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How to Match Foundation to Your Skin Type

by Sandy Taylor

Nobody wants a mismatch between their makeup and their skin tone. You may wonder how to match foundation to your skin type to avoid a stark contrast between face and neck. Here are some simple tips to help determine which foundation works best for your particular skin type.

What Is Undertone?

The first step in finding a foundation for your skin type is to determine your skin undertone. Undertone is tricky, but once you know yours, you will be more comfortable finding the foundation for your skin. Undertone differs from skin color; your skin tone is your surface skin color. 

When you hear someone talk about undertone, they are referring to the color that lies underneath the skin tone. This concept of a skin tone under your top-level skin tone can be complicated. Let us break it down to a few simple rules to help you in your quest for the perfect foundation.

Three Types of Skin Undertones

Skin undertones will fall under one of three categories of undertone:

  • WarmIf you have warm undertones, your surface skin tone will appear more yellow or golden.
  • NeutralNeutral undertones could be described as a combination of warm and cool undertones.
  • CoolCool undertones in your skin color will present as red, pink, or blue.

Tricks to Determine Your Undertones

If you are still unsure what your skin undertones are, here are some hacks to help you decide. 

Blood Vessels

Take a look at your wrists under a light: what color are your blood vessels? Blue or purple vessels indicate cool undertones. Veins that appear green indicate warm undertones.

Paper Test

When you hold a white sheet of paper up to your face, what color does your skin appear to be? Use the rules described above to determine whether your undertones are warm, neutral, or cool.

Gold or Silver?

Consider which metal complements your skin best: gold or silver? If the answer is gold, you are likely someone with warm undertones. If silver is your color, then consider foundations for cool undertones.

Choosing a Foundation

Once you have identified your skin undertone, you are ready to begin sampling foundations. One important thing to remember about undertones is that they are not like skin tones; undertones don’t change.

If you tan in the summer or get very pale in the wintertime, whether your undertone is warm, neutral, or cool will not be affected.

Even if you change up your foundations in the winter or summer, work from a palette that matches your undertones. Always test foundation on the back of your hand before you test it on your face. Make sure you have good light when you try out a foundation to avoid buyers’ remorse.

True Colors: Coverage Matters

Once you have settled on a shade for your foundation, you need to consider how much and what kind. There are many kinds of foundation options: some foundations are more sheer, while others offer full coverage.

As a general rule, you should try to stick to a more natural look for your makeup. Full-coverage foundation does what it says, and may cover up the undertones you worked so hard to identify. Often, a more sheer foundation formula creates a less “made up” look. 



Avoid picking a natural-looking foundation that perfectly matches your skin tone only to apply it in thick layers. With foundation, people can tend toward the philosophy that more is better. If you have a blemish or discoloration you would like to hide, a thorough cover-up would seem to make sense.

However, covering your whole face in the foundation may actually call attention to things you would prefer to be less noticeable. 

Ideally, your makeup should enhance the features you already have. For that reason, you should aim for a light application of a sheer formula foundation. Heavy foundation can be a little too good at its job, robbing the wearer’s skin of its natural luster.

The best way to apply your sheer formula foundation is by sticking to trouble areas. There is no reason to cover the whole face with thick layers of foundation. Thick layers of a full coverage foundation all over the face can end up accentuating fine lines and pores.

Confidently Choose a Foundation

You are now armed with enough background information to shop for the perfect foundation. Choosing the right foundation is certainly a first world problem, but it is still a problem for many people. Thankfully, matching your foundation to your skin type is a rare life problem with quick and easy solutions.

The makeup counter is no longer scary when you are armed with the right vocabulary and knowledge. Your boldness in trying out and buying a new foundation will also pay off in other areas of life. Once you know how to identify and apply the right foundation for your skin type, you can feel more confident at work and school.


About The Author:

Paulina-WollschlagerPaulina Wollschlager is the owner of Mill Pond Salon in New London, MN. She is passionate about Team True Beauty, a blog dedicated to product reviews, instructional articles, and beauty fun for all. Paulina believes in helping each woman find her own special style of beautiful and confidence. You can connect with her at Team True Beauty.

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