How to find your perfect foundation

A friend of mine recently asked me how I find foundations. She said she’d spend a lot of money on expensive foundations, not like them and then feel like she’d wasted the money. I have a few tips on how to avoid the same fate! None of them are particularly revolutionary, but if you’re a beauty beginner – listen up!

Do your research!

It’s very easy in the heat of the moment to impulse buy a foundation you’ve seen all over social media or heard your friends talking about. But for all that is good, read up on what you’re buying! Every foundation is designed for a different purpose and a different skin type. If you’re unsure of your skin type, think about what your main skin concerns are. If you have acne and get shiny throughout the day, you probably have oily skin. If you suffer from dry patches, then you are dry. If you are only oily/dry in certain areas, but pretty normal in others, then you have combination. If your skin is easy triggered by lotions and potions, then your skin is sensitive. And if you are really lucky, you have normal skin (aka no real issues at the moment). You need to get a foundation that addresses your skin concerns. Foundations formulated for oily skin will typically be more matte in finish (no shine) and drier in formula, so when the natural oils in your skin start to come through, you don’t look like an oily mess. Foundations for drier skin types are the complete opposite – they are moisturising and leave the skin hydrated with no dry patches poking through. Watch some reviews on YouTube, read some blog posts and google swatches to try and work out whether this will work for your skin or whether it sounds like something you’d be interested in! By all means ask your friends what they’re using, but be sure to ask what skin type they have before blindly buying their favourite too.


With your skin type in mind, think what kind of finish you want. If you have oily skin, you won’t want a dewy finish (glowy) and if you have dry skin, you won’t want a matte finish (no shine). Don’t waste your money by buying the wrong finish for your taste and skin type.


There are three main types of coverage:

Light/sheer coverage – ‘your skin but better’ aka the most natural coverage. When a foundation doesn’t change the overall appearance of your skin too much, maybe just to even out your skin tone a little and neutralise redness.

Medium coverage – the next step up. Covers your skin issues mainly, but without completely covering your natural skin

Full coverage – the highest coverage. Will completely cover any problems you have, but can leave you looking a bit overdone if not applied well.

If you have amazing skin and don’t need to worry too much about covering up blemishes or hyper pigmentation, then you could opt for a light/sheer coverage. You have beautiful skin, you don’t need to cake full coverage on. If you are suffering from acne, you will probably want to opt for a medium-full coverage foundation to create a blank canvas. If a foundation is ‘buildable’, this means that it starts as either light or medium coverage, but by applying more product they can be built up to a medium or full coverage. These are probably the most versatile types of foundations because you can use it for two different types of coverage. Ultimately the coverage you like is completely down to personal preference and what you think suits your skin best.

Get samples

Do yourself a favour and get a sample of any foundation that you’re interested in purchasing. I do not buy a foundation if I haven’t tried it on my skin first. Quite frankly, if I’m going to spend £30+, I want to know that it’s going to a) suit my skin b) be my correct shade c) last all day d) work will with the other products in my makeup routine. Most beauty counters will happily colour match you (find your shade) and give you a sample. There is no shame in asking for this. Some companies are a bit funny about giving out samples (Nars) but in my experience most are happy to help you out. The sample size usually lasts about a week depending how much you use of course.

Colour matching

If you are trying to work out your shade by yourself, do NOT try and colour match your foundation by swiping it on your hand. Your body and your face are two totally different colours. The way brands will colour match you is by removing some of your foundation on your jaw and testing three shades on you. One will be your colour but they want to show you all the options. Usually one is too warm (too yellow/gold) for your skin and the other is too cool (too pink/red). If you’re unsure of your shade, go to a counter and ask to be shade matched and that takes the guess work out of it. They will always ask which you think best, rather than pushing a shade that might not be yours down your throat. If you’re looking at ‘drugstore’ foundations or online brands, unfortunately you’re just going to have to guess. If you’re in a ‘drugstore’ (we don’t have a word for this in the UK so we’ll just use the American one) you can try and colour match yourself using the technique mentioned above but it may be more difficult. Getting colour matched by a sales assistant and getting samples are the two ways to avoid purchasing the wrong shade.

What about this ‘primer’?

If you’ve never heard of primer, allow me to introduce you. A primer is something you apply before all your other products to prepare the skin for foundation and to make it last longer. The idea is that it helps to make it wear better (i.e. so it doesn’t wear off so quickly). The primer you use will also depend massively on, you guessed it, your skin type. If you struggle to keep oils at bay, then a mattifying primer is going to be your best friend! Drier skin types may prefer hydrating primers. There are also primers to blur the skin, hide pores, colour correct and to brighten the skin.

Colour correcting

If you suffer from acne, hyper pigmentation, dark circles or any other discolouration you may like to try colour correcting. Lots of people I’ve spoken to seem to find it a little daunting, but I used to do it every single day when I had bad acne so allow me to explain. Some areas of the skin that are particularly discoloured can still remain discoloured when you apply foundation and need a little extra help to be neutralised. For example, if you have some angry, red spots, they will still poke through slightly and your base won’t look even. Adding extra foundation to cover it will just make your base look cakey and more orange, which we don’t want! To colour correct, all you need to do is know which colour to apply to what area of the face and apply it sparingly. If you want to neutralise red, apply green; to cover dark circles use a peach colour if you’re light and a darker orange/red if you are darker. You can use purple and yellow too, though I’ve never seen anyone use them anywhere and have never understood what they’re for. Do NOT apply these heavily to the face because you may find that you can’t cover it and look like Shrek – I had this exact problem when using the LA Girl green colour corrector and had to start my entire base again. Colour correcting saves product, but more than that it’s about being clever and knowing your skin and how to get the most out of your base.

Brush, sponge or fingers?

How you apply your foundation will majorly impact the coverage you get. I find that using a brush gives you the most full coverage, while using a sponge gives you a lighter coverage in comparison. I personally would never use my fingers to apply my foundation because I’m lazy and don’t want to have dirty hands and have to get up and clean them. I tend to switch between using a beauty sponge and a brush but generally prefer the feeling of a sponge. I find that it can make foundation look more blended and even, whereas a brush can sometimes leave streaks and can give so much coverage that it looks too much. It’s just a matter of practise.

Hopefully this has given you all the info you need to know on how to find your perfect foundation, but if there is anything I have missed, please feel free to leave a comment or send me a message on Instagram!


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25 year old Beauty Writer Instagram - @smalltownbeautyaddict

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