DON'T SHOP ONLINE
It's impossible to guess a shade using online guides. The colour of your screen could be completely different to someone else's, leaving huge room for error when approximating which shade to buy. Make a conscious effort to go into a store, spending as much time as you need to swatch and blend lots of different formulas onto your skin. Department stores are great if you're nervous, as the beauty counter staff will be able to help you pick the perfect product and shade for your needs - as well as showing you how best to apply it.
ASK FOR A SAMPLE
Wherever possible, ask to take a small sample away with you to try at home under natural light; shops are full of artificial lighting that never show you what the true colour really is. The amount of money lost each year by buying the incorrect shade due to store lighting is utterly incredible, so pluck up the courage to request a sachet to use at home. (If you're a genuine customer, there's no reason why they wouldn't be happy to oblige.)
CHEST NOT NECK
Your neck's skin is in a constant shadow, so can be a shade lighter or darker than your skin tone. You want to match your foundation to your chest, as this is what will catch the eye and provide a noticeable difference if the shade isn't quite right. Although it's always suggested you should go lighter if in doubt, I always find it more natural for paler complexions to go darker - using a too-pale foundation can wash away all the natural contours of your skin and leave you looking like a ghost.
KNOW YOUR UNDERTONE
Your skin's natural undertone will either be warm, cool or neutral. Your foundation should look natural and be used to either correct or enhance your skin tones, so it's important to know when you're shopping for a new shade; many beauty counters will offer you two or three suitable shades to choose from, with the only difference being the undertone. (You're warm if you turn brown in the sun, have brown eyes, and the veins on your wrist are mainly green. You're cool if you turn pink in the sun, have blue or green eyes, and the veins on your wrist are mainly purple. You're neutral if you have a combination of all of these.)
CHANGE WITH THE SEASONS
You're not one shade of skin for twelve months of the year. As you change your wardrobe, so you should change your foundation. As a general rule, go one or two shades darker in the summer months than in the winter. Alternatively, add a liquid bronzer to your foundation to warm and deepen the tones while keeping the match as perfect as possible. If you're worried about looking too uniform, add a touch of bronzer to wear the light naturally catches your face (nose, cupid's bow and apples of the cheeks.)
PREP AND PRIME
A base for foundation is vital; prepping beforehand will help ensure an unblemished, radiant finish. Cleanse, exfoliate and moisturise to get rid of dead skin sells and reduce that horrendous cakey finish, adding a touch of primer or silicone spray before you apply your base. This will help even out your skin and 'fill in' fine lines, ensuring your makeup lasts all day and looks airbrushed. (Check out my 'five reasons why you need a primer' post for more info.)
GET THE RIGHT BRUSH
For a flawless finish, use an angled foundation brush to apply to the skin in small movements, ensuring you use a little amount and build up coverage as you need it. Start from the centre of the face and blend outwards in sections, focusing on the nose and eye area to ensure the product is blended effectively. Brushes are able to get to all those little areas of the face fingers cant, as well as making it much easier to build up layers and conceal those imperfections. (This is my current fave from Eco Tools.)
FIX IT IN PLACE
Fix your foundation with a very delicate dusting of powder over the t-zone, only where needed, to ensure it stays as long as possible. Taking a compact with you for touch-ups throughout the day will also ensure you remain shine free - Corn Silk is great for this, as well as being super affordable. There are also loads of makeup fixing sprays, including the new Pixi Makeup Fixer and Smashbox's Photo Finish Primer Water, which help to fix your makeup and prevent movement when spritzed over your finished look.
Do you have any other top tips for choosing and applying your foundation?