When Two Become One: Mixing Foundation Shades To Get a Match

Published in: Face, Makeup, Makeup Tips/How To

Wearing Dolce & Gabbana Perfect Luminous Liquid Foundation in Amber and NARS Sheer Glow Foundation in Stromboli

It’s a match! Here I’m wearing a mix of Dolce & Gabbana Perfect Luminous Liquid Foundation in Amber and NARS Sheer Glow Foundation in Stromboli…

I held on to it for many years — the hope that somewhere out there was a bottle of foundation with my name on it. A perfect match for my skin tone in a perfect formula.

Yeah, I don’t know what I was thinking! πŸ™‚


It sounds kind of crazypants now that I think about it — like I was going to just walk up to a counter and see a shade called “KAREN (THE CRAZY CAT LADY ONE FROM NOVATO).”


Well, at least things are better now than they were in the ’80s and early ’90s. There weren’t a whole lot of foundation options back then if your skin had a little color.

There are huge shade ranges nowadays and many more brands, which is super cool because I have found shades that get really close to my skin tone, but I’ve still yet to find a perfect match off the shelf.

I’m guessing that I’m not the only person facing this issue.

But you know what? There is hope (cue Disney theme song: “Somewhere, out there!”). If you’ve been unable to find a perfect match, you might be able to make one yourself.

I’m talking about mixing, babe. Mixing foundations.

And you can do it in a bunch of different ways. There are some companies that will actually custom mix a color for you, like over at prescriptives.com with their online beauty advisor chats. They ask you a series of questions over a webcam to create a custom color just for you.

Or, you can do what I do, which is more random, but when you get it right you feel awesome! — like a foundation ninja/MacGyver.

I highly recommend it, and if you decide to give it a try, here are a couple of different approaches you can take…

1. Mix two shades (one darker than the other) of your favorite foundation formula

This one’s the easiest and probably most obvious way, where you mix two shades of the same foundation or tinted moisturizer formula, one that you know you like. I do this all the time right on the spot, usually on the back of my hand, while I do my makeup with NARS Pure Radiant Tinted Moisturizer or MAC Face & Body Foundation.

MAC Face & Body Foundations in C4, C5 and C6

MAC Face & Body Foundations in C4, C5 and C6

I usually keep two bottles in my main makeup bag — one lighter than my skin tone, or like my skin tone in the middle of the winter; and one darker than my skin tone, or closer to what my coloring is when I have a little tan.

Then it’s magic cauldron time. I mix until I get a match, which usually takes a minute or two.

NARS Pure Radiant Tinted Moisturizers in St. Mortiz and Cuba

NARS Pure Radiant Tinted Moisturizers in St. Mortiz and Cuba

I’ll play with different ratios throughout the year, like maybe do three parts of the lighter shade and one part of the darker shade during winter, half and half in spring, then mostly the darker shade, with just a taste of the lighter shade, in summer.

2. Cross pollination

No, the fun doesn’t stop there! I also like to mix foundations from different brands.

I do this because the foundations in different lines have different undertones, like, I’ve noticed that on my skin, Chanel foundations appear to have a lot of pink, while NARS foundations have more yellow.

It’s a great way to really zero in on your perfect shade. You get a little bit of pink or pinkish beige from one line, a bit of yellow from another, to get really, really close.

Dolce & Gabbana Perfect Luminous Liquid Foundation in Amber and NARS Sheer Glow Foundation in Stromboli

Dolce & Gabbana Perfect Luminous Liquid Foundation in Amber and NARS Sheer Glow Foundation in Stromboli

You can also “cross pollinate” to stretch out pricier foundations. Say you have an expensive Dior or Chanel foundation that you absolutely love, but you go through it quickly. Well, mix it with a drugstore foundation you also like/don’t mind to make the bottle last longer (again, I just do this on the back of my hand).

TIP: Stick to the same consistency

There’s no right or wrong way to experiment like this, but I do get better results when I stick to mixing products with very similar consistencies and coverage.

