Makeup 104.1: Tips For Buying Your First Foundation


You are more than welcome to do your eyeshadow before your base. Hell, most days this is what I do. But in keeping with the list I made we’re going to go over foundation and the best tools to apply each kind. I am not a professional and these are just my opinions and recommendations. One more thing, this post is about understanding the product before you purchase.

Alright so now that you’ve done your brows and applied primer, the next step is foundation. People wear foundation for many reasons including to even out skin tone and covering dark marks. If you’re going to wear foundation this part can seem overwhelming and will take some patience unless you go to a professional for help with it all.

There a few things to know before buying your first one: skin type, shade, undertone, finish, formulation, and desired coverage. Let’s break these terms down a bit.

Skin Type

I mentioned this in my Order of Application post and thought this would be a good place to bring it back up. Knowing your skin type (normal, dry, oily, or combination) is important when picking a foundation because some formulas are made and/or better suited for certain types. Those with dry skin may prefer a liquid with dewy finish. Click here for help with determining your skin type if you don’t know it already.

There are no rules in makeup so if you have dry skin and want a matte finish, have at it. Vice versa for oily skin. It only matters what you prefer on your skin.


The shade of your foundation is imperative in that you want to match it your skin exactly. It may not always be possible to always get an exact match but try to get it as close as you can. There are so many brands out there that have good foundation shade ranges that you no longer have to “make one work” for you. However, there are foundation mixing pigments that you can add if you are absolutely in love with everything else about it and don’t mind making it work (more on that later).

Your foundation shade will fall into one of these categories: fair, light, tan, medium, deep, dark. Click here for more detailed help in figuring out your shade.


This is where it gets a little tricky. Selecting the wrong undertones will throw your whole base off. The shade can be an exact match but if the undertone is off you can either look gray or like an Oompa Loompa (see far right swatch in pic below). And neither of those are good options.

From L to R: undertone is golden, undertone is neutral, undertone is too warm

Your undertone will fall into cool (pink), warm (yellow/golden, NOT orange), neutral, or olive. Click here for more of a breakdown on determining your undertone.


The formulas come in liquid (including serums), powder, and stick. Liquid foundation is the most common and probably the most frustrating one to work with when you’re getting started just because of the seemingly endless options. Powder foundations are another option if you don’t want to try liquid. I find a lot of people opt for this in the summer or when it’s more humid outside since it can wear better in liquid in those conditions. Stick foundation in my opinion is the easiest to apply and the easiest to travel with.


Finishes are matte, radiant (dewy), and natural. Your skin type will be important when deciding on a finish, since most people choose a finish opposite of their skin type. For example, those with oily or combination skin may prefer a matte finish that helps to control the oil that’ll break through during the day. It’s totally okay if you have oily skin and wear a dewy foundation. That’s completely up to you and what you’re comfortable wearing. Try not to get too hung up on this because the finish may change depending on any powder and/or setting spray you use afterward.

From L to R: dewy, matte, natural/radiant

Desired Coverage

Coverage options are full, medium, and light. Full coverage covers ev-er-y-thing. No discoloration will show through, but you have to be careful because the wrong formula can make it look cakey real quick. Medium coverage can usually be sheered out to light or built up to full. That’s where the term “buildable” comes in. If you have some scars that aren’t covered by the first layer you put on, you can apply another layer over it so it covers it completely like full coverage. Tinted moisturizer and BB cream usually fall into the light coverage category, although there are some light coverage foundations out there too.

Okay so let’s put it together.

Here are my skin characteristics and desired foundation criteria:

Skin type: Oily combination

Shade: Deep

Undertone: Neutral

Formulation: Liquid or stick

Finish: Natural

Coverage: Medium

Now it’s your turn. Get a notebook or open the notepad on your phone and write/copy the above lines and fill in the characteristics for yourself. Nothing is set in stone and you can always change it later.

Don’t forget to check out the other Foundation posts:

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