Why I Own 10 Different Foundation Shades

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Finding your exact foundation shade is nowhere close to a perfect science. In fact, it can be more like moving target practice with a bow and arrow. Just think of all the things you have to consider: Not only is your skin tone liable to change, but who can keep track of which brands suit your skin when and with how much coverage given the season, time of day, and the rest of your makeup situation? If anyone understands this problem, it’s Glossier Customer Experience Coordinator Jordan Verrilli. The girl has 10 different shades and formulas of foundation—that she regularly uses! We’ll let her explain...

When I was younger, I was given a book to coach me through my biracial childhood. It explained that my hair was different from my father’s, but that didn’t mean it was wrong; that it was perfectly normal that I didn’t have the exact same skin tone as either of my parents… All the good stuff that lets you know that you’re as beautiful as you feel in a really positive way. I actually pulled it out this past Thanksgiving when I sat down to write this and I noticed one small omission that would suit me now as an avid makeup lover. Namely, that I would come to amass no fewer than 10 different shades of foundation to match my ever-changing skin color at any given time.

Which, you know, fine—I get it. It's a book for children. And to be fair, that book could have never known that my father’s Irish and Italian roots and my mother’s African American skin would leave me always searching for the perfect makeup shade. But alas, here I am, and here’s what I’ve learned about having a truly comprehensive foundation collection:

Coverage Level

The higher coverage a foundation, the less you can mess around with shades. If I want a high coverage option, it had better match my skin color at that exact moment, whereas if a foundation provides less coverage I can get away with wearing it even if it isn’t a perfect match—blending is a wonderful thing. This is also why I end up keeping my foundations even if they don’t match my skin tone consistently throughout the year.

Undertones

Like many people I have turned to the help of the internet to determine what my undertones are. While my veins are consistently blue/green (which means that I’m warm), I find that the temperature of my skin fluctuates during the season. I go between cool and gray, then to yellow, and when darkest I’m red and warm. If I use a foundation that matches my undertones in February (cool and gray) in July, I’ll look washed out and deceased.

No mixing allowed

I already manage to get foundation everywhere: my clothing, my sink, the doors in my home, my freezer, ev.er.y.where. The smudge marks of my fingers look like a Law & Order SVU opening scene gone brown. Until I manage the art of transferring foundation solely to my face, I'm not going to risk spreading it further while pretending to be Bob Ross. No mixing naturally leads to more foundations.

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To briefly go back to that book I mentioned earlier, it did have this really nice analogy that compared skin to milk in coffee. Which is to say this: The almond milk in the coffee that is my skin constantly fluctuates. Find my spectrum below:

Winter: At this point, my skin is much more gray and sallow-yellow than it is warm and golden. Even though I am African American, I do not feel tan (in college, I remedied this by visiting the sole tanning salon in Hanover, New Hampshire, which was dumb). I’ve come to accept this shade (even though it isn’t my absolute favorite) and I embrace it by feeling Parisian. I can sweep my hair in a bun, put on a red lip and black turtleneck. I’m wearing Kevyn Aucoin Sensual Skin Enhancer in SX11, Perfecting Skin Tint in Dark, or Nars Radiant Creamy Concealer in Biscuit. This is the time in my skin spectrum that I’m most attracted to red. I feel like I can pull off a light dusting of Nars Exhibit A (or Benetint) and gloMinerals Suede Matte Stick in Port.

Spring/Fall: I’m either desperately searching for or clinging on to tan hints of summer, depending on which side of the season I’m on. The darker shades I own are too rich, but the lighter ones I own are too yellow, hence time for new foundations. Nars Radiant Creamy Concealer in Caramel is my shade here. If I’ve gotten some sun and my undertones are warm (or I’ve liberally applied St. Tropez Self Tanning Mousse in Dark) then Make Up Forever HD Foundation in N170 is perfect. If I’m a little more yellow and gray, then Laura Mercier Tinted Moisturizer in Caramel is my perfect match. While I am armed with plenty of foundations for these seasons, I’m still constantly chasing the sun, hoping to get some glow back.

Summer: I have left the world of beige far behind and entered full on deep. This shift doesn’t happen gradually, but rather in one week, or even a single beach day. To keep things standard, Nars Radiant Creamy Concealer in Chestnut is my reference here. I switch to the Deep shade of Perfecting Skin Tint, and SX12 of Kevyn Aucoin Sensual Skin Enhancer. I’m on the browner shade of tan, and my skin tone is much closer to my mother's. This is my absolute favorite shade. I feel that it brings out my eyes and the brown in my hair, and I feel confident wearing colors like orange and pink. My absolute favorite thing about this time of year is my freckles. The dark chocolate spots come out and sprinkle my nose and cheekbones and lips. I love them. I watched this video of women getting tattooed with freckles, and afterwards I highly considered following in their footsteps. In summer, I’m warm, I’m happy, and I’m gleefully ignoring of sun damage. (But, trust, my favorite SPF is La Roche-Posay Anthelios.)

—Jordan Verrilli

Photographed by Tom Newton.

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