How to Choose Your Foundation Shade With These Easy Steps

Are you struggling to find the right foundation shade for your skin tone? You’re not alone!

Nowadays, thousands of shades are on the market, making it difficult to choose the exact one for you.

Here are all my tips about finding the perfect foundation match for your skin tone.

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How to Choose Your Perfect Foundation Shade?

Follow these simple steps to get your perfect foundation match:

Step 1: Avoid Swatching Foundations on Your Arm

avoid swatching foundation on arm

Most people make the mistake of swatching the foundation on their arm.

I’ve been there and done that in my early makeup days when I was trying to find my perfect foundation match.

Your arm doesn’t have the exact color of your face, so swatching on your arm won’t give you an accurate result.

Swatch the foundation on your jawline and blend it towards your neck instead.

We’ll go over swatching any foundation in detail in the following sections.

Step 2: Go for a Light to Medium Coverage Foundation

Light To Medium Coverage Foundations

If you are a makeup beginner, it is best to go for a light-coverage foundation instead of a full-coverage one.

The thick formula of full-coverage foundations tends to make them noticeable on the skin, especially if the shade isn’t right.

Light to medium coverage foundations are more forgiving as they provide a natural finish and can blend effortlessly into the skin.

Many light foundations on the market can also provide buildable coverage if you layer them. So if you’re starting with makeup, this is the best option.

TIP: There are different foundation formulas, and the finish can vary from dewy to matte, so choose the one that suits your skin type. Luminous foundations work better for dry skin, and matte foundations are best for oily skin.

Step 3: Know Your Skin Tone

skin tones

Knowing your skin tone to find the right foundation shade is essential.

Skin tone is determined by skin color, which can be classified as fair, light, medium, and deep.

There are different ways to determine your skin tone. One of them is to look at your jawline, as skin conditions such as rosacea or acne usually don’t affect it.

Fair skin tones have a very light complexion. Light skin tones have a slightly darker complexion than fair ones but are not tan. Medium skin tones have a tan or olive complexion, while deep skin tones are usually the darkest of all four categories.

TIP: Taking a sample of your existing foundation to a beauty store will give you a better match for another foundation you might like. This will help you find an exact match for your skin tone and undertone.

Step 4: Identify Your Undertone


This was a huge mistake I made when I first started using makeup. I was so focused on finding the right shade for my skin tone that I completely ignored my undertone.

Using a foundation with the wrong undertone can cause your makeup to look ashy or dull.

Your undertone is different from your skin tone and is determined by the hues underneath your skin.

Undertones can be classified as warm, neutral, or cool, and according to Healthline, you can determine yours by looking at the veins on your arm.

If they appear blue or purple, then you have cool undertones. If they appear greenish, then you have warm undertones.

If they are a mixture of both, you have a neutral undertone.

Another way to determine your undertone is by looking at what jewelry looks best on you.

If you look good wearing silver jewelry, then you have cool undertones. If gold looks better on you, then your undertone is warm.

Lastly, you can know your undertone by checking your skin’s appearance after sun exposure. If you don’t tan easily and burn instead, you have cool undertones.

If your skin gets a golden hue, then you have warm undertones.

If you need clarification on your undertone, it’s best to go to a beauty store where a professional can help you find it.

TIP: Our skin can look dull due to the decrease in collagen as we age. If you have mature skin, look for a foundation with subtle pink hues to brighten the skin and make it look more youthful.

Step 5: Narrow Down The Colors

narrow down the foundation colors

Now that you know your skin tone and undertone, you can narrow down the foundation colors to those best suited for your complexion.

You can start by looking up foundations made for your skin type, from light to deep and warm to cool.

Choose the colors that match your skin tone and do that by checking the label. You can also check the color swatches on the box and the tester.

For example, this Fenty beauty foundation has a range of 40 shades that you can filter by skin tone. Then, you can choose the specific shade undertone, which makes it easier to narrow down your options.

  • Warm undertone shades have the words gold, tan, or caramel on the box.
  • Cool undertone shades are referred to as rose or porcelain.
  • Neutral undertone shades are sometimes named ivory, nude, or buff.

Choose three or four shades that best match your skin so you can swatch them and decide which one is perfect.

Step 6: Swatch The Colors

Now to the fun part – swatching!

You can use foundation testers and a q-tip for swatching the colors on your jawline when you’re in the store. Make sure your face is makeup-free to get a true color match.

PRO TIP: Use a small amount of product and blend it down towards your neck. Applying a lot of foundation can be hard to blend, and you won’t get the right color match.

Blend the foundation until there are no harsh lines, using your fingers.

The perfect shade should naturally disappear into your skin, giving it a natural finish that looks like your skin but better.

You can also swatch the foundation on many spots of your face, such as your cheek, forehead, and neck, to better understand how it looks on your skin.

Unfortunately, drugstore foundations don’t usually have testers or samples, so you can check the labels and place the foundation bottle near your jawline and neck to get an idea of the color.

Sometimes, the product’s color inside the bottle can be misleading, so it’s better to check for swatches online and watch some reviews on youtube to get a better idea of the color.

