Thursday, January 21st, 2010

How-to Choose Your Foundation

One recurring theme in this month’s Ask Temptalia Session was all about foundation — what’s best for what skin, how to choose the right shade, how to know what kind of undertones you have, and so on and so forth. This is pretty much everything I know about foundation, and hopefully, you’ll add your own tips and tricks in the comments to make this a great resource for the future! :) (You know, I fully intended for this to be a short and sweet post, but you know what they say about plans!)

Choosing foundation can be a difficult, trying, and frustrating process because everyone’s skin varies just a little bit from person to person so what works for one might not work for another–and for a whole variety of reasons–from undertones to skin types to skin concerns to personal preferences.

Undertones, shopping for foundation, tips & tricks ahead!

How to Determine Your Undertones / Skin Tone

I’ve found one of the most straight-forward ways to determine your undertones is to look at the underside of your forearm: if your veins are greener, you have warmer undertones; if your veins are bluer, you have cooler undertones. What if they’re neither? or both? Never fear, it means you have more neutral undertones and kind of get the best of both worlds. Another way to tell is if you feel like you look better in warmer colors (e.g. gold) or cooler colors (e.g. silver) — some think about what kind of jewelry (either gold or silver) they prefer on themselves.

How to Shop for Foundation

When it comes to foundation, window-shopping is important. You want to try everything before you buy when possible–and if it’s not possible, look for retailers with generous return policies. It’s difficult to match yourself, and just because it looks good in the store doesn’t mean it’s going to look good outside the mall or at the office.

It’s a good idea to get samples of two to three shades of the foundation(s) you’re interested in. This way it’ll save you some time if you find the right foundation formula but need to get the shade down. I love department stores like Nordstrom, because they are always ready to provide samples and never pressure me once I make it clear I really need to make sure it’s the right shade for me. Not only is shade-matching made easier by getting samples, but it’s also a good way to see if it’s the right formula, if it oxidizes on you (turns orange), or if it breaks you out. You never have to shell out the price of a full-sized bottle until you’re really ready to.

How to Pick the Right Kind of Foundation

When it comes to choosing a formula, a lot of it can be based on personal preference, but it also has to do with your skin type and what your concerns are about it.

Foundation Finishes

  • Matte means exactly that, the formula is going to look flat – there’s no shimmer, shine, dewiness, etc.
  • Semi-matte is similar to matte, but there might be just a smidgen of soft dewiness but not too much.
  • Satin finish foundations have a definite dewy look, which is kind of like a “glow” but may translate to “oily” for some.
  • Sheer and tinted products are just that – sheer or lightly tinted; they’re not heavy coverage, opaque coverage, or full coverage. They are designed to be lightweight and tend to just even out minor imperfections or give a good base for other makeup.

Foundation for Your Skin Type

  • If you have dry skin, look for semi-matte, dewy, or satin finish foundations. Liquid and cream foundations tend to be better for drier skin than powder foundations as powder can often enhance dryness. If you want a compact, opt for cream or look for a cream-to-powder foundation. Some foundations that I like for drier skin are: Dior DiorSkin Nude, MAC Face & Body, Make Up For Ever HD, and Make Up For Ever Face & Body.
  • If you have normal skin, look for matte, semi-matte, or slightly dewy foundations (but totally satin may be too much–depends on your skin and the formulation). Normal skin can really wear a whole range of foundation types, from loose to pressed powder to cream to liquid. The world is your foundation bottle… My recommendations for both dry and oily skin are all potential candidates for normal skin types.
  • If you have oilier skin, look for matte or semi-matte finish foundations. Anything that is dewy, luminizing, or satin-y may or may not work — it’s something that definitely needs some trial before determining, but often, these types of finishes only accentuate skin oiliness rather than help to minimize it. Some foundations that have worked for me when I’m oilier have been: Lancome Color Ideal, MAC Studio Fix Fluid, and Make Up For Ever Mat+ Velvet.

Foundation for Your Skin Concerns

  • If you have near perfect skin or don’t want to (or need to) cover anything, look for sheer or light coverage foundations. This would also include tinted moisturizer, often the sheerest of foundation options (since it’s almost like half-foundation).
  • If you have some imperfections or unevenness, look for light to medium coverage foundations, depending on your needs. There are also foundations that are buildable coverage, too — which means they can start off as lighter and be built up for fuller coverage as you need it.
  • If you have more imperfections (e.g. scarring), look for medium to full coverage foundations. Full coverage will be, naturally, a bit heavier in feel, but these days, even full coverage foundation doesn’t have to feel like a mask with the right formula.

How to Pick the Right Shade of Foundation

First, I always recommend the interweb as your guide. Seriously, there is so much information available at your fingertips, it’s not even fathomable! You might try looking online at all of the different “swatches” of a certain foundation line. Try to eye-ball where you might lie — are you ultra light (so in the beginning), maybe a little more on the medium side (so in the middle), darker skinned (towards the end of the spectrum)? I always find this helped me get a good start on where I might be. I might also look at celebrities that I feel are similar to my skin tone and see if they say they’re light, medium, olive toned, etc.

