The best foundation for pale skin (and how to find your undertone)

  • Marie Claire is supported by its audience. When you purchase through links on our site, we may earn commission on some of the items you choose to buy.
  • Struggling to find a shade light enough for your skin tone? We've got you covered

    Trying to find the best foundation for pale skin hasn’t always been the easiest of tasks. As a teenager, you probably remember all too well not being able to find a high street buy that didn’t leave you with an orange jawline. Ah, the streaks.

    Thankfully, these days foundation shade ranges are so much broader and better that we have no doubt your match is out there. So what do you need to know before beginning your quest for 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.’


    ‘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.’

    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.

    Pro tip: ‘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.’

    Beauty Drawer

    We’ve tested out shade after shade to give you head start in your search. Keep reading for the Marie Claire edit of the best buys.

    Best drugstore foundation for pale skin

    Maybelline Fit Me Matte + Poreless Foundation, £5.99, Lookfantastic

    best foundation for pale skin Maybelline

    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.

    Pink undertones: 102 Fair Ivory

    Yellow undertones: 100 Warm Ivory

    Neutral undertones: 110 Porcelain

    Buy now

    Best foundation for pale dry skin

    Huda Beauty #FauxFilter Foundation, £33, Cult Beauty

    best foundation for pale skin dry Huda Beauty Faux Filter

    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 is the centella asiatica and argan oil in the formula, for extra moisturisation. Huda, we applaud you for creating the best foundation for pale skin.

    Pink undertones: Milkshake or Vanilla

    Yellow undertones: Panna Cotta

    Neutral undertones: Angel Food

    Buy now

    Best foundation for pale skin with yellow undertones

    Bobbi Brown Skin Foundation Stick, £32, Fabled

    best foundation for pale skin Bobbi Brown

    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.

    Pink undertones: Alabaster

    Yellow undertones: Warm Porcelain

    Neutral undertones: Porcelain

    Buy now

    Best foundation for pale skin with pink undertones

    NARS Velvet Matte Foundation Stick, £24,

    best foundation for pale skin with pink undertones NARS

    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.

    Pink undertones: Mont Blanc

    Yellow undertones: Gobi

    Neutral undertones: Siberia

    Buy now

    Best foundation for pale oily skin

    Too Faced Born This Way Foundation, £29, Lookfantastic

    best foundation for pale skin Too Faced Born This Way

    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.

    Pink undertones: Snow or Pearl

    Yellow undertones: Ivory or Almond

    Neutral undertones: Swan

    Buy now

    Best foundation for very pale skin

    Illamasqua Skin Base Foundation, £33, Lookfantastic

    best foundation for pale skin Illamasqua

    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 (although it is always best to test before buying). That said, this one also makes a great mixer, should you need to lighten a formula that’s too dark.

    Pink undertones: 02

    Yellow undertones: 03

    Neutral undertones: 01 or 3.5

    Buy now

    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…

    Reading now

    Popular beauty stories