How to Choose the Right Makeup for Your Skin Type

Makeup products and accessories

Makeup products and accessories | iStock.com/pogrebkov

Numerous makeup mistakes are pretty easy to make. You probably already know that mismatched foundation and exaggerated eye shadow are unflattering. And it’s every makeup fan’s worst nightmare to realize their under-eye concealer or lip liner is showing. All those aesthetic concerns aside, when is the last time you thought about your skin type, and how it plays into your choice of makeup? It turns out that choosing the wrong makeup for your skin type can spell trouble not only for how your makeup looks, but also for how your skin feels and reacts to being in close contact with the wrong ingredients and formulas all day.

It’s very important for your makeup, particularly base products like your foundation, to be a match for your skin’s needs. Products like foundation, concealer, blush, and eye shadow spend a lot of time in contact with your skin. You’ll want to make sure the products you choose look good, and won’t cause acne or dry out your skin. And in an ideal world, you can look for makeup that can help address certain skin care needs.

As difficult as it is to find the products that match your skin tone, personal preferences, and skin type, it’s usually worth the work. Read on to learn everything you need to know about choosing the right makeup for your skin type, and you’ll be well on your way to a makeup routine that’s perfect for you.

1. Determine your skin type

young woman with clear complexion in the bathroom

Young woman with beautiful skin in the bathroom | iStock.com

Whether you’re shopping for foundation or looking to overhaul your skin care regimen, it’s important to understand your skin type. Everybody knows the basic skin types: dry, oily, combination, and normal. But if you really want to know your skin’s needs well, it pays to go deeper than that. Esthetician Renée Rouleau has identified nine different skin types that all behave differently and have different needs. One of them may sound exactly like your skin.

Rouleau writes some mistakes are pretty common when people try to identify their skin type. For instance, it’s easy to focus only on one or two of your skin’s needs instead of looking at the whole picture. Another common problem is failing to understand the difference between dry and dehydrated skin. Misunderstanding the actual meaning of sensitive skin is another common mistake. If you can’t figure out exactly what’s going on with your skin, it never hurts to see a professional, who can assess what’s going on and suggest an appropriate skin care routine. This will give you a much better foundation for your makeup regimen.

2. Choose the right formula

Woman doing makeup in front of a mirror

Woman doing makeup in front of a mirror | iStock.com

When you choose a formula, there’s usually a lot of trial and error involved. But as Paula’s Choice reports, one size definitely does not fit all when it comes to a product like foundation. If you have relatively balanced and even skin, you’ll likely need much less coverage than someone with redness or breakouts to disguise. But your skin type will dictate which kind of formula you need for reasons other than coverage, too. As the post points out, “a matte foundation that complements oily skin isn’t going to be the best formula for dry skin and vice versa.”

There are a few popular formulas for foundation. Even if you currently use and like a specific kind, it’s a good idea to keep an open mind to make sure you’re using what’s right for your skin type. A matte-finish liquid foundation is ideal for oily, blemish-prone skin. A moisturizing liquid foundation hydrates normal to dry skin without making it greasy.

For those with slightly oily or slightly dry skin, a pressed powder or loose powder foundation offers a fast, easy way to get a smooth finish, particularly when paired with a sunscreen moisturizer. A cream-to-powder compact foundation is another option for those with slightly dry or slightly oily skin. For the most natural look, a BB cream is often the best choice. Just know it doesn’t provide full coverage.

3. Choose the right colors

Woman looking in the mirror

Woman looking in the mirror | iStock.com/chachamal

While colors may not be quite as important as formula and product type in choosing makeup that’s a good fit for your skin type, the colors of your makeup do matter. That’s especially true with products foundation. If you have the time, it’s a great idea to head to your local department store to test different colors before committing to a potentially pricey purchase.

Paula’s Choice recommends choosing three or four shades that look like the closest match. Apply a stripe of each on your jaw in parallel lines pointing toward your neck. Any shade that appears relatively invisible is a good fit. Anything that stands out is either too dark or too light. If you can, a great next step is to apply the foundation all over your face, then check the color in daylight, if you can. That’s the best test to see if a foundation matches your skin’s color and undertone.

Colors are also important with other makeup products, including blush, lip color, eye shadow, eyeliner, and even mascara. If you haven’t given much thought to which colors are the most flattering on you, enlist a friend or a store associate to help. It’s also useful to shop lines that are known for their wide selection of colors, rather than relying on brands that only offer a small number of shades.

The search can be especially frustrating for women of color, who routinely encounter brands that don’t do much to cater to a diverse range of skin tones. Refinery29’s Taylor Bryant has some recommendations on base makeup for women of color. And if, on the other hand, you’re pale enough to struggle to find foundation that matches, the site’s Kelly Dougher has some recommendations for you as well.

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