Second, get yourself down to a department store counter. Now, the majority of beauty addicts make at least a few high-end purchases at some point during the year, even if you may be more of a bargain beauty babe. But one thing department stores have that many drugstores don’t (hey, Beauty 360 @ CVS, not looking at you!) is the ability to have an artist or salesperson help you find your shade. This plays into the whole “try before you buy” mantra of mine when it comes to foundation, but it’s a good way of narrowing the playing field a bit. Even if you may not be convinced about high-end foundation, it still will help guide you to the right shade at the drugstore (since it’s much harder, if not impossible, to test).

Third, if you have a MAC counter or store in your area, get a MAC match. I don’t care if you don’t like MAC foundation, but knowing (or roughly knowing) your MAC shade allows you to search the internet with lightning speed… say, “NC30 in DiorSkin Nude” and you’ll probably turn up a few possible matches to help narrow down what kind of shade you’re looking at for your skin tone. (It’s also useful for getting recommendations for eyeshadows, blushes, and lipsticks while you’re at it!)

I find it best to apply foundation to the whole face, but at the very least, the jawline is the best part of your face. (Of course, when you’re just testing out foundation, you may want to do a spot test before you go for a full face, in case you are prone to breaking out or have any cosmetic allergies!) Blended lightly onto the jawline, the foundation shouldn’t stick out to you — like you shouldn’t notice a difference in color from where you applied it to where you didn’t (even if you can tell you have foundation on one part of your face, since you do!).

More Tips & Tricks

  • Don’t be disappointed if you don’t find your perfect match the first time out. Sometimes it can be a very grueling and demoralizing process. Stick with it!
  • Women of color should be prepared to, unfortunately, have to do a little more experimentation, because many brands do not yet carry a great shade range for women of color. Brands that readers have suggested as having made their quest easier are: Bobbi Brown, Giorgio Armani, Iman, MAC, and Make Up For Ever. (Though in the past few years, brands have really stepped up their shade offerings in their mainstay formulations.) Avoid foundations with ingredients like titanium dioxide, which really can contribute to looking ashy or gray. Ideally, any formula you pick should have a very wide range of shades–if there is just one or two darker shades, it’s going to be harder to find the right shade and undertone for you.
  • Avoid foundation transfer by setting your foundation with loose or pressed powder. It helps kind of lock everything together to stay on better and last longer.
  • Liquid and cream foundations can be stretched or thinned with water or lotion/moisturizer to sheer out coverage if you so desire.
  • Make your own tinted moisturizer by adding a few drops of your favorite liquid foundation with your moisturizer. Experiment to find the right coverage and shade depth for you.
  • The tool you use to apply your foundation can make a huge difference, but there’s no right or wrong tool to use. Some use their fingers, others use sponges, and some use brushes. Sponge application tends to eat up your foundation and ends up giving you a sheerer look (with more left in your sponge). I find using a brush to give a very even coverage, soft look that’s not too heavy or too sheer.

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137 thoughts on “How-to Choose Your Foundation

  1. Lorna

    I have to disagree with going with fuller coverage if you have a lot of imperfections. It’s probably better to go with medium coverage and let concealer take care of the rest. Wearing heavy foundation signals to the world that you think you have a lot to hide. Confidence is very attractive and heavy coverage on imperfect skin screams you lack it.

    Best to get the best finish possible, use a good concealer and then focus on your best features (eyes, lips, brows, hair, personality)

    • I think it just depends on what you need — if you have serious scarring, you may find that concealer isn’t enough or that fuller coverage is best. Fuller coverage doesn’t have to mean that it looks full or that it looks heavy.

      I’ve known some people who have suffered through either really, really terrible acne scarring or have had burn scars on their face and find full coverage foundations really help them in their everyday life. I just think if it helps someone regain their confidence or feel confident, then that’s power to them. They shouldn’t be judged or accused of hiding something.

      • Lorna

        If you have serious damage (burns, scars from cysts, large patches of discoloration) then yes, I’d agree. But simply having “more imperfections” doesn’t always call for full coverage.

        It’s also not as simple as judging or accusations (especially when the point of the suggestion to use heavy foundation IS to hide something), it’s perception and it’s no secret that often people wearing mask-like foundations are perceived as not being confident.

        Please don’t try to make it seem like I’m being unkind by making this point.

        • I’m not trying to argue over who needs full coverage or not, I just wanted to point out that there are circumstances where it is useful and that there is an audience for it. If you read more into that and felt I made you feel unkind, I apologize, as my only intention was to say: people should wear what they want to and what they feel good in.

          If your foundation looks like a mask, you haven’t found the right technique. If it’s done right, you shouldn’t see any “mask.”

  2. Shannon

    Thanks for all the tips Christine! So I have a dilemma… My skin tone is pretty neutral and nice. From the neck down. However from the jawline up my face is very pink. It’s so noticable and I have such a hard time matching foundation. Because of my warm toned face And every MUA always want to put me in warm tone foundations
    which makes the difference even more noticable. This seems backwards, wouldn’t I want to banance with a cool tone? I am confused and self-conscious. What do you suggest?

