How to Choose Makeup

Four Parts:Determining Your Skin ToneChoosing a FoundationFinding Your Perfect Color PaletteApplying Makeup for Day or Night

You’re gloriously unique—which is great, right up until you have to buy makeup. Suddenly, you just wish that everyone were identical so you could spend less time and stress picking out the right foundation or the perfect red lipstick. Fortunately, it’s easy to narrow down your choices. You just have to know a little more about those features that make you so unique.

Part 1
Determining Your Skin Tone

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    Start with your skin color. Skin tone and skin color are not the same thing, but they do overlap in some areas. Skin color can offer some general clues as to what your skin tone may be, and can help you determine the type of makeup to purchase. Skin color should not be your only method of determining tone. While there are some general rules, a variety of factors should be considered to assess your skin tone.[1]
    • If you have olive skin, you're highly likely to have a neutral skin tone leaning toward a warm skin tone.
    • If you have darker skin, you are probably warm-toned. However, if your skin is a bluish ebony rather than warm brown, you may have a cool skin tone.
    • Ruddy, reddish skin is likely to have cooler undertones. If you skin has a lot of reddish patches or discolorations, and tends to flush easily, you likely have ruddy skin. This increases the chances your skin will have a cool undertone.
    • Neutral skin is skin with very little undertones of olive, sallow, or pink. If you have neutral skin, with very little color or variations in color, most makeups and foundations will be flattering on you.
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    Look at your wrist. What color are the veins you see there? This is a quick shortcut that can help you guess at your likely skin tone. However, you should keep in mind that no one indicator can help determine skin tone. You should consider a variety of factors to figure out your tone.[2]
    • If they look blue, then you may have a cool skin tone.
    • If they look green, then you may have a warm skin tone.
    • If some look blue and some look green, or it’s hard to tell, then you're likely to have a neutral skin tone.
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    Put a silver bracelet on one wrist and a gold bracelet on the other. Does one of them blend in better? Or does one clearly look better against your skin than the other one does? This can also indicate your probable skin tone.
    • Silver bracelets usually look best on cool skin tones.
    • Gold bracelets tend to stand out on warm skin tones.
    • If there's no major difference, then you may have a neutral skin tone.
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    Think about how your skin responds to sunlight. Do you flush and even burn easily? Are you already brown by the time May rolls around? Your skin's reaction to sunlight can give you a hint as to your probable skin tone. However, sunlight should not be the deciding factor for determining your skin tone. People with darker skin often do not burn easily, but may still have a cool tone.[3]
    • If you tan easily, you may have a warm skin tone. If you flush and/or burn easily, you may have a cool skin tone.
    • Make sure to take this in conjunction with other factors. People with dark skin often don't burn easily, but may actually have a cool skin tone. If you are dark-skinned, and you notice other signs of a cool skin tone, you're unlikely to have a warm tone regardless of how your skin responds to the sun. Makeups designed for a warm tone may look off on your skin.
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    Use your skin tone to figure out what colors you should wear. Once you know your skin tone, you can use it to help you pick out foundations, blush, clothes, shades of lipstick, and many other things.[4]
    • When it comes to makeup, cool skin tones generally mix best with pink and berry shades. Dark skins with cooler tones may work well with espresso shades.[5]
    • Warm tones go well with bronzes, golds, and makeup with yellow undertones.
    • Neutral skin tones can wear a wide range of colors and undertones, but they may lean more toward warmer or cooler tones, like a neutral skin tone that leans warm when combined with olive skin color. Experiment with pink and yellow undertones to see which ones work best.

