With the current number of shades, finishes, and coverage levels available, foundation is just as customisable as a your go-to Starbucks order. And that’s exactly what makes it one of the toughest makeup products to buy.
The ultimate goal is a foundation that looks like your own skin—only better. This can be hard to achieve when most makeup aisles have less than ideal lighting for swatching and mirrors smaller than most compacts.
Even if you’re able to avoid that dreaded mask-like foundation line on your neck by getting professionally shade-matched, there’s a host of other concerns like finish, texture, coverage, and formula that factor into buying the one that’s right for you.
We turned to celebrity makeup artists:
Daniel Martin and
Allen Avendaño to break down everything you need to consider when you’re trying to choose your new go-to foundation.
1. FIND YOUR SHADE MATCH
Sure, there’s a lot of space for swatching foundations on your forearm, but the skin on this part of your body is a lot darker than your face. Avendaño says to apply potential shades to your chest to see if they are right. “This doesn’t have to be an exact match, but maybe slightly lighter because the colour is going to shift throughout the day,” he explains. “Foundation oxidizes with wear, and naturally gets darker with the mixture of elements and the oils on your face.”
Alternatively, you can test shade options on your face.
“Find a spot towards the centre of your face and blend out towards the hairline so you match the sides of your cheeks and down the middle of your neck,” Martin suggests. “If your neck is lighter than your face and you don’t want your face to be as pale, choose one shade lighter than your face so its comparable. (You can always ‘warm up’ the face with bronzer if your complexion still appears light.) This way it’s not too light or that much warmer than your neck.”
Whatever method you choose, both pros say it’s important to test foundations in good natural lighting.
2. DON’T FORGET ABOUT YOUR SKIN’S UNDERTONES
Unless you want to colour-correct, don’t fight against your skin’s natural undertones. If you have a warm complexion, go with a shade that has yellow undertones, and if your complexion is on the cool side, a foundation with pink undertones is your best bet.
You can play it safe with a neutral or warm shade. “I tend to go with neutral and warm shades in my kit because its easier to match on different skin tones and shades,” says Martin.
3. KNOW WHAT COVERAGE LEVEL YOU NEED
If you hate wearing makeup, you’re going to think a full-coverage foundation feels heavy. Understanding the look of every coverage level is the key to picking the right one for your needs.
You’ll still see your skin through foundations with sheer to medium coverage. Avendaño recommends picking a foundation on the lighter side as a default when you’re not sure exactly what kind of coverage you need. “I always refer people to foundation that is light to medium coverage because it’s buildable,” he says.
When you want a long-wear foundation that doesn’t require mid-day touch ups, or have acne or discolouration, opt for a full-coverage foundation.
4. DON’T FORGET ABOUT YOUR SKIN TYPE
Matte or dewy? That’s the question to ask before swatching foundation shades. Your skin type is an important factor when it comes to choosing finishes. Martin says that dewy foundations tend to work best on normal to dry skin types. “Too much radiance on oily skin types looks even oilier and it’s not a good feeling on the face,” he explains. Matte foundations are usually more suitable for combination to oily skin types.
Avendaño recommends using a satin finish instead of matte on mature skin. “More mature skin can get away with matte but again, just like dewy skin can emphasize flaws and wrinkles, so can matte foundations because the skin has no dimension,” he explains.
5. ADAPT YOUR SHADE TO THE CURRENT SEASON
It’s true: You won’t be able to stick to one foundation shade year-round. “Our skin tends to warm up in the spring-summer while we’re more active outdoors and in direct sunlight,” says Martin. “Even if you’re wearing sunblock every day, our tone warms up.”
A great foundation has to tick a lot of boxes – evening out skin, concealing without masking, giving a glow while still looking natural. We checked out the best lightweight formulas.
Despite the current social-media trend for ‘Instagram makeup’ (typically the heavier side of full coverage), in real life, most women want something that subtly flatters skin. “A lightweight base mimics the look of real skin,”
says Anna Priadka, NARS global makeup artist.