  3. bubbles

    Hi Christine :) I’m thinking of getting 109 for foundation application. Do you think it’s a good investment ? hehe..

  4. Mora

    Thank you for this great post. This is awesome and very helpful.

    I just want to add a little something:

    I do have at least 2 foundations at home. one for full coverage and the other for light-to-medium coverage. with this, i can choose between to coverages and match this to what i’m doing. for working or school i just need light makeup, not to much, so i choose the light/medium foundation. if i have some imperfections i fix it with powder in the same shade. if i have quite nice skin, i just fix it with transparent powder.

    when i go out in the evening or have a special occasion, i tend to use the full coverage. here also i can choos with what powder i fix it.

    at last, i suggest also, to “pre”-mix (sorry, if that word doesn’t exist) some moisturizing creme with a little foundation for these days you don’t have the time for the whole face routine. just add a little of this mix to your face and you immediately look better.

    • Hey Mora,

      That’s a good idea :) I have a range of coverages myself – tinted, sheer, and medium. I don’t know if I have any full coverage laying around or not, but definitely opt for medium coverage for certain events or school photos, things like that :)

  5. Lovely article :) I never thought of going to MAC just to get matched, it would make my life so much easier!

  6. im still trying to find mine, thanks for the help :)

  7. Trick that I use: I take my most perfectly matching foundation with me when I go foundation hunting. This way I can easily compare the candidates with what I already know works for me.

  8. Yes, I agree it’s really hard to choose the right foundation. Also what bugs me is that here in Europe (actually, Croatia), many brands or better said, the distributors of cosmetic brands don’t import ALL shades so we have a problem when it comes to shade range. For example, Revlon ColorStay for Normal/Dry skin comes in 12 shades, and here we have only 4! And how am I supposed to choose among four shades?! That’s really ridiculous.

    So, many girls here order foundations on-line and sometimes you’re lucky, sometimes you’re not. :/ Lucky for us, there are so many girls who have great swatches and are open to help you (You’re one of them, of course). :)

    And about the foundation finish – my skin is combination with some dry areas on my cheeks, nose and forehead (just sometimes) and I found myself best looking with matte or semi-matte foundations. I don’t like satin finish. I tried Maybelline Mineral Power foundation, and it was really great, but after I wore only matte foundations it looked kinda oily too me though I know it’s not oily. :D

    Huh, didn’t mean to write such a long comment. :D Anyway, thanks for this post. Maybe it’s not so short but it contains all those important things about foundations. :)

    • Ouch, that really sucks! It’s definitely difficult to find a match if there are only four shades!

      Thank goodness for the internet, right? Seriously, it makes some of this just a little less painful than it is normally.

      Satin finish never worked for me, but I always find it “oily” looking rather than “dewy” — even if I’ve had someone say they liked it because it was dewy, lol!

      • Yes, it does suck. Today I was checking Revlon again, and they actually have 5 shades of which 4 are too dark. Lol. :D

        And yes, I’m so glad there is a thing called Internet. :D

        I totally understand you about satin finish. I feel the same about them. :D

        • I remember when MAC put out Mineralize Satinfinish, and I tried it, and I was like OH MY GOODNESS NO!

          • tehreem

            so satinfinish doesnt give a dewey look?

            I have combination skin so was wondering whether it would be good for me. What tends to happen with my mineral foundation is I put it on and it looks a bit cakey but after an hour or so it sinks in cuz of the oil i guess and ends up staying that way all day! Which i love cuz its not greasy.

            What do think is better for my skin? Studio fix fluid or Satinfinish. I want a glowy look but I dont want i to be greasy or oily!

  9. Jennifer

    I am NC20 in MAC Select sheer powder and Studio fix powder..

    I wear 020 Light Beige in Diorskin Nude foundation with matching loose powder. I wear .5 Porcelain in Chanel Mat Lumiere foundation.

    I was wondering if anyone with NC20 would know about the right shade in MUFE HD Foundation? I might go to sephora soon and want to be prepared.

    Thanks!

    • Thanks for sharing all of those, Jennifer!

      You’re probably about 118 in MUFE HD!

    • sparklehead

      I’m also NC20, and I wear Diorskin Nude 020 Light Beige on a daily basis and I wear MUFE HD 117 every once in a while. I expected to be 118 because it seemed that many NC20’s were but it was too dark on me.

      • Zong

        Yes me too, I’m a NC20 with light skin and yellow undertones, I expected to be 118 and 120 but it actually oxides after a few minutes turning darker then the color in the bottle so I decided to go with 117.

  10. please recommend a good tinted moisturizer with spf like laura mercier or stila, and show us which shade you would pick (my skintone is similar to yours), thank you=)))

    • Hi Sheena,

      It’s hard for me to recommend you a particular shade if I don’t know your skin tone and that’s really more of a see-in-person kind of thing. I can only offer you the same tips from the article about picking yours! If you’re similar to me, then you are in the medium area and most tinted moisturizers offer something light to medium, medium, or medium to dark. I like Kiehl’s for a tinted moisturizer with SPF.

