Suit It to Your Skin Type
Before choosing a foundation, “determine your skin type," Surratt says. "Is it dry skin, oily, combination, sensitive, or prone to breakouts?”
Dry skin: It looks dull since it lacks oil, and it reflects light poorly. It may itch, be irritated easily, and be prone to scaly or flaky patches.
- Oily skin: It looks shiny, feels greasy, and may have larger pores than normal skin.
- Combination skin: In this very common skin type, cheeks are dry, but the T-zone (your forehead, nose and chin) is oily.
Choose the Right Formula
Look for foundations designed to do the best job of enhancing your complexion:
- People with dry, combination, and normal skin can use emollient-based foundations. Look for the words "liquid," "tinted moisturizer," "cream," or cream-to-powder."
- Powder-based-foundations can be used by people with oily, combination, or normal skin. If you have dry skin, avoid this type as it will highlight wrinkles and dryness.
- Moisture-rich or hydrating foundations are good for dry skin. They moisten your skin and help you avoid a feeling of tightness or irritation.
- Oil-control, oil-free, water-based, or matte foundations can be used by those with oily or combination skin. These formulas reduce the appearance of oil, making your face look less shiny.
- Light-reflecting foundations are best for dry or more mature faces. They provide a surface that allows light to reflect off your skin and brightens dull or dry complexions.
- Line-smoothing foundations fill in facial lines to reduce their appearance and de-emphasize wrinkles.
- Color-matching foundation comes in different shades that adjust to and blend with your skin tone â€” perfect if invisible coverage is your goal. Look for formulas with more or less oil, depending on your skin type.
Consider the Degree of Face Makeup Coverage
Choose a formula with light, medium, or full coverage, depending on how many imperfections you’d like to “erase.”
- Light coverage. Some liquid formulas and tinted moisturizers offer light coverage that creates a natural look.
- Medium coverage. This formula still looks natural but can conceal blemishes and age spots. Powders, liquids, cream-to-powder, and mineral-based foundations all come in medium coverage.
- Full coverage. Women who want to cover skin discoloration, scars, and other imperfections should consider this option. “Cream in a stick or compact form, cream-to-powder, powder foundation, and mineral-based formulas are your best bets,” says Pam Messy, a makeup consultant with the cosmetics firm Mary Kay.
Find the Right Color
“Foundation is made with a yellow, a pink/red, or a neutral undertone,” Surratt explains. “You want a foundation to match your skin’s undertone. One way to determine your skin’s undertone tone is to look at the veins in your wrist in sunlight or quartz lighting, which gives a truer color rendition. If they are blue, then you have a cool undertone. If they look green, then you have a warm undertone.” Women of color generally have a warm undertone.
Take the Face Makeup Test
Don’t take the word of a salesperson when testing a foundation’s color. Test it yourself. A common mistake is to test the foundation on your hand, rather than your face. “You don’t wear foundation on your hand, so why to test it there?” says Messy. “The best place to test foundation is just above your jaw line. Dab on a little product, blend, and see how the color looks on your skin.”
Where you test beauty products is also important. If you try a product in a drugstore with fluorescent lighting, you may not see its true color or how it will really change the appearance of your skin. Fluorescent lights have low red light and high green light. Normal skin tones have lots of green. If the makeup has green elements, the problem is exaggerated. Some makeup mirrors have adjustments for different types of lighting, but they are not usually available in stores.
Consider bringing a large hand mirror with you and stepping outside to look at the shade in natural light.
As for the best place to buy your beauty products, there are pros and cons to each kind of store. Messy and Surratt agree that if you can afford to, go to a reputable makeup artist who will likely have the proper lighting for foundation selection and good products. If you go to a department store, you may be able to get free samples to try at home, but these brands can be expensive. The drugstore probably won’t have samples for you, but their beauty products are more affordable, and many chains have recently started adding department store-quality lines to their offerings.
The next time you need to buy foundation, remember to focus on what you want your foundation to do for your skin. Do some investigative work to find the right formula for your face. Odds are that your shopping trip may actually turn out to be fun and successful â€” just as should be!