How To Match Foundation

Women bring their own foundation to their colour analysis. One in eight has the best colour choice possible for her skin. Seems apt to talk about it.

The Wrong Hair Colour Merry Go Round

If the hair is too warm the skin is too yellow. You will be matched to too warm a foundation. You will look warmer than you are. Your hair colourist will keep warming up your hair, not noticing that your face is getting yellower, redder, and oilier looking. You will keep applying more makeup. Clothing colours will get more and more out of the loop because you feel something is off and can’t tell what it is. Coping with picking right clothing feels overwhelming.

Solution: Wear your correct clothing colours to go shopping. Tie back your hair with a correct coloured scarf till it can be fixed.

Photo: awestlan


The Try-To-Match-My-Eyes Merry Go Round

We do not know our true eye colour simply by looking at it. Uploading the eye photo and extracting the colours can be surprisingly revealing. Likely not one of them will be what you think your eye colour is. The problem here is that you’ve taken your eye out of its context, meaning its surrounding colours in your face and hair. With colour, context is a deal breaker.

Many Light Summers try to match their eye colour in clothing. They can feel that their eye is more than just blue. They can feel that their eye is hazy, not Caribbean ocean clear. They gravitate to Autumn’s teal. That’s more than blue and hazy in its own muted way. On them, this colour looks bigger and darker than they are, like wearing curtains, so they amp up the makeup to match the teal. The young, fresh, sexy appeal of Light Summer evaporates. Dark makeup on light-coloured faces drags everything downward. On everyone, it’s light colour that lifts. Foundation then becomes too warm, dark, and heavy in texture. And on it goes.

Given comparisons, turns out they were close. Their true eye colour is Light Summer turquoise. Not only blue. Hazy. She was so close but got the exact type and amount of heat wrong. How could anybody know unless they were tested in a controlled and correct environment? The apparent similarities are definitely there, but oh what a difference those last little adjustments make in the final image. 10 years on your face or a little more than that.

Often, the Light Summer/Soft Autumn divide isn’t a decision I make till fairly late in the PCA process. Light Summer often wears Soft Autumn warmth in hair, which looks like a heavy hat, like wearing a crochet tea cozy on a shorter-looking person.

Solution: Have thy colours analyzed and take control of thine own appearance. Your Colour Book has your eye colours exactly, all of them.

Photo: plom


Wait a minute here. Did I just say that your 12 Tone Colour Book based on the 12 colour collections derived by Sci\ART founder Kathryn Kalisz contains every single one of your colours in every person all the time?? Surely not. You’re a golden eyed, medium brown haired Bright Winter. Show me those in the Bright Winter swatches. As time goes on and I see more, literally and figuratively, I have come to this:

Digression: Every One Of Everyone’s Colours Are In Kathryn’s 12 Tones

I draped a True Winter man. In the Luxury Drapes (Final Drapes), his wife and I could easily see blue and purple colours within the gray of his beard. We have all seen hair so black, it’s blue. The brown haired Bright Winter has unique, special hair very unlike Summer medium brown. Someone might call them both medium brown or ash brown. If the hair is on your head and you’ve never stood beside a Summer medium brown and compared, you might think it’s the same. But it’s not. Put Summer’s medium ash brown hair colour on this head and she looks nearer to death.

I have learned the lesson that colours are never what I think they are. What if the swatch books developed by Kathryn, with every colour fully consistent with every other in all 3 dimensions of colour, were 100% right? About every colour in every person, skin, hair, eyes, teeth, veins, the whole deal.

What if we are wrong thinking that a warm brown eye in True Winter is an anomaly? How audacious of us to know better than Nature and a genetic code we barely comprehend. From the track record of getting things right, Nature is out far ahead of humans. She deserves the benefit of the doubt. What if it’s perfectly rational and reasonable that a Light Summer have brown eyes or red hair, even if we can’t see those colours per se in the swatch book? Humans couldn’t explain rain or reproduction not so long ago.

Nature gets everyone 100% consistent. Every feature. No exceptions. Our entire biology is supervised by one genetic code. Every one of your original pigments are in the swatch books. I’d even extend this to include apparent surface colour of the skin, meaning the colour foundation we buy, whether you appear yellow, orange, brown, pink, or white. It’s the mixtures and how they come out in your body that may not be in the swatch books. But I would bet that you could sit down with your swatches as pots of paint and create all your colours just as they appear on your body from those pots of paint. Lots of ways to make the brown of an amber Winter eye. Brown needs three primary colours and Winter has all three. How our eye looks as an amalgamated colour and what pigments participated in the first place are not the same, I’m certain of it.

