Why Is It So Hard To Find The Right Foundation?

This article was last updated on April 16, 2022

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Photo: Via ChanelBeauty shopping is one of the simple pleasures in our lives, and normally, we really look forward to it. Wether we’re sifting through palettes upon palettes of pretty shadows or swiping lipsticks on the backs of our hands at the beauty counter, finding new shades is always an adventure. 

Unfortunately, not all makeup shopping is created equal — one product that basically sucks to shop for is foundation. Whether you’re in a drugstore staring blankly at plastic-packaged bottles, trying to figure out wether you’re a “sandy beige” or a “toasted almond,” or at the department store with a judgmental sales associate spackling a too-heavy cover-up on your sensitive skin — it’s just not a pleasant experience. Nine times out of 10 you walk away with nothing to show for that trauma but a lighter wallet and a foundation that’s still not the right match for you.

That said, we don’t believe finding your base should require a degree in cosmetic chemistry, so we asked makeup artist Andrea Edwards of W3LL People Cosmetics to give us a few pointers on how to find that elusive makeup match without all the drama. Read on for her tips on how you can cut through all the crap and just find that one perfect match for your skin, no matter where you choose to shop. 

What are some things the average consumer needs to keep in mind when looking for a foundation? 
“Before thinking about buying a foundation, you should consider your skin tone and texture. It’s important to recognize your skin’s needs. Specifically, would you be better off using a powder, stick, or liquid foundation? Is your skin oily or dry? Do you prefer a matte or a dewy look? Is your skin light or dark in color? Is your skin warm or cool? If you have a warm tone, a foundation with dark pink and beige tones will best suit your skin and enhance your natural tone. If you  have cool skin tone, a brown-based foundation will work better. The right foundation should always even out your complexion without being noticed.” 

One of the difficult aspects of foundation shopping is finding out what kind of undertones a woman has in her complexion. What’s the best way to do this? 
“The best way to match your foundation is to try a little bit of the foundation on your jaw line. The right color will perfectly blend with your complexion and highlight your natural skin tone. For instance, if you have a fair complexion with pink undertones and you try a light foundation that has pink tones in it, you will visibly notice how the pink tone in the foundation will enhance the pink on your complexion, resulting in an unnatural and unattractive finish. On the other hand, if you use a light foundation with a yellow tone in it, your complexion will look even and natural. The yellow tone in the light shade foundation will counteract the pink pigmentation in the skin, allowing the complexion to look perfectly natural.” 

One of the most difficult places to shop for foundation is at the drugstore, where there is often bad lighting and no samples to try. Do you have any tips for finding a good foundation match just by looking at the product in its packaging? 
“Buying a foundation without trying it is risky. I do not advise this because you’ll probably end up with a lighter or darker shade that has too much yellow or pink or brown in it. Never buy a foundation without trying it first to determine if it is the perfect match for your complexion. [If you only shop drugstore], look for brands that have a large selection of tones to choose from.”

What about women of color? They always seem to have fewer options and it can be next to impossible to find a match. Any suggestions? 
“Women  of color come in all shades and undertones: yellow, olive, golden, red, pink, brown, black. As a result, many women can wind up with makeup that looks artificial. Once again,  you should not look like you have a mask on. If the foundation does not match your undertones, it is not your pick. There are several makeup brands that cater to women of color, such as Bobbi Brown and Makeup Forever.” 

Photo: Courtesy of Bobbi BrownIf a woman is having difficulty finding an exact match for her skin and is in-between shades, would you recommend choosing the slightly lighter or slightly darker shade? 
“I’d advise her to take both foundations and mix them up to reach her match. I’d also suggest that she takes the lighter foundation and warm the color up with a nice bronzing powder. By doing so, you can achieve desirable results.” 

Is there any way to prevent a foundation from oxidizing (mixing with the oils in one’s skin and turning darker or more orange in tone)? 
“The best way to prevent oxidizing is to avoid a rich moisturizer [prior to applying foundation] and to use a setting powder such as the Realist X by W3LL PEOPLE. This translucent mineral setting powder absorbs oil and prevents the foundation from oxidizing.” 

If a woman finds herself with a foundation that’s slightly too dark or too light, do you have any tips to remedy the situation to make the foundation work?  
“If the foundation is too light, you can always use a bronzing powder to warm your complexion up. If the foundation is too dark, you need to put it away and get a shade that matches your complexion.”  

In terms of foundation formula and/or texture, does that affect the shade payoff at all? Should women with certain skin tones or undertones look for certain formulas? 
“Yes, you should pay attention to your skin’s needs. If you have dry skin, you want to stay away from powder foundations  and wear a cream foundation. For combination skin, I’d suggest a cream foundation like W3LL PEOPLE Realist X to balance the duality on the skin. Someone with oily skin should opt for an oil-free foundation. It is very important to adhere to a healthy skin regimen — your skin should always look healthy and glowy. If your foundation is not delivering a healthy and natural look, it is probably not your match.” 

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