Here's how to buy foundation blind online without having to swatch it

Shopping for makeup used to mean going to a cosmetics counter, swatching the items, and depending on the sales assistant's shade recommendations. That’s still a lot of fun, and we PV girls are often guilty of leaving stores with our arms marked from a massive swatch fest! Even then, the Internet has completely revolutionized the way we shop; all you need is online access and you don’t even necessarily need to have a credit card to buy stuff online. We don’t even have to wait for balikbayan relatives and friends to cart imported products for us; there are now a lot services that offer international shipping options so all you have to do is fill up some forms, click some buttons, and wait for your package to be delivered to your doorstep.

Online shopping is a great solution for hauling from brands that aren’t available locally but it has a catch: how do you shop for a foundation you've never touched or swatched? Stores like Althea and Sephora sometimes include swatches in their product listings but it can be difficult to guesstimate your shade based on photos. Before you decide to just take your chances and plop down your hard-earned bucks for a bottle you're not sure about, here are some tips for finding your shade match, even without swatching!

Image via

Image via

Temptalia Foundation Matrix

I'm a big fan of this website because of its detailed and organized reviews. Swatches are always well-photographed and true to color; there's also a "when worn" photo so that you can see it as used. Temptalia's biggest gem is its Foundation Matrix, which allows you to see your approximate shade matches using your current foundation shade as reference point.

There are some other sites that offer the same free service but what makes Temptalia's Matrix stand out is that you can actually find your shade match, even if you're not using any foundation yet. The site includes a helpful guide for identifying your undertone and shade as a basic reference point.


Launched in 2012, Findation claims to be the largest usable database of matching foundation colors. The interface is basic and straightforward. For more accurate results, it’s best to enter two shades that you use and Findation will match it with other foundations in the database.

To get an idea of how extensive their database is, I tried searching a match to my L'Oreal Infallible 24H and MAC Studio Waterweight Foundations. I was happy to spot brands like Catrice in the list of suggestions, including Korean brand April Skin! Your matches can also be saved for future reference, so you don’t have to hang on to empties just to remember what your shade is.

My shade matches according to MatchMyMakeup

My shade matches according to MatchMyMakeup


Similar to other websites, you are matched based on your current foundation shade. What is unique is that search results also include shades that aren't exact but close matches, specifying that it might be cooler or warmer than your skin tone. This is helpful when you're a wee bit more familiar with undertones and want to compare different shades.

I do hope that their database can be expanded to include more brands as matches are limited. It will probably take a while for this to grow though - the team behind the site manually tests the foundations under a professional light box mimicking different lighting conditions. They even use a color reading machine for precision and accuracy!  

Iman Beauty App

Among the bunch of apps that I tried, this one by Iman Cosmetics is by far the most user-friendly and impressive! It identifies your color signature - lips, shade and undertone, eyes, and hair color - through a selfie taken with the app. Just make sure to take a clear selfie that shows the whole face under appropriate lighting; the app will indicate whether the lighting is good or bad, and will not take a photo under less ideal conditions.

Unfortunately, the only recommended shade matches here are limited to what’s available in Iman Cosmetics. It’s fine if you’re looking precisely to try this brand, otherwise give this a pass.

It's tricky to get the lighting that the app wants but you can further tweak the photo after the shot if your photo gets distorted in any way.

It's tricky to get the lighting that the app wants but you can further tweak the photo after the shot if your photo gets distorted in any way.

With the wealth of beauty resources now at our disposal, shopping online for foundation is no longer as much of a chancy affair. No need to feel the pain of dropping precious bucks on a bottle, only to end up with something that’s practically unusable! Has that makeup buying mistake ever happened to you? How do you avoid buying dud shades online?

Jenn Tan is the owner of Cosabella Manila.