How To Decode Foundation Shopping And Find Your New Favorite Shade

Finding a great foundation — especially one in a shade that actually matches — can seem like it's on par with solving calculus problems or doing your taxes in terms of difficulty. It's an almost universal experience: You think you find the right shade for your skin tone only to discover that it looks totally off once you step outside. And that doesn't even begin to scratch the surface of figuring out the correct undertone or finish. Warm, cool, matte, natural — unless you have a personal makeup artist to whip up a custom blend, it can often feel like the options are settling for a close-enough option or quitting the search before you even begin.

But there's great news for anyone who feels hesitant about foundation shopping. Now, not only are there more types of formulas to choose from to suit every skin type and personal preference, but the shade ranges are also more inclusive than ever. All you need are a few tips for easily locating the ones that are right for you. That's why we've teamed up with Sephora to bring you the ultimate guide to finding your new favorite foundation. The only thing left to do is start swatching.

1. Consider Your Foundation Needs

Before you even begin hunting down your new favorite foundation, make your life (and shopping experience) a little easier by first determining your needs.

Joshua Pestka

2. Figure Out Your Undertone

Knowing your undertone can focus your search to the right section of the foundation lineup — and it's a major help if you're shopping online. Here's how to figure out whether yours is warm, cool, or neutral: Just take a look at the veins on the inside of your arm.

  • Warm undertones, which have a peachy or yellow look to them, make veins appear green.
  • Cool undertones, which veer more pink, make veins look blue.
  • Can't really tell? You probably have a neutral undertone.

3. Consult A Sephora Beauty Advisor

Joshua Pestka

OK, so you've identified your skin type and narrowed down the options based on your undertones. In a beauty store like Sephora, that can still leave a huge array of bottles to choose from. If you're standing in a foundation aisle feeling totally stumped, no prob. Just ask someone for help. In-store consultants like Sephora Beauty Advisors assist with foundation color matching on a regular basis, so they can help determine exactly which brands and shades will work for you.

Tip: Before committing to a purchase, you can try a free, three-day sample of whichever formula and shade you pick in-store to test the foundation out IRL.

4. Swatch On Your Jawline

It's natural for there to be some shade variation between your face and body, especially since you're likely to be more diligent about using SPF above the neck. But that doesn't mean you want a line of demarcation completely separating your head from the rest of you. To find a good match that truly blends in, swatch foundation on your jawline, which is the happy medium between your face and body.

5. Seek Out Inclusive Ranges

Joshua Pestka

Raise your hand if you've ever had to settle for a not-quite-but-close-enough foundation shade. Welcome! From dark shades that aren't all that dark, to medium tones that skew too orange, to hues that only seem to cover one type of undertone, there have been many issues with small ranges. Fortunately, there are foundation lines with inclusive ranges that cover more skin tones than ever — Fenty Beauty By Rihanna and Make Up For Ever both offer 40-shade ranges, Too Faced's line has 24 shades, and Kat Von D offers 30. And at places like Sephora, where there are more than 3,000 shades to choose from (and where you can take this helpful Foundation Finder quiz), you're sure to find your new favorite foundation.

This post is sponsored by Sephora.

Photography: Joshua Pestka; Hair: Marcos Diaz; Makeup: Ashleigh Ciucci; Styling: Allison Koehler; Prop Styling: Liz Peters; Art Direction: Bry Crasch/Bustle