How to shop for foundation that *actually* matches your skin tone

Let 2017 be the year we all nail it.

Finding the right foundation is exactly like shopping for jeans – it just doesn’t happen without tears, consoling partners and a lot of self-loathing between you and the mirror.

If the look isn’t making you feel like Beyoncé, it’s not because you aren’t fabulous (you are). It’s most likely the product just isn’t right for you.

Unfortunately, foundations aren’t a one-size-fits-all shop and selecting the perfect one can certainly be a process. As a new year present to yourself (and your skin), here are a few tips to get you through another year of makeup hunting. Let 2017 be the year we all nail it.

Foundation disclaimers

Before dropping your paycheck, it’s most important to know what you’re wanting to achieve from using a certain product.

Some things to note:

  • Foundation doesn’t get rid of texture, it predominantly just hides colour. Talk to someone in-store about skincare treatments if this is your main concern.
  • Different formulas equate to different functions and a YouTuber’s needs won’t necessarily be the same as yours.
  • If your skin is already flawless even without a VSCOcam filter, you may not necessarily need a foundation. BB creams and light powders are great products to perfect the skin, minus the effort of blending a thicker foundation.

Learn how to describe your skin

Once you’ve made it past the daunting task of putting on pants, leaving your cat and going to the shops, the next step is to ask for help. In most cases during a foundation match, the first thing you’ll be asked about is your skin type. And FYI, “pale and gross” is not a skin type. You’re all beautiful, OK.

Skin type refers to the level of moisture and oil your skin produces. For instance, if the flaking on your skin resembles a croissant, run away from mattifying powders and meet me at the mineralised stand. Hydration is always the key.

On the contrary, if the torch-like shine on your forehead resembles the prisms of 24 magic karats in the air, you’ll fall under the oily category. Something oil-controlling and mattifying will help reduce the stress.

Though it may seem easier to let a professional do the picking, it’s a good idea to get to know your skin and what you actually want to get out of the product.

As that ancient proverb goes: “No one else can feel it for you, only you can let it in.” – Natasha Dali Lama Bedingfield


With an overwhelming number of foundations on the market, a super easy way to narrow things down is to choose the level of coverage you’re after. Think about the overall look. How much of your skin do you want to cover? Do you prefer to keep it natural? I’ve personally been favouring light-medium coverage over a fuller look. This is partly because I’m lazy, but also because skin is in, you guys.

With summer weather especially, natural/sheer foundations are an ideal way to perfect the skin – minus the heavy-weight feeling – or looking like there’s even product on at all. Being a liar but looking naturally amazing? Check.

Of course, full-coverage and longer wearing foundations are popular for a reason. If you’re a person who goes out after dark (good for you), just make sure you opt for something with no zinc. This ingredient is notorious for causing those ghostly iPhone flashbacks – which is as horrible as it sounds.

Once you’ve settled on the coverage that’ll work best, have a think about the finish or texture you’d like. Think of this in paint terms, where matte is opaque and satin reflects light. One is not ‘better’ than the other. Just more of a personal preference. Like, Ryan Gosling or Ryan Reynolds.

Colour matching

Fortunately, high-end shoppers often only have the predicament of choosing between colours that have been recommended to them. 

Supermarket shelf products are a little harder to match, as they’re usually sealed and shopping just ends up becoming a game of lucky dip.

If you’re hesitating between two shades (which should be closest to your neck colour), go with the lighter. Some foundations tend to oxidise after settling and in worst case scenarios, those ‘bronzer things’ are just friends you haven’t met yet.

Ask for samples

A great way to avoid buyer’s regret is to actually wear the product. Don’t be afraid to ask for a sample to take home. This way you can see how the foundation wears over time and how it looks in natural lighting/under the bathroom light/your mum’s Samsung flash/candid beach shots etc. This also helps in cases where you aren’t super comfortable with application and you want to practice at home.

Like a good old-fashioned Tinder story, finding the perfect foundation takes a lot of time, trial and error. Give it time and you’ll find ‘the one’ eventually. 

Photography: Jessica Apap
Hair: Ben Martin @ Salon XVI
Makeup: Shev Kelly, Global Makeup Artist for Napoleon Perdis
Styling: Kookai 
Model: Sarah Burns @ Chadwick Models

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