Liu Wen and Joan Smalls for Estee Lauder. Photo / Supplied

The Expert's Guide To Finding The Perfect Foundation Match

Finding the right foundation can be a tricky business. Janetta Mackay talks to three top makeup artists to get their advice on finding your perfect shade

Foundation shade selection is wider now, but how best to go about it and is there still a way to go?
Kiekie Stanners (senior national artist for M.A.C): The variety of foundation colour shades and undertones has vastly improved in recent years which means your base should always be able to match your skintone correctly. Ideally you want your foundation to exactly match through the face and neck/décolletage.

It is super important to try it on properly. Don’t be alarmed if it feels a little lighter [on the face than expected] — you may have covered deeper tan or flushes of colour. It’s more ideal to go back and add colour on the cheeks or apply ‘tan’ with bronzer and to have your foundation seamlessly blend into the jawline, rather than have an obviously dark ‘foundation line’.

Blair Gamblin (education manager for Bobbi Brown): We are seeing a wider range of shade offerings to cater for a wider selection of consumers. We are redefining the concept of what skin colour really is and making sure that everyone is included.

Lochie Stonehouse (national artist for YSL and Giorgio Armani Beauty): The beauty industry as a collective has a long way to go. Many cosmetic companies are quick to pour money into new collections and technologies, but aren’t prioritising ethnic minority consumers. A few brands have provided foundations and concealers for ‘all’ since day dot, however, only now are they shouting out about it. (YSL has just expanded its range to provide relief to both ends of the colour spectrum).

Generally speaking, foundation should be matched to the lightest area of the neck. If you feel like you then need to bring some colour back to the face, sweep some bronzer over the high-points of your face.

Undertones can make matching tricky, what do we need to know about this?
Blair: Skin tone is the surface skin colour, which generally speaking is whether you're fair, medium, or deep. Undertone is the subtle hue underneath the surface. Undertones can be cool, warm, or neutral. Moreover, there are limitless skin tones/undertone combinations which is why finding the perfect foundation match can be a little overwhelming.

The easiest way to match a foundation is to select three shades that you believe are closest to your skin. Apply a line of each from the top of your cheekbone down to your jawline and also on your collarbone. Often your jawline and cheeks are lighter than your body so this is a great way to avoid looking overly pale (especially in photos) and to get a seamless match.

Kiekie: It is ideal to look for a foundation or base product that matches your skins undertones as well as depth of colour. If you are wanting to try determine this without being matched by a professional, look to the natural tone on your forearms. You may naturally be more olive yellow in tone or warm peach in this area so look for a foundation that echoes this. Your makeup will always look more natural if you match this [cool, warm or neutral] undertone rather than trying alternative colour correcting techniques with your foundation.

Lochie: If a brand doesn’t have a colour system that includes undertones in pink, yellow and neutral — reconsider!

Liu Wen and Joan Smalls for Estee Lauder. Photo / Supplied

For customers still struggling to find a match, what do you suggest?
Lochie: Don’t give up! Like shopping around for clothing, you may just need a little time up your sleeve to find the perfect fit. If a beauty advisor struggles to find your colour, they may want to help, but not have a wealth of experience working with your skin colour. Ask to have a few different colours tried on, and if unsure, ask to take a sample home — artificial lighting can be misleading and shop environments can feel overwhelming.

Kiekie: Try opting for a base shade that potentially matches a little lighter through the centre of the face then use a deeper product such as a bronzer to deepen colour tone over the forehead, outer cheeks and chin to naturally create dimension to the face. Alternatively choose two shades of concealer — one that is a lighter shade than your skintone and use that to perfect through the centre of the face, and then use your deeper shade to perfect where needed on the outer areas and over the forehead — reducing the need for one all-over shade of foundation.

Blair: Just as you rotate your wardrobe during the autumn, winter, spring and summer months, you should do the same with your makeup, especially your foundation. Our skintone tends to warm up in spring/summer when we're more active outdoors and in direct sunlight, so opting for a more golden toned foundation can work well. More hydrating, full-coverage formulas suit winter wear.

Is there any specialist extra advice that certain ethnicities would benefit from knowing?
Kiekie: If your skintone is deeper (ie deep olive, Indian or African skintones) it can be important to use a warmer tone of foundation to ensure that by applying a base the skin doesn’t turn ashy. A deep olive or Indian toned skin needs a mix of yellow toned foundation to cover the centre of the face, however, outer areas such as the forehead, chin or anywhere that may carry darker pigmentation needs a warm tone to colour correct and brighten these areas that can turn ashy otherwise.

For a deeper African skintone, ensure that there is a warm tone base or blush to brighten the skintone. By adding a warm red to the cheeks the tone of the skin is instantly brightened and can counteract the skintone looking ashy, by using anything that may be too light or yellow in undertone.

Lochie: Find a brand that provides for their ethnic minority consumers. If you’re looking to hide ashy areas, ask to try on peachy colour-correctors or orange/warm toned foundations. You shouldn’t need to find a creative remedy to make poorly matched foundations and concealer work for you.

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