How to Match Foundation to Your Skin Tone (3 Easy Steps & a Chart)

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We’ve all been there. You find yourself in your favorite department store’s beauty section searching for the newest foundation that all the blogs are raving about it. You find it, but there’s just one problem. There are 99 shades and you can’t choose one. Finding the correct foundation shade for your skin tone is one of the hardest things to do when it comes to makeup, and it’s also one of the most important.

How to Match Foundation to Your Skin Tone

Foundation sets the base of your makeup application and no matter how perfect your winged liner, or how smooth your matte lipstick is, if your foundation is wrong, it throws everything off. Fortunately, determining your correct foundation shade doesn’t have to be mission impossible. If you know what to look for, you can ensure you pick the right foundation shade every time.

Know your undertones

The first thing that so many people get wrong when it comes to choosing their foundation shade is, they go straight for the color that looks closest to their skin tone. Wrong! Before you even step foot into a makeup store you should know your skin’s undertone. Skin undertones fall into three categories: cool, warm, and neutral. And any foundation worth wearing takes both skin tone and undertone into consideration. If you shop for a warm toned foundation but you have more cool undertones in your skin, even though the shades looks similar it will not translate well once applied. By shopping for your skin’s undertone, you’re ensuring that you’ll get the perfect shade.

So how do you figure out your skin’s undertone? That part is easy! Here’s how to Match Foundation to Your Skin Tone:



Once you’re sure of your skin’s undertones it’s time to go shopping. If you’re a newbie, your best bet is to choose a foundation that clearly labels the undertone for you. You’ll find that many brands will include W, C, or N in the names of their foundation (does MAC NC45 ring a bell?) making your life a whole lot easier!

Test on your Skin

After you’ve picked a shade that you think best represents your skin’s tone, it’s always a good idea to test it on your skin. Many people simply swipe it along their hand in the store but this won’t give you a true indication of how well the foundation will match. The best way to test a foundation shade is by swiping it along your jawline. This area of your face generally best represents your undertone and also gives you an idea of how the foundation looks in relation to your neck- something that is often overlooked. If the foundation shade matches your jawline, you’ve got a match!

How to Match Foundation to Your Skin Tone

See how it looks in different lighting

There’s nothing worse than doing all of your homework, testing the foundation under store’s fluorescent lighting, only to go outside and realize you have to go back to the drawing board. Once you think you’ve found your match, try it on for size under different lighting. Pop outside and see if that perfect match is still undetectable on your skin in normal daylight. Take a photo—with flash—and see if you look like a ghost or if the foundation is still flawless. When you find a foundation that looks amazing in all lighting, that’s the one!

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Tyshia Ingram is a beauty and lifestyle blogger, freelance writer, and mompreneur. Her passion for pretty and purpose to empower women of color led her to create This Brown Queen, a blog celebrating brown girls in beauty, style, and life. She lends her brown beauty expertise as a contributing writer to multiple industry websites and publications. When she’s not blogging, she’s building a select freelance clientele offering various digital media services to beauty and lifestyle brands. Catch her chasing dreams and writing from the heart in lipstick and pumps at

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