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Your Perfect Foundation Picks

Photograph by Rachel Matos

I started obsessing over foundation when I was in high school while searching for something that would cover my acne. However, I never found one that matched my skin. They all had a pink or orange hue that did not match my light olive tone. My options were a pale chalky face or a Chef Boyardee glow. Not cute.

It wasn't until I took portrait painting classes in college that I really understood the different colors that lie underneath what we see on the surface. At a glance, I look like I have "tanned" skin. But I actually have lots of yellow and blue undertones, which is why I never was able to find the right shade.

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During art school, I discovered a brand called Prescriptives that would custom blend a foundation to match my skin tone. It was the answer to years of not being able to match my neck with my face. I used the brand for about a year. However, I was a student and needed something more suited to my budget.

I later learned about Shiseido, which offered a foundation shade perfect for my skin. Then MAC came out with a whole new lines of shades, and I was totally hooked. Since then, brands, one by one, started offering every possible foundation shade you could think of. And if you can't find your color, you can alway blend a few jars and make one for yourself.

If you're still having trouble trying to find the right shade for your skin, here are three tips for helping you pick the right foundation!

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Know your skin tone

Do you have a neutral tone? A bit on the cooler side? Is your skin a bit warmer? Are you still not sure?

Knowing your undertone is important for ensuring that your foundation matches and disappears seamlessly into your skin. For some, it's easy to identify their undertone. For others, it may be a little tricky as it's not always so obvious. Until, of course, you're wearing a foundation that is completely off and someone points it out. As Latinas, we come in a variety of beautiful tones from peaches and cream complexions, and golden hues to beautiful espressos. There is no one-size-fits-all for us, so it requires a bit of homework.

There are several ways to determine your skin tone. If you tan easily without burning, you may have a more yellow-olive undertone. However, there are a few exceptions to the rule and you may have a cooler undertone. If you burn easily, your undertone may be on the pink or blue side.

Your skin may fall into the neutral category, which is a combination of yellow and blue undertones.

Still not sure? Try the vein test. The theory is that if your veins are blue or purple then you're in the cool undertone spectrum. If your veins look greenish, you likely have a yellow undertone.

Knowing your undertone will help greatly when you're at the counter staring at countless colors. Fortunately, they're usually divided by skin tone categories!

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Test your foundation

Test, test, test! Like I said, as Latinas, we have to do more homework. The tests above may work for many but some of us have very complex undertones. You may have to spend a few extra bucks at first to find the right color.

Before you go to the drugstore and randomly pick a color, stop by a department or makeup store instead. Test out a few foundations so you can see if a cooler or warmer tone is for you. Pick the color that looks like your tone but also grab one shade lighter and one shade darker. Apply on different parts of your face (preferable closer to your jaw line). Go outside if possible to see how you look in natural light.

If you're not in the market for buying expensive department store products every time you run out, take your fancy bottle or tube to the drugstore and find its closest match.

Don't rely on one color

No one is made up of just one color, so it's a good idea to buy a shade up or down as well to have handy. During that time of the month, my skin has a more pale look. During the summer, I get a little darker (even with daily SPF coverage). I have a few shades in my makeup drawer that I can add to my foundation for those changes throughout the year.

Once you do your undertone homework and foundation testing (with your extra colors in reach), buying makeup will become a less daunting experience. Who knows! You may even become an expert!

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Photograph by Rachel Matos
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