Finding your perfect foundation can be a really tedious process. It involves finding your perfect shade, picking which formulation suits you best, while accommodating your skin's needs. Foundation, in my opinion, creates the canvas for your makeup. Therefore, this is a key item in your makeup collection that you should invest in. Though not everyone wears foundation or needs it, for that matter, I know there's people out there who do. For me, it makes every bit of difference in how my makeup looks and feels. This is going to be long. I tried to make it short and sweet, but it didn't work out. However, I tried to be as informative as possible!
The first thing you need to do is educate yourself about your skin. What is your skin's undertone? Are you cool or warm? Typically, if you're cool, the veins in your forearm appear to be blue. Those who have cool undertones tend to feel more comfortable wearing silver jewelry. On the flip side, those who are warm toned will most likely have green veins on their forearm and tend to feel more comfortable wearing gold jewelry. Of course, there's the possibility that you're neutral which means that you're both cool and warm. Those who are truly neutral have a lot more options available to them. If you still can't decide what your skin's undertone is, I recommend getting color matched.
In this case, I'd goto MAC. Even if you don't like MAC, their numbering system is practically universal. If you know your MAC foundation match, that knowledge can go a long way when finding your match in other brand's foundations. For example, Make Up For Ever uses different numbering systems. In Mat Velvert+, I am a 25. In their HD line, I am a 115. Confusing, much? With MAC, I will always be an NW20. However, keep in mind that if you tan, your shade will change as you become darker and paler.
There's countless articles on the internet that explain MAC's numbering system so I won't get into great detail but here's a quick breakdown on MAC's system (quoted directly from MAC):
"If your skin looks more Golden Beige, you match with Neutral Cool or NC shades.
If your skin looks more Pink Beige, you match with Neutral Warm or NW shades.
If your skin looks more Yellow-Golden Olive, you will find those undertones in the Cool or C shades.
If your skin looks more Beige, you will match with the Neutral or N shades.
If your skin looks more Pink, you will find those pink undertones in the Warm or W shades."The number denotes the depth of the shade. Speaking in terms of MAC's regular foundations, the numbers range from 15-55. The bigger the number, the darker the shade. For more information pertaining to MAC's system, click here. This is the best explanation that I've come across so far.
Okay, so anyway. Where were we before I ran off track? Oh, I remember! Once you discover what your undertone is and you find your shade, the next thing you need to do is figure out what your preferences are. There's so many different formulas to choose from (liquid, powder, cream, gel, etc.). However, you also need to think about your skin's concerns. Ask yourself these questions:
Is my skin dry, oily, combination, normal, acne-prone, or maturing?
Do I need a fuller coverage foundation or something more sheer?
Which formula would best accommodate the needs of my skin?
Take into consideration that you may not want a foundation with a dewy, natural finish if you have oily skin or you may not want a powder foundation if you tend to have really dry skin. Oil free foundations are best for those with oily / acne-prone skin and those with dry skin should definitely avoid foundations with mattifying properties.
Most counters at department stores allow you to sample. I know that at MAC, so long as it's something that can be poured into a jar, it can be sampled. Don't feel funny for asking! This is how you learn. Even if you get matched at a counter, ask for a sample anyway. The lighting inside those places is much different than your lighting at home or outdoors. You also want to see how this foundation works for you since you're the one who is investing in it.
Here's my last piece of advice. This is helpful when purchasing foundations online or in person. Remember when I said that knowing about your skin and your MAC match would be extremely helpful? Temptalia has what's called a "Foundation Matrix" (a truly ingenious idea). You input your under tone and your skin tone, then it offers a list based on the MAC numbering system showing an endless list of brands and foundations with your potential matches.
I'll show you how I used it in my personal experience.
1. I put in the requested information. FYI: According to the Foundation Matrix, NW20 starts in the 'light-medium' range.
2. I search for the foundation I need. For the sake of example, we'll use Make Up For Ever's HD foundation. Just match your MAC shade to the brand. Whatever's highlighted in blue represents what I should be looking for.
3. So there's four different possibilities. Looking at the shade range of this foundation on Sephora should give me some further insight.
4. Based on the picture above, I can infer that 115 is my perfect match since I have light skin with pink undertones.
So, this is all I can think of for now. I hope this can in some way aid you in your search for the perfect foundation. How can can you make this article more helpful to others? If you can, comment on what your favorite foundations are and why, based on your skin tone, undertone, and your skin's concerns. Thanks!
*All images were found on Sephora.com and Temptalia.com