How to choose the right foundation shade when the colour of your face and body don't match

The how-tos of foundation shade selection don’t always suit everyone. Here’s what to do when your face is significantly lighter than the rest of your body

How to choose the right foundation shade when the colour of your face and body don't match

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You might know that one of the worst ways to try a foundation is on your hand or wrist, but do you know the rationale behind that little chestnut? Well, the back of your hand tends to get the most sun exposure and isn’t always accurate, while the inside of your wrist would be much too light.

Instead, conventional wisdom holds that foundation should be tested along the side of your jaw, using the three shades that seem closest to your skin. The one that blends in the most seamlessly along your jaw would be your match.

That said, there are some of us who have much lighter faces than bodies, whether it’s due to enthusiastic exfoliating or only being diligent about sunscreen on your face. In those cases, matching your foundation to your face will still leave your face looking a lot lighter than your body.

The goal with foundation is to make everything look seamless, so you’re going to want to match your face to your body. I’ve read some articles that mention matching it to your neck, but I tend to find that isn’t always the easiest to discern. When you’re in a brightly lit store, your neck is often shaded by your face because the lights are casting a shadow downwards, which makes it hard to tell which shade works. Also, foundation can be blended down your neck, which means that the colour of your chest and shoulders is the colour you want to get the closest to.

What I do is take the three closest shades and swipe them across the middle of my chest, about two inches beneath my collarbones. The light hits this spot easily, and you’ll have a better idea of the shade match. You can always ask a friend to take a look and help you judge if you’re still unsure. It’s also entirely possible that a foundation could oxidise on your skin and get darker over time. What I do is leave the three blended shades on myself and go about my errands, before heading back to the store for a final look in an hour or so.

Of course, if you’re shopping at a store like Sephora or Mac Cosmetics or beauty counters in department stores, you have access to trained professionals who can help you choose the perfect shade of foundation. Don’t be afraid to ask!


For a look at our favourite longwear foundations, head here and here. Also check out the Her World and herworldPLUS teams' favourite foundations of all time!