A guide to finding your perfect match

Beauty Refresh

Words: Foyin Ogunrombi | Images: Supplied

Whether or not you’re new to makeup, it’s okay to feel a little overwhelmed at the thought of buying foundation. There are countless brands from which to choose, at different price points, as well as a variety of finishes, undertones and ranges depending on your skin type. We’ve created a helpful guide about the most important things to know and consider before buying foundation.


Before you even pick up a foundation bottle, your undertone is the most important thing to know. It's the underlying colour beneath the surface of your skin and while your surface skin may change according to the seasons, your undertone stays the same. There are three main undertones with the following characteristics:

  • Cool: The veins in your arms tend to look blue, silver jewellery suits you more and your undertones have hints of pink, red or blue. Foundations that are cool toned can indicate this by ending with a “C”.

  • Neutral: The veins in your arms tend to look purple and blue and your undertones have a mix of both warm and cool colours. Foundations that are neutral can indicate this by ending with an “N”.

  • Warm: The veins in your arms tend to look green, you look better in gold jewellery and your undertones have hints of yellow, peach or gold. Foundations that are warm toned can indicate this by ending with a “W”.

Once you know your undertone, you can swatch a few options to help you find the perfect match. Make sure you’re swatching on your jawline or chest and not your arms, as your arms are often a completely different shade to your face. If you blend the foundation on your jawline and it disappears, that’s your shade. However, if you have hyperpigmentation on your face, match your foundation to your neck.

skin type

The foundation you choose also needs to complement your skin type. Different formulas contain ingredients that can exacerbate any pre-existing issues.

  • Oily: If your skin breaks out easily and your skin is shiny throughout the day, you likely have oily skin. Choose a foundation that is oil-free.

  • Combination: If your skin tends to be dry everywhere except your T-zone, you most likely have combination skin. Choose an oil-free foundation that's hydrating.

  • Dry: If your skin feels dry all day and tends to get patchy and flaky, you most likely have dry skin. Choose a hydrating foundation.

Once you know what type of foundation you need for your undertone and skin type, invest in a primer suited to your skin concerns. This will help your foundation apply more easily and last longer.


Knowing your undertone and skin type can also help you determine what kind of finish you like. This depends on the type of coverage you want, your skin texture, how long you want it to last and the season — some people prefer matte skin during winter and a dewy look in the summer... or the converse. The three main types of foundation finishes are:

  • Matte: A matte finish allows no shine to come through, which works best for people with oily skin as it reduces the appearance of pores. Dry skin should avoid matte foundations, because it will cling to dry patches. Matte foundations also tend to be higher coverage and this can feel heavy on the skin.
  • Dewy: A dewy finish gives you a glowing, youthful appearance. These are best suited to people with dry or mature skin since it aims to reflect light, which gives the appearance of softer, brighter skin. Dewy finishes are found in foundations of all coverages, but work well in sheer-to-medium coverage foundations, as they give your skin a healthy-looking glow.

  • Natural: Often called satin or natural-matte, this falls right between a dewy and matte foundation and aims to give you a natural look and feel. Every skin type can enjoy a natural finish, but people with oily skin may need to pair it with a powder to help it last during the day. Natural foundations tend to be sheer-to-medium coverage, allowing them to cover some imperfections without feeling too heavy.


Now that you have all of the need-to-know information, you can make a foundation decision based on your wallet. The perfect foundation exists for you, no matter your budget:

  • Affordable: These brands tend to be found in pharmacies (and on Superbalist, too) and the foundations are usually less than R200. Maybelline's famous Fit Me Concealer has a natural finish and the Super Stay Foundation is a full-coverage and matte foundation.

  • Mid-range: These brands are still relatively affordable and can be found in pharmacies, but you may also need to buy them in department or standalone stores and online. L'Oréal is accessible with foundations priced in the mid-R200s. A mid-range foundation is priced between R250 and R400.

  • Luxury: These brands are sold in department and standalone stores or online. Bobbi Brown foundations retail at R635 and they’re worth investing in. Luxury products tend to have more skincare benefits, such as including SPF15. Clinique foundations have been created for those with sensitive skin.