Part 2 of my indepth guide to foundation is Shade Selection. Find out how to easily figure out your skin tone and find a perfect foundation colour match for you.

So in my last post I talked about preparing your skin before you apply your base. This is important- you wouldn't start painting over a dirty old door and then say "This emulsion is rubbish" when the door looked like crap, the same goes for your foundation. A painter and decorator would tell you, preparation is everything.

The next foundation issue I'm going to look at is shade selection.  If you get the shade of foundation wrong you can look odd, the whole point of foundation is to make you look better, making sure it matches is key to looking natural. I find the whole topic baffling, or at least I did. If you google "How to shade match foundation" you are told that you need to know your undertone. I don't know about you, but when I look in the mirror, I see my skin as skin colour. Look at this-

What colour is this? A bit red, a bit yellow, a bit freckly. I don't know what undertone I am, yellow? So I've been choosing foundation my whole adult life based on the assumption that I appear to be a light yellow colour. 

How I figured out my actual skin tone

Now I'm sorry if this goes on a bit too much for you, here come lots of photos of swatches. I decided to have a really good look at all the foundation I already own and find out if I could get to the bottom of this "My skin could be light yellow but I'm not entirely sure" uncertainty.

So first of all I swatched all my high end foundations. These are expensive foundations which I had colour matched for me by professionals.

We have here, Mac Studiofix in NC30, Mac StudioSculpt in NC25, Clinique Beyond Perfecting in 2 Alabaster, Smashbox Studioskin in 2.1 and Vichy Dermablend in 15 Opal. Clinique beyond perfecting is by far my favourite (read my review), closely followed by the Vichy Dermablend.  I wear either Beyond Perfecting or Dermablend on a daily basis, I think they match my skin pretty well.

Here are the swatches-I mean, really?! How could I possibly be all those colours. The MAC Studiofix is brown! So I tried them on my face, I took a swatch of each and ran it from my jawline to my neck. It stands to reason that you need your makeup to match your neck, otherwise you would have a mask-like appearance.

So looking at the swatches you can see that the Mac and the Smashbox foundations are yellow (aka warm) toned and the Clinique and the Vichy are pink (aka cool) toned. 

It seems obvious to me that the Clinique is the best match for my skin. The Vichy is nearly there, perhaps a bit pale, but the yellow ones look plain weird. 

I have also read that you can tell the undertone of your skin by looking at your wrist veins. 

If they look blue, like mine, then you have cool toned skin. 

I find this confusing, I don't know how to look for a cool toned foundation. What it really means is- if you have blue wrist veins then you need pink foundationIf your veins appear green then you have warm or yellow toned skin and need a yellow looking foundation. 

I don't know if this really works. But it's a start. What does work is swatching different foundations on your jawline. I find it hard to see colour properly in the bright electric light of a shop. You do need to see the swatches in natural light. So you can go and get a lady at a beauty counter to try some products out on you, but don't trust her! Based on the rubbish shade matching I've demonstrated above, you'd be a fool to. Say to the lady, "give me a minute", then run outside, find a mirror or take a photo on your phone to have a proper look. You'll look nuts while you're doing all this, of course, but it'll be worth it. 

Better still, if like me, you have a collection of a few old foundations hanging around at home, then do what I've done. Pop them on your jawline and check it in different lighting in the comfort of your own home. 

I repeated the process with my drugstore foundations. 

We have Revlon Photoready in Vanilla, Bourjois Air Mat in Vanilla, Bourjois Healthy Mix in Vanilla, L'Oreal Infallible in Vanilla, Revlon Colourstay in Medium Beige and I've swatched the Clinique Beyond perfecting alongside for comparison. I don't think the names of the shades have any bearing on the colour. Four of them have the same name and only one of those is the right colour.

You can see the swatches on the right- the Bourjois Healthy Mix, Bourjois Air Mat and the Revlon Photoready all tend towards yellow and do not match. The Revlon Colourstay and L'Oreal Infallible are pink toned and blend well with my skin (particularly the Colourstay). Fab. I wish I had done this before I bought a bunch of yellow foundations. 

Once you find a foundation that matches you well you can use this as a starting point. Take it with you when you go shopping for your next foundation. Now you have a reference point. 

There's a marvellous website called Temptalia which has a really in depth shade matching function, this might be worth a try before you buy your next foundation. It's called the Shade Matching Matrix. To use it I think it helps if you know your MAC shade. I believe mine is NW20.

Foundation Colour Matching- Summary

  • Check the veins on your wrist- blue=pink toned, green=yellow toned foundation 
  • Swatch foundation on your jawline and neck. Once you have found a foundation that suits you, use that as a reference point.
  • Make sure you check it in natural light.
  • Don't go by the name of the shade and don't trust beauty counter girls.
  • Have a look at Temptalia's Foundation Matrix 

I think I've done shade matching to death. Good luck! May your neck match your face perfectly.

Next time I'm going to talk about the type of foundation to get for your skin type.


Published by Nia Patten