If you wear foundation, or any other variation of face makeup, there’s a very good chance you’re wearing the wrong shade. While yes, you can blame everyone who taught you as a teenager that testing on the back of your hand was foolproof (it’s not), there are many more reasons why women have trouble finding their ideal shade.

So how can you tell if you’re falling victim to this makeup faux pas? Makeup artist Derek Selby, Cover FX Global Ambassador, explained that if your makeup turns your skin chalky or muddy, you’ve got the wrong shade. “If you put it on and it looks kind of chalky, it’s too light,” he said. “If a color looks dirty or muddy, that means it’s too dark.” The more obvious sign: When you look in the mirror and your face is clearly a different color than your neck and chest. It’s OK, we’ve all been there before.

To help you get that flawless, naturally gorgeous finish you’re looking for, Selby breaks down some simple things you can do when shopping for makeup.

Know your undertones. A lot of times, Selby explained, it’s not that you’re wearing the wrong shade of makeup; rather, you may be wearing the right color with the wrong undertones. Which isn’t necessarily your fault. “That, a lot of times, is simply because certain brands don’t offer your favorite foundation with a specific undertone,” Selby said. “You might find shade X looks OK, so you try a shade darker, and that has a completely different undertone.” Three different options exist: pink (cool), golden (warm), and neutral. Not sure about your undertones? Selby suggested choosing a foundation that is labeled as neutral. If it looks a little too yellow on you, then you have pink undertones. If it looks too pink, you’re golden.

Find a brand that offer a wide range of colors. ”The other thing that’s a challenge for a lot of brands is that the range from one shade to the next is a huge gap, so the consumer is forced to deal with it, if they like the product,” Selby said. This also creates the problem with undertones, since the majority of makeup brands don’t have a neutral, pink and golden option for every shade they sell. One product line that covers all its bases is the newly launched Cover FX Custom Color Drops ($44). The pure pigments come in 24 different shades, including a variety of undertones, so you can actually find one that matches your skin. Add a few drops to your favorite moisturizer, primer or face oil to instantly transform it into a custom-blend foundation. You can even alter the level of coverage, by adding more drops to turn it up a few notches.


Test the color on your neck or face. We all remember someone once instructed us to test foundation on the back of our hands. Well, they were so, so wrong. “If you’re going to wear the foundation on the back of your hand, then that’s the right place to match it,” Selby joked. If you’re wearing it on your face though, it really only makes sense to test it there, right? Selby suggested the notion comes from the retail environment, in which our hands are the easiest place to test product on. But your hand’s probably not the same color as your face; neither is the inside of your wrist. Instead, swipe some of the product on your neck or chin. You want a shade that blends in so well that you can’t see where it begins or ends — that ring around the jawline is never cute. If you visit a makeup counter and ask for help finding your shade, any makeup artist who knows what’s up will test them on your face or neck.

Buy two seasonal shades. Selby recommends buying two shades of foundation: one that matches your skin at its lightest, and one that matches it at its darkest. For the in-between seasons, mix them together. “Mix your winter shade and summer shade to create a spring and fall shade. You can tweak it based on how dark (or light) you are.” If your skin color changes, it’ll be gradual, so mix a little more of each color depending on the shade you want to achieve. Your undertone is genetic, so that will stay consistent no matter how tan you get. You can also add a drop of a darker shade of Custom Cover Drops to your winter foundation to add a little extra tint — and vice versa for summer. That ability to customize so precisely will help you stay on top of your tone as it morphs from season to season.


Cheat on your makeup. “Many women get stuck in a rut of what worked for them years ago,” Selby said. “But you should use foundation that works for you today, not what worked for you 20 years ago.” Being afraid to change up your makeup can hold you back from finding your perfect match. We know, it’s tough to stray from your trusty, full-coverage foundation that’s been a loyal makeup bag staple for years — but once you discover the endless high-tech formulas out there, there’s a good chance you may fall in love with something new. Experiment, add pigments to doctor up a product you like for its texture, mix two products together, go out and test drive something completely new. Once you find your soulmate, you’ll completely forget all about that old, way-too-dark foundation. It so wrong for you anyway.

This post is sponsored by CoverFx.