Part 2
Choosing a Foundation

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    Figure out your skin type. Does your skin tend to be oily, dry, or a combination of the two? To determine your skin type, look closely at your skin in the mirror.[6]
    • How visible are your pores? If they appear large all over, you probably have oily skin. If some are visible and others are harder to see, you may have combination skin. Small to invisible pores are usually indicative of normal or dry skin.
    • Do you tend to break out regularly, and if so, where? If you break out a lot in your T-zone (forehead, nose, chin), you probably have combination skin. If you tend to get break outs all over your face, you probably have oily skin. People with normal and dry skin will also get pimples and blackheads, but with much less frequency.
    • How shiny is your skin? If it's not shiny at all, and can even appear dull and scaly, your skin is probably dry. If it's shiny all over, you have oily skin. Normal skin appears smooth and healthy without too much shine. Combination skin is shiny around the forehead, nose, and chin, but looks normal across your cheeks.
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    Let your skin type determine the type of foundation. Each person’s skin has different needs, so go with a foundation that meets those needs. Generally speaking, liquid foundations or creamier foundations with hydrating power are great for dry skin. On the other hand, oily skin looks best with a matte powder foundation that will tone down the shine. If you do use a liquid foundation with oily skin, make sure that it isn’t oil-based.
    • If you have a lot of acne, you can even find some foundations that contain salicylic acid. However, if you already use several products contained benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid, be careful about adding another into your skincare regimen. You don’t want to end up with acne plus dry skin.[7]
    • If you have combination skin, try a powder foundation. It’s easier to apply more heavily in some areas and lightly in others, and you won’t get awkward lines, which can happen with a liquid foundation.[8]
    • If you want a foundation that does everything for you—hydration, sunscreen, packed with nutrients, evening out skin tone—you can use a product called a BB cream. The “BB” stands for “beauty balm” or “blemish balm.” Basically, it’s an all-in-one product that can be used for any skin type. It’s less specific to a particular skin tone or hue, but it is versatile enough to work as a foundation.[9]
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    Narrow down your color choices by your skin tone. Some foundations have a rosier or bluish undertone. For those with cool skin tones, that’s ideal. For those who have warmer skin tones, you should be looking for a similarly warm base, like a yellow or ivory. Neutral skin tones should experiment with both to see what looks best. If you have olive skin, try neutral or warm undertones.[10]
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    Decide how much you want to cover up. If you have major acne, you have the option of using a medium or heavyweight foundation. This will help to even out your skin texture. On the other hand, you might not want much coverage at all. Lightweight options include tinted moisturizers and sheer foundations.[11]
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    Test out the foundation on your skin. You’ve narrowed down your choices to one or two types of foundation and you’ve eliminated anything that doesn’t complement your skin tone. To found out which one matches your skin color, apply a dab of each one to your neck or upper chest—your face and jawline may be too uneven to get a good match.[12]
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    Pick out different foundations for summer and winter. Your skin changes from winter to summer, thanks to sun exposure. This means that you should have two different shades of foundation to match. You also have the opportunity to use a different type of foundation if your skin’s needs change over the course of the year, like using a foundation with more hydration in winter and one with a higher SPF in summer.
    • If you have fairly consistent skin quality from season to season, use the same type of foundation (powder, liquid, crème, etc.) so that you can just mix the summer and winter shades for spring and fall.