  11. A friend of mine who’s studying make-up, gave me the tip of dampening my sponge before using it to apply foundation, so that less of your product gets wasted. Don’t know if it really helps because I’ve been using the Studio fix powder,now but when I get a shade darker again, I’ll try it with my Select SPF 15 foundation. It’s been a while I used a sponge, because of the waste

    • It might help prevent some of it, since maybe it’s “soaking” into the sponge a bit beforehand so less foundation gets in? No clue, lol! I always used a damped sponge applicator myself (dry just never worked for me), but it always seemed like quite a bit was in the sponge.

  12. Hey Christine, thanks for such a detailed post! :D

    I’d also recommend mineral/organic foundation formulas for those with sensitive and acne prone skin. They always come out very matte and doesn’t irritate your skin. Also, always check yourself in natural light for your color match, as department store lightning always messes the colors up!

    Renee

  13. Jess

    Great post though, very informative and interesting as usual, Christine!

  14. daturazero

    I wish that I could be matched to a Mac color. There is a whole segment of us pale girls who would kill for it, actually. But, the Mac colors start out ridiculously dark (20?? Are you kidding me?) I’ve tried to be matched before, in the vain hope that I was overlooking something. Sadly, the sales girls tried to push the 20s on me (yes, I got matched both NW and NC by different girls) even though they made me look either jaundiced or like a badly burnt orange. It’s upsetting because I do actually like Studio Fix and it would be my holy grail if the color actually worked. I wish someone could explain why they ignore the paler girls completely.

    • MAC should start out at NC/NW15, not 20 though! (Just FYI!)

      Sorry to hear about your foundation challenge as someone with paler skin :(

      • daturazero

        Oops. You’re right. I meant to type 15. Believe it or not 15 is WAY too dark on me and depending on the type, either too yellow or too orange. I really wish there was a 10 AT LEAST. I would be so so happy.

        I think I accidentally typed 20 because a MAC girl did give me a 20 once and I was so shocked. It didn’t work at all.

    • Yep, been there. I had the same problem for a long time, adn when MAC fitted me, i had one artist recommend NW 20 for me, and another NC 15(thats what I got) NC 15 is a bit yellower than I need, adn still a bit dark. The 15 isn’t as bad as you’d think though. I sheer it out with a bit of lotion, and use a primer to neutralize the undertones a bit, adn it just ends up giving my a somewhat “bronzed” look, that bronzers are too dark for me to achieve.

    • Allie

      Daturazero,
      I am also very pale, and I use Mac Studio Sculpt in NC15!

    • Steph

      Same problem! The girl sold me NW 15 (looked fine on my jawline), took it home & the next day put it on, and looked in horror at my dark face. I took it back to get NC 15 the next day, still too dark.
      I find that the lightest shade of L’Oreal True Match to be pale enough for me, however, it slips and slides down my face. Now I use the lighest shade of Revlon Colourstay RELIGOUSLY!

  15. This is a very useful post! Thank you :)

    While I don’t have many MAC foundations, knowing my MAC shade really helps a lot especially when I’m buying products online. Applies not only to foundations but also blush and other face makeup.

  16. babicsek

    I think finding the right foundation is the true never ending story,win the past years I went thru endless brnads,till I realized,that drugstore foundations aren’t bad,but I’m just to pale for it.So recently I went to my MAC counter,and within a few minutes I just had my perfect winter foundation for the go:D:D:D:D:D

  17. Nanda Chaves

    This was the best post ever. I just have a doubt. I have blueish veins in my forearm just as you tought but when I went to a MAC store they recommended me a warmer version of concealer and foundation. It is correct?

    • Based on the color of your veins, I would peg you as having pinker undertones and thus being cooler toned (NW). They might recommend the opposite concealer, but the foundation I’d think would be NW##.

      But if it looks good on you, it doesn’t matter what your veins say :P

  18. Wow! This is so helpful! Although I just bought my MAC studio fix in NC42 and I think it’s too orange for me. The SA chose it for me, I was doubtful at first, but she insisted it was the perfect shade. I think they have very bad lighting.

    • Hey Diega,

      Yeah, MAC, unfortunately, has notoriously bad lighting, in my experience! If it goes on orange right away, then it’s definitely the wrong shade; if it’s fine and then turns orange, it’s oxidizing and it’s the wrong formula for your skin :(

  19. amelia

    thanks for this! im currently looking for a sheer, dewy foundation in fact; has anyone tried Chanel Teint Innocence?

    • No problem, Amelia!

      I haven’t, but I am sure a reader has :)

    • Allie

      I have! I am NC15 in Mac Studio Sculpt, I have Teint Innocence in 10 Albatre and I really love it for days when I’m looking for lighter coverage. It really makes your skin look beautiful. I use my Studio Sculpt when I feel like I need more coverage. Be sure to set it though, so it won’t come off as easily!

  20. Proximity

    What a helpful post. The main thing I would add would be a more in-depth discussion of application techniques. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve thought I hated a foundation, but then after experimenting with different ways of applying it, found a way to make it work well for me.

