Picking the wrong makeup foundation is one of the most common mistakes women make. For some odd reason, choosing the right foundation seems to be a step that most women simply just get wrong - sometimes horribly wrong. Few things are more unattractive than a beautiful woman whose face is an entirely different shade of color than her neck, or whose face is covered in foundation so thick that she looks like a wax figurine. Today's foundation is about coverage that looks natural. It's about having skin that looks healthy and that radiates a glow. Foundations are supposed to give you a smooth finished look, not make you look as if you're wearing a mask. So, if you don’t want to look like a Halloween leftover, you have to know how to pick the right makeup foundation.
How To Pick The Right Makeup Foundation
The first step to achieving a successful makeup application begins by using the right type of foundation. To pick out a foundation, you must find one that perfectly matches the color of your skin, or comes as close as possible. The foundation has to be the perfect color in order for it to blend smoothly and evenly into your skin. You do not want it leaving a noticeable line of demarcation between your jaw line and neck. If the foundation stands out and does not blend seamlessly with your skin, then you do not have the right kind of foundation. For an example of a bad foundation choice, see Leighton Meester at right - her face looks way too pale in contrast with her neck and body. You will know you have chosen the best foundation when you find that the shade virtually disappears on your face. (See our related article How To Properly Apply Makeup Foundation).
When deciding on the right color of foundation for your skin put a dab of the product just above your jaw line or draw a stripe along your jaw line and then blend it in using your fingertips. The correct color should disappear into your skin, blending seamlessly. You can also test the foundation on your neck since the neck is where your foundation will meet your natural skin color. A very common mistake is to test the foundation on the back of your hand, rather than your neck or face. Since you won't be wearing your foundation on the back of your hand, why test it there? Besides, the color of your hands and face are miles apart, so be sure you test the foundation on your face or neck and definitely not on the back of your hands.
How To Determine Your Skin Tone
Skin tone is also important when it comes to choosing the right foundation. If you are wondering how to go about identifying your own skin tone and what you should look for don’t fret. The good news is that determining your skin tone is not that difficult. After all, there are only four major skin tone groups: pink, yellow, olive and brown.
Pink Skin Tone: If you are very fair skinned and your skin burns easily and either tans minimally or not at all, then you most likely have pink, bluish-red, ruddy, rosy, or porcelain undertones (e.g., Marcia Cross).
Yellow Skin Tone: Most Caucasian, Asian and Light Mixed Race women have yellow undertone skin. If you are Caucasian and unsure about your skin tone, you are most likely yellow (e.g., Taylor Swift).
Olive Skine Tone: If you are Mediterranean, Latino, a Fair-skinned African American, or Dark Mixed Race, then you likely have olive undertones (e.g., Eva Mendez).
Brown Skin Tone: If you are Darker-skinned African American, deep complexioned Indian or any other dark skin color, then you likely have brown undertones (e.g., Venus Williams).
Other simple methods for determining your skin tone:
- If your skin tans easily and does not burn, then the level of pigment that gives your skin its natural color (your melanin) is higher. This means that you most likely have a yellow to olive undertone.
- If your skin burns easily and either tans minimally or not at all, then you have significantly less melanin. This results in a pink, bluish-red, or rosy skin tone.
- A foundation, concealer, or powder with too much yellow will make your skin look worse, not better, if you have a predominantly yellow (or "sallow") skin tone.
- Olive skin tones tend to look somewhat ashen or gray, from the combination of the natural yellow undertone everyone has and the greenish hue that is unique to olive skin of any depth.
- Rosy skin tones tend to flush easily or have obvious signs of redness. Some yellow skin tones fall into this category, particularly if rosacea is a factor.
How To Determine Your Skin Type
After figuring out your skin tone, you will next want to figure out your skin type since there are different formulas for different types of skin. So, do you have normal skin, oily skin, dry skin, combination skin, or sensitive skin?
- Normal skin has none of the issues listed below (lucky you).
- Oily skin looks shiny and feels greasy. It may also have larger pores than normal skin. Spots can be a problem for those with oily skin, as is reducing the shiny appearance.
- Dry skin can look dull and reflects light badly because of its lack of oil. It gets itchy and irritated easily, and can be prone to flaky or scaly patches.
