How To Find The Perfect Foundation Shade, Once & For All

Picking out an outfit for a first date. Deciding between two great apartments. Choosing the right nail color. These are all dilemmas we've faced at one point or another. But for the makeup-obsessed, finding the perfect foundation shade trumps every conundrum out there. If you choose a shade that's too light, you risk looking like a ghost. If you skew too dark, you risk looking like you've tried to fake a vacation to a tropical island.

Which is why I'm not going to sugarcoat it: Finding the perfect foundation shade can be a little overwhelming, and it definitely takes a bit of effort. As brands add ever more foundation shades and formulas to their lineups, there are so many options on the market, so it helps to figure out the fundamentals.

In an effort to simplify your next beauty haul, we teamed up with bareMinerals (and a pro makeup artist) to help you become a foundation-matching wizard. Whether you're more of a beginner or an advanced student of beauty, you'll want to start with the basics, from figuring out your undertone to testing product on the right part of your body (spoiler: it's not on your face).

Now, here's to your skin looking like, well, skin.

First Things First

Hadassah is wearing bareMinerals Original Foundation in Warm Tan.

"Determine if you're a light, medium, or dark," says NYC-based makeup artist Brit Cochran. From there, you can play and compare a few colors within the category (two or three shades usually works best).

Identify Your Undertones

Chelsea is wearing bareMinerals Original Foundation in Golden Beige.

This is one of the most important yet commonly overlooked steps when it comes to finding your foundation shade. We all fall under one of the following three categories: warm, cool, or neutral. "First, take a look at the inside of your arm," says Cochran. "Warm tones generally have a peach or yellow cast to the skin, which make your veins appear green. Cool tones have a pinkish cast, which make veins appear blue. If you're not sure, then you probably fall into the neutral zone."

Pair It Up

Sam is wearing bareMinerals Original Foundation in Fair Ivory.

After you've figured out your undertone, match your foundation to it. Blue-based colors such as porcelain complement cool skin tones, while earthy shades such as beige and caramel are made for warm skin tones. And the lucky ones with the neutral undertones can basically pull off any shade.

Match It To Your Neck

MJ is wearing bareMinerals Matte Foundation in Tan Nude.

The face can be deceiving, because if you shield it with SPF every day, it will look a lot lighter than the rest of your body. "Start by swiping on three different shades from the top of your jawline down to your neck," says Cochran. The one that disappears most closely into the skin will be the shade for you.

When In Doubt...

Bry is wearing bareMinerals Matte Foundation in Neutral Medium.

"Look to see if the makeup brand offers a shade matching tool on their website if you're still unsure about which shade works best," says Cochran. bareMinerals has a handy feature online that is super quick and helpful. Bonus: bareMinerals offers 30 different shades in both the Original and Matte Foundations.

This post is sponsored by bareMinerals.

Photos: Joshua Pestka; Makeup: Brit Cochran; Hair: Akihisa Yamaguchi; Design: Bry Crasch/ Bustle; Art Direction: Jenna Wexler