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 • Makeup  • Makeup Guides  • Foundation the Wrong Shade? Makeup Artists Reveal *All* the Ways to Fix it Fast

Foundation the Wrong Shade? Makeup Artists Reveal *All* the Ways to Fix it Fast

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Main image – Anidimi/Stocksy

So, you’ve treated yourself to a new foundation but you’ve just discovered it’s the wrong shade. *All the curse words*.

But before you cry, curse, toss it in the bin, or all the above, read this first. Because even if the shade was perfect in the summer and it’s now too dark, this article contains lots of tips on how you can fix the problem instead of wasting the bottle and admitting defeat. 

With shade tips and tweaks from makeup experts Ashley Gibson, Azesha Ramcharan, and Carmindy Bowyer, as well as some of my personal experiences as a beauty editor, keep scrolling to find out how this article might just save the day. 


Image – Pixel-shot/Adobe


How to know if you’ve got the wrong shade

It should be obvious if it’s the wrong shade when you first apply it to your skin. The best place to test it is along your jaw line. If it doesn’t disappear seamlessly into your skin, then it’s not the shade for you. 


How to fix your foundation if it’s too pink, yellow or orange

When your foundation is looking too yellow or pink it may be that your foundation doesn’t match your skin undertones- the hue underneath your skin tone. 

It can be a little confusing to tell your skin undertone but just know that there are three; cool (ones that pull slightly blue or purple), neutral and warm (ones that pull slightly yellow or peach).

Neutral undertones will generally be able to wear either cool or warm tones, but if you don’t match your cool or warm undertone to your foundation accurately you might find your foundation looks either ashy or too orange on your skin – even if you’ve matched the actual shade of your skin perfectly.

Not to worry though, the experts have advice.


Image – Katarinaradovic/Stocksy


Option 1: Blend with another foundation

If you have another foundation in your stash, you might be able to use it to blend with your new one. “Mix your foundation with another one that has the desired undertone,” Gibson says. “For example, mix a cooler-toned foundation with yours to make it cooler or a warmer-toned one to make it warmer.”


Option 2: Mix with bronzer when your foundation is too pink

“If the foundation is… too pink you can blend in a little liquid bronzer into the bottle and shake it up to give it more warmth,” says Bowyer.


Option 3: Mix with blusher when your foundation is too yellow

“If you find the foundation is just way too yellow you can mix in a little baby pink liquid blush to it which will tone down the strong yellow effect,” says Bowyer.


Option 4: Use a different toned powder

Find the right tone of powder. “Use a finishing powder with a cooler or warmer tone to subtly adjust the tone of your foundation,” Gibson recommends.

This can help balance things out, agrees Bowyer. For exmaple, “pink undertones are tricky as they can sometimes make you looked washed out or pasty. It can also enhance redness the skin may already have,” she says.

“If you find this happens you can apply a warm yellow toned setting powder on top of the foundation to help even it out.


Option 5: Balance with bronzer or blusher

Gibson also says you can balance it out with a blush or bronzer. “While it won’t change the foundation, applying a warmer bronzer or a cooler blush can help balance and adjust your makeup look’s overall warmth or coolness.”


Do all of the above slowly. “It’s important to do it gradually and test the mix on your jawline or neck to ensure it matches your skin tone,” Gibson explains. “Adjusting foundation tones is often a trial-and-error process, so start with small amounts of adjuster and build up as needed.”

And if all else fails, “you can buy foundation adjuster drops specifically designed to change the undertone of your foundation,” says Gibson. “Add a tiny amount of warmer (yellow or gold) or cooler (blue or green) toned drops to your foundation and mix well.” Ramcharan recommends Face Atelier Ultra Foundation Pro ($38 from Face Atelier US


What to do if your foundation is too light

If your issue is that your foundation shade is just too light though, you have still have options.


Image – Ivanhaidutski/Stocksy


Option 1: Add depth

Last year, I ordered a MAC foundation for the winter and it’s one shade too light for my natural skin tone. I love the formula though and refuse to waste it, so I apply it all over, neck included.

