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NYX foundation match and shade finder

Meet Your Match: How to Match Your Foundation and Find Your Formula

05 Oct 2022

Eyeshadow, lipstick, blush—these are makeup products you want to stand out and make an impact. Foundation, however? Not so much. The ultimate goal with foundation is to make your skin look smooth, even, and uniform, and having your foundation be obvious or visible sort of defeats the purpose. That’s why learning how to match foundation is so crucial: With a seamless base, the rest of your makeup will look even better.

The trouble is, it can be tricky to find your perfect foundation color match, especially when you factor things like seasonal skin color changes and undertones into the equation. Luckily for you, we’re here to help. Ahead, we’ve compiled our top tips for finding the best foundation shade for your skin, whether you prefer a full-coverage look or favor a more sheer veil. Keep reading to learn how to match your foundation to your skin for a flawless finish.

How Do You Figure Out Your Foundation Shade?

It seems pretty obvious, but the most important thing when it comes to finding your foundation match is finding the right shade—wearing a too-light foundation will make you look chalky, while wearing one that’s too dark creates obvious lines of demarcation. Also important is finding the right undertone for your skin (nobody wants an orange face), and choosing the right finish for your skin type. We’ll teach you the ins and outs of how to color match foundation ahead.

Determine Your Undertones

First up, you need to determine your undertones. Most makeup artists will tell you that there are three main undertones—cool, warm, and neutral—and where your skin naturally falls in this range dictates which type of foundation you should reach for. There are a few ways to determine your undertones, but generally speaking, it goes like this:

  • Warm undertones: You have a golden, peach, or yellowish complexion. Those with warm undertones tend to look best in gold jewelry.
  • Cool undertones: You have a pink or bluish hue to your skin, and silver jewelry is more flattering on you than gold.
  • Neutral undertones: Your skin is neither pinkish nor golden, and both silver and gold jewelry look great on you.

It’s important to keep in mind that while warm undertones are often associated with darker skin types, like olive skin, that’s not a hard-and-fast rule. People with fair skin can have warm undertones, and people with dark skin can have cool undertones. It’s about the overall tone of your skin, not the actual shade.

Consider the Finish of Your Foundation

If you have drier skin, we recommend pairing our hydrating Marshmellow Smoothing Primer with Total Control Pro Drop Foundation. The fluid foundation has a lightweight finish and helps keep the skin looking hydrated and healthy for up to 12 hours. If you’re on the oilier side, Can’t Stop Won’t Stop Full Coverage Foundation is a great choice. The long-wear foundation provides a full-coverage finish that helps mattify the skin. Plus, it’s non-comedogenic, so it won’t clog pores.

Test the Foundation If You Can

If you’re purchasing in-store and testers are available, trying a foundation on for size is a great option. Foundation, especially liquid formulas, may look to be a certain shade in the bottle, but that doesn’t mean it’ll appear exactly the same once it’s on your face. It can oxidize as it dries or sets, giving it an orangey tint, or change color based on your skin’s pH and body chemistry.

Of course, trying foundation IRL isn’t always possible. We have a way for online shoppers to test products, too. Before you buy, use our virtual assistant MYAIA, to discover your skin tone and undertone. Then, go to one of our foundation product pages and click “Try It On” to see how different shades will suit you. You can also use our “Click & Consult” feature for a live 1-on-1 beauty consultation with an expert (available 9AM to 6PM PST from Monday to Friday).

Even if you make a purchase that’s not quite right, don’t fret. For foundations purchased on, we have a 100% shade match guarantee. If you buy a shade that doesn’t work for you, you may return your purchase within 45 days of receipt.

Swatch It on Different Parts of Your Face

Swatching foundation can be quite helpful, but keep in mind that one swatch may not cut it. Take a close look in the mirror: You’ll probably notice that your skin tone isn’t completely uniform across your face. That’s totally normal—but it also can complicate finding the right foundation match. What we recommend is narrowing it down to three or four shades that look like they’ll blend well with your skin and testing them out in natural lighting. Swatch it along your jawline, forehead, cheek, and neck. Whichever shade blends most seamlessly (especially along your jawline and neck) is the one you should go with. If swatching isn’t in the cards, hold the bottles up to your face—again, in natural light—and pick the shade that most closely matches the skin along your jawline.

See How It Looks in Different Lighting

We touched on this above, but it bears repeating. When you test your foundation, you want to make sure to take a look at it in different lighting—not just store lighting (which can be unflattering, overly warm, or excessively cool). The best way to do this is to test out your foundation in natural sunlight around midday, as this will give you the clearest idea of the formula’s actual pigment. You may also want to consider having a friend take a pic of you wearing the foundation (keep the flash on!). That way, you can see how the foundation photographs and adjust your shade or finish if needed.

Use a Foundation Finder

If you’re shopping online, unable to use testers, or otherwise find yourself unsure which shade and finish suits you best, that’s okay—we have a tool specifically designed to resolve this issue. You can use our Foundation Finder to help find your ideal NYX Professional Makeup shade and finish. You’ll be asked a series of questions about your skin and makeup preferences, and we’ll do the legwork to find your perfect match. It takes less than one minute to complete and is available 24/7.

Prep Your Skin

What appears to be a mismatch can sometimes boil down to the way your foundation rests on your skin. Ideally, you want your foundation to lay smoothly and evenly and not cling to any dry or rough patches of skin. As such, maintaining a proper skincare routine and moisturizing regularly is essential for a healthy-looking foundation finish. For the best results, we also recommend prepping your skin with a makeup primer that complements your skin type. We have formulas that blur, boost radiance, and fill in pores—choose whichever formula suits your skin best and apply a thin, even layer before reaching for your foundation.

Don’t Be Afraid to Mix Products

Because skin is prone to changing throughout the year (it’s typically a bit darker in the summer months and paler in the winter), the foundation that works for you in, say, January, may not be a perfect match come August. So don’t be afraid to mix and match products to get the right finish. We make mixing and matching easy with our Total Control Pro Drop Foundation. The fluid formula has buildable coverage and comes available in 30 versatile shades. Best of all, each shade can be further customized with our Total Control Pro Drop Foundation Hue Shifters, which allow you to lighten, darken, cool down, or warm up your usual shade as needed).

Pro Tip: For an ideal match all year round, consider keeping two foundation shades on hand: One for when you’re paler and one for when your skin is a little more sun-kissed.

Next: Prime Time: How To Pick The Right Makeup Primer


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