Finding your perfect foundation match is much more difficult than it should be.
You can spend a fortune on finding the best foundation, but not a single brand – from budget to designer – will look right until you find the correct foundation shade and tone for your skin.
READ NEXT: The best foundation for all skin types
As a guide, you’ll know when you’ve got a perfect foundation match when you are able to apply it to only parts of your face without it being obvious.
In our How to apply foundation like a pro, our resident makeup artist Victoria Howe explains – as part of our Ask the MUA series – that if you have to apply foundation all over your face to balance out the colour, you’ve got the wrong shade and tone.
The first place to start when looking at foundation types and brands is to determine what your skin tone is, but this is notoriously the most difficult part.
Undertones fall into three categories – warm, cool and neutral – and choosing a foundation with the wrong undertone is what causes your face to look yellow or orange when applied. So how can you tell which of these three categories you fall into?
In natural lighting, look at the veins on your wrist.
In natural lighting, put on a piece of gold and silver jewellery at the same time.
In natural lighting, hold a pure white piece of clothing next to your skin, followed by an off-white piece of clothing.
If you have warm skin tone, look for foundations with yellow and peachy undertones.
If you have cool skin tone, your skin better suits makeup with pink/red and blue tones.
If your skin is neutral, a mixture of the two will look great.
This brilliant video from Birchbox helps explain these tests in more detail.
It is always important to try any foundation before you buy it, and most shops and online retailers will be able to provide samples for this once you’ve narrowed down your shade. They will also be able to help you make these selections. Alternatively, you can carry on reading to find out how to match foundation to your skin online.
Findation Foundation Finder
Some foundation match sites, like Findation, work by comparing the similarity between brands. For example, if you know your match in Smashbox, for instance, they will tell you what Laura Mercier foundation is right for you.
You can add just one product, or multiple products, and they will build a picture of what your skin tone is.
The downside is that if you’re yet to find a foundation match, you won’t have a point of reference, but we do have a way around this (see boxout).
Temptalia Foundation Matrix
With Temptalia’s foundation matrix , you can start from scratch. Using information about your undertones and how fair your skin is, manually input by you, you’ll be given a foundation match.
Of course, the accuracy depends on the information you input, and the exact foundation colour match you need can change throughout the year.
In summer, if you spend a lot of time in the sun, your skin might tan or become freckly. In this case, you will need a different shade of foundation. Unless your foundation changes colour to match your skin.
Many beauty counters in shops and department stores will not only advise you or your shade and tone but will give you a small sample pot of foundation which allows you to try before you buy. These samples are not only great for helping you determine if the tone is right, but you can check the foundation’s coverage, consistency and staying power.
This is great if you have the time, and the confidence, to go to a beauty counter but many of us don’t and we rely on buying foundations online which can be even more difficult. That’s where Feelunique comes in. The site offers a Try Me service which means that when you buy any foundation from the site, it will include a matching sample pot.
If you decide the shade or texture isn’t right, you can return the unopened, full-size product and get your money back within 31 days. This promotion is only for customers in the UK. We love Feelunique because it very often sells many of our favourite products at a discounted price and it’s worth keeping an eye on our makeup sale page for the best bargains.
How to shade match Urban Decay foundation
Urban Decay offers a great online Find my Shade quiz that helps you find a foundation match, but (unsurprisingly) it will only match you to an Urban Decay Stay Naked foundation. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, we’re big fans of this foundation – particularly for dark skin tones – but it is pricey. If you use the quiz to determine which foundation match you think you’ll need, you can then buy it from Feelunique to get a sample pot.
Then, once you’ve established which shade best matches your skin tone, you can use the Findation site to find cheaper alternatives.
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Abigail is a leading science journalist writing about space, sustainability, technology and culture. She is author of The Art of Urban Astronomy, a must-have guide to the night sky that guides you through the seasons and learn about the brightest stars and constellations, the myths and legends of astronomy and how to identify star clusters and galaxies.