The Foundation Files: Intro and Undertones


As a makeup artist I often get asked about foundation and all that it entails. It scared me for years, and it seems to scare people in very much the same way. I think it’s partly because if you get it wrong, it can be so disastrous. Flashback to the dodgy foundation formulas of years ago and the scary mask-like application that so many people were walking around with. The almost orange tint with the discernable line on the jaw that separated necks from faces. Well no more I say! There is no excuse these days with amazing formulas, great colour ranges and wonderful application techniques.

As a woman the condition and look of my skin is so important to me, and I think most women will agree that if they could have perfect skin they’d feel far more confident. This will be a series of blog posts touching on all the subjects that you need to know about foundation. Everything from finding the right coverage and texture, to the right colour in your own budget.

Women seem to have quite a few misconceptions about the purpose of foundation. It is NOT designed to cover your skin, or to hide imperfections. That’s concealer’s job. In my opinion a great foundation does these things:

  • Evens skin tone
  • Imparts a specific finish, whether you’re after dewy or a slightly more matte base
  • Hydrates skin or controls oil depending on your skin type
  • Allows the natural texture of skin to shine through
  • Creates an even base for the rest of your makeup

Whether you have great skin or acne prone skin there is a foundation out there for you, and none of that caking it on anymore. I’ll deal in the future with specific skin types and dealing with those concerns by matching with the correct foundation.

But first… let’s deal with undertone. Women tend to get extremely confused by the thought that they either have a warm or cool undertone to their skin. Warm undertone skins tend to have a yellow base, and cool undertoned skins tend to lean slightly pink. When it comes to foundation you’ll often find that most cosmetic ranges will offer yellow toned foundations, pink toned foundations and neutral foundations which tend to be a nice mix between the two.

In my experience even if a woman has a cool undertone to her skin (i.e. pink) it looks wrong to put a pink toned foundation on her skin, as our bodies and necks are often different to our faces and lean warmer because of various reasons like sun exposure, skin type etc. Pink toned foundations can often emphasize any redness and rosacea a woman already has, and it just isn’t flattering. So my makeup kit mostly comprises yellow toned and neutral foundations. Slightly more yellow foundations will actually counteract any redness in skin creating a much more even natural base.

The only time I will ever use a pink toned foundation is on someone with a true porcelain complexion, and this really is only in the case of very fair redheads or other porcelain complexions.

When I say yellow I don’t mean jaundiced… so please experiment by trying out different undertoned foundations and looking at them in natural light.

Bobbi Brown has an amazing range of yellow toned foundations for every skin type from a deep ebony to ivory.

Estee Lauder (one of my favourite brands for amazing foundations) offers a huge range of yellow, neutral and pink foundations. Their yellow and neutral ones are amazing, but their pink ones tend to emphasize too much of a red tone in the skin.

Chanel’s foundations are beautiful and all slightly yellow toned although the colour range is slightly limited.

MAC offers foundations in both NC (not cool; their code for warm) and NW (not warm: i.e. cool) I’m a fan of their NCs mostly, especially for dark skin.

For budget makeup Revlon’s Colorstay foundations offer a huge spectrum of tones in two finishes.

Next week I will be dealing with skin types and the best finishes for those skin types. By the end of this series I hope you’ll be able to match, buy and wear the perfect foundation for you.

Send any questions you have to or comment on this post and I’ll answer your questions as best I can.

Happy testing!




5 Responses to “The Foundation Files: Intro and Undertones”

  1. 1 Leah

    OKAY wow. I loved this. I am so happy I read this because I am currently trying to find a foundation that I want and I am choosing between these three: MAC Studio Fix Fluid SPF 15 in NC 20, NARS Sheer Glow Foundation in Fiji (this is my favorite so far, it matches my skin tone great… which I realize after reading this post makes sense since it is the most yellow based of the three) and GUERLAIN Parure Extreme which I’m not sure if I like too much…! YOUR blog is amazing. I love it!

    • So glad you liked it! Sounds like you’ve been looking around for a good foundation, and sounds like you’ve found a great one! I’ve heard great things about that foundation, unfortunately it’s not available here. 😦 Thanks for reading though… xx

  2. My problem has always been that foundations are too dark for me. I found my perfect match in Indie with Meow’s Pampered Puss foundation in Inquisitive Siamese. I love Too Faced’s Amazing Face Liquid Foundation in Vanilla Creme because of the formula and how airbrushed it makes me look, though it’s a tad too dark. MAC is too dark. It’s cool to read that you have mostly neutral! It’s so hard to find good pale neutrals.

  3. 4 Leah

    No way, I was going to ask your opinion, darn! I’m sorry to hear you don’t have that product, I am assuming Europe?

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