8 April, 2019

A Makeup Artist’s Guide To Picking The Perfect Foundation

8 April, 2019

Makeup artist Krystina Te Kanawa shares her top tips on how to choose the best foundation, based on your tone, texture and colouring!

Foundation is something that can help us to feel more radiant, fresh and confident. But 65% of all new clients I meet say they feel uncomfortable using foundation. That’s because they are unsure if the colour suits them, or worry that it’s too cakey, too orange, too dry, too pale… the list goes on.

Working in the industry, I see these problems daily and know what a minefield picking products can be. The number one problem is that the foundation is too light. Even my own twin sister, who lives four storeys above me, was sold a foundation too light for her. She did receive a bit of a telling off from me, but in her defence the foundation she usually wears was entirely out of stock in Hong Kong (which can be a common occurrence) so she bought what was recommended. Thankfully I sorted her out with a more suitable alternative until her usual colour was available again, but that was $340 wasted for her.

This post will give you the knowledge and confidence to buy your perfect product. I’ll break it down by skin type, so you can decide what type of foundation is right for you, before we talk about choosing the right shade. It’s worth noting that if you only wear makeup occasionally and have no desire to get into a regular foundation routine, I suggest investing in a tinted moisturiser or a BB cream for much lighter, barely-there coverage.

Read more: What Products Lie In Team Sassy’s Makeup Bags

Choose your skin type to understand your foundation needs  

beauty best foundation oily skin

Skin type: Oily, very oily or acne prone
General amount of time your makeup will stay on due to skin type: Stays on until midday (just), but will need touching up (and some powder) during the day
Best foundation base to choose: Stick or liquid
Formulation and coverage: Long lasting, medium to full coverage
Foundation finish: Matte or velvet
Product recommendations: Clinique Anti-Blemish Solutions Liquid Makeup, Estee Lauder Double Wear, Makeup Forever Mat Velvet Foundation

beauty best foundation normal skin

Skin type: Normal
General amount of time your makeup will stay on due to skin type: Lasts the entire day (eight hours), generally no need to touch up unless you’re going out and want to freshen up your face
Best foundation base to choose: Liquid
Formulation and coverage: Lightweight, light to medium coverage
Foundation finish: Dewy glow, velvet, natural sheen
Product recommendations: Charlotte Tilbury Light Wonder, Chanel Vitalumiere Aqua, MAC Studio Face and Body, Armani Luminous Silk Foundation, Jane Iredale Pure Pressed Base Mineral Foundation

beauty best foundation combination skin

Skin type: Combination (oily and dry)
General amount of time your makeup will stay on due to skin type: Generally lasts around six hours, but will need touching up and some powder
Best foundation base to choose: Liquid
Formulation and coverage: Long lasting, medium to full coverage
Foundation finish: Matte, velvet
Product recommendations: Charlotte Tilbury Light Wonder, Estee Lauder Double Wear Light, MAC Studio Fix, Jane Iredale Pure Pressed Base Mineral Foundation

beauty best foundation dry skin

Skin type: Dry, very dry, sensitive or scarred
General amount of time your makeup will stay on due to skin type: Six hours plus (varies depending how dry or sensitive your skin is), possible touch ups will be needed with extra coverage on problem spots
Best foundation base to choose: Liquid, stick or balms
Formulation and coverage: Light coverage, but can be built up to a medium coverage if desired
Foundation finish: Dewy, natural sheen, flawless satin
Product recommendations: Chanel Vitalumiere, Bobbi Brown Tinted Moisturising Balm, MAC Studio Face and Body

Read more: Everything You Want To Know About Cica Balms

beauty best foundations krystina te kanawa

Know your undertone

This will help to determine your foundation colour range. Look at your veins on the inside of your wrist to match up with the options below.


  • Green veins
  • Hints of yellow or gold undertones in your skin
  • Will suit warm toned foundations (W or NW)


  • Blue and green veins
  • Mixture of all colours
  • Can suit either a cool or warm based foundation (I prefer N or NC, rather than NW)


  • Blue veins
  • Hints of blue, pink or red in your skin’s undertones
  • Will suit cooler based foundations (C)

If possible, give yourself plenty of time to shop for your new foundation and be in the right head space. It’s well worth taking the time to get it right.

Read more: Try The Trend: Dry Sheet Facial Masks

beauty best foundation choosing right shade

Foundation testing

Now that you have decided which category suits your skin type best, follow the steps below to learn how to test for the correct foundation colour.

  • At the counter ask or choose three different shades of foundation that you think are closest to your skin colour and your undertone – warm or cool
  • Apply and blend the samples onto the back of your cheek and jaw with all three colours next to each other (don’t use the back of your hand to test, you need to match the shade on your face itself)
  • You will know it’s the correct colour if you can’t really see it (if it appears too dark or light, avoid!)
  • If you have the time, let it sit for 5 to 10 minutes to see what the foundation does on your skin (if it turns orange, sits on top of your skin and appears cakey, or looks dull and drying, don’t even think about buying it)

The perfect foundation will match your skin tone and should look translucent on your skin (that means you can see your skin underneath, without it looking heavy or a different colour). A foundation that enhances, brightens and doesn’t mask, is ideal. Once you’re confident you have the right colour, you’re good to go. Please don’t be persuaded to go for a colour lighter than your actual face, it’s just wrong – full stop.

This process may seem like a lot of effort, but believe me, when you find the correct foundation it’s worth the extra time you put in and money you save, by getting it right from the start. Foundation is there to make you look and feel great. If you can nail your base application, that alone is worth its weight in gold. I always encourage my clients to perfect their foundation first – if that’s all you have time for in the morning, you can walk out the door with skin that looks alive and flawless, ready to conquer the day!

Featured image artwork by Sassy Media Group with images courtesy of Bobbi Brown via Instagram and Clinique via Instagram (other photos courtesy of respective brand websites), artwork for images 1 to 4 by Sassy Media Group (photos courtesy of respective brand websites), image 5 courtesy of Krystina te Kanawa via Instagram, image 6 courtesy of Getty



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