How to Find the Right Shade of Foundation

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Getting the right foundation shade is essential to perfecting your look. It could mean the difference between looking like a clown and being effortlessly gorgeous.

However, foundation shades can be a bit tricky. Studies show that a majority of women use shades that are either too dark or too light for your skin tone.


Why do People Pick the Wrong Shade?

​There are a number of reasons why women tend to choose the wrong shade. The most common mistake is swatching foundation on the wrong area. Most people swatch on their wrists or at the back of their hand (I know I did). This is a big no-no.

The skin on your wrists is almost always lighter than the skin on your face, while the skin on the back of your hand tends to be darker.

If you feel like you’ve been doing it all wrong this whole time, fear not! is here to help you master the art of picking the right foundation shade. Simply go through all the steps and you’ll find yourself going from drab to fab in no time!

Master the art of picking the right foundation shade

What you’ll need:

Step 1: Start with a clean face

Think of your face as a blank canvas, it pays to know exactly what you’re working with to give the best results. Pick a good day when you can spend a few minutes (or hours) just staring at your bare face on a mirror.

I know, it can make even the vainest person a teeny bit self-conscious staring at all your imperfections, but it must be done and you’ll thank yourself for it later!

Take a good look at your face and all the different shades and tones. Chances are, you’ll find some areas are darker or lighter with some hint of red around the nose. Checking for discoloration also helps if ever you decide to give color correcting a try in the future.

Doing this also helps you know what kind of coverage you need. Do you high coverage to mask your blemishes? Or a simple sheer foundation to give your face a small boost?

foundation shade 2

Step 2: Determine your undertone

Foundation shades are separated into three tones: cool, neutral, and warm. Knowing which of these three undertones you fall into will make your search for the perfect shade much easier.

If you don’t know your undertone yet, you can find out by taking a look at your wrists. Find a bright place with natural light and take a close look at what color the veins on your wrists are:  

  • If your veins are greenish in color, it means you are warm toned.
  • If they’re more blue with some hint of purple, it means you’re cool toned.
  • If your veins are somewhere in between and appear to be more of a bluish-green, it means your tone is neutral.

Tip: Determining your undertone doesn’t only help with choosing the right shade of foundation, it could also tell you what color clothes and jewelry will look flattering on you. Check out this video to learn more about why knowing your undertone matters:

Step 3: Find a good area to test shades

Given that your face isn’t made up of one single shade, it can be difficult to find a good area to use as a basis. Some people have redness around their cheeks, have darker chins, etc.

So how do you know which part of your face you should match your foundation to?

Ideally, you should pick a patch of skin that’s free of blemishes and discoloration. For most people, this is found somewhere along the front of the earlobe crossing over the jawline to your neck.

It’s important to include your neck when testing out shades to make sure you don’t end up looking like a you have a mask on.

Once you’ve found a neutral area, it’s time to test some products.

Step 4: Try out different shades

L’Oreal and other cosmetic companies have online tools that could help you find your perfect shade, the best way to find out is to simply try it out yourself. Drop by your local beauty store and test out the different shades side by side.

Ideally, the best shade is the one you can barely see on your skin. If you find multiple similar shades and can’t tell which one suits you better, swatch them side by side to make their subtle differences more visible.

Tip: Want to be 100% sure you got the right shade and the right product? Most stores (even ones online) offer free product samples/ travel size products with cheap price for you to try out before purchasing.

Step 5: Know if you have highly acidic skin

I know, you’re probably thinking “What does pH level have to do with choosing makeup products?”. Well, to put things simply, your face produces its own natural oils that interacts with the stuff your foundation is made of.

People with a high skin acidity level are prone to a reaction called “oxidation” that leads to your foundation looking fine one second and turning two to three shades darker after an hour. Yikes.

Thankfully, there are ways to get around this. You could either use a primer such as the NYX Studio Perfect Primer to create a barrier between your skin and your foundation or go a shade or two lighter.

Step 6: Repeat the process next season!

Hold on, your work isn’t done yet. You may have the perfect foundation shade now, but it won’t match your skin forever. Your skin tone can change as much as two or three tones each season depending on the amount of sunlight you’re exposed to. Your skin will probably be much lighter in winter given the limited amount of sunlight and darker when you go to the beach in summer.

Enjoy Your Upgraded Look!

Finding the right shade of foundation can be a lot of work but trust me, it will be worth it in the end. Now that you have the perfect shade, take your makeup game up a notch by knowing some common foundation application mistakes and how to avoid them.

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