How to Seriously, Finally, Just Find the Right Foundation (Even If You're Not Caucasian)

If you are Caucasian or anywhere in the fair-to-medium category, the world is pretty much your oyster. However, if you are a woman with olive, golden, reddish-brown or dark brown skin,save yourself time: go to NARS, MAC or IMAN.
Publish date:
October 3, 2012

Before a kind makeup artist showed me the error of ways, I used to shop for beauty products the same way most people do. I would walk over to the drugstore and eyeball a shade that “might” work. I would test it on my hand to see if it matched, then whichever I thought was closest was the one I came home with. Imagine my constant fist-to-the-sky-why-God-why drama with the fact that the COLOR WAS NEVER RIGHT. It was either too dark or too light or too grey or what the fuck ever -– it was just WRONG, WRONG, WRONG.

This led to a few complexion issues, namely a sweet friend pulling me aside and telling me that my face didn’t match my neck one night over a few margaritas. I would advise not doing this in a bar when said person is already out and about. That service announcement is awesome if you, oh say, have the correct color in your purse. Otherwise, that line is busy, so please try your call again later.

So, now that I know better, I want to pass the info onto you on exactly how to get the right foundation color to work. First of all, I love drugstore brands, but try the department store first. I’ll explain why in a second.

Go to your local department store or makeup retailer. You can get a makeup application, but know that those gals will expect you to buy something for that makeover, so unless you’re planning on dropping some bank on makeup that day, I advise you take this trip to the wilderness alone. And by the way, those of you who use those poor men and women and never buy anything, you’re asshats. PAY for those services.

As far as matches go, here’s some quick advice: If you are Caucasian or anywhere in the fair-to-medium category, the world is pretty much your oyster. Head to any counter. However, if you are a woman with olive, golden, reddish-brown or dark brown skin, I just have one piece of advice to save yourself time: go to NARS Cosmetics, M·A·CCosmetics or IMAN Cosmetics. Straight up, just save yourself the time and it won’t turn into the Quest for Fire that it normally does.

Pick the color you think works and then select the hue directly to the left and to the right of it (one shade lighter and one shade darker, respectively.) Go to a mirror and swipe a stripe of each IN THAT ORDER on your JAW BONE. That’s right: not your hand, not your arm, not your forehead -- your jaw bone. It’s the most accurate indicator of your face because, hey, it’s your face and it will match the rest of your face. It’s also inconspicuous. Look in the mirror: the swipe that disappears is the front runner.

Now, here’s the trick: walk outside into natural light and look at your face in a hand mirror. Is that swipe of foundation/tinted moisturizer still gone? That’s the clear winner. You have to test the shiz in natural light as well as indoor lighting. Department store lighting is there to make you want to buy. Natural light is there for everyday life. Go with the winner in everyday life light.

Buy it and buy the concealer that matches that shade. Now, before you change your mind. If you’re in a panic, apply it to your whole face and then come back and buy it, but once you find that right color, put a ring on it.

Now, here’s the trick: Take your purchase to the drugstore and find the equivalent color (if possible) and then nab it as a safety measure. Some drugstores and big box retailers will let you take products home to test them. Take them up on it. The drugstore version is a great alternative for when you travel, your gym bag, your every day makeup bag. The department store version is awesome for applying in the morning or for big occasions. My favorite drugstore brands for multiple shades are COVERGIRL (particularly the Queen Collection for olive, golden, reddish-brown and dark brown skin tones) and L’Oreal Paris, with the True Match Super Blendable Makeup system. Both rarely fail, in my opinion.

Or, you just stick with one version and call it a day. Either way, that’s how you find the perfect foundation every time, all the time.

OK, so have you ever had a foundation melodrama? What’s your favorite brand for amazing skin perfecting products? Put some skin in the game in the comments below: