Tips on Choosing the Right Foundation

A little disclaimer; I am not a Makeup Artist, nah not even close so these are just my personal tips I apply when I am looking to buy a new foundation. I do a lot of research before I dive in because buying the wrong foundation, especially if expensive, is very distressing. Here in the UK, you can't return Drug Store Foundation but I have returned some high end ones like Estee Lauder and Clinique but it's not something the do very often so basically you need to be sure you want a foundation and you have done ample research to inform your final decision (Oh that sounds like something I would write/say at work!! lol). Anyways, I hope you find these tips helpful...

1. Always test in natural light: We have all heard this one but I thought it would be useful to address this. The lighting in many beauty stores are very bright or illuminating and some are even yellow which means the way the foundation looks when tested in store on your skin may differ from how it would look in natural day light.

2. Trust your instinct: It can be very hard not to feel pressured to buy a foundation especially when it appears the sales lady has wasted spent so much time trying to sell you a product while offering you some good deals and discounts. If your gut tells you it’s not right for you, step away and say you will walk around and make up your mind soon. Don’t be pressured!!

3. Ask for a sample: I always do this when I really want to test how this foundation looks against my skin in the comfort of my room and in natural day light. It’s very tricky asking for samples to try but I find that many sales ladies are happy to give you something to try provided you approach them like a potential buyer. If you went to a counter and requested for a sample straight off the hook, they may give you but very reluctantly. Instead, ask some questions about the product and show genuine interest and seek their opinion, that way, you are most likely to get a nice sample and a little extras.

4. Go with a friend: This is always a fail safe way to ensure you get the best opinion on the tested foundation provided you can trust your friend’s judgement and opinion. I prefer to go with my sister because I absolutely trust her opinion and she knows me and my skin really well and we have sister codes on good and nasty products which we use all the time without having to speak and upset any sales lady!!

5. Test on skin nearest to your face: Pretty straightforward you’d think? But no! A lot of people test foundations on the back of their hands (I only do this for swatches for the blog though!) and wonder why it does not match their skin on the face. This is because the skin on many people’s hands is not the same tone as their face due to a number of reasons. The complexion of my hands are very different to my face so I always try to test on my jaw or on my cheek because that’s the closest to my face. The jaw line is a good place to test because it is also nearer to the neck and it’s always good to ensure your neck matches to your face if you are wearing foundation.

6. Packaging: This is all down to preference but I have ignored many good foundations all because they had no pumps. I prefer foundations with a pump because it is less messy for me and easier to apply and less chances of cross contamination. This list is endless. While some pump-less foundations have pumps which you can buy on their own like MAC and NARS, others like Rimmel and some Revlon have no pumps. The actual packaging materials like glass or plastic bottles don’t bother me in the least. Plastic packaging are less glamorous except some Chanel Foundations which still manages to look glam even in plastic bottles but they are easier to travel with while Glass packaging are luxurious but they are could be quite heavy and difficult to travel with.

7. Finish: I think the preferred finish depends on what your skin type is; what look you are going for and weather conditions. Seriously, it all depends on preference. For me, I have combination-oily skin which tends to be normal during winter. I prefer foundations with a matte finish most of the time because I find that they last a little longer especially when paired with a good primer and this is the best for me especially when it’s Summer and Spring. For winter, I prefer the dewy look so I like foundations with that luminous, dewy finish like the YSL Touche Eclat Foundation. It’s amazing!! Most people I know with dry skin, prefer dewy finish foundations like Chanel Vitalumiere because it does not cling to dry patches and keeps their moisture level in tip top shape.

