Can't find a shade light enough? Don't sweat it
Trying to find the best foundation for pale skin is no easy task.
As a teenager, your biggest beauty woes were probably a) you couldn’t find a high street buy that didn’t leave you streaky and b), that those free samples with magazines were always far too dark (although goodness knows you tried them all anyway, just in case).
And don’t get us started on if you need to borrow a bit of foundation in an emergency, because you’ll be hard pushed to find someone who has a shade anywhere near light enough. Sigh.
So, what do you need to know before you set out on your quest for finding the perfect shade? ‘Firstly, it’s good to have an idea about your undertone, whether your skin has warm yellow tones or pinky cool tones under the skin,’ explains Bobbi Brown Pro Artist Aimee Morrison. ‘There are several ways to find out. For example, if you feel you look better in gold jewellery you probably have a warm undertone, and if you look better wearing silver jewellery you may well have a cool undertone.
‘Or, if you look and feel better wearing rose gold jewellery, there’s a good chance you have a neutral undertone, meaning you have a balance of both pink and yellow tones in your skin.’
Secondly, the formula can play an important role in how well a foundation will suit your skin tone. ‘Be mindful of the intensity of shades in foundation; usually the darker the shade the more yellow it has in, and the lighter shades are more pinky. If you have paler skin, chances are that you’re going to be looking for a foundation that has a light intensity of colour and either has a cool or neutral undertone.
‘Know if you want your foundation to be the identical colour of your skin or if you want it a little warmer – this can depend on the time of year you’re buying foundation and if your surface tone will be changing. For example, if you have a holiday booked and know that you will have a tan, or if your surface tone stays fair all year round.’
And finally, the golden rule in finding your perfect match is to be shade matched. ‘At Bobbi Brown cosmetics we will always sit you down and shade match you to help you find your perfect foundation. You will also receive a complimentary 7 day sample to take home and make sure that your 100% confident in the shade and formula.
‘Avoid trying to find your perfect match by trying product on the back of your hand, the skin here is actually a different colour to that on your face.’
We’ve tested out shade after shade to give you a starting place in finding your best foundatio for pale skin. We’re certain that somewhere among these fail-safe formulas is your new hero.
Best foundation for very pale skin
The lightest shade in this particular foundation (01) is so pale that, if you’ve never managed to find a foundation that’s light enough for you, this could be the winning ticket – but either way we recommend you go and test it out first before buying. That said, this one makes a great mixer should you need to lighten any foundation that’s slightly too dark.
Best shade for pink-toned skin: 02
Best shade for yellow-toned skin: 03
Best shade for neutral skin: 01 or 3.5
Best foundation for pale skin with yellow undertones
Make-up mogul Bobbi Brown changed the beauty industry as we know it when, in the nineties, she launched a line of stick foundations that brought yellow-based makeup to the masses – previously, consumer foundation was predominantly pink-based and didn’t work on a lot of skin tones. The clever part is that its combination of moisturising and oil-controlling ingredients (namely Shea butter and specialised minerals) adapt to your skin’s needs to keep it in place all day.
Best shade for pink-toned skin: Alabaster
Best shade for yellow-toned skin: Warm Porcelain
Best shade for neutral skin: Porcelain
Best foundation for pale skin with pink undertones
Skin tones with pink undertones are also known as ‘cool’ complexions. NARS offer loads of pink-based shades across all their foundations, but the shades of their latest release, Velvet Matte, are particularly spot on for cooler skin tones. If you like a buildable, full-coverage foundation with a super matte finish, this one is for you – it even comes with a removable sponge tool for on-the-go application.
Best shade for pink-toned skin: Mont Blanc
Best shade for yellow-toned skin: Gobi
Best shade for neutral skin: Siberia or Deauville
Drugstore foundation for pale skin
Gone are the days when trying to get a pale budget foundation is nigh-on impossible, as a lot of high street brands now have a lightest shade that’s actually, well, light. The new Matte + Poreless foundation from Maybelline is a great buy for the summer heat, keeping you shine free and photo ready all the day long.
Best shade for pink-toned skin: 102 Fair Ivory
Best shade for yellow-toned skin: 100 Warm Ivory
Best shade for neutral skin: 110 Porcelain
Best foundation for pale dry skin
Huda Kattan, the brains behind Huda Beauty, sent fans into a meltdown when she announced that she was releasing a full coverage foundation and #FauxFilter certainly did not disappoint; a heavy duty foundation that covers all level of blemishes and uneven skin tone in a broad spectrum of 30 different shades.
A bottle will last anyone ages (you need less than a pea size to do your whole face) and it’s so thick and pigmented it can be mixed with a little moisturiser for a more dewy finish. What makes it the best foundation for dry skin that’s also pale is that it’s packed with centella asiatica and argan oil for extra moisturisation. Huda, we applaud you for creating the best foundation for pale skin.
Best shade for pink-toned skin: Milkshake or Vanilla
Best shade for yellow-toned skin: Panna Cotta
Best shade for neutral-toned skin: Angel Food
Best foundation for pale oily skin
With already oily skin, you need a foundation that’s non-comedogenic (non pore-clogging) and that won’t exacerbate the high oil levels of your skin. As a general rule of thumb, you can’t go wrong with an oil-free foundation.
Enriched with both hyaluronic acid and coconut water for non-oily hydration, Born This Way’s oil-free formula is ideal for those who find themselves looking shiny by lunchtime because of a naturally oily complexion. Providing medium to full coverage, it’ll leave your skin radiant and glowing and can be built up for a non-cakey finish; the best foundation for oily skin that’s also very fair.
Best shade for pink-toned skin: Snow or Pearl
Best shade for yellow-toned skin: Ivory or Almond
Best shade for neutral-toned skin: Swan
See more of the fairest foundations in our round up of the best below. Consider your quest for the best foundation for pale skin complete…
Whether you're just going for a couple of drinks or an all night sesh, this is one of the best night out foundation on the market. Matte without being too drying or flat-looking, the formula is super pigmented without leaving you chalky, and you can rest assured it'll last. All. Night. Long.
Best shade for pink-toned skin: 1.5
Best shade for yellow-toned skin: 1
Best shade for neutral-toned skin: 0.5
This one is so flawless that it's one of makeup artists' go-to foundations when making up anyone for the camera. In a whopping 40 shades, you'll be hard pressed not to find a pale shade that's right for you.
Best shade for pink-toned skin: R210
Best shade for yellow-toned skin: Y215
Best shade for neutral skin: Y205
You've no doubt already heard about how great Rihanna's foundation range is – but if you haven't, know that pale girls have been raving about it on Instagram from the moment it dropped. Providing buildable coverage, the formula buffs into the skin nicely and easily lasts a whole working day and beyond. Ri-Ri, we salute you.
Best shade for pink-toned skin: 110
Best shade for yellow-toned skin: 130
Best shade for neutral skin: 100 or 120
This foundation was dubbed 'Magic' because it targets just about every skin problem under the sun. Mushroom extract tightens pores, hyaluronic spheres plump and hydrate the skin, Vitamin C brightens the complexion and it has an SPF of 15. Plus, its coverage is strong and it has serious staying power.
Best shade for pink-toned skin: 2 Fair
Best shade for yellow-toned skin: 3 or 3.5 Fair
Best shade for neutral skin: 1 Fair