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Finding the Best Foundation Color for Your Skin Tone

by Kelly Lucas on August 16, 2012

I’m not one for a heavy makeup routine. Most days, I only put on foundation to cover up dark spots and acne. It’s important to me that I don’t look like I’m wearing makeup; I want it to be natural. But finding foundation that is a perfect match for my skin tone can be a challenge, especially as my skin changes color from summer tanning (or winter paling). And even when I find a color close to my skin tone, I always feel like it changes slightly as I apply it.

That’s the problem makeup retailer Sephora and Pantone, a leader in color identification technology, have teamed up to solve. Their new ColorIQ system accurately identifies your precise skin tone (which they’re calling your “SkinTone number”) and then finds the perfect match in Sephora’s database of more than 1,000 foundations.

The process for finding your SkinTone number is easy. With a clean face, I recently sat down at the ColorIQ station in Sephora’s Times Square store and let the makeup artist analyze my skin with Pantone’s CAPSURE device, a hand-held spectro-colorimeter that is used in the design world to identify color with great accuracy. The artist took three pictures of different parts of my face with the CAPSURE, which were then averaged to a single Pantone SkinTone number (mine is 3y04).

Sephora ColorIQ

The makeup artist then plugged this number into Sephora’s Universal SkinTone Library on an iPad, narrowing down over 1,000 possibilities to fewer than 50 choices of either powder, liquid or cream foundations.

We picked three different liquid foundations to try. As the foundation was applied onto my skin, my flaws began to disappear and my skin color didn’t change—at all. I was so happy to finally find a foundation that matched my skin tone. And the whole process, including trying out the different foundations, took less then 20 minutes.

Sephora ColorIQ after

Currently, the ColorIQ system is only available in Sephora’s Manhattan Times Square/42nd Street and San Francisco Powell Street stores. If you’re in New York or San Francisco, you should definitely check it out for yourself. The analysis is free and you don't need an appointment. Sephora is hoping to bring the device to other stores soon.


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