You literally have thousands of colours in you that could have been in the personal colour analyzed palettes. The Winter amber eye is not like the Soft Autumn or Bright Spring one. Test them with comparisons. I can guarantee that they won’t be identical.

You know that I write this website because I’m trying to figure it all out too. Convince me I’m wrong. Please. All I want is to understand the truth.


Photo: Xtyn24


The Why that foundation just disappears into your neck! Merry Go Round

Don’t assume the salesperson knows how to match foundation correctly regardless of how slick he/she is about it. She may have gone to a weekend course. She does want you to look great but she has pressures of her own from higher up. She only has her product line to pick from. Mall lighting is the cheapest they can install.

Holding plastic swatches to your face is not enough. Stripes on arms and hands is useless. One stripe on the face and it’s a match – so not good enough. Maybe holding up plastic discs to your skin is acceptable at the drugstore if there are no samples, but at the department store? The nuances of the pigment mixture and the chemistry of our body are just the beginning of the shortcomings of coloured plastic.

Our visual system is comparison based. This is a given. It is how human brain structure is organized. There is no point in fighting it. If you have a hair or eyelash stuck in your mascara wand, do you hold it up against a black wall or a white wall to see it?

You need 4 or 5 stripes on the side of the cheek and jaw. Wait 60 seconds for it to fuse with the skin if it’s going to. Look at it for another 120 seconds and don’t make decisions. Only notice that the longer you look, the more different the stripes become from each other. Now pick the one that’s hardest to see. Can’t tell? Smear them out more on the face.

If you can’t tell if a blouse is your green, go around the store and pick out a few green things. No need for them to be your Season. The hot minute your eye is given a range, it gets busy because it knows how to do comparison. It will position the colour in your perception quite accurately. Staring and thinking and struggling will only take you so far. It’s like forcing a memory. It just goes further away. Give your eye what it wants: comparison. Then your brain says, This, I get. Now I see what you want from me. OK, no problem. Here you go. Here’s your answer.

Solution: Insist on several stripes. Do the waiting of 60 and 120 seconds. Remove the obvious Nos. Start again. Ask for samples. If it feels like a selling game authority conflict for a single second, run to your nearest Sephora store.

Photo: bardoin


Who’s zooming who?

The company is not doing you a favour by offering samples. The markup on this stuff is a zillion million percent. The company bosses live in castles. Do not be too grateful.

Think of it like this. You are doing the company a favour by offering them a moment of your attention out of your day. You are doing them an even bigger favour by giving them the willingness to bring their product into your home and to apply it on your body and offer it yet more attention.

They’re going to recover the cost of those samples in their first next sale.

Ending On A Happy Note

I have a Dark Winter soul sister who brought her gorgeous daughter to learn what she could look like by choosing certain colours over others. When Cheryl (whom you’ve met before in You Know Your Colours – Now What?) and I met, I felt this reciprocity thing, like I was talking to myself (we do not look alike). A common Dark Winter feeling is, I can tell it like it is or I can waste everyone’s time being all careful. She and I share it in spades. We laugh about it. She brought me this pack of gum as a gift.



It was a week ago and I’m still laughing. When I walk the dog, I hope the neighbours don’t drive past and see this lone woman laughing all by herself. I’m typing and laughing. I love my friend, Cheryl.

(The photo is linked to a site with a lot of other funny stuff. You too could be sitting alone in traffic ROTFL.)



24 thoughts on “How To Match Foundation”

  1. Thank you for this latest wisdom Christine. I have been procrastinating on buying new foundation so these tips are really appreciated. And thank you for demystifying the whole process and making it sound so ‘doable’.

    One of the great things you (and Paula Begoun) have helped me to learn is to ‘take charge of my own destiny’ in the dressing room and at the makeup counter! I no longer ascribe to the view that the sales rep is all knowing! :) I know what questions to ask.

    On the other topic, I agree that each and every person is unique and beautiful in their own way, whatever color combination their DNA has derived for them. The beauty of the human race is in our differences. The one question I always feel left with is this – we know our DNA is not perfect – that is why we get blindness or down syndrome or cleft lip or any million of other ‘imperfections’ that humans experience. Therefore, could this same imperfection not also effect a person’s coloring in some way? An extreme example would be albinism. Could a less extreme, very minor example be someone who for all intents and purposes “looks” like red hair would be the best match to their skin, but they have jet blue black hair instead?