For example, I won’t mix a thick, full-coverage creamy foundation with a sheer, watery tinted moisturizer. I mean, you could totally do it, but it just takes that much more time and effort to get them to emulsify/blend together.

Speaking of time, it might seem like this whole mixing thing would take forever, but in my experience, it really doesn’t. The first couple of times I do a new “brew,” it takes maybe five minutes or so. Not a ton of time. And after a while, I get to where I can eyeball the ratios and do it really fast.


Do you ever mix foundations, tinted moisturizers or other face products? If you do, what’s your signature “brew”?

Your friendly neighborhood beauty addict,


P.S. And just like that, we’re over the hump. πŸ™‚ How was your day? When the sun is out like it was today, I feel like a brand new girl.

Got any plans tonight? What are you up to? I’m eating microwaved frozen broccoli with mac ‘n’ cheese for dinner and watching Online Dating Rituals of the American Male. I watched a few minutes earlier, and it was kind of a train wreck…so of course I set the Tivo to record the whole season.


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So far, 40 people have commented on this article. How cool is that?

  1. Gowthami says:

    I always do this mix foundations! and thank you so much for the tips! πŸ™‚
    Gowthami recently posted … Bridal Archives Vol.14: Meet the Bride Urvashi Salaria

  2. Elee says:

    I’ve mastered the art of mixing foundation (and BB / CC creams for that matter) when I foolishly bought new products on holidays and was super super tanned. They worked well for about a week post holidays then they were ridiculously too dark, not wanting to waste some pricey goods I mixed them with some I already owned and ‘voilΓ ’ perfect post holiday tan colour!

  3. Lancy says:

    Cross pollination?? Lol.. Karen, I enjoyed reading this post and Yeah, I mix and match my foundations all the time.. especially when I am tanned!
    Lancy recently posted … Lakme Clean Up Face Mask Review

  4. RAEVIEW says:

    I actually love mixing the Chanel CC Cream with the Chanel MatLumiere foundation! Similar textures, great coverage, and lasts all day even in Miami humidity πŸ™‚

  5. Bella says:

    I learnt to do the St moritz/Cuba trick from you, and I also mix Nars Stromboli with Syracuse. In the winter I am all Stromboli, and as summer progresses I add more and more Syracuse.
    I really need the yellow of the Nars foundations though. Barcelona would have been my ideal match in terms of darkness, but it is just too orangey pink.
    I don’t mix anything else, but I do use Tom Ford Traceless liquid in Tawny and stick in caramel together; the liquid all over and the stick just where I need extra coverage. this works well too.

  6. Jax says:

    I Love the Chanel CC cream but find it to thick most of the time, so I mix it with EL Advanced Night Repair. It takes a short while to mix but the effect it great and the CC cream lasts longer πŸ™‚

  7. Erin says:

    I rarely do this but I need to get a bottle of MAC F&B and mix white with N1 I think.
    Erin recently posted … Kiwi Fruits: Starborough 2012 Sauvignon Blanc Review

  8. Jorunn says:

    I have done this in the past, usually to get a full coverage foundation a bit sheerer for summer. I would mix shades too, but i haven’t found any shades light enough to use for mixing! Usually a brands lightest shade is too dark for me. I’ve thought about the MAC F&B in white, but I haven’t found it in any stores, and I don’t think it will be a good match for my very dry skin anyway.

    Now I think I have found my holy grail foundations though, Clinique Supermoisture in Linen (which I have bought on ebay, because they don’t sell that shade in my country) is perfect for winter, Chanel Vitalumiere Aqua in 10 works well for summer. πŸ™‚

  9. Dreamer19 says:

    Recently I’ve decided that TM looks better on me than liquid fdn and bought a MAC TM. But it’s a bit dry at this time of the year, so I thought, why not mix my own TM? I was already mixing Inglot’s AMC fdn to get the right color match. Now I mix in a moisturizer as well (at the mo Simple moisturizer). I mix the two shades of fdn and the moisturizer in a sample jar with a small concealer brush and it’s enough for 1 or 2 weeks.

