This is the best way to find your perfect foundation shade if you can’t get to the shops

I don’t know about you, but I haven’t been to an actual makeup counter in yooooooooonks. I’ve forgotten what the inside of Boots looks like (!!!). I’m now very familiar with its online aisles instead.

Recent happenings have really thrown a curveball in the way we shop for makeup. Is it truly possible to match our very specific skin tone to a foundation we’ve not been able to study in real life? Hmmm.

But, while we’ve been ditching IRL shopping for online solutions, I’ve been doing some digging of my own. I even roped in our audience growth exec, Adele, who’s been on the hunt for a new foundation ever since her beloved MAC Pro Longwear original formula foundation was discontinued, to see if digital algorithms and online quizzes can really match up to the tough old job of skin matching. There’s been some iffy moments…

Let me tell you what I’ve learnt. Firstly there seems to be a disparity between the shade we think we are and the shade we actually are. In my case, words like “fair”, “light”, “medium” and “tan” really throw me off because whilst I’d like to think I’m a bronzed goddess, with a sultry warm undertone (I justify this with the fact that I can tan when I see a lot of sunshine), the fact of the matter is, we’re in the UK and there’s not a lot of tanning opportunities to be had. Hence, “light” it is.

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My advice would be to choose the shade you really are at the time of ordering your foundation, rather than the shade you could be if you spent two weeks basting on a beach in Ibiza (#cancelled). Get your base right and let your bronzer do the job of warming up your complexion if you need – that way, no tidelines.

The second thing to note is that sheer and lightweight textures give you a lot more wriggle room than anything full coverage, which means they’re much harder to screw up. Tinted moisturisers are your best bet if you really don’t know where to start.

As for online tools and quizzes, I searched them all, but only two came out victorious.

Disclaimer, this quiz is a bit of a “you scratch our back, we’ll scratch yours” situation. Considering there’s only one foundation option currently (the Woke Up Like This foundation), there’s lots of superfluous questions around your skin type, favoured finish, method of application and age, plus you have to enter your email address at the end to get your results. That right there is data collection and market research. Though I’m assuming they’re gathering information to make sure future foundations properly fit the needs of their customers.

As for finding your shade, they do ask you to identify your skin tone, but instead of “light”, “medium” and “dark” there’s seven tones to choose from which makes it much easier to identify one that fits you. The quiz then asks you to narrow down your exact shade three more times to make it more specific. You select your undertone (there’s advice to help you identify it accurately) and answer a few more questions about how regularly you use your foundation, what your main concerns are and which brand you’re currently using. It takes less than five minutes. At the end, you’ll be given your shade recommendation. I was #60 and when it arrived it was a perfect match. Wild. Adele tried the quiz too and was equally impressed. “Initially, when I looked at my shade (#150) it seemed much more of a peach brown than my MAC NC45, but when applied and set, it’s near identical,” she told me.

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The most universal foundation finder I’ve found (by far), is Findation. It’s an independent search engine that’s not tied to any single brand. If you already have a shade and formula that you know matches you perfectly, you can plug it into the search bar and it will comb through its comprehensive database of thousands of shades and hundreds of brands to produce dozens of alternative matches for you.

I asked Adele to complete the Fenty Foundation quiz to see how it would compare with Findation. “350, as recommended by the Fenty online quiz, is a bit too deep and orange but is still quite a good match and will come in handy as the weather heats up and I have more of a tan,” she says. 370, the shade recommended by Findation when I inputed MAC’s NC45 Pro Longwear foundation fit perfectly. “It’s great on me! I would say so far that both the finish of the formula and colour of Fenty’s Pro Filt’r Soft Matte Longwear Foundation are the best I’ve found,” she says.

As for me, I searched my newly matched #60 Il Makiage foundation in the database and was presented with dozens of matches (such as Charlotte Tilbury’s Magic Away Liquid Concealer in Shade 4 and BareMinerals Complexion Rescue Hydrating Foundation Stick in Bamboo 5.5), many of which I already own and love.

In fact, both algorithms did a better job of choosing a proper match for me than I could on my own. And, this way, I didn’t end up covered in foundation swatches. I did it all from my sofa.

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