While buying makeup is certainly a fun experience—since you get to swipe on colors and try out a different colored pout—one product in particular can be a little complicated. I’m talking about foundation. With other products, choosing shades is whimsical and all about your personal preference (hellooo, electric blue eyeshadows and fuchsia lips). Foundations, on the other hand? They require precision in order to match your skin.
That may be fine and dandy when you’re shopping at a Sephora or department store thanks to open sampling where you can swatch to your heart’s content—but if you’re on the hunt for a foundation at a drugstore and aren’t able to swatch, what gives? This doesn’t mean you have to forgo the more wallet-friendly options, though—one makeup artist says it’s totally possible to still find your perfect foundation match at the drugstore. The magic’s all in the lighting.
“Don’t rely on the photo swatches by the foundation,” says Molly R. Stern, a celebrity makeup artist that works with everyone from Emilia Clarke to Reese Witherspoon, since printers can skew the exact hue and those pieces of paper can fade over time. “Use the inside color of your wrist or arm as your guide and take the shades you are considering close to the door for more natural light as you hold them up to your arm. This way, you’ll have a pretty good chance of choosing the right color.”
The fluorescent hues that most drugstores (and TBH public places in general) have skew the color of your skin and the foundation, making it more tricky to get a perfect match. However, natural lighting will give you a more honest assessment of whether a foundation shade will work for you.
Another pro tip? Buy a couple. “Maybe get two shades that are close,” recommends Stern. You can mix them together to help cocktail your perfect hue (while still keeping it relatively budget friendly). This is particularly true in the transitional seasons like fall (ahem) when the skin tends to get lighter as summer’s glow starts to fade.
And there you have it: Two genius hacks for navigating that no-swatching territory like a pro.
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