  10. meredith says:

    Another great post. Like JORUNN above, I’m usually too pale for the lightest foundation I can find so I’ve been meaning to get some white base to mix in. I see Mac and illamasqua have one I just haven’t got around to trying this yet.

  11. Amanda Val says:

    Great suggestions Karen! “Cross pollination” hehe πŸ˜€

    I used to mix parts of MAC Studio Fix Fluid in NC30 with an Innisfree BB cream, because the latter was much lighter than SFF. But it didn’t really deal with my terrible shade-matching; both products are seriously yellow-toned and I got re-matched as a NW25! Right now though, a mix between Revlon Colorstay and MAC Face & Body is totally do-able, if I want more coverage and still retain the skin-like finish of F&B.

  12. Kris says:

    This is a great topic! I finally broke down and bought another shades of my Urban Decay Naked Skin foundation, which is a wonderful product – have you tried it? Anyway, the 3.5 shade was fine in summer, but a bit dark in winter. The 2.0 shade is always a little too light, but mix them & perfection! The key is to accept that you’ll have to buy two bottles of foundation – but it’s worth it.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Kris,

      I have! I like how it feels but wish it had a little more coverage. I like bit of coverage, especially for pics. πŸ™‚

      What do you usually set it with?

      • Kris says:

        Naked Skin is a solid medium coverage for me. I’d love to hook up with MAC F&B, but the nearest counter is 500 miles, and MAC SAs intimidate me.
        I’m really bad at using powder to set. I have some Smashbox Halo, which is fine. Any suggestions?

  13. Stephanie says:

    Maybe, just maybe, a cosmetics line will see your post & actually create you your very own special foundation!

  14. Ritika says:

    Hi Karen,

    What are you wearing on your lips in the first picture? It looks lovely on you!

  15. Katherine M says:

    I’ve never mixed foundations (when I wore foundation I was in the too dark/too light camp – but if I do decide to wear foundation again I will probably mix since my skin tone is hard to get an exact match for), so this is a great post for me. I have done 2 different formulas on my face though because I have somewhat combination skin. My forehead and cheeks are on the drier side while my chin and jaw are on the more oily side. I’ve worn the more moisturizing Olay CC cream on my forehead and cheeks while I did the Garnier BB cream for combo/oily skin on my chin and jaw. Lately I’ve just been using the Garnier BB cream to cover up my chin/jaw (trouble spots) and using bronzer and highlighter to contour. It’s the first time I’ve gone without foundation/BB cream on my whole face ever, but it works and it’s easy and natural.

  16. Eileen says:

    I’ve mixed foundations for years. I’m fair with peach undertones–I’m not yellow; I’m not pink. I have found some foundations with peach undertones in light shades, but many of them didn’t suit me. So, I look for the foundation I like and, if there isn’t anything a bit peachy, I do a bit of mixing. It’s not a big deal.

  17. Cristy says:

    Hi Karen! I was asking myself if one foundation it’s water based and the other one oil or silicone do they go well together? Or it’s a problem? In your experience does this interfere with the results?

    • Karen says:

      Hi Cristy,

      I haven’t noticed any problems in terms of water versus silicone bases, I think the biggest thing for me is consistency. As long as the foundations are similarly thick or thin, mixing is easy. πŸ™‚

  18. Fancie says:

    I always have to do this with clients. Sometimes I have to do it for myself too lol. It’s nice that companies have expanded their foundation ranges over the years. I hope things continue to progress because WOC like makeup too! There’s like a million different variations of light foundations across the board. We need more options too!
    Fancie recently posted … MAC Proenza Schouler Collection

  19. Alison M says:

    Heehee, I’m still looking for my perfect match πŸ˜‰ NARS Stromboli is dead on 9-10 months of the year. By the end of winter and until April I am taking it down my neck so I “match” a little better. I’ve never thought to cross-polinate, but I’m going to give it a go. The biggest problem I have is that my undertones are green. There’s not many options out there for that!
    Alison M recently posted … A Little Spring In My Step

  20. I also need to lighten foundations, I have Illamasqua Skin Base in White but the texture does not work well on my skin. You have to go through hoops, it seems, to get white from anyone else. MAC is a Pro item that you have to call to order, MAKE UP FOR EVER has something that looks even more enticing but seems to be available in their stores. Harrumph, haha.

