How To Choose The Correct Foundation Shade

How To Choose The Correct Foundation Shade

Finding the correct foundation shade for your skin tone is harder than you may think. Take, for example, the fact that I was wearing the wrong foundation color for the past year. Yep, it’s true. I didn’t realize it, of course, until I was applying my foundation in natural daylight. The color was two shades darker than my chest! How could nobody tell me? Well, it’s awkward to let a friend know that their face and neck don’t match. So, in order to find the correct shade, I asked Tim Quinn, Giorgio Armani Celebrity Makeup Artist, for tips on matching foundation to my complexion — and I’m sharing his insight with you. After all, real friends don’t let friends wear foundation that doesn’t match their skin tone.

Beauty Banter: When choosing a foundation, how can we do it without actually trying it on?
Tim Quinn: Take advantage of the new technology, if it’s available online, like on, you can use a Foundation Finder, which allows you to choose foundation shades from competitors that you already use and compare to the shades in the brand you are researching. Foundations with less pigment – like our Maestro, other tinted oils, or CC creams – are easier to find a shade as they allow your natural skin tone to shine through.

BB: Most of us can tell if our skin is light, medium, or deep, but what about undertones? How do we figure out if we are warm, cool, or neutral?
TQ: Generally, most fair people are cool, warmer undertones are more golden, medium, and olive. A good way to measure this is how jewelry looks on you: If you look better in silver, then you have a cool tone, gold, then warm. Warm tones have more yellow in the skin.

BB: Do we want a foundation that is our exact shade — or a shade lighter or darker?
TQ: You want a shade that mirrors your skin tone so it looks natural. You want to even out your skin, not blanket it to the point that it’s cakey. You can go a little darker if you want to cheat your color, just make sure you blend well. It’s better to match the shade and add bronzer to give warmth.

BB: Should our foundation shade change as the seasons change?
TQ: Yes, your foundation changes. In the summer or warmer months, you are generally outside or more active so you tend to pick up a little more color. Most people jump at least a shade darker in the summer. You might want to change the texture based on the season too; winter more hydrating formulas, mattifying in summer.

BB: Do we apply concealer before or after foundation?
TQ: Under eye, after; problem areas, first. Most foundation textures eliminate the need for under eye concealer, but formulas used to conceal blemishes are more dense.

BB: And how do we decide what shade of concealer is right for our complexion?
TQ: Concealer for the face is more pigmented, so choose on that is a tiny shade darker. For under eye, go slightly lighter for a slightly highlighted effect. If you only have one concealer, blend a little eye cream in it to use for under eye coverage.

BB: How do we decide what finish we want — matte, sheer, dewy, luminous – it’s so overwhelming!
TQ: It’s based on your skin type and also can be situational – time of day, occasion, work, night, weekend. Luminous Silk ($64) does so well because it checks all the boxes, lightweight yet buildable. I like the idea of wardrobing your face; have a wardrobe of foundation. CC Cream ($55) for weekend, Luminous Silk for work, and our new Power Fabric ($64) for special occasion.

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Beauty Banter was launched in July of 2006 as a comprehensive beauty blog covering trends, tips and tricks, insider secrets, and weekly must-haves. Beauty Banter has a reputation of being on the cutting edge of emerging trends and product launches so our readers are always the first to know what’s hot and what’s just not.