How to Pick the Perfect Foundation Makeup

When my skin looks great I feel amazing
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With so many brands and options even within those brands, picking the perfect foundation makeup can be daunting. Should you buy sheer, oil-free, mattifying, or full-coverage? And what's all the fuss over tinted moisturizers? Are drugstore versions decent buys, or should you splurge on a fancy, pricey brand?

We're here to help you figure out what foundation is best for you, your skin—and your wallet.

The Best Foundation Will Disappear on Your Face

If you take anything at all away from this article, remember this: the right foundation shade will disappear into your skin. It won't settle into fine lines or wrinkles or highlight large pores. It will lightly cover up any redness or unevenness but it will do so without being obvious.

The right foundation or tinted moisturizer (tinted moisturizer is simply a lighter version of foundation) will look as if you aren't wearing any at all.

Try Before You Buy

Not all makeup should be tried before purchasing, but foundation is definitely one of them that you should always try first. You can't judge a foundation color by its bottle and there's nothing more annoying than driving to the drugstore, buying a bottle, getting it home and then finding out it's a shade off.

For this reason, head to a store like Sephora, where a salesperson can help direct you to the perfect foundation. Sephora salespeople don't work on commission, so there's no pressure to buy what you try. 

How to Buy From a Department Store

Foundation is one of those beauty items you should splurge on if you can afford to. The best foundations can be found at department stores where makeup artists can help you pick out that perfect shade. At Sephora or Ulta, you have the option to try many brands, unlike at a department store where you have to hit up each individual brand.

Do your research first on the best foundations before cruising the counters. Many department store brands are included in this list of the best foundations for every skin type. Laura Mercier, Chanel, Bobbi Brown, BareMinerals, and MAC all make popular foundations.

Once you find your perfect foundation, you can switch to buying online, which is a very convenient—and sometimes more affordable—option.

How to Buy Foundation from a Drugstore

If you're buying from a drugstore, do your research first. L'Oreal, Revlon, and CoverGirl all make popular foundations.

Choose a drugstore with a liberal return policy like Rite Aid or CVS Pharmacy. Hopefully, they have tester bottles that you can use to try out in the drugstore. If not, purchase a few bottles to try out. If you hit the jackpot on your first try, you can return the unopened items. If you don't, you can still return the others. But buying a few at once will save you from several trips to the store.

How to Pick a Shade

When testing out shades, it's best to show up at the makeup counter with a clean, fresh face. It's OK to wear eye makeup or lipstick, even moisturizer on your face, but you don't want to be already wearing foundation.

Again, the best shade for you is one that seems to disappear on your face. To test, apply a stroke of up to three colors on a cheek or even better, the jawline (the inner wrist or hand aren't the best spots, contrary to popular belief).

Once you find that perfect fit, check it out in natural light. Ask to borrow a hand mirror and stand near a doorway, or step outside, to see which foundation looks best in the natural light.

If you are purchasing from a drugstore that doesn't have testers, take a couple bottles to a doorway, hold them up to your neck and see which one matches the best or if you have a favorite shade you want to match, match the colors of the bottles, never the swatch on the display.

Keep in mind that you may need different shades for winter, when your skin may be naturally lighter, and summer, when it's naturally darker.

Finding the Right Formula for Your Skin

When choosing a foundation, it's best to know your skin type. Foundations are formulated for oily, dry, mature, normal, or sensitive skin. Keep in mind that most women's skin type changes with the season. In winter, you might be dry, while in summer you might be oily. Also, lots of women actually have combination skin, which means they have areas that are oily and those that are dry.

If your skin is oily, look for words like "oil-free," "oil-control," or "mattifying" on the bottle.

Women with dry skin should look for moisturizing foundations with "hydrating" or "moisture-rich" wording on the bottle. Foundations containing glycerin glide on easily.

For combination skin, determine if you're more oily or dry and go from there. Cream-to-powder bases work great for combination skin. Mineral foundations work well on all skin types, especially sensitive skin.

Mature, aging skin can benefit from foundations formulated for that skin type.

Coverage: Do You Want Light, Medium or Heavy?

Then next step in choosing a foundation is to figure out the coverage you want. This may also be seasonal. You may choose lighter coverage in summer and a heavier, creamier coverage in colder months.

If you have good skin but want to even out a few ruddy areas, consider a light coverage (tinted moisturizers are a great option). If your skin tone is uneven and you have blemishes, consider a medium-coverage foundation. Most medium-coverage foundations can be built upon to create a heavier coverage if desired.

Yellow vs. Pink Shades

If you read about foundations in any beauty book or magazine, you will likely read about yellow- and pink-based shades. Top makeup experts recommend most women use yellow-based foundations, which look most natural on all skin tones. Pink shades can be better for women with very fair skin.

You probably don't need to worry about yellow and pinks when buying a foundation because just looking at the bottle and trying to determine its base may only lead to confusion. You absolutely can find a good foundation for you without ever knowing whether it's yellow or pink.

SPF or No SPF?

Many foundations these days come with SPF, but the amount (usually about 15 SPF) is not enough to properly protect you. Supplement with an SPF of at least 40 worn under the foundation. 

Watch Now: Foundation for Mature Skin