How to Shop for Foundation Online

by Devon Hopp

Our love affair with online shopping runs deep. Whether it’s shoes and sweaters or hairspray and deodorant (thank you, Amazon!), finding a package on our doorstep always makes us giddy. However, some products are easier to purchase online than others. New mascara? Done. New foundation? That takes a little more work. But it can be done, if you know a few tricks of the online makeup shopping trade.

Scroll through to find out how it’s done!

Know Your Undertone

How to Shop for Foundation Online

Shade differences can be remarkably subtle. Often the only difference between two colors is that one has warm undertones and one has cool undertones. Knowing which one you need makes sifting through the seemingly endless array of foundations so much easier. Need a lesson in undertones? Try one of these hacks for figuring out your skin’s undertones.

Go to a Foundation Matching Website (or Two)

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Presuming you know your shade in at least one foundation, head over to

Match My MakeupFindation or Temptalia’s Foundation Matrix, and enter the brand, product, and shade you currently wear. Let’s say you wear Estée Lauder Double Wear Stay-in-Place Makeup in 1N1, but you’re looking to try something new. Just type in that information, and Match My Makeup (which worked with a group of professionals to manually test all of their recommendations) generates a list of comparable options. They’ll also call out any color differences. Laura Mercier’s Moisture Supreme Foundation in Warm Ivory will be slightly darker and warmer than my current shade, but “will still work.” Findation allows you to enter multiple matches from their extensive database for better accuracy. On Temptalia’s Foundation Matrix, you can filter your results by formula, finish, coverage, price, and brand. And if you don’t have the shade names of any of your previous foundations handy, the Foundation Matrix let’s you start from scratch with just your undertone and skin tone.

Related: 6 Foundations for People Who Hate Foundation

Google Image Search for Swatches

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You should have been able to narrow down your shade search to two shades using the websites mentioned above. But perhaps you’re not sure whether you’re Porcelain Ivory or Warm Ivory. Next, consult Google. Google image search the name of the foundation you’re looking for with the word “swatch” at the end. Seeing the actual product on skin is so much more helpful than simply judging from the bottles. You might not be able to find a swatch on someone with your exact skin tone, but just reference the one or two that look the most similar to your coloring. To make your swatching assessment even more thorough, you can also search for one of your existing foundation matches. It’s very possible at least of the one same beauty bloggers has swatched both products. You can even apply your current shade to your arm for a little IRL comparison to the photos you find online.

Read Reviews

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The tactics above will help you find your perfect shade match, but you probably want more information on the actual product itself—how’s the coverage? What’s the finish like? How does it wear on skin? To answer these questions, turn to product reviews. You’ll find detailed reviews on pretty much all of the major beauty retailers’ websites. Most come from customers who have built out their profiles to include information like skin tone, skin color, eye color, and age. On Sephora.com you can even filter the reviews by that criteria, so you only see reviews from other oily-skinned women. If you can’t find enough reviews to satisfy your curiosity on the usual websites, don’t forget to check out the brand’s website. Most brands now have product review sections similar to what you find on Ulta.com, Nordstrom.com, and Sephora.com. One word of caution: you can’t believe everything you read on the Internet, so look out for fine print (some reviews may be sponsored). If you have a specific question that didn’t get answered in the reviews you read, check out the brand’s website. Many of the larger beauty brands, have experts available that you can chat with live.

Browse Photos and Videos

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So you’ve looked at swatches and read reviews, all that’s left is to see your top picks on someone. On Sephora.com, right under the product details there’s a section called “Learn More About This Product.” There you’ll find any videos the product has been used in and a link to a photo gallery that houses photos of real women wearing the product. Another option? Search the hashtag on Instagram. #makeupforeverhdfoundation has over 1,600 photos for you to peruse. If you prefer to see your pick in action, search the product name in YouTube—you’re guaranteed to find a ton of results.

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