Let’s be real: In most aspects of our lives, we love having options — from the milk in our coffee to our long list of Saturday brunch spots we’re dying to hit up. But sometimes, those options can be downright overwhelming — especially when you're choosing something you'll use every single day. Exhibit A: finding your perfect foundation.
Walk into any Sephora and you’ll soon realize that there are seemingly endless options — from complexion sticks that are perfect for travel to matte, full-coverage liquids that give you a photo-ready finish — all lined up in countless shades waiting to be sampled. So where’s a girl to start? Since we know you’re busy and, TBH, there’s no way you could possibly test every single formula out there, we asked a pro makeup artist to break down the eight most important things to consider when picking out your next go-to. Whether you're wondering what your undertone is or what finish is right for you, we've literally got you covered. Go forth and swatch, ladies.
There’s no doubt that when it comes to beauty, we’ve entered the golden age of inclusivity. As brands are (finally) filling in the gaps in their shade ranges, women are finding more and more options to discover their perfect match. Case in point: FENTY BEAUTY BY RIHANNA Pro Filt'r Soft Matte Longwear Foundation, which has a whopping 40 shades (!) in its range. Plus, the long-wear, buildable formula provides a soft-matte finish that won’t budge — even in the rain, thanks to its climate-adaptive tech, making it resistant to sweat and humidity. To find your shade, makeup artist Liz Olivier has the process down to a science: “First, pick three hues you think are closest to your skin tone and dab them between your jawline and neck. Walk around the store to give them a chance to oxidize for a few minutes,” she says. “Then, find natural light near a window; whichever one has disappeared into your skin is your best match.”
You should know that all formulas are not created equal. In fact, the base of your foundation — whether it’s oil or water — actually makes a huge difference depending on your skin type. So let’s break it down, shall we? If you find that your skin is on the drier side and you’re constantly restocking hydration-boosting moisturizers, an oil-based foundation is probably your best bet. “This variety is ideal for people with dry skin, as the oil moisturizes and plumps up the skin while you're wearing it,” says Olivier. On the other hand, if you have normal to oily skin, you might want to opt for something at the other end of the spectrum. “Water-based, oil-free foundations work much better for oily skin types,” Olivier explains, “because they'll prevent caking or extra shine.” Our fave? TARTE Water Foundation Broad Spectrum SPF 15 Rainforest of the Sea™ Collection. It’s formulated with 20% water and antioxidant-rich algae, so it’s super hydrating and reduces the look of fine lines for up to 12 hours. We’ll take it.
We’ve all been there: You swipe on a foundation sample that’s seemingly spot-on, only to find you’ve got a less-than-flattering streak running down your neck. The culprit of this makeup faux pas? Blame it on choosing the incorrect undertone, or the amount of cool or warm tones. To find your perfect match, Olivier recommends doing what she likes to call "the vein test" (strange, we know, but hear us out). First, check out your wrists. If your veins appear blue or purple, you probably fall in the cool range, meaning your skin gives off pink, red, or bluish tones. If your veins skew more green, shoot for warm shades that’ll match the yellow or golden undertones in your skin. A mix of both? You land right in the middle in the neutral category. When choosing a foundation, look for a line like Too Faced Born This Way Foundation that clearly lists out the exact undertone in every shade. This buildable, coconut-water-infused option gives off a natural finish. Plus, the formula is enriched with alpine rose, which brightens skin for a covetable glow.
Some days, we’ve just got to get things done: a breakfast meeting with a client, a full day of work, happy hour with friends, and then if we’re feeling extra ambitious, maybe even an EOD trip to the grocery store. On those days when you need a formula you can rely on to last all day, try one like SEPHORA COLLECTION 10 HR Wear Perfection Foundation that both conceals blemishes and provides you with added skin-care benefits. The liquid, oil-free foundation features hydrating hyaluronic acid and nourishing vitamin E that protects skin from daily stressors. Or, if you’re an athlete or the type to squeeze in a quick cardio sesh, you could even one-up your game with a 24-hour formula.
It’s 2018, and if there’s one absolute truth we can all agree on, it’s this: We should all be wearing sunscreen every. single. day. Aside from shielding you from obvious sun damage, adopting an SPF into your routine also keeps harmful pollution, UVA rays, and UVB rays at bay. That being said, if you know you’re the type to forget to slather it on each morning (don't worry, we've all done it), why not multitask? Reach for a foundation with SPF already built in, like LANCÔME Teint Idole Ultra Long Wear Foundation. Each of the 40 matte shades is transfer-resistant and lasts a crazy 24 hours, so you’re covered all day long — even when you’re relaxing poolside.
Picking out a formula is kind of like online dating: Always go with the one that makes you feel like a million bucks. If you can’t stand the sensation of foundation on your skin, loose powder options are practically weightless for normal and oily skin types. Liquid formulas, however, are highly blendable and come in a variety of finishes, which means you can buff on as much as you please for seamless coverage. As for the creamier stick option, a little goes a long way, and they’re super easy to travel with for touch-ups on the go. Our fave? Hourglass Vanish Seamless Finish Foundation Stick, a full-coverage formula that comes in a sleek triangular bullet for precise application — even on shaky subway commutes. Added bonus: It’s waterproof for an extra boost of sweat-stopping power post Bikram.
When it comes to the finish of your foundation, it helps to think about the rest of your vanity and the other products you use on the reg. Super-matte and semi-matte formulas, which leave no shine whatsoever, play well with most other textures: powder bronzers, sparkly shadows, you name it. Make Up For Ever Ultra HD Invisible Cover Foundation is a matte liquid that gives off a flawless finish — even on camera. If you’re looking for something with a touch of sheen, shoot for a silky finish that blends effortlessly with gel blushes and creamy concealers. Finally, for you dewy-skin-lovers, choose an option with a radiant finish that’ll perfectly complement glossy highlighters and pearlescent or holographic hues.
Think of foundation’s coverage as the autocorrect of the makeup world: It evens tone, hides pesky blemishes, and creates a flawless base for the rest of your makeup routine — but only as much as you want it to. If you want to rock a natural look, pick a light-coverage BB cream that lets your natural skin shine while adding a hint of tint. For those who want a bit more versatility on certain days, shoot for a buildable option: “Buildable formulas are usually water based or contain silicones, so you’re able to build up to your desired coverage level,” says Olivier. However, if you know you’ll always want full-coverage, opt for something thicker and call in the workhorses. We’re partial to the MVP of stay-put performers: Kat Von D Lock-It Foundation. The formula features a waterproof, matte coverage that’s so good it can even cover up tattoos. Oh, and did we mention it’s vegan? Yeah, that too.