Things you need to know when buying foundation.

Foundation Dictionary

1. Colour

  • Cooler: This means it has a pink base or undertone. Common words to look out for when describing a cool based foundation are Blue, Rose or Pink.

  • Warmer: This means the foundation has yellow undertones. Common words that are used to describe a warm undertone are Golden, Yellow or Olive.

  • Neutral: This means the foundation is neither pink nor yellow based.

Warmer, Cooler, Neutral

The above photo shows the same colour with different undertones. It will be hard to tell at first glance, but look closer and you’ll be able to see the slight difference. W=warmer/yellow C=cooler/pink N=Neutral

2. Finish

  • Matte: No shine or light reflecting particles in the foundation. Color stay formulas are usually quite matte. Common words used to describe a matte formula include Stay-In-Place, Transfer resistant or Color Stay. Think foundation finishes such as Revlon ColorStay, Lancome 24hr Teint Idole.

  • Dewy: Foundations with a dewy formulation will have more moisturizing properties. Leaves skin looking hydrated. Common words used to describe dewy include Luminous or Glow. Think foundation textures such as Nars Sheer Glow Foundation, L’Oreal True Match, MAC Studio Fix or most Tinted Moisturizers.

  • Velvety: These formulations usually contain ingredients to smooth out the skin, similar to a primer. The finish is in the middle of matte and dewy. Gives your skin a very slight glow. Words used to describe velvety finishes include Satin, Silky, illuminating or Radiant. Think YSL Touche Eclat Foundation, Urban Decay Naked, Make Up Forever HD Foundation.

3. Coverage

  • Sheer: Evens out the skin tone but will not cover pigmentation or blemishes. Words used to describe sheer include Tint.

  • Medium: Evens out skin tone and will cover slight imperfections on the skin. Will cover the redness from rosacea but will not conceal dark pigmentation caused by blemishes or sun damage.

  • Full: Will cover and conceal most skin imperfections. Significantly conceals pigmentation and acne scars.

Where to match the foundation?

  • Contrary to what many people advise – to match on your jawline, the BEST place to match foundation is actually on your chest. The reason being, your neck/jawline are usually lighter than your chest because it gets exposed to less sunlight and you’ve remembered to put on the SPF on your face but not all the way down to your chest. Also, when you take a photo, a face that is matched to the chest will look a lot more natural than if you were to have 2 different colours.

  • The photo’s below show what happens when foundation is matched to the face and chest. The difference is very subtle but noticeable. The first photo is of my natural face and chest – my face is slightly lighter than my chest. The second photo demonstrates a shade that is matched to my jawline so it appears a little whiter than my chest and makes me look like I’m wearing more makeup than what I’m actually wearing – this was a tinted moisturizer (Nars Pure Radiant Tinted Moisturizer in Alaska), so you can imagine what it would look like if it were a full coverage foundation. In the third photo, you see that the first 2 shades (Benefit Oxygen Wow in Honey and Makeup For Ever HD Foundation in 140) blend better with my chest than the latter 2 which matched my face perfectly (Nars Sheer Glow in Punjab and Nars Tinted moisturizer in Alaska). The final photo shows a full coverage foundation that is matched to my chest (Makeup For Ever HD Foundation in 140).

Warmer, Cooler, Neutral

From left: The natural face, Foundation matched to the face, Matching to the chest, Foundation matched to chest.

Watch out for our Foundation Basics Part 2 - Find your undertones.