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Despite always claiming to have a fairly neutral skin tone, I recently became convinced that I needed a yellowish foundation to get the best match. While it's definitely true that most of the foundations I've tried have been too cool/pink, going full-on yellow wasn't that solution either, as you'll see. I'm definitely neutral. [Insert tired Switzerland joke here.] Of all the products below, the one that looks like the worst match for my pasty skin actually turns out to be the best, for reasons I'll explain below.
I've had the four products on the left for at least a year; the two on the right I bought this year during Black Friday sales, and they've have both since been returned. Here are swatches, and then I'll talk a little about each one.
Maybelline Fit Me Shine-Free Foundation Stick in Porcelain is the only one I own that's not a liquid. I bought it after testing a card sample, but I decided to buy the lightest shade (one lighter than what I had tested) for some reason. At the time, it was too light, and I considered exchanging it, but never got around to it. Now, however, as you can see, it's a pretty close match. I'd avoided using this stuff for months, because it's tricky to work with. It will highlight absolutely any flakiness your skin has - and if you think you don't have any flakiness, you're wrong. It will find some.
I actually managed to get this shit to work pretty well a couple of weeks ago by heavily moisturizing and layering primer under it. I'm pretty happy with that, because it was just sitting there being useless. Despite its claims, it doesn't do too much to control shine. It goes on matte, but it won't stop oiliness from coming through in a short amount of time. Definitely needs to be set with powder. The coverage is light to medium. It's finicky, so I wouldn't really recommend it.
The Revlon Colorstay Makeup (Oily/Combination) in Ivory has the heaviest coverage. For that reason, I also find it a little hard to work with. The opaque pigmentation and quick setting time, combined with the fact that it's really too pink for me, means that it's hard to make it look natural. I've had some luck mixing it with the Sephora tinted moisturizer, but it's not perfect. This is another one that I should have returned. It looked like a good match in the bottle, but of course it's pretty much impossible to tell without swatching. I'm trying to get better about returning drugstore stuff that doesn't work, because this shit has been neglected for most of the last year. I might try some more techniques and see if I can get it to work this winter, since, as I said, I am particularly pale at the moment (though I tried many different application methods in the past). If you like very, very full coverage and you are cool-toned, this is worth trying, but it requires a little skill.
The Boots No. 7 Lift and Luminate Foundation in Cool Vanilla is the one that actually works best for me, despite the fact that it looks WAY too dark. It is indeed too dark, and this is the lightest shade available. When I bought it at the end of August 2013, it was an almost perfect match (even though I try hard not to tan). It's very neutral, though, so I can make it work by mixing in a few drops of white foundation. I use the Lord & Berry version, which I got from HauteLook (referral) for $19 (it's not that easy to find otherwise, but here it is at Bloomingdale's). That's not cheap, but it's a huge bottle at 50 ml, and because I only use a couple of drops at a time, it's going to last for years. I know that Face Atelier has a white foundation as well, but it's also pricey. I feel like someone has mentioned a cheaper option to me recently, but I can't remember what it was. Anyone?
The Lord & Berry mixes well with the No. 7 and creates a perfect match. The No. 7 provides medium coverage and is pretty dewy. I set it with powder and it looks very natural, though without powder it would be too shiny. I apply it roughly with the brush I use for mixing, and then blend it by bouncing a dry Beauty Blender all over my face. This is the way I get the nicest effect, though that technique doesn't work so well with foundations that set more quickly. I find that the No. 7 foundation wears really well without getting cakey or patchy or settling into pores, etc. It's good stuff.
The Sephora Tinted Moisturizer has unfortunately been discontinued. It's not a foundation, but I decided to include it here anyway for the sake of completeness. It blends well, because it's very, very sheer. It's on the yellower side, but not as much as the next two foundations.
I tested out the Tarte Amazonian Clay Full Coverage Foundation in Fair Sand at Sephora, and it seemed like it was going to be a perfect match. Then I waited until Tarte had a 30% off sale in November and ordered it. It's SO yellow. That's a rare thing in foundations, it seems, so if you need something warmer/yellower, this is an excellent option. Unfortunately, on me, it just didn't look right. I guess even carefully swatching and deliberation isn't foolproof. On the plus side, the texture is so wonderful that I probably could have got away with it. It blends beautifully. The coverage is medium to full, and it definitely looks like makeup from up close, but from a normal distance the finish is really flattering and natural. Nevertheless, if I'm going to spend this much on a foundation ($38 - 30% = $27), I want a closer match. Conversely, if I'm going to settle for a close-but-not-quite shade, I don't want to spend so much. I returned it.
I had heard good things about Bourjois Healthy Mix Foundation, so I also bought it in Light Vanilla for 30% off from ASOS in November. I actually bought it first, and then only purchased the Tarte stuff when I decided I wasn't happy with this. The Bourjois is a little less yellow, but the texture isn't so natural, and so it was more obviously wrong on me. Again it's a medium to full coverage, but I found that it highlighted dryness more, and it sets very quickly, so it's a bit difficult to work with. ASOS had packed it loose in a box with a single air pack, so when I got it, part of the pump and lid was broken. I probably would have returned it anyway, since it wasn't a good match, but the broken bottle meant it definitely had to go.
There are lots of options here that would work better for other people than they do for me, especially if you like full coverage, matte foundation. If you're very pale and cool toned, the Revlon foundation in Ivory is worth a shot. If you're warm and very pale, either the Bourjois or the Tarte are decent options. Of the three, if you can get it on sale or aren't afraid of the price, the Tarte foundation is definitely the nicest one. Personally, I prefer something just a little sheerer, less matte, and more foolproof, and of these choices, that's the No. 7. Too bad it doesn't come in a lighter shade, since it's so nice and neutral.
When I finish some of these, I'll resume my hunt for something super pale AND neutral AND natural AND easy to use. It must exist, right? The options I have on my list at the moment, based on reviews and recommendations, are Make Up For Ever Face and Body Liquid Foundation, Pixi H2O Skintint, e.l.f. Studio Moisturizing Foundation Stick, CoverGirl Outlast 3-in-1 Foundation, Avon Ideal Flawless Tinted Moisturizer, L'Oreal True Match Lumi, Revlon Nearly Naked Foundation, Maybelline Fluid Touch Foundation, and e.l.f. Studio BB Cream. Obviously I've included all kinds of bases in that list. Anything here sound like it will fit the bill for me? Anything else I should consider?