    • What would you like to see in particular? I have tutorials on how to use different brushes with foundation in the video section! :)

      • Proximity

        I would suggest something along the lines of “if you’re not happy with your foundation, here are some methods to try out”.
        An example – I thought I hated Laura Mercier’s powder foundation, until I discovered that if I do a medium to light application all over with a powder puff, then spritz my face with something like a fixing spray or even just water, and then blend blend blend with a 187, it becomes magically fantastic.
        I’ve definitely heard about people having a “eureka” moment when they tried stippling their foundation on, or using a wet sponge as opposed to a dry one.
        Sometimes changing the primer that you use makes all the difference in getting a foundation to work for you. (Or something simple which we might not all think of, like using an oil-based foundation over an oil-based moisturizer/primer, and water-based with water-based as oil and water don’t blend well together.)
        Sheering out foundations with moisturizer or primer, if they feel too heavy or thick on your skin, or adding something with glow to a matte foundation are other tricks that people use to help problem-shoot their foundations.
        I also have a theory that it’s important to think about whether you want your foundation to meld perfectly into your skin (probably covering fewer imperfections, but looking more natural), or if you want it to sort of create a more perfect, smooth looking canvas over the top of your skin. It might be neither here no there, but I find that some techniques advance the blending (circular motions, wet sponges), while others advance the canvas (stippling).

  21. Robin C.

    Excellent post on foundations….as a woman of color, I would like to know the rules or guidelines for mixing two foundation colors to get a better match…is it typically adding the lighter shade to the darker shade or vice versa…or could it be equal parts of both shades????

    Thanks again for the information!

    • Hey Robin,

      I think it’s often trying to get the right undertone — I guess it depends on the foundation! If it’s a shade that only has a very dark option and not enough from medium to dark, then mixing with a lighter foundation would help. But you may find you actually have to mix a warm and cool foundation together.

      Oh! And equal parts… definitely not. Once you get to mixing to match, then anything goes — whatever works!

  22. Lindsay

    This was so helpful, Christine! Thank you so much! I love Mac, but their foundations don’t work for me! They oxidize orange on my skin! I desparately wish they worked! I’m obsessed with this site! I just can’t get enough! Also, have you tried any of the hourglass foundations? They are my favorite!! Thanx again!

    • Oxidizing sucks :( It’s such a disappointment!! That’s why I always have to get samples to ensure that it’s not just going to look good in-store!

      Haven’t tried Hourglass foundations, though. Do they just have one or is there a favorite for you?

  23. Profile wp-user-avatar wp-user-avatar-60 alignnone photo of Melissa Melissa (divinem)

    Wow, Christine. Another winner article. Do it right, or don’t do it (and you do). I’m still not 100% sold on my foundation. I wear Estee Lauder Double Wear Light (coverage) in their lightest shade. SPF tends to break me out (allergy to emulsifiers), so I’m very limited. I tried out MAC’s studio fix in NW15 & NW20. Neither is a perfect match. Why don’t they have NW17??? NW means I have cool undertones, right? My undertones aren’t clear to me right now because I’ve been eating a bit too many veggies with beta carotene, which tends to turn my cool skin into something orangey. *sigh* I love butternut squash!

    Anyway, thank you for the tips. After all the beta carotene deposits are out of my skin, I’ll give it another go.

    • Thank you so much, Melissa :)

      Pretty much — technically, NW has pink in it, so you have pink undertones (and most with pink undertones are also cool), NC has yellow in it (so yellow undertones, and again, most with yellow undertones tend to be warm).

  24. Natalia

    hey christine….

    thank you sooo much for posting this. i was one that asked you about foundation yesterday, and everything you post is very helpful! im actually heading to sephora this saturday to look around, so any last min advice before i head over there?? oh and one more question, what is your opinion on sephora brand brushes?

    • Hey Natalia,

      I think I am all foundation advice’d out, LOL!

      I’ve only played with them in store, but they seem nice and soft. The price tag doesn’t seem substantially cheaper (at least not on all brushes) compared to MAC brushes, so I never felt compelled to buy any of them!

  25. daphne

    I’m an NC22.5 in MAC :P I mean NC25 in Studio Fix Fluid worked out on me (though I didn’t like it and returned it) and I have Studio Fix powder in NC25, but my Studio Sculpt is NC20. I’m 118 in MUFE HD and use the lightest shade of Korres’s tinted moisturizer, which is a teeny bit light, but the next shade looked too dark – would probably be appropriate in the summer. But actually, my favorite choice for foundation in terms of how it looks is MAC MSF Natural in Medium. I buff it on and then spray my face lightly with water, then buff on a little more on my wet face. Flawless finish. Okay, it makes my forehead get oily, but not visibly so, and it doesn’t break me out!

    Still trying to figure out my ideal liquid foundation though…I know MUFE HD can be dreamy because it always makes me look *flawless* when the folks at Sephora put it on me, but when I do it myself it’s very “meh” and doesn’t cover all that well! Wish I knew what I was doing wrong.

    • LOL, NC22.5.

      I do wish Korres would beef up their shade range to maybe five or so… I mean, c’mon! Three! We can’t all fit into three!

