Foundation 101

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In my many interactions with both clients and from reading numerous comments on the internet, it appears as if there are some misconceptions about makeup out there. Namely, it seems that there are too many women of color who still think there’s no makeup out there for us. I say, in fact, that there’s TOO much makeup out there for us…lol. Take it from me, a makeup junkie who works on clients from varying backgrounds and NEVER has a problem matching someone’s foundation or finding colors that flatter them. So here’s a quick and dirty guide on finding the right foundation for you.

Step 1: Determine your undertone. I took tons of classes while studying Image Consulting at the Fashion Institute of Technology that dealt with color theory and how which colors look best on different people so I use that knowledge in determining which colors to use on my clients.

Most undertones fall into these categories:


Many cosmetic companies make it easy for consumers by labeling their foundations according to undertone. They may also use Warm/Cool/Neutral as labels as well. Here’s how that would look:

Yellow/Golden (Warm)
Olive (Neutral)
Pink/Red (Cool)
Blue (Cool)

The quickest way for you to figure out your undertone at home would be to (in natural light) :

a.) Take a good look at your skin to see if one of the colors listed above seems to shine through the most. If you (like me) have different undertones in your face than on your neck, go with the ones in your neck. You want your foundation to match your neck. Or you could use two different shades.

b.) Take a look at the veins in your arms–do they look green or do they look blue? If they look green, your undertones are more than likely yellow or golden. If they look blue, your undertones are more than likely pink/red or blue.

c.) Grab a pair of silver and gold earrings. Do the gold ones flatter you more? If so, you’re warm. If the silver pair flatters you more, you’re cool. If you look good in either one, you’re neutral.

d.) Don’t get wrapped up in the misconception that a single racial or ethnic group is always a certain undertone!

Step 2. Determine your skin tone. Once you’ve found your undertone, next determine your skin tone. You want to try two or three shades in your undertone. In three separate spots on your jawline (as close to your neck as possible), blend the shades and whichever one disappears into your skin (when in natural light) is the winner. If you tend to tan in the warmer months, you may want to get a sample or smaller size of the darker shade to mix in with your normal color to make sure your foundation matches your skin year round. PLEASE do NOT make the mistake of wearing a foundation that is either too light or too dark.

Step 3. Determine your skin type.
Wash your face with a gentle cleanser and let it air dry for 15-20 minutes. How does your face feel? If it feels okay, you more than likely have normal skin. If it feels very taut and dry, you have dry skin. If it feels very moist or oily, you have oily skin. If you’re only oily in the T-zone (forehead and nose) you have combination skin.

Based on your skin type, you need to pick the right foundation formula. Even if you have the right undertone and shade, if you have the wrong formula, your foundation can prove to be tragic! Cosmetic companies make it easy for you by labeling things by skin type, but here’s a rule of thumb:

Normal Skin: Liquids work well, but this type can also wear powder, creme, or mineral formulas.

Dry Skin: Liquids designed specifically for dry skin or creme foundations work well. As do some mineral formulas.

Oily/Combination Skin:
Powder and mineral foundations work best. So do some liquid formulas designed specifically for this skin type.

For all skin types, blot powder and Fix+ Spray are must-have items for touching up shine throughout the day without interfering with your makeup.

Step 4: Determine your coverage amount. If you already have an even complexion with very few blemishes, a lightweight or sheer foundation (or even a tinted moisturizer) will work to enhance your beautiful skin. This is also a good option for daytime makeup.

Medium coverage works for anyone with skin that needs a little extra help. A good foundation will provide medium coverage, but still look natural. Medium coverage works well for going out or being photographed.

Full coverage (which I don’t recommend for daily usage) helps problem skin appear more flawless. The best full coverage foundations provide excellent coverage for troublesome areas, but still look natural. A light hand is necessary for this type. I recommend only using full coverage in areas where you need it, as it can have the tendency to look like a mask.

So there you have it–a quick guide to finding foundation that works for you. If you’re still having trouble, live in the NYC area, and would like to have a Personal Comprehensive Makeup Consultation with yours truly, email to schedule your session.

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About Danielle

27 year old banker turned Image Consultant, Makeup Artist, and President of Urban Glamour, LLC. I enjoy bringing out the FIERCE in everyone through personalized thorough image consultations. Think of me as your style and beauty entourage all wrapped up into one bubbly brown package :)

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