“It should melt in and blend easily, so you still look like you, just more radiant and flawless.”
If you’ve been searching for a base that levels out skin tone without hiding natural texture and individual characteristics such as freckles, read on.
1.BEST FOR OILY SKIN
Marc Jacobs Shameless Youthful Look 24 Hour Foundation
The downside of most velvety matte foundations is a heavy-looking finish, but Marc Jacobs’ Shameless has raised the game. Once on the skin, this formula settles very fast, so apply it quickly – we recommend using a Beautyblender sponge.
2.BEST FOR DRY SKIN
Hourglass Vanish Seamless Finish Foundation Stick
Don’t be put off by the thick appearance; when this hits the skin, it blends easily into a sheer finish, making it a great option for dehydrated skin. You only need a small amount to soften redness and conceal blemishes.
3.BEST FOR VACATION
Sarah Chapman Skinesis Skin Insurance SPF30
If you’re traveling, this is all skin needs. It contains broad-spectrum sun protection and a hint of color to even out skin tone and reduce redness, though you’ll need to apply concealer afterwards to disguise blemishes. It feels like a moisturizer, so it’s best to massage it in with fingertips.
4.BEST FOR SENSITIVE SKIN
Zelens Youth Glow Foundation
If you have rosacea or acne, you will love how this foundation tames redness without irritating your skin further. The oil-free formula blurs the lines between skincare and makeup with collagen-boosting beta-glucans, hydrating hyaluronic acid, and anti-inflammatory antioxidants.
5.BEST FOR DEHYDRATED SKIN
Edward Bess Ultra Dewy Complexion Perfector
This is more like a BB cream than a foundation: it provides more coverage than a BB, but shea butter makes it just as moisturizing. It has a slippery texture so it’s easy to blend into skin and creates a dewy finish. If you tend to get oily during the day, lightly powder your T-zone.
6.BEST FOR ALL-DAY WEAR
NARS Sheer Glow Foundation
If you have oily skin will know it’s not uncommon for foundation to slip or separate after only a few hours. This lightweight base is a rare exception; it delivers a sheer coverage that enhances – but does not conceal – and won’t budge for eight hours minimum.
7.BEST FOR LONG-LASTING RADIANCE
Kevyn Aucoin The Etherealist Skin Illuminating Foundation in Light EF01
This thinly textured foundation is so comfortable it feels as though you’re not wearing anything at all. It’s best applied with a brush and then patted in with warm fingertips to even out redness and disguise imperfections. The finish is glowy without looking too shimmery.
Achieve a flawless complexion with ERRE DUE liquid foundations, designed to meet the needs of every skin type. Available in a wide range of matte, natural and luminous finishes, the foundations of ERRE DUE offer sheer, medium or full coverage options.
Tips for Shopping at Pharmacy/Discount Store:
Thanks to high-tech displays and extensive shade ranges, it’s easier than ever to meet your match at discount beauty stores and pharmacy.
A few helpful hints:
Do your homework.
L’Oréal Paris, CoverGirl, and Revlon have complexion-matching applications on their websites. Log on to answer questions about your skin and receive product and color suggestions to use as starting points.
When in doubt, go darker. If you blend the color well, you’ll look tan. But wearing a too-light shade will always make you appear chalky and overly made up.
Apply It Like a Pro
Different formulas require different application strategies. Eliminate guesswork by opting for products “with a built-in brush or sponge tip.
Or consult our cheat sheet:
Tinted moisturizers and BB creams: Rub them onto skin with your fingers.
Liquids, mousses, and creams: Brushes are best: Choose a flat-topped style that has synthetic bristles. “Unlike natural bristles, synthetics won’t absorb the makeup, so it transfers better onto skin.” Buff in a circular motion from the center of your face, blending outward.
Powders: To keep it light, use a fluffy brush to sweep powder up and down the T-zone. Leave cheeks bare for a bit of glow. For more coverage, pick a brush with dense bristles, like a kabuki, and swirl all over.
Sticks: Swipe foundation straight from the tube onto problem spots and buff with a makeup sponge.