Since I announced my Blondeshell Beauty Tips blog series and invited you all to submit any and all beauty related questions to me, one question keeps popping up: Which foundation should I use?
It’s no wonder this is such a common question. According to Dr. Sarah Vickery, CoverGirl’s principal scientist, only 15% of women purchase the right foundation when necessary steps aren’t taken. With all the different types of foundations out there, confusion abounds. Should you get a liquid? How about a mousse? Perhaps you need mineral foundation? And then there’s the maddening process of deciding which is the best foundation shade for your skin tone.
The best foundation is determined on a case-by-case basis and depends on several factors including the ideal foundation formula for your skin type, the finish you desire, and of course, your budget. So even though I can’t look at a photo of you on my Facebook and tell you what to buy, I can give you some valuable tips to help you find your perfect foundation.
Determining Your Skin Type
Your skin type has an impact on how certain foundation formulas will sit on your skin. For instance, someone with oily skin, using a moisturizing foundation stick would only make things worse, and in some cases, may result in a nasty breakout. For the most part, foundations are made for five different skin types: dry, oily/combination, mature, sensitive, and normal.
- If you have dry skin, your skin is often tight and flaking around your driest areas, and your complexion is dull with some red patches. You also have nearly invisible pores.
- If you have oily/combination skin, you have enlarged pores with a dull or shiny complexion. You also easily breakout and have many blackheads.
- If you have mature skin, your skin has a dull, uneven complexion with many fine lines and wrinkles and you often struggle to keep your skin hydrated.
- If you have sensitive skin, you often experience irritation and may break out in rashes. Irritated skin may be dry, and itch or burn.
- If you have normal skin, you have a healthy, luminous complexion with few imperfections and small pores. You also do not have a history of skin irritation after using any products.
Once you’ve identified your specific skin type, check out my post The Best Foundations for Each Skin Type, where I list the best foundations by skin type for every budget.
Choosing Your Finish
Your “finish” is also referred to as your “texture” or “sheen” and they can be separated into four categories: semi-matte, matte, satin/luminous, and sheer.
- A matte finish will appear flat without any shimmer or dewiness. It will be most likely be an oil-absorbing foundation that leaves your face with a smooth, powdery appearance.
- A semi-matte finish is the most common and works well on most skin types. It will give you the most natural look, with a subtle glow.
- Satin/Luminous finishes are for those that want a very dewy look. When I say dewy, I’m referring to a natural glow, but many people confuse this with the term “oily”. If you have oily skin, you may not want to try this finish, as it may only irritate your skin issues.
- Sheer foundations typically provide light coverage, and are used to cover minor skin imperfections. Think tinted moisturizers. For people wanting more coverage, these are used for a base for their foundation.
Skin Tone and Skin Undertones
In my posts, “Understanding Your Skin Tone and Undertones” and “How to Find Your Skin Undertones”, I discuss the importance of knowing your actual skin tone and undertone. I highly recommend reading “How to Find Your Skin’s Undertone” and doing some of the simple tests I mention to determine your undertones. Once you know your skin tone and undertones, shade matching will be a walk in the park.
Try It Out In-Store
After you’ve determined the best formula for your skin type, as well as your skin tone and undertones, choose three or four shades closest to your color. Test them out in-store.
The best way to do this is to apply a bit of each color (from lightest to darkest) in different swatches at your jaw line. It’s best to do this on clean skin. Most people try to shade match foundations on their hand or wrist, but this is not the ideal spot. Testing the shades on your jaw line will give you the best results. The color that disappears is the best shade for you.
As you can see in the photo to the left, the Tarte Amazonian Clay in Fair Light Honey and the LORAC POREfection in PR2 Light seem to disappear completely on my skin, while the others are either too dark or too light. These are the colors that will work best for my complexion.
Note: Many stores have harsh fluorescent lighting, which can make foundations appear much different than normal. Head outside to check the shades in sunlight as well.
Department Store or Drug Store?
I love a good deal as much as the next person, but when it comes to foundation, I splurge. I would encourage you to do the same, if possible. Department stores carry prestige brands that are far superior to the ones you would find in a drug store, and you’ll notice the difference immediately.
Most department stores also have employees that have been trained in helping to shade match you, and they are happy to help. If you’ve read this post and feel confident you know what to do, don’t rely fully on them. Even in-store “professionals” are wrong sometimes. And while you’re there, don’t be afraid to ask for a couple of free samples!
If you can’t purchase from a department store, consider a drugstore that has a liberal return policy. CVS and Rite Aid allow you to make returns even if your makeup has been opened, as long as there isn’t more than 75% used (same with Sephora and Ulta).
And finally, once you find your ideal foundation, make sure you have the right tools. If you’re using a liquid, you will want to use a beauty blender, or a foundation brush (Read: 7 Makeup Brushes Every Woman Should Own). For mineral foundations, use a buki brush for your full face color, and use a traditional foundation brush where you need more coverage. And remember for liquids — tap, don’t rub.