How to Match Your Foundation Shade to Your Skin

Wearing foundation is a great way to enhance your natural beauty, experiment with makeup, and help your skin look flawless and smooth. However, foundation only does its job when you find the perfect shade that matches your skin. Whether you’re just starting to explore the world of makeup or looking to find a new shade of foundation, the spectrum of options can be overwhelming and intimidating.

When you walk into your local beauty store, there are dozens of brands, types of foundations, and hundreds of products and shades to choose from, so we don’t blame you for feeling overwhelmed. Finding the perfect shade match is actually a bit more complicated than it seems.

Your skin tone is more than just the skin color or how light or deep it is. There are skin undertones, skin texture, and even certain characteristics of skin that affect which type of foundation and which shade is best for you.

This guide has everything you need to know about how to find your foundation shade to get the perfect color match and perfect your makeup look.

Foundation 101

Before we break down how to find your foundation shade, you may be wondering, what’s the deal with foundation anyway? Let’s talk about what the foundation is.

Foundation has been a staple in the world of makeup and beauty for decades. Its job is to do exactly what its name implies—be the foundation for the rest of your makeup. Think of it like the first layer of paint an artist applies to a canvas. Foundation evens out your skin and gives you a smooth surface to build on, whether you’re going for a light, natural look, or you’re going for a graphic, colorful look. 

Foundation comes in all shapes and sizes, from creams, powders, tinted lotions, and liquid forms. Depending on your specific skin concerns, you may prefer a certain type of foundation over another. For example, if you have raised acne, liquid foundation will offer better coverage and look the least textured. You can apply foundation with your fingers, a beauty blender, a brush, or a makeup sponge.

Foundation is often paired with concealer to top off a makeup look, but here at Journ, we know how often foundation and concealer can end up cakey, creased, and mask-like instead of smooth and even. We also know you don’t have all the time in the world to spend perfecting your foundation concealer technique. That’s why we like to use color-correcting products instead of concealers! It’s simple, looks flawless, and is actually good for your skin!

How to Find Your Foundation Shade

Now that we’ve gone over the basics of foundation, it’s time for the hard part. Finding your foundation shade can be seriously intimidating, especially if you don’t know where to start. 

You likely already know your shade range—that is, whether you have deep skin, light skin, or a medium skin tone. You might even know some more specific words to describe your skin color, like porcelain, beige, taupe, bronze, obsidian, and many more, which are impacted by the amount of melanin in your skin. The next place to go is to figure out what undertones you have in your skin.

What Are Undertones

Your undertones affect the final shade of your foundation. Undertones are the colors that lie beneath the surface of your skin. You may be close in skin tone to another person, but if you have different undertones, your complexion may have a different tint or hue to it. You can have fair skin tones and warmer undertones, or deeper skin tones with cooler undertones, or vice versa. 

Below are the three undertones for skin tones and how to determine which undertones you have.

Cool Undertones

Cool undertones are characterized by the colors blue, deep purple, emerald green, pink, or red. If you have cool coloring, your skin might burn more easily than it tans, you likely look best in silver jewelry rather than gold jewelry, and your veins look more blue than green.  

If you hold up a white piece of paper next to your face, your skin will probably look relatively pink or peach.

Warm Undertones

Warm undertones are characterized by earth tones. These can include clay-colored reds like terracotta or light browns, tans, earth-toned greens, yellow and orange. If you have warm tones, your skin may be described as golden. 

You probably tan more easily than you burn, look the best in gold jewelry as opposed to silver, and your veins will look more green than blue. Next to pure white paper, you’ll notice more yellows and greens. 

Olive undertones fall under this category as well, but will have hints of green over yellow. 


If you’ve read the descriptions for warm and cool undertones, but neither seems to fit you, you may have neutral undertones. Warm skin tones look more yellow, cool skin tones look more pink, and neutral skin tones don’t have any overarching tone.

If you identify with neutral tones, all this means for you is that finding the right foundation and the best colors to wear will be a breeze! Well, okay, there are still more steps, but you won’t have to worry about undertones in the process!

Compare Foundation Swatches

After you’ve determined the undertones of your skin, it’s time to look at foundation swatches. Most beauty companies will have an online resource with different shades of foundation and what undertones go with it. 

You’ll be able to narrow down which shades go with your skin tone and choose from there.

Trial and Error With Foundation

A great way to find your perfect foundation match is to use a trial and error method. Once you’ve compared foundation swatches and narrowed your options down to a few choices that are closest to your skin tone, you can test some out.

You can use this method and try a few samples on your skin. Contrary to popular belief, the best place to try foundation colors is not on your wrist. Instead, try a few on your neck or face. The correct shade will blend in perfectly with your face and your neck. This method is great if you can access samples of two or three different foundation shades that are closest to your skin tone. Try them out in person and see which matches the best.

Mix to Match

If you can’t seem to find the perfect match, but you have two colors that are almost right, try the mix to match method. This involves grabbing the two closest shades and mixing a small amount on the back of your hand. Add different amounts of foundation until you get the desired shade!

Worried About the Seasons?

Another important factor to consider when choosing a foundation shade is the seasons. With the warmer seasons, we tend to get more sun exposure, and our skin is often a deeper tone. In the colder seasons, we spend more time indoors, and our skin is often lighter.

This means you’ll need two different foundations for the seasons: one that’s slightly deeper and one that’s slightly lighter. It’s also important to consider how often you tan, both in the sun and with artificial tanners, and how deep of a tan you usually get. The best way to choose a summer or winter foundation is to simply wait until the summer or winter and perform this process over again to find your new shade.

During the winter season, most people’s skin becomes drier and more susceptible to losing moisture. For this reason, it’s also a good idea to choose a winter foundation that’s cream-based or liquid and contains hydrating and moisturizing properties that will keep your skin in good shape even in the cold.

Choosing Your Foundation Texture

When choosing what type of foundation you want, you also want to consider texture. Here’s a brief guide on the different textures of foundation and which skin types they work on best.

Liquid Foundation

Liquid foundations offer the most coverage and are excellent for textured skin, acne, and layering. If you’re looking for full coverage that goes on smoothly even if you have pimples and bumps, liquid foundation might be your best bet. This type is also great for those with dry skin.

Powder Foundation

Powder foundation doesn’t work well over acne or texture, but it’s easy to apply and is great for those with oily skin. These foundations also reduce shine on the skin, so if you like a matte look, powder foundation can help you.

Cream Foundation

Cream foundations are a great option for those with lots of acne scars and texture, as it fills in textured areas of skin to look smooth and even on the surface. It’s thicker than liquid foundation but is still a moisturized formula, so you’ll be able to get a smooth look even with breakouts and scars.

What Other Options Do You Have?

It’s important to find skincare products that nourish your skin as well as minimize the appearance of acne scars, hyperpigmentation, spots, and dark circles. That’s why we made our color correction skin care line. Here at Journ, we’re passionate about using ingredients that help address your specific skin concerns.


Choosing the right foundation isn’t easy, but this guide will show you everything you need to know so you can make the best decision for you. By knowing your skin’s undertones, the shades you need, and techniques to help you make the right choice, you’ll be able to find the perfect foundation for your skin tone.


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