8. Coverage: Coverage also depends on preference and how flawless your skin is or not. A lot of people go for full coverage on a daily basis when they can make do with a light-medium coverage and conceal any blemishes they may have. Personally, I have quite a few blemishes which are significantly darker than my normal skin. I use a good concealer like MAC Studio Finish to conceal and then use a light-medium coverage foundation like Bobbi Brown Skin Foundation or Kuddy Cosmetics Foundation. For summer/Spring, I have developed a preference to light coverage foundations and even BB creams although not many BB creams have been amazing on me (*gasps*). It does not mean my blemishes have disappeared but I think my skin feels much better with light-medium coverage foundation that is buildable. Full coverage is good when you are going for an event and want your skin to look perfect, flawless and last all night (or day).

9. Lasting Power: This is very much related to coverage because I find that most full coverage foundations last longer than light-medium coverage. I may be wrong but that’s what I have experienced especially without a primer. If you wear foundation every day, an average wear time of 6 hours or so is fine. If you go for events a lot, you may choose a foundation with a long lasting power. It honestly depends on your preference. Sometimes, I just want my foundation to last all day even when I am at work because I have a series of meetings I am dashing off to and I have no time to touch up in between.

10. SPF or no SPF: It depends on what time of the day you are wearing foundation and what occasion. SPF in foundation is good as it adds that protection although the SPF may be quite minimal in content. During the day, foundation with SPF is quite good especially if you don't normally use SPF. If you choose to wear foundation in the evening for an event, SPF may not be necessary. Also, if you are going to take pictures, be aware that SPF in foundation may leave a white cast when photographs are taken..SPF has a flirtatious relationship with camera flash and cameras in general..

11. Matching Foundation to your skin not your blemishes: This is related to the first point at the top but I thought I should address this separately because it’s a mistake I have made often. I have more than a few dark blemishes/hyper pigmentation on my skin which are significantly darker than my normal skin. In the past, I always chose any foundation that covered them really well or at least concealed them which consequently led to choosing darker foundations which looked nowhere like my normal skin. It is common sense not to make this mistake but I hated using concealer and wanted a foundation that did everything hence this oversight. To be honest, it was not too terrible and it just looked like I had a nice tan (hahaha, that’s what I told myself). One day, I went to a makeup consultation in Bobbi Brown and I told the lady I was a shade Warm Almond 6.5 and she was surprised and said she is pretty sure that’s way too dark for me and tested it against Golden 6.0 and for the first time, I saw the difference. It was a revelation and she went on to educate me on concealing this blemishes effectively. For Pete’s sake, my concealer was even too dark. Long story cut short, she showed me how to use my correct shade to conceal and apply my foundation and I have not looked back since then. In fact, it inspired me to write this post. I hope you have enjoyed these little tips and if you have any more, let me know in the comment box. See you in my next post..x


  1. If I had read this two years ago, it would've saved me the trouble of going through so many different foundation. Great post Liv, I enjoyed reading it! Number 11 was a big problem, something I always did (matching to my pigmented skin instead of my actual skin tone, I have some lighter skin patches on my cheekbones, plus my neck is darker than my face and my chest is even lighter than my face - finding my right shade is such a quest) haha

    1. I am really pleased you found this post useful. I suffer from hyper pigmentation due to Acne scars and it's a real pain in the butt especially with matching your foundation but I think I am much better now...:-))

  2. I wish I read this earlier, I bought the Revlon Colour stay foundation on Sunday and the sales lady tested cappucino. Sadly, beauty shops in Nigeria tend to not have samples. It looked fine in the building but once I came out I realised it was too dark. sighhh. Could you possibly do a post weighing the pros and cons of your various foundations, especially the Mary Kay one.
    Thank you :)

    1. Hi Tuke, thanks for your lovely comment and welcome to my blog!! I understand how you feel about buying the wrong foundation and I know how annoying it is that you can't test a sample in Nigeria. It's almost the same in drug stores here in the UK but they have small samples which sometimes get missing because people just pinch them...anyway buying the right foundation is an absolute must and I am happy you found this post helpful. I am definitely going to do a post as you have suggested and my Mary Kay foundation is actually one of my favourite ones so maybe a review would be up soon...x


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