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!
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.
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.
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.
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. 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.