Ask an Artist: How Do I Find My Perfect Foundation Shade Match?

Updated 09/27/17

When she’s not working with big names like Mandy Moore, celebrity makeup artist Jenn Streicher is part of the Laura Mercier Makeup Artist Collective, and she’s agreed to share her expertise with us via our new Ask an Artist series. Need help selecting the best foundation for your skin type? Want to master a three-minute eye makeup look? Come back every month for a unique beauty lesson from a pro.

It happens all the time… You’re at Sephora, the shade looks great, and you happily make the purchase. But a few days later, you try it in real life and you realize you’ve done it again: You’ve added yet another not-quite-right foundation to your growing collection. Yes, we’re all too familiar with the foundation graveyard. It’s a growing epidemic, but it can be stopped. This is where our resident makeup guru Jenn Streicher comes in. You ask the questions, and she answers. Foundation-matching is no different.

We asked her to show us how to never buy the wrong foundation again, and she proved it’s not as hard as it seems (but it does require a bit of expert know-how).

Learn Streicher’s tried-and-true tips and never go home with the wrong foundation again.

Dark-haired woman with beautiful skin
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First things first: When shopping for foundation, identify the reason you’re using foundation—what do you want it to do? “You’re not always matching your skin tone,” Streicher says. “For example, if you’re really reddish and pinkish, and you want to tone that down, you shouldn’t go with the same color as your face because you’re going to look really white since you’re used to having all this pink. You kind of want to go in between.”

Or maybe you’re someone who is naturally sallow. “In that situation, you’d want to warm your skin up a little bit, so maybe don’t even need to go a shade up but just a color tone. Instead of a neutral, maybe go warm. Or if you’re cool, go a little more neutral,” Streicher says. But don’t be extreme—when you’re dealing with undertones, keep it subtle.

Woman with streaks of foundation on her face
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Streicher’s biggest tip is to try a few options. And try them where you’re going to wear the foundation (i.e., on your face, not your arm). But most importantly, try them out yourself. “Even if the person at the counter tells you one thing, don’t be intimidated,” Streicher says. Everyone is opinionated, and foundation is subjective. So do a few stripes on your cheek; you may be surprised which one you actually like. Case in point: the three shades of Laura Mercier’s new Flawless Fusion Ultra-Longwear Foundation ($48).

From left to right, we tried Chai, Suntan, and Maple.

Makeup artist applying foundation to woman's face
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Once you’ve got your stripes, wear them for a bit. Walk around and check them out in not only good natural light but different light. “Remember that for some people, once you put a color on them, that color changes because of different acidities,” Streicher says. Everyone’s skin is different; that’s why you need to give it some time and see it in different lighting.

Makeup artist applying foundation to woman's face
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Then identify your favorite. Apply whichever shade you like the best to one side of your face, and keep the stripes on the other. Again, walk around, find different light, and spend time wearing the shade to ensure you’re getting the truest representation. As you can see, this technique worked out for our model, thanks in part to the high-performance yet weightless formula of the Flawless Fusion Ultra-Longwear Foundation, which is resistant to oxidation.

Dark-haired woman wearing foundation
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Finally, buy one or more. “Sometimes you just can’t buy one,” Streicher says. Dark skin tones tend to be a couple of different colors, for example. “Usually they’re darker around the outer edges, so you don’t want to go too light in those places or it’ll look ashy,” she says. “I actually always tell people to buy two anyway, because you go up and down in color all year, and you can mix them to get the most perfect color.” With 20 breathable matte shades of medium to full coverage, Laura Mercier’s newest foundation is the perfect place to start (and end) your search for your true-match foundation.

Shop the Flawless Fusion Ultra-Longwear Foundation ($48) below.

Laura Mercier Flawless Fusion Ultra-Longwear Foundation $48
Shop

Now that you’ve finally found your foundation match and put an end that foundation graveyard, what else do you want to Ask an Artist? Ask away and professional makeup artist Jenn Streicher could answer your question next. In the meantime, check out Streicher’s tips on how to apply eye makeup for small eyes.

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