- Combination skin is dry skin with oily-zones, or vice-versa. Often the T-zone (the T-shaped area of the face formed by the forehead, nose and chin) gets oily, but cheeks are dry.
- Sensitive skin is prone to skin irritancy and allergic reactions.
Foundations For Skin Types
- Normal Skin - Powder or cream-to-powder foundations are more suited for normal skin types, as are liquid foundations.
- Oily Skin - Choose a foundation that controls oil and shine and is oil-free. Foundations that provide "matte" coverage or powder or cream-to-powder formulas are very good for women that have oily skin. If you prefer liquid foundation, look for oil-free liquids. Mousses are also good for oily skin. Products: L'Oreal Air Wear Powder Foundation, Make-Up Forever Mat Velvet Oil-Free Foundation, Prescriptives Anywear Multi-Finish Compact Foundation SPF 12, Good Skin All Right Makeup (with salicylic acid)
- Dry Skin - Select a foundation that has a moisturizing formula to relieve dryness. Look for creamier liquid foundations, creams, or tinted moisturizers. Be sure to stay away from foundations that dry to a powder finish, such as powder or cream-to-powder foundations, as these will make your skin look flaky and even drier. Products: Elizabeth Arden Ceramide Plump Perfect Makeup SPF 15, Rimmel Recover Anti-Fatigue, Bobbi Brown Luminous Moisturizing Foundation, Laura Mercier Tinted Moisturizer SPF 20 (offers both UVA & UVB Protection), Paula Dorf SPF Lightweight Formula Tinted Moisturizer
- Combination Skin - Choose formulas that will absorb oils in the T-zone, while moisturizing in the other areas. Traditionally, moisturized meant shiny and matte meant opaque. You, however, need a foundation that has moisturizers in it, but is also oil-free. Try using a stick foundation, which will mask shine in the t-zone and blend well on other areas of the face. Products: YSL Matt Touch Foundation (Oil free) SPF 10, BeComing Perfect Balance Condition Foundation, Chanel Waterlights Sheer Makeup Stick, Giorgio Armani, Chanel liquid or powder foundation<
- Sensitive Skin - Since you need to be extra careful, try a foundation that is oil-free, fragrance-free, and allergy tested for skin irritancy. Products: Couleurs Nature 100% D'Origine Naturelle Loose Powder Foundation
- Uneven tone - If you have spotty or splotchy skin, try an easy-to-blend sheer liquid formula, which will minimize your pigment problem. Products: Avon Personal Match Foundation,
L'Oreal True Match Foundation, Yves Saint Laurent Perfect Touch Radiant Brush Foundation
Choosing Foundation Color
After deciding your skin type the next important aspect of choosing the foundation is the color. There are three basic foundation color groups: Ivory, Beige or Tan and Natural or Neutral.
- Ivory is best for fair or pale skinned women.
- Beige or Tan is for darker skinned or suntanned skinned women.
- Natural or Neutral is best for women with darker than fair or pale skin, but not dark skin.
There are several shades available in each color group (e.g., pink, yellow, olive, brown) for the different skin tones. Since most skin colors have either a yellow tone or a pink tone to them, choose accordingly. Most of the time, a foundation with a yellow undertone is best, unless you have the fairest of skin tones. In general, the darker the skin, the darker the shade of yellow it will have.
Why is a foundation with a yellow undertone usually best?
Since foundation is meant to provide a neutral canvas on which to apply your makeup, not add to/change the color of your face, you want to use foundation to help even out your facial complexion and neutralize whatever overtones are present in your skin; thus matching your skin’s natural undertone. The best way to do this is to use a neutral to slightly yellow toned foundation. Why use a foundation with a slightly yellow undertone? Because skin color almost always has a yellow undertone since that is what the natural color of melanin (the pigment that gives your skin its natural color) tends to be. As a result, yellow-based foundations look more natural on most skin types; from fair complexions to the darkest colored skin. Pink may be great for your cheeks and lips, but it doesn't make for the most natural-looking face. Remember, foundation is not meant to be used to change the color of your face; it should blend into your skin, making your other make-up appear more natural.
For the most part, regardless of your race, nationality, or age, the type of foundation you use should be some shade of neutral ivory, neutral beige, tan, dark brown, bronze brown, or ebony, with a slight undertone of yellow but without any obvious orange, pink, rose, green, ash, or blue. Adding those shades to a foundation is never flattering and can look obvious and a bit contrived.
