Foundation Guide to Buying & Matching (this is a long ‘un)

Everybody has very different experiences with foundation or, as many like to call it, base. (Base to me means primer. Check out the Optimus Primer Post here)  I’ve heard a range from “foundation is only for old women” to “give me the fullest coverage and I’m good to go” but truth is, foundation isn’t that much of a scary task nor is it only for certain skins. There is now a range of formulas, textures and moisture content that will help get your desired result of  flawless skin. Even if you have perfect skin (cough cough, Jess, cough) there is something out there that will help enhance certain characteristics of your skin.

When buying foundation/tinted moisturiser or BB cream (for the rest of this post I’ll keep it at foundation but the same principles applies for BB cream and tinted moisturiser too) there are a few tips and tricks we’ve stumbled upon to make the process a little less scary.


Before entering a store:

  1. Know your skin: is it more dry/oily? Do you get breakouts or acne prone skin? Does it stay this way constantly throughout the month? Is it just looking a little dull? What undertone is your skin? Pink, yellow, or maybe even grey? This will help you determine which level of moisture you need. Remember, the assistant in the store doesn’t have your skin, so they don’t necessarily know what’s going to be the best fit.
  2. Find out about the different finishes: matte, satin, glowy, sheer, medium coverage, high coverage. All of these words help you figure out the product, so do some research on brands you’re interested in trying out, see what they have to offer and what will fit your budget. Matte foundations generally cling to dry patches of skin and sheer foundation helps even out skin tone but doesn’t provide much coverage. Also, don’t knock lower-end brands as they can actually be amazing for everyday wear. I really like Almay, Revlon, NYX and Bourjois because they have a great colour selection for a variety of skins.
  3. Consider application techniques: will you be using a blender, fingers or a brush? These factors help determine what’s easiest for your lifestyle.
  4. Talk to everyone you know: It’s important to research something if you’re wary of it. Speak to friends and family to see what they use and how they feel about it as a bit of a guide, but remember that everyone has different skin. I have both loved and hated certain products because my skin goes through so many phases.

Entering the store:

  1. So now that you’ve worked out what you’re looking for it makes the whole process much easier. Don’t be scared here. Take your time and look for colours that might work and swatch it on your inner forearm as this is the closest to your face colour. This also terrific for testing the consistency of the foundation to see if it has the coverage you want and the finish you’re looking for too. Try to take someone who is very honest about colour with you, who will tell you if it looks too much like an Oompa Looma or major Base Face (cakey).
  2.  Matching: Something to remember when choosing a colour is that your face is always lighter than your body. I’ve read suggestions of matching the colour to your chest and, although you should always blend in your neck when applying foundation, I personally prefer my foundation to match my skin and neck perfectly since I don’t tan or self-tan my body much anymore.
  3. Ask for help: Once you have a few colours in mind that might work, allow one of the lovely and helpful assistants to give you their suggestions on a colour match and a possible formula you might not have seen.  Test this on your jaw line. Tell them exactly what you’re looking for because they know what products are in their care.
  4. TAKE MINI SAMPLE CONTAINERS WITH YOU! I usually use an old contact lens case because you can (nicely) ask for a tiny sample to test at home using the same application method you would use on a day-to-day basis. I know I look amazing when I’ve been matched in-store and it’s been applied with fancy brushes I don’t own, with a primer and set with powder I’d never use; only to go outside and see the colour is off in natural light and that I can’t afford (both in price and time) to go through the full steps every morning. Fluorescent lighting tends to lie. Try not to be cheeky when getting a sample, as you generally only need a pea-sized amount to apply to your whole face. Trials are great but you’re not there to get enough to last you for 2 months.
  5. Take it for a test ride: Once at home, do your make-up the way you normally would using your sample. Then go stand outside with a mirror. Does it look pristine or is it not quite the right match? If this is the one, you can now go and purchase your desired foundation.

So there we have it. A few tricks to guide you in buying foundation. Many ladies feel like it’s wrong if they can’t see any colour on their skin when they apply their foundation/BB Cream/Tinted Moisturizer but you’re not meant to. Foundation is there to keep your skin looking vibrant and even and not orange, pasty or like a granny. These days, foundation isn’t near the old pancake our grandmothers used to use that was close to stage make-up. Make-up is truly about enhancing what you already have and not changing it.

Here are some of our favourite pics, we’ve all leaned toward a certain brand but we certainly have others…



After trying just about every foundation brand in Clicks, I recently decided to invest in MAC’s Mineralize Moisture Foundation in NC15. I think this is the best match I’ve ever found for my skin tone, and I love that the glass bottle keeps it from oxidising (turning orange). The texture is lightweight, giving sheer coverage that can be built up if needed. It also contains light-reflecting pigments that apparently diffuse fine lines,etc. I bought mine for about R350 from the MAC store in Cavendish. I should also add that I’ve had it for 3 months, wear foundation almost every day, and have yet to make a visible dent in it. It may be pricey, but it lasts!

By the way: one of the MAC make-up artists recommended this formula for me after asking me questions and trying a couple of different options on my face. I was quite impressed that the Foundation Finder on the MAC site ended up recommending the same formula and shade after I answered a few simple questions. So if you’re clueless about foundation, that could be a good place to start.



So I like to use MAC’s Studio Fix Fluid liquid foundation in two different shades, one for summer and one for winter. The lighter shade is NC15 (Neutral/Cool 15) that I use in winter and in summer I can go up to C3.5 (Cool 3.5). I have cooler undertones meaning that my skin tone is more on the pink side than on the yellow. I like this foundation as it can be built up to full coverage so that it can cover my freckles when I don’t want them showing. I often blend the colours together to match whatever tone I feel I’m needing at the time. They retail at around R300 each.




Since we all accidentally chose MAC Foundations, I’m going to talk about my current top winter foundation; MAC Face and Body (about R350). Because my skin likes playing games with me, in Winter I need something that can be easily worked in without clinging to my dry patches and making me look cakey. I use the shade C4 which gives me a nice glow. I do like the foundation a lot but I wouldn’t say it’s a must-have unless you’re going out at night. It doesn’t contain an SPF so if you’re taking lots of photos you wont get that nasty flashback face. I’m still on the quest for the Holy Grail foundation, since most of them don’t last very long on my skin. In the meantime though, aside from the staying power, this does the trick for me.





  1. “I’m still on the quest for the Holy Grail foundation, since most of them don’t last very long on my skin”

    – Estee Lauder Double Wear Light. It has staying power like no other. I’ve been loyal to it for years. Bought a Mac foundation the other day and it is horrible. Absolutely hating it but for R350 I’m not about to let it go to waste. My heart belongs to Estee Lauder. Oh, and they give sample bottles which last me two weeks.

    1. Oh wow! That’s amazing. I’ll definitely check it out. I’ve heard mixed reviews of the Double Wear becoming cakey but I didn’t realise there was a light version. Added to list. :)

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