Step 7: Ask for a Sample

foundation sample

After choosing the color that matches your skin tone, it’s always a good idea to ask for a sample to try out the foundation at home.

Never let a sales employee pressure you into buying the foundation if you are unsure it’s your right shade.

Plus, some foundations oxidize, so you also want to ensure it doesn’t turn out darker when you wear it during the day.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve made it wrong, so it’s always better to be sure.

Step 8: Test the Foundation in Natural Daylight

Test the foundation for a day or two and check how it looks in natural daylight to ensure it looks good on your skin.

Store lights are not the best to judge a foundation, so seeing how it looks in natural light is essential.

I like to test the foundation at home for two or three days and wear it alone and over my favorite moisturizer to check how it performs with my skincare.

TIP: Take a selfie while wearing the foundation and check if it causes any flashbacks.

Step 9: Change Your Shade Depending on the Season

Adjusting your foundation shade is essential as your skin tone changes depending on the season.

You might need a darker shade in the summer since your skin is exposed to the sun more often.

Mix your foundation with a moisturizer if you need a slightly lighter tone in the winter.

Also, you can darken any foundation by mixing it with a darker shade of concealer or other foundation. Be aware that the formula may change, so experiment with different formulas to see what works best for your skin.

More Shade Matching Tips:

What If Your Neck is Lighter Than Your Face, And You Don’t Want Your Face To Look As Pale?

If your face is tanned and your neck is lighter, pick a foundation shade that is a little bit lighter than your face so that it’s in between the two and blends in naturally.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve made it wrong, and I ended up with a dark face and lighter neck.

You can apply a bronzer on your neck to warm it up whenever that happens so it doesn’t look as pale.

The goal is to get a foundation color that blends seamlessly with our chest and neck color.

Is The Outside Perimeter Of Your Face Darker Than The Inside?

Many people with medium to dark skin tones have dark edges around their faces, while the middle part is lighter.

If that’s your case, you want to choose a foundation shade between the two colors. The goal is to get a natural-looking finish without harsh edges, so opt for a shade that is to both colors.

Experimenting is the key here, so don’t hesitate to ask for samples and try out different shades.

Do You Have Redness On Your Face?

Many people have redness or rosacea, especially on the apples of the cheeks.

I had this problem when I was younger, so I know how hard it can be to find the perfect shade.

Unfortunately, I’ve seen many beauty store employees mistakenly choose a cool shade, thinking that the rosy color means the person has a cool undertone.

If you have a warm undertone, a foundation with cool undertones will cause your makeup to look pink or dull.

Swatch the foundation shades on the jawline and the neck instead to find the perfect match.

Pick a foundation color that matches your skin’s undertone that might be warm or cool.

How To Know My Foundation Shade Online?

Finding the perfect shade online was a challenge, but it has become easier with the increased use of technology.

Most major makeup brands now have “virtual shade finders” to help you determine your foundation shade.

You have to answer a few questions about your skin tone and undertones and maybe select an old foundation shade of yours, and the tool will give you a few shades to choose from.

There is also a website called that helps you find the perfect foundation shade.

Ulta’s shade finder tool helps you determine your perfect foundation shade based on your skin tone and undertone.

Sephora also has a shade finder tool in which you select an old foundation shade you may have, and they recommend a few shades that might match your skin tone.

Maybelline also has a match finder where you can upload a selfie to get the perfect shade.

Finding the perfect foundation shade online has become easier with all these available tools. But it’s always a good idea to research and look for many swatches and reviews before buying a foundation.

Final Thoughts

Choosing the perfect foundation shade for your skin tone is essential for achieving a flawless makeup base.

You must know your skin tone and undertone to get the right shade.

Swatch the foundation on your jawline and blend it down towards your neck.

The color should disappear onto your skin and match your skin undertone to get a natural-looking finish.

Do you have any questions or tips on choosing the perfect foundation shade? Please share them in the comments section below!


How Do You Know If Your Foundation Is In The Wrong Shade?

If your foundation is in the wrong shade, it may look unnatural on your skin. The purpose of any foundation is to even out your skin tone and make you look like a better version of yourself.

If your shade is too light, it might look grey or ashy on your skin. And if the shade is too dark, it will look like a mask on your face.

The perfect shade should melt into your skin and disappear, giving you an even complexion.

Should You Apply Foundation With A Brush, Sponge, Or Fingers?

Liquid foundations can be applied with a brush, sponge, or fingers.

The difference between a brush and a sponge is that brushes give more coverage and they absorb less product. Sponges are great for blending and help you achieve a more natural look.

Some people prefer to use their fingers for a quick and easy application, so it’s about your preference and the look you will achieve.

The key is to try a few different methods and see which one you like best.

The most important thing is to have clean fingers before applying the foundation.

Also, clean your makeup brushes regularly to prevent bacteria growth, which can cause breakouts or skin irritation.

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Claire is a beauty enthusiast and lover of all things makeup. Her blog is a resource for makeup tips and tricks, product reviews and beauty tutorials.

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