Then I warm it up using my trusty Chanel Les Beiges Bronzing Cream in shade 390. I apply a little more of the bronzing cream than I usually would as 390 is a very subtle shade and this, mixed with the MAC foundation make a really good team on my skin. It even looks like I’ve lightened my undereye area. 

Gibson agrees with this technique. “Use a contour product or a foundation/concealer a few shades darker than your skin tone to add depth and dimension,” she says.

“Apply it to areas like the hollows of your cheeks, the sides of the nose, the temples and the jawline.” And remember to blend. “Blending the contour well is essential to create a natural transition from the lighter foundation,” she adds.


Option 2: Use warmer powder

“A slightly darker or warmer toned setting powder can help to warm up the foundation and make it look more natural,” Gibson says. 


What to do if your foundation is too dark

Foundation too dark? The experts have got you covered too.


Image – Originalpunkt/Adobe


Option 1: Apply thinner layers

If I’m transitioning from summer to autumn and my skin is slowly getting lighter, my darker foundation will start to look unnatural. So, I’ll apply a slightly thinner layer of foundation and then use a lighter concealer under my eyes, around my nose, chin and in the middle of my forehead.

Next, I’ll blend the edges of each product with a brush so that it’s not too obvious that I’m wearing two different colours. 

My Chanel bronzer then helps to tie the look together and make it look more natural. “Use a concealer that’s a shade or two lighter than your skin tone to highlight the high points of your face,” Gibson recommends. “This can help balance the darker foundation.”


Option 2: Set with a lighter powder

“Use a setting powder lighter than the foundation to lighten the overall look subtly,” explains Gibson.


How to shop if you’re in between two foundation shades

Even with all the shade ranges available now, it can still be possible to end up between two foundation shades.

Ramcharan recommends buying two. “One option is to buy both shades and blend them for a custom match,” she says. “Some brands offer travel sizes making this option a little less expensive than purchasing full size products.”

If you’re not in a position to buy two, think about which season you’re going into and buy accordingly. For example, if you’re moving into summer then go for a slightly darker option as your skin is likely to go darker due to sun exposure (and vice versa). Then you can adjust it using the above concealer/bronzer tips accordingly.


The takeaway

So you see, if you’ve bought the wrong shade or if your skin colour has changed with the seasons, there are ways around adapting the hue of your foundation. No panic or curse words needed! 

Whether you’re using a concealer to lighten one that’s too dark, or a contour product or bronzer to warm it up, there are clever tricks you can try to avoid that dreaded throw-away moment. And don’t forget those genius colour adapting drops.

The above tips prove that utilising what you’ve bought, not wasting a perfectly good bottle of foundation and making it work for your skin tone is totally doable. Adapt your shade gradually and remember to always blend, blend, blend to avoid harsh, noticeable lines. 


Meet the experts

Ashley Nichole Gibson is a licensed aesthetician and makeup artist who owns Paraposh, which provides on-site makeup services. Specialising in bridal makeup, her experience also extends to training and education for cosmetic brands, conducting master classes at Ulta, and working as a makeup artist at QVC for beauty brands.


Azesha Ramcharan is a makeup artist based in NY’s Hudson Valley region. Clients have included NBC, The Juilliard School, Hessel Museum of Art, Craftsy, and VOZ.


Carmindy Bowyer is a makeup artist, beauty expert and founder of Carmindy Beauty Cosmetics.


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Beauty Editor

The former Beauty Editor of Glamour UK, Philippa has been a beauty and lifestyle journalist for over 16 years, picking up countless tips and tricks from makeup artists, hair stylists, dermatologists and celebrities. In that time she’s written for names like Cosmopolitan, The Sunday Times Style, The Telegraph, Grazia, Refinery 29 and Byrdie. Philippa lives in the UK with her husband, two children and their hyperactive cockapoo, Paddy.

Expertise: Makeup, hair care
Education: Oxford Brookes University

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