8 Tips to Guarantee A Perfect Foundation Match Every Single Time

by Martha Adams

Finding your perfect foundation shade is an ongoing battle. Should you match it to your hand or your face? How important is natural light really? What happens summer’s approaching and your shade changes? We wanted to answer all those pesky shade-matching questions. So we talked to makeup artists Suzy Gerstein and Mai Quynh to get their professional tips. Follow these guidelines and your foundation will look just like flawless skin—even if you're shopping in the drugstore. Don’t be surprised if people ask about your skincare routine instead of your makeup. We count that as a total shade-matching success!

It may be an oldie, but it’s a goodie. The best way to find your foundation shade is to match to your jawline. Gerstein recommends trying three different shades, and don't blend them in. “Just watch them disappear into the neck,” she says. This will guarantee that the foundation’s coverage won’t look like a mask once you've spread it all over.

Both makeup artists suggest taking a hand mirror and going outside or near a window to see what the swatches look like in natural light. “Indoor lighting can be dark,” explains Quynh. "Natural sunlight is always the best to help gauge what color you are.” Gerstein agrees, “I’m always amazed at how much good lighting affects things. Always, always look outside.” Note taken.

“This might sound a little basic, but hold it up in the daylight,” explains Gerstein. When shopping for foundation in drugstores, this is as good as you can get to color matching before purchasing. She recommends L’Oréal True Match formula because the clear bottle makes this process a lot easier. Reach for three different bottles to see what’s closest to your skin tone and head towards the nearest window. When in doubt, ask for an extra set of eyes to take a look for you.

“There’s no shame in the game,” jokes Gerstein. Live in it for a little bit. Then if you picked the wrong color, just take it back. Stores like CVS, Rite Aid, and Walgreens have a 100 percent satisfaction guarantee. Just bring it back within 30 days of purchase with your receipt. No harm, no foul.

“Powder foundation tends to warm up or get a little darker once it’s on the skin and layered on top of natural oils,” says Quynh. So it will almost always look darker on skin than in the package. To be safe, go a half shade or one whole shade lighter than you think. You can also match it with your T-zone coloring, which is the lightest area on your face, says Quynh.

Your skin can change tone and color as the year goes on. So, it's good to have multiple shades on hand—one that is a little lighter for winter months and another darker shade for summer. But always buy your lightest shade first. (It’s easier to darken foundation than it is to lighten it up. More on that below!). “The other shade is about half a shade to one shade darker, this will be your summer shade,” says Quynh. The darker shade should match to the perimeter of your face, and the lighter hue should coordinate with your T-zone.

If you've only got one foundation that's too light, add a couple drops of liquid bronzer to darken it up during the summer for natural, easy-to-use coverage. Gerstein explains that it should be matte bronzer, no shimmer or highlighter additions. “And as you get more tan, you can keep adding more drops,” she says. Do not drop the bronzer directly into the foundation bottle. Instead, mix them together on the back of your hand before applying to your face.

Sheer products such as tinted moisturizers and BB creams allow for more leeway when it comes to color matching. “You can really get away with more of a difference between the product and your actual skin tone,” says Gerstein. These sheer coverage foundations show your real skin through them, meaning your increasing tan can peak through the coverage for the most natural finish.

MAC Studio Fix Fluid Foundation SPF 15, $27; maccosmetics.com (35 shades)

L'Oréal True Match Super Blendable Makeup, $11; lorealparisusa.com (32 shades)

Cover FX Natural Finish Oil-Free Foundation, $40; coverfx.com (40 shades)

Make Up For Ever Ultra HD Foundation, $45; makeupforever.com (40 shades)

For an unlimited shade range, use the MatchCo app . You use your cell phone camera to scan the skin on your forehead, cheeks, and wrist to find your perfect shade. Then the brand will formulate and send your custom foundation to you for $49. We tested it out, and it works! The formulation is not only comfortable and easily blendable, but it really does deliver a perfect match.

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