      What do the folks at Sephora use to apply it compared to what you use? Have you ever tried spritzing some water (on your brush, sponge, face) beforehand? I find that makes things look infinitely better when using liquid!

      • daphne

        Yeah, their three-shade range is a shame :( But fortunately it isn’t too much of a pain for me, but I can imagine it’s hard for others! I mean, I know tinted moisturizer is supposed to be more universal but still. Laura Mercier has six, I think.

        I feel like I remember them using their “platinum” brushes – probably this one. I’m a tightwad and don’t like spending that kind of money on a brush when it’s not MAC :P Admittedly, I don’t have a MAC 109 either – I use Sigma’s SS109, or my MAC 187, most of the time, and I do use the water trick (got it from your video), but it’s just…not quite perfect. It’s sort of bleh and doesn’t look much better, coverage-wise, than TM. (Also, both those brushes shed like crazy with foundation!) I suppose I could suck it up and get a real 109, but do you have any other thoughts? Do you ever use synthetic brushes and think they could make a difference?

        • If your MAC 187 isn’t doing it for ya, then I don’t know if upgrading to MAC 109 is going to do it for you. I wonder if it’s just the lighting at Sephora vs. your home/elsewhere?

          I’ve never really noticed a huge difference from the brush material, to be honest. I mean, I do find synthetic easier with creamier products, but I don’t think it’s such a difference that it would be between “LOVE IT!” and “Blah!”

          • daphne

            It could be the lighting! I have noticed that I’ve gotten a little more freaky about tiny aspects of my face recently since I do my makeup at my full-length mirror on my bedroom door (the bathroom lighting is useless), which means I’m SUPER close up and have lots of light. Maybe I’ll go back to Sephora this weekend, have them try it on me, and rush home to check, since it’s only a 5-minute drive away…thanks for the pointers!

  26. Lindsay

    Hourglass has a foundation and a tinted moisturizer. I love them both! The tinted moisturizer is still a pretty full coverage. For someone looking for a light cover, this wouldn’t be a good choice. Its in a pump and a light block bottle! It has a very light dewy finish, but becomes matte with powder. Lasts all day! Doesn’t need a touch up whatsoever!

  27. SusyLovesMac

    Hi Christine and Temptalia readers!

    My question is what color foundation do you think I would be in the following brands? I have cooler tones and my veins are blue..lol. I was using MAC’s Studio Fix Fluid in NW15 but sadly it causes too many breakouts! I’m currently using Revlon’s Color-Stay in #220 which is an EXCELLENT drugstore foundation. The coverage holds up just as good as MAC IMO but I love to experiment with other brands, I’m just not sure about the color or number.

    1. MUFE HD
    2. MUFE Mat + Velvet
    3. NARS Sheer Glow
    4. NARS Sheer Mat

    Also….

    Which MUFE Camouflage Cream Pallete would work best for concealing?

    Thanks and I adore your site!!

  28. Adele

    Thank you! This was a really helpful post!

  29. Nathalie

    This was a great post…thanks Christine.

    I usually only wear foundation when I go out but I’ve been noticing that as I get older (I’m 30 now) I seem to need it more. So what I’ve been doing is that I mix a little moisturizer with my regular foundation. But that can get expensive. So this weekend I’m going to go check out the tinted moisturizers for every day use.

    • Good idea, Nathalie! :) Moisturizing + foundation is definitely good in a pinch, but it can be a pain to have to mix it all the time. LOVE tinted moisturizers!

  30. Profile wp-user-avatar wp-user-avatar-60 alignnone photo of Shontay shontay

    Thanks for this Christine. There’s some great tips like adding drops of foundation to moisturizer. Thankfully, I have found my HG’s and they are MUFE HD and Face & Body. Unfortunately, Mac foundations break me out horribly. I have dry skin and eczema, but surprisingly, the Mac powder looked awesome on me before it started breaking me out.

    I am NC 40 in Mac and I consider myself fairly light, but it’s crazy that I can’t find a shade in some foundations like Dior and even my beloved Chanel. They need to work on that.

  31. Rose

    Thanks so much for this, Christine!
    I have been using mineral foundation for almost two years now, and I feel as though it’s a bit chalky on my skin. I don’t have bad skin by any means; I just want some SPF and to cover an imperfection or two. Because I am so pale that most foundations look orangy or too dark, I think I might invest in a good tinted moisterizer.

  32. Christina

    i love that comment about getting a MAC match. I hate MAC foundation, but for the life of me can’t remember what shade I was when I used it a few years back. It didn’t even occur to me to just go in to get matched to use that as a reference point. That’s a great idea, thanks!

  33. Jasmine

    Hi Christine,

    It would be so amazingly cool if you had a foundation shade reference chart, for example if NC 20 in Mac you might be x in Dior. I’d be the first to contribute equivalencies for my shade, NC43!

    I have wasted so much money throughout the years on the wrong shade of foundation, many times they were close but the wrong undertone.