    I dont’ know the answer to this. I LIKE the idea that our DNA got all our coloring right and that it all works together – whatever the color of our hair, eyes, skin. That idea feels right and nice.

    Perhaps the answer is that even if a person IS albino – they are albino head to toe – meaning that their DNA flowered into the same ‘levels’ of coloring head to toe. Perhaps I just answered my own question – the fact our complete being grows from just one set of DNA instructions, even if those instructions are flawed, the entire being is still only made up of one set of color blueprints. Ok. I think I got it.

    Sometimes it helps to write things out!

  2. Hi Christine,

    Interesting comment about waiting to distinguish between light summer and soft autumn until later in the analysis. What do you look for to distinguish the two? What do you see that they have in common?

    Thanks for another great article!!

  3. Like all Summer, the Autumn drapes look heavy and the person shadows in, Denise. Also, it’s the L Su colours that reveal the true colour and clarity of the eyes. Eye colour can be quite intense in this group relative to the face.

  4. “We do not know our true eye colour simply by looking at it. Uploading the eye photo and extracting the colours can be surprisingly revealing.”

    So true. I used to think my eyes were blue-gray, and I couldn’t decide between Soft Summer and Soft Autumn. My hair is auburn with a hint of copper, but my eyes were cold, at least I thought so. It was really confusing.

    Then I took a few photos of my eyes, skin and hair, and extracted the colors. It was quite a shock to find out that my skin is a mix of beige and light terracotta and that my eyes are GREEN-gray! The closest my eyes ever got to blue are shades of teal. Hey, I’m not slow, it just took me 34 years to realize this lol I still can’t believe I was so blind…

    I would definitely recommend extracting colors from photos to everyone. If nothing, it’s a great fun and it can help you with finding your true colors.

  5. Hi Chirstine, thanks for a very informative post.

    I was fascinated by the comments about hair colour and wondered if you can solve a little mystery for me. I recently went to a new hair stylist who coloured my hair. In the salon the colour looked ok, it’s a coppery auburn, but as soon as I got home I realised my skin looked different. Since this colour was done, I’ve found that my make up, specifically my foundations, doesnt look so good anymore. None of my previously perfect foundations look right on my skin. They all look too yellow, are not blended into my skin, just look as if they are sitting on top of my skin and a poor colour match. Now that doesn’t make any sense to me because my skin colour hasn’t changed. Just my hair colour….I’m a True/Warm Autumn, hair is 100% grey. Before going grey it was auburn. Have been dying it for 10 years and never noticed this problem before. Do you think the hair colour is too dark? Or too cool? Or has my skintone changed overnight and I need to get a cooler toned foundation?!

  6. Although what you say makes good sense, Helen, I’m not sure I’ll be able to give you the solution without seeing you specifically. The skin colour you felt you had before, and how foundations reacted to it, depended on all the colours around it, including the hair. Hair colour very much affects skin colour – not that your skin is changing, just as it doesn’t physically change during an analysis process, but to our eyes and brains, it appears to change. Once the hat (hair) is altered, the skin colour will alter, as will the reaction with any products placed near the skin. I think you’d need to fully tie back the hair to get a correct foundation, but if the hair is at a different heat level than your skin, the product will not look the same. Hence the merry go round.


    Also, regarding uploading your eye photo and extracting the colours, M. wrote what I felt was an important reminder that everyone is a unique individual. Not harder to analyze. Not odd or left out. Very few people whose colours I analyze have every feature within the dreaded and near-non-existent average. We can identify a unique feature almost every person in each of the 12 Tones.

    After reading your last post, I uploaded a photo of the eye to see the colors more clearly, and, based on what I am seeing, I just can’t come around to your perspective that those colors are anywhere in my Soft Summer Book. I see amber, burnt orange, goldenrod, chocolate, and brownish-green, but nothing even close to my soft summer palette. Looking at them this objectively reminds me of why I don’t (and never have) loved my (brown) eyes. Focusing so closely on their dark warmth makes me realize just how creamy pink-brown my skin is. I very much think of myself as an oddity in the world of personal color analysis.

    I replied: “No technique or advice will apply to everyone. There are women in Soft Summer with a much lighter blue eye or more avocado green and gold. The variation is enormous. That’s part of what makes it challenging. Some people fall inside those averages the books show us. You don’t…which makes you all the more interesting.”

    M. was able to discern a blurred purple-blue ring around the outside of the iris, interesting given that her eyes are soft cool dark brown. Is it possible that the purple-blue colour also belonged to the colours more common to another Tone? It sounds very S Su to me. We’d have to have a correctly lit eye from that other Tone and compare. I see the ring more in the cool Seasons than the warm ones, but very hard to see in a brown eye, so excellent that it showed up. We have so many layers and it’s always a good day when we find a way to access a new one.

