How To Find The Perfect Foundation Match & Other Tricks For A Flawless Base

Photographed by Caroline Tompkins
Shopping for foundation is no mean feat. First, there's deciding which formula and finish is best for you: matte or dewy? Full coverage or sheer? That's before we've touched on deciphering your skin's undertone (yes, it matters when hunting down the perfect shade match) and the best application tools, from brushes to sponges and even your fingertips. Thankfully, Nicole Faulkner, aka Lipsticknick on Instagram and Morphe's director of global artistry, is on hand to make things a little easier.
Here's everything we learned about achieving a flawless base in next to no time – no tidemarks or 3pm slippage.
How to work out your skin's undertone
When it comes to buying the perfect foundation, it pays to take your complexion's undertone into consideration, not just your skin tone.
"Look past your skin tone at the shades that lie underneath," explained Nicole. "If you have a warm undertone, you’ll detect more yellow, peach and red tones in your skin when you look in the mirror. Those who have a warm undertone do really well in warm environments – they tan really easily and they have a natural colour within them which is brought out in the sun."
Those with cool undertones are more or less the opposite. "Cool tones tend to be a little more pink, and suit things like silver. Cool tones also do really well in cold environments rather than in the sun, in which they tend to burn. If you’re neutral, you have both pink and yellow tones and if you’re olive skinned, you’ll notice green undertones. It’s not literal, green green, just a slight hint. You might also look for certain tones in your veins, too." Green veins are said to correspond with warm to neutral tones, while blue veins are linked with cool tones. "This is a popular technique, but this can be a little difficult to determine," added Nicole. Many foundation products now state the undertone on the label or in product descriptions online, which makes it easier to find your true match.
How to find the best foundation match for your skin tone
When shopping for foundation, many of us tend to swatch test on the back of our hand, but this is a total no-no, according to Nicole.
"The back of your hand can be four times deeper in colour than your face and chest," she explained. "Your hands are always exposed, even if you’re wearing long sleeves, so if you want to try foundation anywhere, always go for the inner wrist because it’s always generally a similar tone to your face, neck and chest. That said, it’s better to match your foundation to your décolletage than your neck, so your foundation flows together. Almost everyone’s neck is lighter because your head pretty much blocks it from the sun and the environment."
How to test foundation properly
"I don’t like hard swatches," said Nicole. "When people just swipe the foundation on to see if it matches them, they apply way too much product. You really have to buff it in, so when I do shade matching, I apply very minimal product and blend that into the skin in circular motions."
And it really pays to take your time. "Foundation is an investment," said Nicole. "There’s no rush. Test it on the side of your jaw, then take 20 minutes or so to shop the rest of the mall, and take a look at how it sits on your skin. I'd recommend trying at least two shades, one on each side of your face, so you can go with the true match."
How to prep your skin before foundation
"Primers to me feel very silicone-y and can sometimes dry the skin out," said Nicole. "I tend to work with matte foundation more than anything else, so to prep the skin, I will always over-moisturise. I love Embryolisse Lait-Crème Concentré Nourishing Moisturiser, £13, or Sunday Riley C.E.O. C + E antiOXIDANT Protect + Repair Moisturiser, £60. I’ll also spray a ton of hydrating mist over the skin to really drench it. I’ll even go back in with moisturiser and even an eye cream. If you do want to use a primer, the Revitaliser Foundation Primer, £12, is affordable and has the tack that you want under foundation. Think of it like priming a wall before you paint it. This prep helps minimise creases and makes things look seamless."
How to apply foundation
Some makeup artists like Sir John prefer larger brushes, while Val Garland applies foundation with her hands, but Nicole recommends brushes.
"I love using smaller tools, like the Morphe M173 Mini Buffer, £5.50, or the E8 Detail Contour, £7. It might not be that practical for some people, but personally I prefer a smaller brush because I like the painting element. I can get the foundation into all the gaps and crevices. Sometimes using a large brush can feel too aggressive on the skin and if I apply foundation with something bigger, I always have to go in with a little brush anyway, so I always just start with one."

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