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Yves Saint Laurent ''Perfect Touch'' Radiant Brush Foundation
Editor's Pick: Yves San Laurent "Perfect Touch" Radiant Brush Foundation

How to Buy Foundation Makeup

By Lisa Cohen LeeSHOP.COM Beauty Editor

How important is foundation? Very – it hides flaws, makes skin look fresh and dewy, and gives you a clean slate to apply other makeup. In other words, it’s the base for all of your work. But finding the right formula when there's a dizzying array of choices can be tough. Most importantly, a good foundation needs to fit your skin type, enhance your skin tone and of course, not break the bank. Luckily, SHOP.com can help you navigate which makeup works for you with our Foundation Buying Guide. Here’s the buzz on base:

The Basics

Step 1Color:  Shade selection is crucial, and finding a perfect match is what can make or break your decision. To determine the best color, first, look at the undertone of your skin; does it have a bluish-pink (cool), yellowish (warm), olive or brown cast? Pick a shade that has pinkish pigment for blue-pink, yellow-peach for yellow, yellow for olive and brownish-yellow for brown. Look at the color's nuances (light, medium or dark) and choose accordingly, based on your skin shade. Test the tint along your jawline to see how well it complements your face and neck. The color should look natural, as if you're not wearing makeup at all.
Step 2Texture:  Foundations come in many forms, which can be narrowed down to these four: cream, cream-to-powder, liquid and loose mineral powder. Some women choose a texture based on personal preference-they may like the feel of a super-hydrating liquid on their skin. Others choose based on their skin type: Dry types usually goes for a cream or liquid; oily or combination, an oil-free liquid or cream-to-powder; and sensitive, a loose powder or cream.
Step 3Coverage:  Foundation formulas give varying amounts of coverage; it just depends on how much you want. To even out your skin tone and enhance it, choose a sheer finish. Step it up for red blotches, acne scars or dark patches with a creamy, matte formula that's a bit heavier and can instantly erase imperfections. If you want to soften crinkles or fine lines and give your skin a youthful glow, an illuminating blend with light-enhancing ingredients helps deflect the eye away from flaws.
Step 4Application:  Applying foundation doesn't have to be tricky; the main tools are a sponge, brush or your fingers. Sponges are usually best for creams, and you'll find that many of the potted and compact versions come with their own applicator. Stick foundations can be dabbed on, and then blended in with your fingertips. Powder foundations require a fluffy brush to help spread the makeup evenly. For liquid makeup, use a flat-haired foundation brush (resembles a paint brush), which will give you a good amount of coverage that won't look spotty.
Step 5Benefits:  If you want your foundation to work for you, look for ingredients that go the distance. Some have SPF, so you're getting sun protection (though dermatologists suggest that you still need to apply a separate sunscreen to have complete coverage); anti-aging ingredients like retinol or peptides to minimize and prevent wrinkles; oil-free or acne-fighting ingredients to play down pimples; moisturizers for dry skin; or long-wearing features that last through sweat sessions, heat or humidity.

The Lingo

Primer:  A member of the foundation family, it's usually a colorless liquid formula that smoothes out the skin and preps it for a more even application. You can wear it alone to balance skin tone and minimize pores.
Tinted Moisturizer:  The lightest of all foundations, it gives your skin a sheer, healthy glow, rather than full coverage. It's a great alternative to heavier foundations, by adding just a hint of color when you're on the go. And these moisturizers generally have a higher SPF than most other formulas.
Mineral Makeup:  Most often, it's in a loose powder form of crushed minerals like titanium dioxide and zinc oxide that are free of chemicals and preservatives. The powder lets you adjust as little or as much coverage as you want, and you use your brush as a buffer to buff the makeup into your skin.
Illuminating:  A blend that has illumination or light-enhancing on its label probably has crushed pearl or quartz that will give your face a subtle shimmer. This type of foundation formula is great for the summer, when you want to play up your natural sun-kissed glow.
Oil-Free:  Foundations that are made without oils like petrolateum, lanolin or stearic acid are known as oil-free. They're best for acne-prone skin types because they won't clog pores.
Matte:  A flat finish, that won't give a dewy look. Oily or combination skin types prefer this formula to control their natural shine.

The Experts

In Style Magazine – "A lot of people, including celebrity makeup artists, rave about mineral makeup. Part of the appeal of mineral makeup is that minerals reflect light and make skin look more radiant. It also contains few preservatives, so it's good for sensitive skin types and won't clog pores like other foundations." Source: InStyle Magazine Beauty Editor

The Price

$: Your color choices may be more limited and formula choices too, but it's a good starting point especially if you're not sure about what type of coverage you want or need to experiment with shades.
$$: Most of the formulas fall in this price range. You can find every type of formula and a variety of colors, making it easier to find a perfect match to your individual skin tone.
$$$: The more expensive choices usually have some kind of special ingredients – whether it's light-reflecting or anti-aging – that justify the high price. There's also more unique packaging (sometimes with build-in applicator brushes or sponges) and formulas usually have a rich-to-the-touch feel.