  7. About changing hair color and skin, what if you find that putting gold in your brown hair makes your skin shine, and you think, “well, I must be a warm season”; but then you put silver in you hair (it was foil, for Halloween) and you shine, shine, and you think “I must be cold instead!” I´m puzzled!

  8. Christine, thanks very much for your input on my hair colour/foundation mystery! I’m due back at the salon next week and am filled with trepidation at seeing the same person again to do my colour. I think I will take my colour swatches in for her to look at, to help her gauge the level of warmth my hair needs. I read your previous blog posts about Autumn hair and will keep ‘milky chocolate’ in mind when we talk through my colour with her.
    Thank you again!

  9. Re: every color is in Kathryn’s 12 tones. I’ve been draped as several different seasons, bright winter among them. I had decided that bright winter was wrong because black and white aren’t that good on me. But I loved the BW makeup and bright colors on me. So I went to my (12 tones) fan and realized that pure white isn’t there – the white has a touch of yellow. And the black in my closet is much darker/cooler than the black on my fan – which is closer to what I would call “charcoal” maybe a greenish charcoal. Those colors, if I’m really strict about matching them, look great on me. But what I think of as “black” and “white” – not so much. And there are colors in the stores that are brighter than the ones in the fan that don’t look that good on me. I’ve come to think of the fan as a kind of “bulls-eye” for my best colors. I love the image of they are the paints that combine to form all of my colors. I do have colors I love that seem like combinations or in between 2 colors. Thanks for that insight!

  10. A question about “every one of everyone’s colors is in Kathryn’s tones.”

    What about the dark haired soft summer whose hair looks darker than all of the darkest tones? (I’m not trying to be argumentative – I’m really curious about this!)

  11. Asked this a lot, Denise. Will do a post about it. What we think our colours are is not what they are. Katie Holmes is the darkest haired probable S Su I can think of and I still put her within her Tone. Also, you need to consider all 3 colour dimensions. S Su hair has an essential dustiness and I find it adjusts the darkness level well within the Tone. S Su goes pretty dark.

  12. Can one be a true warm season, and have neutral foundation look better on them than yellowed foundation? In other words, should foundation match both your overtone and undertone?
    Thanks much!

  13. Ideally, Jennifer, foundation matches both. But first, everyone woman is an individual within a Season. Even True Seasons can run closer to one of their neighbour Neutrals.

    Second, foundation is not coloured or labeled in a very organized way, certainly not between companies. One’s warm is another neutral.

    Third, the difference in type of heat between the 2 warm Seasons is very important. Sp and A are often very intolerant of each other’s kind of heat, where these are often the other group’s worst drapes (which is why I don’t believe there are Sp/A blend Seasons, because I never see real human beings respond to colour in this way). Sp foundations are quite yellow, A foundation are a heavier beige-brown. Even darker colours are much yellower for Sp skin. I see a lot more foundation for Sp skin than A.

    Fourth, heat in colour is relative, I think. What exactly is maximally cool or warm? Is it max warm pure yellow or gold? And does human skin ever reach those maximal values, even though they can be applied to cosmetics and textiles, where different pigments are used than those in human skin?

    To match a client with foundation, I choose from about 5 colours that are often close on that Season’s skin, adjusting for her darkness. From there, it’s elimination.
    Good Q. Thank you.

  14. Christine,
    You got me really interested by the comment above, does really yellow skin determines season in any way (narrows down to Sp/A) or it can happen in any season? If the yellow foundation color is determining/narrowing down the number of seasons, it would be VERY helpful for those who can’t get PCA.

    My very yellow foundation matches me perfectly and I’m sure of it but I’m still in process of finding my true colours. I dream to be drape by you, hopefully someday, cause in my country there arent any sci/art pca :( They still base on hair/eys colour steroetypes and 4 seasons and I don’t quite fit to any category. My natural hair is coffee brown but wit warm golden and red shine (something like tea color). With this natural color my eyes spark and really pop – seem golden now, not brown and my pale skin look alive and more fresh – for years I dyed my hair yellow-blond and I looked good but apparently nature knows better… ;) With this amazin change I’m even more detrmined to find my best colors – it works miracles!

  15. I thought this through and partly answered myself, cause ‘really yellow skin’ can by anything depending who are you next to… I live in middle Europe and comparing to all my friends, my skin is surprisingly yellow (yellow enough that I can’t find right drugstore foundation MAC nc15 is close but too orange) BUT when I’m standing next to my brother and mother I’m almost pink! (they’re bit darker and more yellow).

