Let’s be frank: foundation matching is a pain in the ass on the same level of paper cuts on the webbing of your hands, folding a fitted sheet, or making French macarons. Some of the difficulty is that depending on where you fall on the skintone spectrum, shades may not even be available or prevalent. Adding to this is making sure you have a reasonable understanding of your actual skin type to know which formulas are appropriate. There’s a lot that goes into a good foundation match, and I’m working on a guide to make it easier for folks.
Part 1 (this post) will be dedicated to determining skin type.
Part 2 will be dedicated to determining undertone.
Part 3 will be how to actually match a foundation.
Part 4 will be how I found my foundations that I use and things to consider when picking a foundation.
With this being said and noted, let’s get right into it.
Knowing your skin type is critical to knowing what kind of formulations work best for your skin. Knowing your skin type is also important to make sure you are treating and caring for it well; your integumentary system (skin) is the largest organ you have and is visible to the eye; you wouldn’t treat your respiratory system poorly, so why wouldn’t you take care of your skin?
There are roughly about 4 skin types with multiple conditions (e.g. someone may have dry skin as the skin type, but reactive or dehydrated as the condition.) I consider it not to be firm and to be on more of a spectrum.
Where I sit on this is on the dry portion of the spectrum, leaning into very dry territory. I was able to determine that I have drier skin in a few ways:
My first hint was that before having a regular skincare routine, whenever I put foundation on, it tended to look flaky and scaly on my skin, and never really quite looked like skin. It would remain sitting on the top and look like it was peeling off. Furthermore, some people may have skin that “glistens,” but mine never really does–it stays relatively flat and without a lot of dimension.
All skin produces oils to some degree, but dry skin types produce significantly less than oilier skins. When it comes to foundation, this is a problem because you want it to meld into your skin so it looks like–well, skin, obviously.
Given that I am most familiar with dry skin types, I’ll start there and move my way towards more oily skin types:
Dry skin is essentially the chronic loss of moisture (namely, oil) within the skin. It can be characterized as having some feelings of “tightness” in the skin (though, as someone with dry skin–I’ve never actually noticed this, so your mileage may vary.) Because of the loss of moisture, it means the skin barrier can be more susceptible to certain conditions and become more reactive/sensitive (such as eczema and infections.) Dryness can also be a condition, but if you have it chronically, it is more a skin type than condition.
Dry skin can be caused by your genetic makeup, climate changes (e.g. shifting into winter; and to compensate, heating and AC), harsh soaps, medications (particularly some contraceptives), and age. Typically, as you get older, the drier your skin will become.
If you were to blot your skin and have minimal oil on the paper, you likely have dry skin. For those of us with this skin type, here are things I’ve come to learn that might be helpful for you:
- Avoid powders! Powders tend to suck up more moisture to adhere better to the skin; when you have dry skin, you need all the moisture you can get.
- A good skincare regimen is really critical, especially if you want to avoid looking flaky.
- For foundation recommendations, stick with liquids and creams. Mineral-based foundations can work for dry skin, but will require substantial preparation.
- Silicones can work for certain dry skinned ladies, but in my experience, I have found them to contribute to dryness and aggravate my skin. I typically avoid silicone-based formulas whenever possible.
- Another ingredient to avoid otherwise include denatured alcohol (tends to dry out the skin further); this does not include fatty alcohols (unless you know your skin reacts poorly, but this is an individual case-by-case issue).
- Occlusives are awesome and are the best at replenishing moisture back into the skin.
- AHAs are your friend! If you have sensitive skin, lactic acid and mandelic acids will be much kinder than glycolic acids, but if your skin can handle it, glycolic acids will also do the trick.
- Drier skin types are more likely to be sensitive, so be wary of products with denatured alcohol and fragrance!
- Water consumption is important and will help get moisture back, but it will not cure it if it is a chronic issue.
I have previously wrote about my skincare routine, for anyone with dry skin and wanting to get an idea for what products to research or look into for themselves.