  34. Miranda

    Do you have a foundation recommendation for someone with PROFOUNDLY oily skin? That’s my skin’s biggest weakness and it makes me very self-conscious. I have to blot my face (entire face!) with a tissue once every 2 hours or so to look decent. Is there ANYTHING that might work better than MAC’s Studio Fix? I love the coverage it gives, and really don’t have any complaints, other than it doesn’t solve the oiliness issue. Might something else?

    • Make Up For Ever Mat+ Velvet and a mattifying primer/lotion!

    • Use a mattifying primer – definitely. Also, get into a habit of using a routine of skin care products that will reduce oil production. This includes getting more fluids and eating the right foods. I have oily skin as well (and even worse, oily eyelids) and I know first hand what a pain it can be. However, I got into a really good habit and my skin has become significantly less oily.

      I use a salicylic acid wash like Clearasil. I make sure I exfoliate and always wash my face. I use the Step 3 Toner/Exfoliator from Clinique morning and night. At night I use the toner and then use Murad’s skin perfecting lotion. It’s the best lotion out there for oily skin. It won’t make you more oily, I promise. In the morning I use the toner and then use a primer. My favorite right now is Napoleon Perdis Auto Pilot.
      But there are probably better ones out there for people with oily skin that will help better.

      Good luck!

  35. Siledhel

    Christine: Thanks for changing the top picture of the article.. I just couldn’t open it at work.
    Those who could have seen it from afar would have got the wrong idea :P

    • I really (honestly!) didn’t see it at all (maybe it’s because I knew what I intended it to be, lol), but I removed it after seeing so many of you see it.

  36. Profile wp-user-avatar wp-user-avatar-60 alignnone photo of Faith Faith

    I have a problem with the fact that my face and my neck/chest are very different colors. Both are very fair, but I’ve found a foundation that matches my face. However, it makes anything lower look even more white in comparison. :P

  37. CC

    I love Diorskin Forever Foundation, what finish is it? a matte or satin?
    I have combination skin.
    thanks

  38. I enjoyed reading through this and I think there are a lot of great tips here.

    I’m pretty happy to say that I’ve found a foundation that works pretty well for me (EDM semi-matte) but for some reason I’m always curious to try a liquid tinted moisturizer or light coverage foundation. I’m allergic to chemical sunscreens and some fragrances, but my skin’s not *particularly* acne-prone. I am combo-oily though. I’ve tried the Korres Ginger & Vitamins and I wasn’t *too* impressed with that one… mostly because it felt kind of oily and I felt like I had to use a LOT of setting powder until it didn’t look greasy. (I did think it looked really nice about 5hrs later, but then it started creasing and settling a little bit afterwards…) I know it’s kind of a shot in the dark but do you have any recommendations off the top of your head? Thanks!

  39. Abhi

    Hey Christine hi.
    Can u please suggest a good foundation with heavy coverage to cover up the scars that i have on my face ?thank-you and great post.It was very helpful.

  40. Women of color have problems, but so do us very pale people! I have a VERY hard time finding foundations that are not too dark or too yellow. It is INCREDIBLY difficult, so the pale ladies don’t exactly have it easy, either.

    And for the pale women out there, I recommend Lorac. It has a very neutral light color (SMS1)

  41. Brooke

    Thanks for the article Christine! As usual, very helpful and fun to read…
    I have this problem when I go to sephora…i’ll match a nice shade (most recently MUFE HD foundation) and it looks great…and then I walk outside and it’s just not right…I’ve exchanged 3 times already and now I think I have the right one…LOVE MUFE foundations…If you haven’t tried them you absolutely should!!! I’m also a studio fix girl on days I have no time for makeup…(:

    Never thought about how much is wasted when you use a sponge…definitely going to go purchase a MAC foundation brush..which one do you think I should get, Christine? Which one do you use? I hatttteeee a pasty made up look…want it to be even and natural ( : thanks!

  42. Cris

    I am cool toned and at my local MAC they gave a NW20 foundation…Is that right? or they made a mistake?

  43. Luisafer

    great tips!!! foundation is so complicated to buy, lucky enough my hair dresser is a makeup artist, so she is a great help for me!!! even tough I only use foundation on special days, so almost never LOL

  44. Ana

    I’m having a hard time getting my color matched ad MAC, I want to give the Studio Fix Fluid a try and asked for a sample…I loved the formula but I can’t find my shade. I think I can either go to warmer and/or cool tones, I am Brazilian with Spanish (yes from Spain not the language!!) background on me…so I have very dark hair and fairly light skin…anyway back to the subject!
    I got a sample of NC25 and it was a little too yellow, so then I got a sample of NW20 which is extremely pink on me…so now I don’t know if I should go to NC20 or NW15. I also tried MUFE on 118 and its was too dark for me…I have one foundation from Lancôme that I love and the color matches me pretty well, I can’t remember what foundation it is but is the one that claims to stay on for 14hrs and my color is Buff 2.
    Any thoughts, Christine? I know you are a MAC lover and might know the answer I’m looking for! :)

    • I’d say go NC20 over NW15 – if only because you say it was a little too yellow vs. extremely pink, so it sounds like you are closer to warm than cool!

      You might want to try 117 for MUFE!

