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Foundation How-To: Picking the Right Shade for Your Skin Undertone

These tips will help you understand your undertone and find the perfect foundation match at your nearest drugstore.

As the world of makeup technology develops and shade ranges expand, it’s becoming increasingly easier to find foundation that looks like it was custom-made just for you. But in order to take advantage of that personalized look, you need to know how to select the right shade. This quickie guide to undertones and testing shades before buying will help you find the best fit in no time.

What are skin undertones and how do I discover mine?

Skin tone is how light or dark your skin is—fair, medium, medium deep, deep…you get the idea. Skin undertone, on the other hand, is the subtle hue that sits beneath your skin and affects the clothing and hair colours that suit your complexion, as well as the foundation shades that match your skin. There are only three undertones (warm, neutral and cool), and the level of your skin tone (light, medium, dark) does not impact them; you can have cool dark skin and warm light skin and everything in between.

To figure out your undertone, check three things:

  1. Look at the veins in your wrist: Do they look green? You have warm (a.k.a. yellow or golden) undertones. Do they look blue? You have cool (a.k.a. pink or red) undertones. If you can’t tell if they’re blue or green, or if it looks like there’s a mix of both, you have neutral undertones (a mix of warm and cool).
  2. Think back on your burn history: Do you tan easily? You’re warm. Do you burn easily and find it hard to tan? You’re cool. If you burn or tan, you’re likely neutral.
  3. Try on some jewellery: Do you find that gold jewellery flatters your skin more? You have warm skin. Do you think silver looks best? You have cool skin. And if you can wear both easily, you’re neutral.

How do skin undertones affect foundation choice?

Foundations have undertones too, and if you choose makeup with undertones that don’t match your skin’s undertones, you’ll look like you’re wearing a mask that doesn’t quite fit—even if you’ve chosen a light shade for light skin or deep shade for dark skin. If you have warm undertones, you’ll want a warm foundation shade with yellow, golden or tan undertones. If you have cool undertones, you’ll need foundation with a slight pink or red tint. If you’re neutral, your foundation will need to have a balance of warm and cool undertones; otherwise your face will end up looking too yellow or too pink.

How do I test foundation makeup at the drugstore?

Wondering how to apply foundation when using a tester? Don’t try it on your arm or hand because the skin is probably not an exact match to your face. Instead, apply it to your jawline with your fingers. If you can, try a few shades on your jawline without blending and go outside into natural light with a handheld mirror to see which one looks best. Once you’ve selected, you can try blending it in to be sure you’ve found your perfect fit.

When you get home, apply a foundation primer before your foundation for longer wear. Then use your fingers, a foundation brush or a sponge to blend your foundation. If you want a matte foundation look, dust translucent powder overtop to absorb excess oil.

What’s an affordable, high-quality foundation with plenty of shade variety?

You’ll want L’Oréal Paris True Match Super Blendable Makeup because it comes in over 30 shades that are divvied up by undertone (warm, neutral and cool).

This handy list will give you an idea of all your L’Oréal Paris True Match Super Blendable Makeup options. You’ll still need to swatch the shades of foundation on your jawline to find your “true match,” but you won’t have to try every tester because you’ll know to stay within your undertone category.

If you have warm undertones (from lightest to darkest):

W1 Porcelain

W2 Light Ivory

W3 Nude Beige

W4 Natural Beige

W4.5 Fresh Beige

W5 Sand Beige

W5.5 Suntan

W6 Sun Beige

W7 Caramel Beige

W8 Crème Café

W9.5 Deep Warm

W10 Deep Golden

If you have neutral undertones (from lightest to darkest):

N1 Soft Ivory

N2 Classic Ivory

N3 Natural Buff

N4 Buff Beige

N5 True Beige

N5.5 Perfect Beige

N6 Honey Beige

N6.5 Golden Beige

N7 Classic Tan

N8 Cappuccino

N9 Mahogany

If you have cool undertones (from lightest to darkest):

C1 Alabaster

C2 Natural Ivory

C3 Creamy Natural

C4 Shell Beige

C5 Classic Beige

C6 Soft Sable

C7 Nut Brown

C8 Cocoa

C9 Deep Cool

C10 Espresso

And if you’re on the hunt for full coverage foundation or a foundation stick, try the L’Oréal Paris Infallible Longwear Shaping Stick Foundation. With this foundation, you can apply the same testing principles to see what colour matches your jawline. You’ll end up with medium to full coverage and a super-long-lasting foundation.

Good luck, beauties!

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