How to Adjust Your Foundation From Season to Season

Woman swatches a foundation on her face

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It goes without saying that finding the right foundation is a journey. When you find the perfect foundation formula for your specific skin type and concerns, you'll want to hold onto it for dear life.

The bad news is that—realistically—it can be majorly tricky to make sure your foundation works for your skin year-round. Between summer tans and vitamin D shortages during the winter months, your true skin tone can jump around depending on the season—which means the shade that works in August likely isn't the same one you need in February.

Of course, the most important thing is taking care of your skin and wearing SPF year-round, and—depending on your proclivity to sunlight and tanning—you might not have this issue. But if you do, know that it's totally normal to have a skin tone that adjusts a few shades depending on the season.

The good news is: You don't have to swap out your favorite foundation to make do when this happens. We spoke to makeup artists to get their tips on adjusting your foundation shade from season to season—so you can stick with your favorite formula and have a face that still matches your neck in the winter. (A real win-win in the makeup department.) Get their pro tips below.

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Lightening: Dilute With Moisturizer

Mixing a bit of moisturizer into your foundation is a tried-and-true way to thin it out—but did you know that it's also one of the best ways to lighten the pigment of foundation? It sheers out the formula, allows your true skin tone to shine through, and adds a dewy finish, too—which is perfect for when your skin is looking slightly dry and dull. (Hello, winter months.) In fact, mixing in moisturizer with your foundation is the perfect way to combine important skincare ingredients into your everyday makeup regimen.

"During the summer it's great to mix in something with SPF, and for winter, adding some extra moisturizer is key to keeping dry skin hydrated, also," says makeup artist Apollo Barragan. "It really all starts with skincare—make sure you're protecting your skin during the summer and keep it hydrated during the winter."

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Darkening: Bronzing

The simplest way to adjust your foundation for summer is by applying bronzer in a deep hue that complements your summer skin. It sounds straightforward enough, but remember—it's important to not get too overzealous with the bronzer. (I know, I know—easier said than done.)

"I don't advise just mixing in a bronzer with your foundation and smearing it all over the face and expecting that to work," says makeup artist Jenna Menard. "I like to separate the bronzer so I can strategically apply it to where you look naturally tanned. It becomes more believable when you place it properly around the right areas of the face [versus all over]."

She also says it's sometimes best to skip the foundation altogether and simply accentuate your summer skin with bronzer alone. "It creates more of a believable tan in the summer," she says.

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Lightening: Try Applying Your Foundation Differently

The one downside of mixing moisturizer with foundation is that you're just adding more products to your face, which Menard says she typically tries to avoid. "The more layers and products on your face, the more you risk having your makeup move around as the day progresses, especially where heat and humidity are involved."

Instead, she recommends another reliable technique for diluting or sheering out your foundation in order to lighten the pigment: using either a duo fiber brush—a mega-versatile makeup brush known for its duel-ended fiber bristles, perfect for applying cream or liquid foundations—or a damp beauty sponge to thin it out, instead of mixing more things in.

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Darkening: Mix Things Up

The idea of jumping a shade up on your favorite foundation's color wheel sounds simple, but it's actually a bit more complicated than that.

"Something very important to note when choosing a foundation or shading up or down for a new season is that brands are very different in their matching and shade variations," Menard says. "You can't always just choose the next shade up. You really have to know the brand, the shades, and what you're looking for to be able to make the perfect fit. I often advise my clients to keep the one that works best as a match and then go one or sometimes two shades darker, and simply mix that into the one that works for them. That way, you know the tone is always staying somewhat the same."

Wedding and event makeup artist Lucas Dean also suggests buying a shade closest to your skin tone at its lightest when you find a foundation you love—and then buying a shade two shades up. "You're able to have a variety in range when mixing the two, so you can match your skin year-round."

There you have it—once you find a formula you love, just buy two of 'em and enjoy a shade range you can mix and match all year.

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Lightening: Try a Primer

Dean says he actually prefers CC creams because of how easy they are. (He's a fan of the CC+ Cream by IT Cosmetics, $40.) "CC creams will naturally adjust to your coloring a little, so if you're an avid sunscreen wearer, you won't even notice enough of a difference in shades to have to change often."

But in case you're married to your current foundation or jump shades frequently, he has another suggestion, too. "Moisturizer has the risk of diluting your foundation too much, so what I really recommend doing is using a hydrating primer—just a drop—which sheers out your foundation while also allowing your makeup to set and last longer." (Psst—you can find our favorite hydrating primers here.)

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