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Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The search for the perfect foundation: Tips on buying the right shade

I've been wearing foundation for about 8 out of my 26 years and for the majority of those 8 years I've been wearing foundations that were too dark, too light, too orange, too pink or just plain wrong. I was thinking about this the other day and wondering how it is I walked around wearing foundations that were so different to my skintone when I realised the problem... pushy sales people!

There are so many 'makeup artists' at makeup counters who are purely in it to sell you a product and who don't really care whether you're buying something that matches your skin tone or not. I consider myself to be a pretty savvy makeup consumer and yet somehow in the past year I have managed to purchase at least 5 foundations that were completely wrong for me.

These purchases were all made after being colour matched yet here are swatches of foundations that I got matched with in the last year (some of which are just samples). I was convinced each time that it was my 'perfect' shade. It astounds me just how different these shades are in comparison to each other. For reference, the last foundation from Chantecaille is the only one that actually matches my skin tone perfectly as it is now.

I was compelled to do this post because I went to the Chanel counter a few days ago hoping to get colour matched to a foundation that matched my skin tone only to have a foundation that was totally wrong for me and way too heavy slathered on my face. After that the 'makeup artist' tried to convince me it was my perfect shade and 'oh my god it was like it was made for you'. Cue the skeptic in me and after walking outside to check my foundation in natural light I couldn't believe just how off the colour was.

************************UPDATE 1.05.2011***************************
I went back to Chanel about 2 weeks ago and I spoke to a Chanel MUA and asked her to colour match me and told her how bad my last experience was. She was also a WOC and she pulled me aside and told me not to bother trying to find a colour match at their counter because their shade range doesn't cater to our skin tone. She told me that she works there and doesn't even use their foundation because she can't find a match! I appreciated her honesty so much and would actually be willing to purchase from Chanel again because of her so thank you awesome Chanel lady for renewing my faith in Chanel!

When I go and ask to be colour matched to a brand's foundations what I'm asking is 'can you please check if there's a foundation that matches my skin tone' not 'please find the closest colour you have out of the products you offer regardless of how it actually looks on me'. After this bad experience and the many that preceeded it, I've decided to give you my tips on buying foundation so that you don't end up walking out with the wrong colour or formula. Every time I've bought the wrong colour it's because I ignored one or all of these tips.

1. Have your foundation matched to your chest and not your jawline or neck.
I know all these makeup rules say that you match your foundation to your face but if your skin tone is slightly different on your face compared with your chest then you end up looking odd. The goal of foundation is to even skin tone and bring it into unison with your chest. For example, my face is actually quite a bit lighter and pinker than my neck and chest which means that when I get a colour that matches my face, my face and chest look like they're two different colours and I look obviously like I'm wearing foundation.

2. Always check foundation in natural light
Department store lighting is shocking. That's just a fact. When you try foundation on in that lighting it can look great but when you wear it in natural light you'll often find that the colour is completely wrong. This has never been shown to be more true to me than the time I took one of my friends shopping for foundation. We went to the Benefit counter and the girl applied foundation on my friend, told her it was a perfect match and tried to sell it to her but I told her we wanted to go look at it in natural light first. When we stepped outside in the sunlight her face looked like she'd just applied really bad orange fake tan that was about 4 shades darker than her neck and chest.

3. When getting colour matched, ask the makeup artist not to apply any powder on top.
Doing this means that you'll get a better idea of the colour of the foundation itself and also give you an idea of how the foundation wears without the aid of any setting powder. This tip is more important if you can't follow the next tip.

4. Always ask for a sample.
Alot of people aren't aware that most brands will give you a little sample of the foundation you're interested in. This is a great way of testing the foundation out and seeing not only if it's the right colour but also if you have any reactions to it, whether it works with your skin type and whether it meshes well with the other products you use such as your moisturiser. I know that MECCA, Bobbi Brown, Laura Mercier and MAC give samples but the higher end brands such as Dior and Chanel don't.

The only other tip I can offer you is....

5. Don't be bullied by the sales person.
I know this may seem hard sometimes but just make sure you know what you want and why you're there. I always make it clear that I won't be purchasing an item that day if all I want is to get colour matched. If someone tries to put the hard sell on me after I've made it clear that I'm just trying and not buying then what ever time and effort they waste in doing so is on them.

Just like everything else in life, knowledge is key so hopefully arming yourself with this little bit of extra knowledge will help you get the exact shade for you.


  1. Oh, I know exactly what you mean about sales people at makeup stores! I have a hard time finding foundation, too because a lot of the times I'm in between shades. And so many times I just want to look at the SA and go 'are you kidding me? How did you even get this job?'...but I don't haha.

  2. Where were you 3 weeks ago?!! haha I had the same experience at YSL. I got 'attacked' while the artist kept trying shade after shade on me saying 'no darling, it's perfect for you'. I'm pretty sure I looked like someone threw talcum powder on my face!
    I ended up with the Chantecaille from MECCA in banana and it suits perfectly!

  3. prettyinthedesert: OMG tell me about it! I don't understand how so many people that seem to lack a basic understanding about makeup and skin care end up with jobs at these counters while there are so many great struggling makeup artists!
    I hate when they try to convince you something looks great when you can obviously see it isn't. Hello, we're not blind and stupid!

    Suga: Yay! How great is the Chantecaille foundation? I am loving it and it's the first colour match I've ever had which is actually my skin colour. Poor you manouvering the YSL counter by yourself. Lol don't worry you're not alone. When I went to Chanel when she was trying foundations on me she said 'oh! you're not as dark as you look'... 'uhmm... thanks??'