Why Testing Foundation On Your Hand Is A Bad Idea

WP_000247Years of walking out of shops and beauty closets with the wrong shade of foundation have taught me that just because a makeup color blends seamlessly on the back of your hand, that doesn’t mean it’s the right match for your face. And now I have scientific proof why! I dragged myself to the Hollywood & Highland mall/tourist trap yesterday morning because the huge Sephora emporium there was demonstrating their new Sephora + Pantone Color IQ—a cutting-edge technology that promises to help you choose the right shade of foundation without even having to swatch a product on your face. How do they do it?

Pantone browse shades

Sephora is using Pantone’s Capsure spectro-photometer (a small camera-like device used by interior designers since 2010 to accurately read color in any type of lighting and ensure a precise match) to take 27photos (in three areas: forehead, cheek, and neck for me*) to determine your overall skin tone. Then you type your Pantone shade (color swatch examples shown above) into the Sephora Universal SkinTone Library (conveniently housed in a Sephora iPad) and the computer tells you which of the over 1,500 foundations (liquid, powder, or cream), tinted moisturizers, BB creams, etc. sold at Sephora (across all their brands) will suit you best.

Now here’s where it really gets genius: The program lets you make adjustments if you want a lighter, redder, or darker shade, producing a whole new list of picks based on your tweaks. And the Sephora iPad will email you all your recommendations (I had 20), so you can shop later (or buy a summer foundation without having to step into a store and get personal with a touched-by-thousands tester.

So just how accurate is the Capsure device? My face read as a 2Y07 Pantone Color Swatch while my hand came up as a much more golden 4Y06 (Y stands for Yellow). No wonder those “perfect” foundation matches for the back of my hands were looking sallow when I tried them on my actual face!

One of the computer’s recommendations was Smashbox’s Camera Ready BB Cream in Light. And when the Sephora “cast member” (makeup artist) applied it to my face, lo and behold, it was beautiful!

Sephora unveiled Sephora + Pantone Color IQ last summer at their flagship store in Times Square and this service (did I mention it’s free?!) is rolling out to every Sephora shop by 2014.

* Full disclosure: Having makeup on your skin throws off the Capsure gadget, so you have to remove what you have on before you take the photos. Sounds like a pain, but you’ll probably want to try before you buy a new product anyway, so you’ll still walk out the door with as much coverage as you want. It’ll just be in a more suitable shade for your complexion.