How to Shade-Match Foundation (No Matter Your Skin Tone)
Written by: the Editors of goop
Updated: November 14, 2022
Pick the right foundation shade and your skin shouldn’t look made up at all. Instead, it should just look like great skin—luminous, healthy, and flawless. Counterintuitively, finding an exact match with foundation or tinted moisturizer isn’t the goal, explains Kosas founder Sheena Yaitanes. “You’re trying to find the most flattering option on your skin,” she says.
Whether your vibe is subtly perfecting tint, builds-to-full-coverage cream, or something in the middle, Yaitanes and top makeup artist and Westman Atelier founder Gucci Westman are here to help you zero in on the perfect wear-it-forever makeup shade for your skin type.
UNDERTONES ARE THE KEY
No matter your skin color, undertones matter more than anything else, says Yaitanes. “You can get away with a foundation being slightly too dark or too light as long as the undertone is the right match,” she says. “This is particularly important for olive skin tones: Anything too warm looks muddy and takes away the brightness we’re all after. If your undertones are pink, choose a foundation that’s listed as cool. If your undertones are warm, you want a foundation with warm undertones to avoid looking ashy.”
The Tinted Face Oil
Number of shades: 16
A drop of this gorgeous, super concentrated oil goes a looong way.Kosas Tinted Face Oil goop, $42SHOP NOW
COLOR-MATCH TO YOUR PALEST COMPLEXION
Most people’s skin is darker in summer and lighter during colder months. “Choose a shade that suits your skin in winter; then you can add a bit of warmth come summer,” Westman says. “If you’re super careful with your exposure to the sun, one shade can get you through all the seasons. I prefer to use two shades to create the perfect finish—I use one as a concealer and one to tie everything together.”
The Creamy Foundation
Number of shades: 21
This works especially well with a brush.
SHEER, BUILDABLE FORMULAS LOOK MUCH MORE NATURAL
Full-coverage foundations don’t mimic skin’s natural vibrancy and texture as convincingly as sheerer formulas, which play up your natural undertones instead of masking them. You can build a sheerer formula to get more coverage, and the result will be more natural than one layer of a heavier product.
Number of shades: 14
Moisturizing enough to stand in for face cream, it somehow feels like nothing on.Saie Slip Tint goop, $35SHOP NOW
with Vitamin C
Number of shades: 3
Encapsulated vitamin C treats, SPF 40 protects, and the silky pigment luminizes skin.ILIA C Beyond Triple Serum SPF 40 goop, $64SHOP NOW
with Oat Milk
Number of shades: 8
For the blemish-prone, the oat kernel extract helps temper excess oil.Ere Perez Oat Milk Foundation goop, $39SHOP NOW
USE A BRUSH
Smooth on foundation with a brush, versus blending it in with your fingers, for the most even, natural-looking application.
WHERE TO TEST IT: HANDS, THEN FACE
“Start with a test on the back of your hand and look for a color that feels like you—you’ll know it when you see it. Once you’re down to one or two shades, try them on your whole face,” Yaitanes says. “A lot of people use just the jawline, but I think the whole cheek is important, around the nose, and even going toward the under-eye. You want to make sure the color is flattering and makes you feel good. Do you like the way you look with this foundation on more than you did when it was off? If it feels weird, it probably is.”
Number of shades: 8
The translucent, dewy finish is magic on every skin type.Beautycounter Dew Skin Tinted Moisturizer goop, $50SHOP NOW
Light Serum with
Number of shades: 30
Hyaluronic acid and plant-based squalane are a moisture bomb for skin—and the SPF 40 is the best bonus.ILIA Super Serum Skin Tint SPF 40 goop, $48SHOP NOW
USE NATURAL LIGHT
“Natural light is key because you can see the truest color and undertone and make sure the product is melting into your skin properly,” says Yaitanes. “Store lighting can distort how foundation appears on your skin.”
SPOT-CHECK POTENTIAL FLAWS
There’s nothing prettier than the look of real skin, and using more product than you need distracts from its luster and can also emphasize pores and fine lines. Even if you have blemishes, leave the unblemished areas bare. “I call it spot-checking—you target only problem areas instead of applying foundation all over your face,” says Westman.
Luminizing Medium Coverage
Number of shades: 30
Each of the 30 gorgeous shades flatters and soothes skin with niacinamide.