Finding a new "Holy Grail" foundation = hard work. It isn't so much the formula or the coverage that makes it tough, it's finding my perfect shade. After numerous online and in-store purchases, returns, and exchanges, I think I've mastered the art of shade-matching, and thought I'd share some tips so that hopefully you can have a better experience than I have.
1. Go to the store.
I wish that I could buy new shades of foundation online without seeing it in-person first and have it work out. But the truth is, every time I order a new shade of foundation online without testing it first, it isn't the right color. So whether you do your research in-store and then purchase online, or test AND purchase in-store, definitely plan on getting your ass off the couch at some point.
2. Look at the shades online before you head to the store.
Usually foundation comes in a wide range of shades that have their own unique names and descriptions. Assessing your options online first can help narrow down what shades may flatter your natural skin tone - it can be tricky to tell what colors are warm, cool and neutral in-person. The way the shade is described (ie. tan, light custard, medium sand) online can also point you in the right direction. If you have no idea what shade you may be, a store representative should be able to help you choose. BUT if you go that route, DO NOT skip #4 (below)!!
3. Swatch it up.
Foundation should really be swatched so you can see the color against your skin and how it reacts over time. To test, apply a bit of foundation to a small area of your hand or neck (I prefer to swatch on my hand because it's harder to see my neck). Be sure that you place the product on a surface that doesn't have any other makeup on it.
4. Give the product time to set.
If you're looking at multiple shades of foundation, swatch them all at once. Then, peruse the aisles for 10 minutes or so to give the product time to set. Don't skip this step because the color the foundation is when you first put it on is most likely going to be different than the color it will be in 10 minutes (it will oxidize). Everyone's skin oxidizes differently so there's no way to tell what your final shade will look like - for example, a shade that looked seamless when I first swatched it turned way too orange-y after it set.
After 10 minutes or so have passed, look at your swatches and pick the color closest to your skin tone. Be sure to look in both a darker light and in a bright light. You may find that you need to select a lighter shade than you thought because you oxidize a couple shades darker. Even if you use primer and a setting powder, you're still at risk of oxidization, so don't think you can escape it!
4. Keep the Receipt.
In the past, if I bought a product I didn't like I'd just shove it to the back of the shelf or throw it out. Damn - talk about $$ wasted. The best thing I've done - especially when it comes to pricier products like foundation - is to keep the receipt for my purchase, wear the product a day or two, and then have the option to return it if I don't love it. Foundations in particular can take a couple wears before you see if it's right for you. Swatching is great but it's just a small sample on a small area, vs wearing a full face of makeup and seeing how the foundation wears works with the oil on your nose vs dry patches between your eyebrows.
Here are a few of my current favorite foundations:
Best for Oily/Combination Skin: Peach Perfect Comfort Matte Foundation by Too Faced
Best for Dry/Combination Skin: Natural Radiant Longwear Foundation by Nars
Looks the most Natural: Studio Skin 15 Hour Hydrating Foundation by Smashbox
Most Pigmented: #FauxFilter Foundation by Huda Beauty