Part 3
Finding Your Perfect Color Palette

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    Base your eyeshadow selection on the color of your eyes. Are they true blue, gray, green, hazel, or brown? Different eye colors “pop” with different eyeshadow colors.
    • Brown eyes don’t really have a specific palette. Fortunately, they look good with almost anything. You can add warmth to your eyes with red-browns and metallics, or you can play up your look with darker colors or brighter jewel tones that other eyes can’t get away with as easily.[13]
    • For blue or gray eyes, the best choices for a little pop are warm copper and brown tones. For drama or to highlight the blue, wear a smoky gray shadow (or liner!).[14] For other colors, generally steer towards pinks and pastels. If you have lighter eyes, colorful eyeshadow that is darker than your eye color can be overpowering.
    • For green eyes, purple is your best friend. If you want a little dramatic flair, try a purple that’s almost black for double the effect.[15]
    • Hazel eyes get a little more variety. If your eyes are greener, opt for the purple palette that makes green eyes look glamorous. If your eyes have more brown or flecks of gold, play that up with warm brown and gold tones.
    • Don’t forget about your skin tone. If your smoky eye turns out looking more like a bruised eye, then you might need to factor in your skin tone and whether your skin is fair, olive, or dark. Fair skin goes far with light colors, like pastel peaches and pinks, but bright and bold tones are too pronounced, leaving everything else looking washed out. Similarly, darker skin could appear ashy if you use a cool blue or grey. If you’re having trouble figuring it out, pick up a cheap palette with a wide array of colors and experiment with your eyes.
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    Use your skin tone and color to determine your lipstick shades. This is usually pretty easy to figure out for most colors and skin tones. For instance, if you’re fair with a cool skin tone, you probably already know that an orange-toned lipstick will make you look strange. There are two things to consider when you’re choosing lipstick colors.
    • First, use your skin color to guide you toward the right color range. Fair skin plays well with bold and bright colors. Olive, neutral, or medium skin works with most colors, just avoid ones that will look pale. Dark skin pairs with richer, deeper colors, like wine or bright red.[16]
    • Second, narrow down your selection by factoring in your skin tone. Warmer skin tones pair well with warm base notes. When you’re choosing a red lipstick, for example, you can easily wear a brick red or one with more orange to it. Cooler skin tones work best with pinks, blues, and purples. Your ideal red lipstick is more berry than brick or has a little plum in it.
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    Pick a blush using your skin tone. The theme here is that whatever you put on your skin should work with your skin’s natural pigmentation. Cool skin tones should wear pink blushes that go well with their naturally rosier tendencies, or try pinker peach tones. A warm skin tone will shine with golden undertones, more towards the beige, orange peach, and apricot end of the spectrum. If you’re lucky enough to have neutral skin tone, play around with different colors depending on your mood.
    • If you’re unsure how bright or dark to go with the blush, use your skin color as a guide. Fair skin works great with pastel pinks, while dark skin requires rich, bold colors like red-toned browns and oranges. Olive skin has a little more room to play around, but still leans more towards the pink end with room for darker, brighter colors than fair skin.[17]

Part 4
Applying Makeup for Day or Night

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    Choose neutrals or lighter colors for workplace wear. This is generally true if you work in a workplace with a business or business casual dress code. You might be able to get away with a dark lip color if you have darker skin, but otherwise, avoid dramatic or bright colors. Opt for nudes, beiges, and pastels around your eyes, and apply minimal eyeliner.
    • Do have at least a basic makeup regimen for work. Women are perceived more favorably when they take those extra steps. You never know: some foundation, a bit of eyeshadow, and a sweep of mascara may be the little thing that tilts the balance in your favor.[18]
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    Play with brighter, bolder colors for evenings out. You have less to constrain your style, so why not go for something a bit more astonishing? Break out the bright red lipstick for a kissable confidence boost. Play with a tropical theme for your eyeshadow. Add false eyelashes to take your lash game from good to great.
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    Set yourself up for an easy transition. If you’re going out after work, start your day with the basics. Line your eyes lightly, put on a coat of mascara, and wear a single shade of eyeshadow. Once you get to the end of your workday, you can pop in the bathroom for extra eyeliner, another shade or two of eyeshadow to complete the effect, and an extra coat (or two) of mascara. Finish it off with a bright touch of lip color and you’ll be good to go.


  • Finish off your makeup regimen with a translucent setting powder. If you hate wearing makeup because it slides around your face, let setting powder be your friend. It fixes creams in place and provides a matte finish for your foundation.[19] If you have problems with lipstick bleeding around your lips or eyeliner bleeding under your eyes, lightly apply a line of setting powder to keep them in place.
  • Don’t restrict your style: if you love wearing brick reds and you have a cool skin tone, go for it. These are general guidelines, but if you can wear it with confidence, then you can get away with a lot.
  • Meet with a makeup or skincare consultant if you still have questions. Big chain beauty stores usually have someone on staff who can help to guide your toward some products that will be perfect for your skin and face. Even if you don’t have the money to take all of their suggestions, you can still glean some useful information from them.
  • Other things to take into consideration when selecting makeup: animal testing, hypoallergenic, or organic products. Some companies place a high value on ethically sourcing and testing their products. If that’s important to you, you can often find information on company websites or even on the product labels. Likewise, if you are allergic to certain ingredients, look for hypoallergenic labels or do a little research to figure out which products you can use.


  • Make sure to remove your makeup every evening and pair your beauty regimen with good skincare. You don’t want to dry out your skin or clog your pores.

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Categories: Makeup