#1 FIGURING OUT YOUR SHADE
First things first, you’ve got to figure out your skin’s undertone. There are various foundation ranges out there that only come in three or four shades, making it near impossible to find your perfect match. But if they have a light enough coverage or adjust to your skin tone, they can still work.
There are three types of undertones, and an easy way to tell yours is by looking at the veins on the inside of your wrist. It’s also important to take a good look at your bare face and neck in natural sunlight.
Warm undertones have generally green looking veins, and you’ll also find gold jewellery more flattering on your skin than silver.
Cool undertones mean your veins appear more bluish through your skin, and you can pull off silver jewellery and cool-toned makeup like greys and blues well.
Neutral undertones are harder to figure out, but generally mean you’ve got veins that look both green and blue.
Once you’ve discovered your undertone, it’s about finding a shade with the right undertone that’s closest to your skin. Brands like Urban Decay, Make Up For Ever, Too Faced, and Mac have foundation ranges that cater to all three undertones.
If your face and neck are about the same shade, you should test the foundation on the side of your jaw below your cheek. I find it best to stripe three of the closest shades side by side, and see which one suits me best. Don’t be afraid to walk around the store or even outside to find some better lighting if you need to.
I like matching my face to my chest, so sometimes i’ll swatch the foundation below my collarbones. It’s difficult to find an affordable foundation line with a wide shade range, so if you aren’t willing to splurge, you might have to get two shades and custom blend it yourself when doing your makeup. I find this method works well for me because I go through periods of time where I’m more tan or fairer and my foundations stop being the right shade.
If in doubt, world famous makeup artist Lisa Eldridge has an incredibly extensive tutorial on how to figure out your shade and undertone.
#2 KNOWING YOUR SKIN TYPE
Whether you have dry, normal, oily or combination skin will play a huge role in determining the best type of foundation for your skin.
If you have dry skin, you’re going to prefer liquid, cream, stick, or hydrating powder foundations.
If you have oily skin, you can still work with liquid foundations but sticking with oil-free formulas is highly recommended. Powders work well, but something that has oil control or mattifying properties will be your best bet.
Combination skin is where it gets a bit more tricky, but I find that using more intensive moisturisers where my skin is dry and an oil control serum on my T-zone as well as a mattifying primer means I can still wear most liquid foundations without mattifying my whole face.
#3 CHOOSING YOUR FINISH
Dewy, matte, satin, and semi-matte, are all common foundation finishes. Of course, the finish you choose is often the one that best suits the look you want, but you also have to take your skin type into consideration.
Avoid dewy foundations if you have oily skin, as they will make you look overly greasy. It’s fine to go for a satin, natural or semi-matte finish when you’re oily, as long as you set the necessary areas of your face with powder.
Full matte is a popular option when you have oily skin, but some people might find it too flat looking. If you’ve got both a dewy and semi-matte foundation on hand, you can always mix them for an in-between finish. I also like applying my matte foundations with a damp sponge so they don’t look too matte or heavy on my skin.