • Fair
  • Light
  • Medium
  • Tan
  • Dark
  • Deep2

Match Your Foundation To Your Undertone

Within the category of your skin tone, you will likely still have several options to choose from. If you want to know how to find your foundation shade among these options, the key is understanding your skin undertone.

Undertones are the colors underneath the surface of your skin. Grabbing a foundation with the right undertone could be the difference between a perfect match and a something’s-not-quite-right match. There are three general undertones: warm, cool, and neutral.

  • Warm: the base of your skin has a yellow, gold, or peach tint.
  • Cool: you have a blue, pink, or red hue.
  • Neutral: you have a mixture of warm and cool tones, or you’re right in the middle.3

Any skin tone can have any of the three undertones. For example, someone with a darker skin tone might have blue tones (cool), yellow tones (warm), or neutral tones.

perfect foundation match | Beverly Hills MD

How To Determine Your Undertone

Knowing that you need to keep your undertone in mind is great, but it doesn’t help much if you don’t know what your undertone is to begin with. Not sure if you have a warm, cool, or neutral undertone? Here’s a quick primer:

  1. Look At Your Natural Hair Color. Figuring out the undertones in your hair may help you determine your skin undertone. “Cool” hair has ash, silver, or blue undertones. “Warm” hair will have red, orange, or yellow undertones.
  2. Look At Your Veins. Hold out your arm and look closely at the veins on the underside of your wrist. If your veins have a blue or purple tint, your undertones are cool. If your veins are tinted green, you have warm undertones. If you see a mix, you may have neutral undertones.
  3. Hold Up Something White. Grab a piece of pure white paper, and step into natural light. Hold the paper up next to your face. If your skin looks pinkish when compared to the paper, you may have a cool undertone. If your face looks yellow next to the paper, you may have a warm undertone.4,5

Matching Your Undertone To Your Foundation

Now that you’re clear on your undertone, the trick is to find a foundation that matches it. Foundation looks the most natural when its undertone matches your skin’s.

If you have a cool complexion, pick a foundation with slightly pink undertones. If you have a warm complexion, choose a shade with subtle yellow undertones. Subtlety is key here – you just want a hint of your undertone.6

Look For Photo References

Shopping for a foundation product online? Scroll through the entire collection of makeup reviews. Now that you know your skin undertone, look for people who mention your skin shade and undertone and see what foundation shade worked for them. (Here’s a tip: hit Command + F to search through the reviews for your undertone.)

If you can find reviews that have photos attached, all the better. Look for people who have a similar complexion, and see what color worked for them.

Consider The Finish Of The Foundation

foundation makeup | Beverly Hills MDWhile you’re shopping for your foundation shade match, decide what type of coverage you want. The type of coverage may affect the foundation shade you chose.

  • Light coverage foundation: sheer, light, may show freckles and natural skin flush
  • Medium-coverage foundation: may even out discoloration; buildable finish
  • Full-coverage foundation: Opaque coverage, may give a “fully made up,” flawless finish look7

Full-coverage foundations can help cover skin blemishes and give you an air-brushed look, but they may also require a more precise match. Light or sheer foundation cream products typically have a wider margin of error.8

Ensure The Shade Matches The Right Part Of Your Body

Common wisdom used to advise that you test your foundation color on the inside of your wrist. For most people, this may not be the best idea. Your body is likely not the same color as your face. Try this: hold your wrist up to your face, and see if they are the same color. Your face may be darker than your inner wrist.

For better results, try to match the foundation color on your jawline instead. You may also want to test the makeup on multiple spots on your face, like your cheek, forehead, and neck, too. It may take a bit more work, but it will likely yield better results.9

Prep Your Skin Properly

skin preparation | Beverly Hills MDIf you’re trying for a perfect foundation shade match, you want the best possible base for makeup. This means skin that is clean, exfoliated, and moisturized. Dry skin may cause your foundation to look dull or uneven. To avoid this, start testing after you’ve completed your skincare routine and before you put on other makeup.10

When In Doubt, Try It On At Home

While an in-store experience can be helpful to find your favorite product, it can also come with weird lighting or fluorescent lighting. When it comes to testing foundation, natural light is best.

One advantage to trying on foundation at home is that you can see how it wears on your face after a few hours. Seeing how it adjusts to your face over the course of a day will help you make a decision.

Bye Bye, Makeup Lines

If you find yourself wasting dollars on foundations that don’t totally work for you, pause for a moment. While tactics like reading through reviews or trying on foundation at home may seem like more work, you will likely be rewarded by your efforts.

Once you find your perfect foundation match, you may hear fewer comments that, “Your makeup looks great” and more comments that, “You look great.” The point of makeup, after all, is to act as a supporting character to your unique, natural beauty.

Learn More:

Different Types Of Face Primers For Your Skin Type

Face Makeup: The Ultimate Step-By-Step Guide

How to Determine Your Skin Type: Why It’s Important


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