Normal is the phrase that gets thrown around, but perhaps the better explanation of it is “Balanced.” People with this skin type typically have skin that doesn’t veer too oily or too dry; were it to be a scale, it would rest right in the middle.
Generally, people with this skin type may have conditions, but there’s not a real underlying issue otherwise. Their pores typically tend to be smaller, skin can be radiant, and in short: they generally won the genetic lottery.
That isn’t to say that there aren’t things people with normal skin types should (or shouldn’t) be doing, but given that the balance is there, there’s fewer things to worry about.
- Generally, may need some extra moisturizer but can adjust products to preference
- Despite not needing to treat a certain skin type, sunscreen should still be utilized for skin exposure to the sun to avoid anti-aging if you plan on being outside for extended periods of time.
- Keep track if any problems arise from certain products (and this goes for any skin type.)
- Can generally use any type of foundation successfully; dependent upon preference.
This skin type can be aggravating for those that have it and typically presents with issues of both dryness and oiliness. Most people have it manifest in their T-zone area (oily T-zone, dry face otherwise), but it is dependent on person and can be present anywhere. Pore sizes may be different depending on the area, as well (larger in the oilier areas, but smaller in the drier spots.)
Combination skin can be caused by genetics, climate conditions, and several other factors.
- “Multimasking” might be the trend made for combo skin types; this entails placing masks (or it could be other products) intended for dry skin on your drier areas and masks intended for the oily portion there and rinsing off at once.
- Gels, light-weight creams, or serums are best suited for combination skin types
- Liquid and mineral foundations may work best for combination skin as it can work for the drier and oilier areas; powders may be too much for the drier areas (depending on how dry), but creams may be too emollient for the oilier areas.
Oily skin is usually characterized as having an over-abundance of oils. It is when there is an excess of dihydrotestosterone (DHT) which causes the sebaceous gland to overproduce sebum. It can cause the skin to look like it is glistening when there is excess oil present, and because of the overproduction, also cause pores to appear larger (contrary to popular belief, pores do not open and close.) However, as part of this appearance, when the pore linings thicken, blackheads and white bumps can appear and it can cause blockages, which can contribute to acne flare-ups.
People with this skin type can be more prone to acne, much like those with drier skins can be more prone to reactionary skin conditions.
Oily skin is largely determined by genetics, but can be influenced by medication, diet, climate, and incorrect product use.
- Avoid emollients! This may lead to pore blockage and blemishes.
- BHAs are the exfoliants you are looking for and may help reduce the appearance of pore size.
- Much like dry skin, oily skinned folks may want to avoid certain ingredients like denatured alcohol and other drying ingredients as it may trigger further oil production.
- Liquids, lotions, serums, and light gels are the type of moisturizer formulas you should be looking into.
- The best foundation types for this skin type include liquid and powder formulas; minerals should work too provided they do not contain ingredients that upset your skin.
- Some ingredients that can be helpful (ymmv) for oily skin include clay, honey, green tea, and snail mucin.
Given the length of this post as is, I would be remiss if I didn’t also include a little bit about certain conditions for skin types. As with all of this, it is important to note: for any treatments, consult your primary care provider (PCP) or a dermatologist first.
This skin condition is typical for those with drier skins (but can be present in any skin type). It can be triggered by medication (in my case) that causes the skin to react to the presence of certain ingredients, and can manifest in the form of hives, blemishes, or other means. In my particular case, I know heavy silicone-based formulas tend to aggravate my skin, so I avoid them whenever possible.
This skin condition indicates that the skin is prone to acne responses. This can be very painful and cause self-esteem issues. It can be treated with skincare or may need medical intervention (i.e. medication), but a good dermatologist will be able to diagnose and help with this for those affected.
Dehydrated skin, much like dry skin, exhibits a lot of similar characteristics so it is unsurprising that it can be confusing to determine. Though, the big tell with this condition is that skin can be both oily and dry feeling at the same time, and when this is the case, it is a good indication that the person has dehydrated skin.
This wraps up this section of the guide. For any questions or concerns, or things you’d like to see (or because this is the internet, any complaints), put it in the comments section.
Yours ’til Niagara Falls,