    I still wonder if ligh buttery, vanilla colour (turning more olive, golden than orange when I’m tan) is a foundation that can work for seasons other than warm?

    Hope someone would help me with that question, till then I’ll stay open minded about the colours I choose. It’s so HARD without professional PCA, anyone who gets it will save themselves a lot of trouble and money in the process. For now, I know that yellow is warm, but I have to find the right amount of warmth for me (as well as value and chroma) before I was trapped in thinking that I’m as warm as my mother and the same lovely golden blond suits me almost as good as her -everyone told me I look great but now they say “WOW”. I’m waiting for that AHA moment like when I saw myself in new, close to natural hair and my jaw dropped, I felt like I’m so refreshed and finally in focus.

  16. I hope that one day, you can be properly and beautifully draped, Daga, if not by me, then by a woman of your own country who came to be trained here. About Vanilla foundation for other Seasons than warm, it really depends on each woman. I have certain foundations that work well in certain Seasons, but I still have to compare 3 or 4, might have to mix some, might use a lighter colour on some women or a warmer one on others inside the same Season. Choosing correct foundation is a very individual process.

  17. I hope :) cause doing this yourself is almost impossible. I’m an artist and have a good eye for colours (that’s how I mixed my own foundation – beautifully matches me even after hair change, now looks even better) but seeing >yourself< as a whole is the hardest, I don't know if anyone is able looking in the mirror non-judgmental and without any assumptions, without having in mind which seasons and colours you like/hate. And the truth is "likes" can be deceiving, now I'm trying to be more open and look at myself again :)

  18. Hi Christine,I too have a question on foundation. My hair is 90%salt and pepper. My eyes are a cool brown look like turning a hazel color. When I was younger I was a deep winter that flowed to autumn. Now my skin tone still has a little warmth. Went to clinique and she put me again in a warm foundation. Should I come to grip with the warmer foundation or get a neutral. In my opinion the warm skin seem to clash. Thank you for your help. One more question, does your book have advice for older women with grey hair?

  19. Great place to start, Daga. We cannot see ourselves. Once we surrender any belief that we know what looks good on us, we move forward much faster. The trick then is to find advice you can trust. Not so easy either.

    Sharon, I’d leave the Clinique counter entirely at this point. Don’t get too warm foundation. Do you live near a Sephora? Go in there, explain that you are always put in too warm colour, and ask for several matches (not with the gadget, get someone to do it by eye) that are cooler and warmer, get samples, go home, stripe them down your jaw and neck, and pick the hardest one to see. Chanel, Merle Norman, Dior tend to have some pretty good options. Merle Norman is really good for cooler choices.

  20. Christine,
    After your post I decided I just need to find someone to help and I did :) I had to travel across my country but I found a good colourist – she works on 12tone system (not sci/art but similar, even in names of seasons), also trained in 16 tones. I was sceptic but seeing her previous results and talking with her by phone convinced me. She knows your blog as well as Kathryn Kalisz book, anyone whose passion is colour should (in my opinion).

    The draping was an amazing experience. I was open to any season and give the colourist the lead. My skin appreciated warmth so much that I was considered even a true spring/autumn, quite unexpected thing for me is how much better were very rich dark colours than the lightest ones despite my very light skin (a little of dark autumn “vibes”). But the brights “sealed the deal” – they didn’t’ look particularly bright on me but they just made my skin glow amazingly! Bright Spring I was :) maybe on the warmer end of season cause silver and light grey are the worst colours in my pallete. I’m so happy cause seeing my face against the drapes left me without any doubts, my skin reacted so strongly that I couldn’t miss it.

    Now I have to evaluate my clothes again. I have too much “safe choices” – lots of gray, brown, black but most of my “wow dresses” turned out to be exacly in the palette. Most of my make up turned out good as well but all my “nude” lipsticks matching my lip colour were soft autumns pinks (I don’t understand how could I get that wrong) I have to replace them with more bright colours that scare me a little. My hair was semi-permanent and on the visit it was washed out to previous golden blonde – the colourist showed better choices of colour, one of them was the exact colour of semi-permanent I used before and got ‘wow” :)

    I wrote a lot… but I just had to share – I already gave a big thank you to my amazing colourist Aneta but also want to thank you Christine, if I wouldn’t read your blog, I would never got interested in colour analysis. Now I’m rereading every word you wrote about Bright Spring – to understand my season better.

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