Sephora + Pantone Color IQ foundation finder: the Match.com of makeup

How I found my perfect foundation match with Sephora's new in-store tool

By Sarah Feldman

Sephora + Pantone Color IQ foundation finder: the Match.com of makeup
My love-hate relationship with foundation might not be the stuff of Shakespeare, but we've weathered our fair share of tragedies together. I can't even count the number of bottles, compacts and tubes I've trashed over the years. Some products come out thick and prove impossible to blend, while others cake and crease on my barely 20-something skin.

But just this week, everything changed. I'm not afraid to say it: I'm in the best foundation relationship of my life. We like to joke that we met on the Match.com of makeup – only, my Marc Jacobs Beauty Genius Gel Super-Charged Foundation in 14 Ivory Medium doesn't talk. Nope, he just evens out my complexion without flaking or refusing to blend.

It all began last Tuesday when I walked into Sephora on the hunt for a new fall foundation. My old one was wearing me thin: pimples and dry patches were appearing out of nowhere and, to be honest, the product's lasting power was less than impressive.

That's when I met my matchmaker, Shyam Sankarsingh, a personal beauty advisor at Sephora Toronto Eaton Centre. He understood my concerns about finding the perfect foundation: "When you use the right foundation, you shouldn't be able to see it on your skin," he explained, "and you definitely shouldn't have to touch it up halfway through the day."

It was music to my ears.

"Today we're going to find your perfect foundation," Sankarsingh said as he led me towards a tablet in the centre of the store. "This is our new colour-matching system. It's dead-on accurate. Cutting-edge technology. You're going to love it."

As Sankarsingh spoke he held a device in his hands that was the size of a home telephone handset and was marked "Sephora + Pantone Color IQ." The gadget was a camera, he explained, and in a matter of minutes it would reveal my exact skin tone and shade by calibrating three colour-sensitive photographs of my cheek, neck and forehead.

"Ninety-two per cent of women are wearing the wrong foundation," Sankarsingh said.

I wasn't worried. After all, soon I'd be among the other eight per cent. As Sankarsingh removed the remnants of my morning makeup he made sure that I was self-tanner free and hadn't exercised in the past few hours. Apparently any activity that alters the colour of your skin – such as cardio or chemical peels – can affect your results.

Twenty-five seconds and two snapshots later, my colour was in.

"Sarah, you are 3Y02," said Sankarsingh. "Thirty-seven products at Sephora match your skin perfectly."

Given that a quick search for "foundation" on the Sephora website yields nearly 200 products in over 1,000 colours, I was relieved.

My results were also highly customizable. Although my complexion leans to the warmer side, ranking in at 3Y (or “3 yellow”) out of a possible 5Y, the Sephora + Pantone Color IQ system allowed me to filter my makeup matches to find a more red-toned foundation if I wanted to neutralize the warmth in my skin. Similarly, I could search for foundations that were darker or lighter than 02, as the colour range stretches from 01, the lightest, to 15, the darkest. Your personal beauty advisor will even send a list of matches directly to your inbox.

But let me fill you in on my favourite feature of the Sephora + Pantone Color IQ system: with the touch of a button, I was able to categorize my 37 colour matches by texture (liquid, cream and powder) and skin suitability (oily, dry and combination). The top-ranked liquid foundation for my combination skin? Marc Jacobs Beauty Genius Gel Super-Charged Foundation in 14 Ivory Medium.

Or, as I like to call him: Marc.

I gotta say, it feels good to be in the eight per cent.

Would you give the Sephora + Pantone Color IQ system a shot? Let us know in the comments.

Plus, here's five genius foundations to suit your needs.

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