- Hint: If you are having a difficult time getting the specific foundation color that you want, use the palm of your hand as a palette and combine two or even three shades of foundation to get the color that you are looking for. For instance, if your foundation is too light, mix it with a bronzer; if your foundation is too dark, mix it with another foundation that is two shades lighter. You can also look for foundations that offer more than one color in the package.
- Hint: Do not be afraid to change foundation as the season's change, or as your skin changes. At a minimum, you will need two shades per year. Why? - Changes in your skin’s color and the foundation getting old. Did you know that once liquid foundation has been opened, it expires between three and six months, and compacts last only six to nine months.
After color, there are two more things that you should be interested in when choosing a foundation: texture and product benefits.
Types of Foundation Texture
A foundation’s texture is going to be more important to you than you might think. It will affect the way the foundation feels on your skin and it will determine how much coverage you are going to get. It is also important to remember that certain foundations are more suitable for different times of the day. For example, if you are on your way to the gym and simply want to cover the redness around the nose, chin or mouth, you should choose an oil-free tinted moisturizer. If, however, you are going to an important event and you want to achieve a polished look, you should wear a foundation that offers more coverage.
- Sheer Liquids
Sheer formulas provide a quick fix for smoothing out any differences in texture, or even color without hiding the real look of your skin. Sheer liquids are almost undetectable on the skin because their pigments are translucent. This makes them a very forgiving, almost mistake proof foundation. Sheer formulas are great when you want to brighten your skin, but don’t want to feel like you're wearing a mask, for women who have beautiful skin and are looking for just a touch of coverage, and for young women during the summertime.
- Light Coverage
When you want to look pulled together, but not necessarily "done", light coverage products are great to use, especially during the daytime. These products can also be used to brighten the areas of the face that are naturally darker, such as under the eyes, or around the nose (a problem that is common for many women).
- Medium - Heavier Coverage
For more coverage look to solids, creams and stick foundations. These formulas are used to create the "polished", made-up look you want when you are going out for the evening. These products also provide that extra coverage many women want as they get older to help mask the signs of aging, especially around the eye area, where wrinkles become more visible, or around the nose and lip area, where discoloration can be a problem.
Trust me when I tell you that it is worth the time it takes to find the right foundation. By starting with the right "base”, you will make the rest of your makeup look even better. Even women with the smoothest skin should consider using some type of foundation since it gives your other makeup products something to stick to. Also, many of today's foundations serve double or even triple duty: they offer a bit of coverage, moisturize and even contain sunscreen. Foundations come with alpha-hydroxy acids, SPF, moisturizers and copper. Foundation today even serves as a bridge between skin care and cosmetics. Since foundation is on your face throughout the day, it allows the perfect opportunity to treat your particular skin problem.
Selecting the Right Makeup Foundation for Your Environment
It is important that the type of foundation you pick is one that is good for your skin and meets your needs. Consider your environment for a moment. Similar to lip balm on a harsh winter day, the right foundation can act as a protective coating to help save your skin from the tough elements you face in your daily life. Sun, wind, cold weather, and other environmental components can damage your skin, but a good foundation can easily aid in preventing such damage.
Not surprisingly then, your environment can play a large part in the selection of the right foundation. For instance, do you work in an office where the air-conditioning dries out your skin, or does your job require you to get sweaty rushing around on your feet all day? If you work in an environment that dries out your skin, choose a moisturizing foundation. If you are a person who works outside or enjoys the outdoors, choose a foundation that contains SPF plus moisturizer. If you live or work in hot, humid conditions that causes you to sweat a lot, you should use a foundation that is water proof as well as sweat proof.
As you can see, you have a lot of things to consider when learning how to pick the right makeup foundation. When it comes to choosing the correct foundation for yourself, trying it on and making sure it matches your face and neck color perfectly (especially in daylight) is the best way to ensure that you select a foundation that looks natural. If your foundation leaves a noticeable “tidemark” line between your jaw line and neck, you have not chosen the correct foundation and need to select another product. Remember, you want your skin to look like you are not even wearing any foundation, not like you’ve just applied a paint primer. Although it may take some time for you to find the foundation that is perfect for you, once you have you will be happy you did.
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