  21. Sylirael says:

    I’ve always wondered about doing this, as often foundations are either a little bit too pink or a little bit to yellow for me!

    Also: mac n cheese + broccoli = win πŸ˜€
    Sylirael recently posted … Loot Alert! Limited Edition Blueberry Body Butter at The Body Shop Now!

  22. hanna says:

    I love mixing my foundations.
    hanna recently posted … I don’t always take bad pictures of myself

  23. Grace says:

    A great combo is the Kat Von D Lock-It Tattoo Foundation and the NARS Sheer Glow. You get the coverage & longevity of the Kat Von D with the blendability and non-cakeyness of the NARS πŸ™‚ Any sheer, luminous foundation would work though πŸ™‚

    • Karen says:

      Hey Grace,

      Thanks for the rec! Sounds like an interesting brew. I’ll see if I can get my hands on a sample from Sephora. πŸ™‚

      What do you usually set it with, by the way?

  24. Adriana RP says:

    Hey! I’ve been mixing two foundation with different textures, exactly because one of them has a texture like… well… “yuck”. When I mix them it improves the one that I don’t like, saving my money!

  25. 80sChicwithglasses says:

    Hey, Karen! Here’s a little trivia…”Somewhere Out There” is NOT from a Disney film! An American Tale was produced buy an ex Disney producer, but Disney didn’t produce that film πŸ™‚ Just a little fun fact, lol!

  26. PianoGirl says:

    I saved my Marc Jacobs overpriced foundation that I couldn’t return by mixing it with either CoverGirl outlast stay fabulous 3 in 1 foundation (which on its own is way too matte and cakey on my skin and MJ makes it easy to work with). Or I also sometimes mix it with my Estee Lauder light double wear which is shade a tad too light for me in the winter months. I love the finish that the Marc Jacobs has on its own but my combo skin breaks it down way too fast.

  27. Danielle says:

    Because I’m so fair, I have to mix my foundations pretty often. MAC Face & Body in White has become my savoir!
    Danielle recently posted … Braving the Bronzer

  28. Lena says:

    i mix all the time. one of my latest trick is to add mineral loose foundation to
    – lighten/darken liquid foundation,
    – make them more yellow,
    – make moisturizer or sunscreen into tinted foundation and
    – make primer into foundation in one.
    yeah, i play the lab technician too much during makeup hour. it’s fun. πŸ˜€
    i also used to play around adding powder highlighters into moisturizers but that did not really work well, too shiny for my oily skin!
    and don’t even get me started on the fragrance oils i concoct with body lotions….
    Lena recently posted … Study: Melanin Protects Against Skin Cancer

  29. Diane says:

    I’m at the opposite end of the spectrum when it comes to foundation–I am so fair that often the lightest of the light foundation is still too dark for me. I am intrigued by the idea of the MAC white, but don’t have a MAC counter near me. May have to splurge and order it online.

  30. Angie says:

    Is it possible to mix two brands, Laura Mercier and Bobbi Brown, both bottles together. My LM has too much pink and my BB is too beige, I feel like mixed together they might be perfect, but I would like to mix all of it rather then a dab at a time. Thank you for any advise!

  31. Reena says:

    Thanks, Karen~!

    My skin tan so easily and I never try to mix foundations before. I will try it today and see what is the outcome. I really want to utilize my foundation rather than waiting to find perfect match for my skin tone.

  32. Alexandra says:

    You should invest in Dinair airbrush makeup, you can mix their colours! Over 200 combinations πŸ˜€

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