      • Tovah

        I have the same problem and its driving me bananas! =( The NW range is waaaaay to pink/orange for me and the NC is just way to yellow. Its so frusturating. I have been matched to both NW30 and NC42. If I mixed the two of them together would that neautralise the strong orange and yellow undertones to make it somewhat ‘neutral’???

  45. Profile wp-user-avatar wp-user-avatar-60 alignnone photo of Meghann Meghann

    I think women of color should check out Bobbi Brown. I went to MAC and they put NC45 on me. It was pretty but it look a little red tone when I compared it to my neck color. Then NC44 had this ash color going on. Bobbi Brown says that most people (90%) have yellow undertones. I use Golden 6 and it matches perfectly.

  46. cherry

    hi Christine, What is your favourite foundation till date.You know the sort that completely blends in with ur skin and gives u the “air-brushed” look that everyone talks about.I would love to know ur answer.Also i am NC 35 in mac studio fix powder fdtn so what shouldbe my shade in MUFE HD and mat+ velvet.thanks

  47. marnie cunningham

    hi
    i found this really helpful. i use chanel vitalumiere in shade clair.
    what mac shade d’you think id be, i have the blue veined arms lol!

  48. Azsmylie13

    THX U!!! Your tips will be used i the near future and are greatly appreciated!

  49. Hattie

    Eek. I’m Asian, 14, tend to get whiteheads from bad makeup and such. I use Perfectly Real from Clinique and it gets oily within an hour (oil glands and hormones, please work out something. In the near future. I would willingly be your marriage counselor). I’ve done a TON of browsing online and MAC Studio Fix and Revlon ColorStay seem to be the best bets, but I’m not sure if they’ll work for me. I get an extremely oily T-zone but I have dry patches around my mouth and eyebrows.. Please help! :/ Thanks

    • I love, love, love MAC Studio Fix Fluid. ColorStay seems like it’s the drugstore equivalent of Studio Fix Fluid as well. They both have more matte finishes and medium coverage. Do you need that much coverage? I think you may not, so you may want to go with something lighter – like MAC Studio Tint or MAC Select SPF 15. Or even MAC Face & Body.

  50. I think you should write a book =)

  51. Jennifer

    Hi Christine! I am an avid reader of your website and go on most of your recommendations. I find this page for foundation the most informative; however, I have a question regarding application. When I was on Sephora.com I recently noticed the Beauty Blender sponge/applicator. I usually use Mac 109, but wanted to branch out. What do you think of the Beauty Blender?
    Thanks :)

  52. I have been reading some of the comments and I find these discussions so interesting! I’m learning a lot! LOL Personally, I prefer full coverage as well, but I apply it in a way that it doesn’t look cakey or mask-like. It’s still up to the person to choose if she wants to go full coverage or not. :) This is a great informative blog btw, keep it up!

  53. Emilie

    Hi! I have a question – anyone is more than welcome to answer (as long as you know what you are talking about – or else I promise you, I’ll get even more confused ;-)).

    I am about to buy the Make Up For Ever HD Foundation which I have to do online since it isn’t sold in Denmark. So obviously I checked the foundation matrix to see which one I should get. I am a MAC NW30 and a 31-40 in DiorSkin Nude Foundation (Liquid). I have pink undertones in my “cool” skin and I obviously want to balance that out.

    The matrix told me to get either the 135 or the 140. On the site it says that both 135 is a “med skin pink tone” and that 140 is a “med skin dark yellow tone”. Now I think since I have a pink undertone to my skin that I would choose the foundation with the yellow – but since I am not familiar with the foundation, will the 135 balance it out even though it looks extremely pink in the picture?

    I hope someone can help me – since I’m dyyying to try out this foundation!
    :-*

    So my question is: do I want to get the 140 to

  54. Santi

    Hi..
    I need your suggestion..
    I’ve never wanted to use foundation before. But I try MUFE HD 140 recently. It suits to my skin face tone. I’m thinking to try another foundation such as Chanel and Bobbi Brown.. What shade you think it would be similar to MUFE HD 140?
    Oh ya, just fyi, I have combination skin and I got few acnes..
    Maybe you can help me.. Thanks a lot before..
    (And I’m sorry for my bad English)

  55. molly

    dear christine,
    i need your help.. for years now i’ve been using bobbi brown stick foundation in warm natural 4.5 and it matches my skin perfectly.. i recently tried MUFE invisible cover and they suggested the 130 or 135.. i’m a little confused as i couldn’t find mufe 130 or 135 anywhere in your chart :( (i’m indian-thai)! thank you so much in advance for your reply.
     
    -molly

  56. theoneandonly12

    Hi i need help finding my right foundation! I need my shade in MAC with the face and body foundation.I am very light skin but not too light.i thought n2 but,i just haven’t found out yet.PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE HELP!                                                         Thanks,
                                                                                Emily           -

  57. LexieS17

    i really need help. i currently use covergirl clean oil control in shade 560. i have really oil skin, like freakishly oily, and i want to start using maybelline dream matte mouse but i dont know what shade to get. how can i transfer my covergirl shade to mabelline?