After Years As "In-Between Shades" These Women Share How They Finally Found Their Foundation


Sure, there will always be a certain thrill to sweeping on a blinding highlighter or swatching colorful eyeshadows. But it's foundation that's the real beauty hero for many of us. After all, it is the literal base of so many looks. Whenever it came time to actually choosing one for myself, though, I was never all that excited, and the reason was personal: I could never find my perfect shade. As a woman of color who falls somewhere in the middle of the skin-tone spectrum, I was always offered two shades: classic tan or tan. The classic tans usually had a pink-beige undertone that left me looking ashy and ghostlike, whereas tan left me looking entirely too orange. Neither of these options accounted for my golden undertones or the fact that, as an in-between-er, my skin wasn’t all the way cool or all the way warm.

After years of just trying my best with what I was offered, I started noticing more and more variety in foundation shades on the shelves. First, it was just the addition of one darker shade to an existing range. Then, it was entire collections based on cool, neutral, or warm undertones. Now, brands are extending formulas on both ends of the shade spectrum, and even in between! As an adult woman with things to do and places to be, I can’t make do with poorly-matched foundation like I did when I was younger, and now I don’t have to. The range of shades and formulas available is wider and easier to find than ever before. To see just how much easier, we've partnered with Ulta Beauty, where there are more than 290 foundation formulas, 3100 shades, and 75 foundation brands to choose from. We asked five women to share how they dealt with having "in-between" skin tones — and how they finally found their perfect match.

AUDREYLancôme Teint Idole Ultra Liquid 24H Longwear SPF 15 Foundation in 410 Bisque W

When I was looking for my new foundation, I started with my undertones. I’m a mix of yellow and gold all the way — more yellow in winter, more gold in summer — and this shade was the perfect mix of both. The way Lancôme categorizes the shades in this collection was really helpful in finding my match. Each of the 40 shades includes the skin-tone range from fair to dark, as well as undertones from cool/pink to warm/yellow. Since this foundation is such a long-wearing formula, a little goes a long way to give me the full-coverage, matte finish I need for my oily skin. Plus, I don't really have to worry about touch-ups ever when I wear it.

JANEToo Faced Born This Way Foundation in Warm Nude

"I’m fair but with golden undertones — not a ton of blue or pink. It’s a tough one, since most foundations read way too pink or way too cool. When I started [wearing foundation], there were a lot fewer shades with different undertones. Obviously my search isn’t nearly as tough as finding darker skin tones in a range of undertones, but luckily, brands are expanding on both ends of the spectrum and in between. Because of [the gold in my skin] and the fact that I get quite freckle-y during the summer, I have a range of tones on my face to match. I tested out Too Faced Born This Way....and I liked the radiant finish, not too matte or drying. I apply it with a damp Beautyblender only on my T zone — I like to leave the rest of the face bare to let my freckles show through."

MONICAL'ORÉAL Infallible Total Cover Foundation in 308 Sun Beige

"I started wearing foundation and makeup in general about 11 years ago. I drowned my brain with YouTube tutorials, looking for girls with my skin tone so I could see which foundations they were using. It was infuriating, because at the time, most of the foundations in drugstores had pink undertones. I ended up having a white cast for every photo, flash or no flash. Needless to say, so much money went down the drain to find the right foundation for my face. [Now], I tend to buy olive tones to even out everything. When I'm going out, I use L'Oréal Infallible Total-Cover for that maximum, no-budge, coverage. Because I have oily skin, I need something mattifying and long-lasting. The coverage is just right for work, and it's really comfortable to wear. I like to apply it with a dense brush and press my palms to my skin to warm up the foundation even more and blend seamlessly."

MICAÉLAMaybelline Fit Me Matte + Poreless Liquid Foundation in Warm Coconut 356

"The biggest thing that impacted me while on the search for my perfect foundation was not knowing my shade. My skin on the outside is considerably deeper, but my undertone is yellow. Having oily skin is something that I battle with as well, which made the search for the perfect foundation that much harder. For me, the perfect foundation must also leave my skin feeling fresh and light — meaning I want to feel like I don't have makeup on — and it must have a matte finish. So now I'm currently loving Maybelline Fit Me Matte + Poreless. It has that nice, matte finish I need."

LAUREN MAC Studio Fix Fluid SPF 15 Foundation in NC44

"When I first wore foundation, I wore an old cream formula that I found in my grandma’s old stash. She’s much lighter than me, but I used it, and it seemed like a perfect match. After that, I wore other drugstore foundations I thought matched me pretty well — until I was about 19 and got matched at MAC and bought one of their foundations. That’s when I realized all of the other shades I had used were way too orange for me. My skin is on the oily side, and I would describe my primary skin tone as medium-tan/medium-deep with golden and olive undertones — not a lot of brands get that spectrum right. My second skin tone (vitiligo) is very fair with pink undertones. [So] I look for something that’s more medium-coverage, doesn’t feel heavy, and makes my skin still look like skin. Even though I’m pretty oily, I’ve been straying further away from matte foundations. I prefer to have a more natural, luminous finish. When I first started using Studio Fix Fluid, I really loved the texture, the coverage, and how well the shade matched me. It feels pretty velvety and worked well with my oily skin, even when I didn’t use a setting powder."

This post is presented by Ulta Beauty.

Images: Courtesy of subjects; Design: Hannah Chua/BDG