Find your best foundation at the drugstore

One of my favorite past times is eavesdropping in the cosmetics aisle. I know it’s creepy, but it’s research. The other night at Target, I overheard a conversation that reminded me how hard it is to find your best foundation at the drugstore and it prompted this post. It went a little something like this. Some language may not be suitable for children.

Friend 1: “Fresh Beige? Golden Beige? Which am I?”
Friend 2: “Sh*t, I don’t know! I feel like maybe this one??”
Friend 1: “Or maybe this one is closer? Sh*t. Why is this is so hard?”
Friend 2: “Ugh, like how can you tell? This is confusing.” Most foundation shades are broken into warm (yellow), cool (pink) or neutral (even mix of both yellow and pink) undertones.

Look at the veins on your wrist. Are they more green? You’re probably yellow. More purple/blue? You’re cool or neutral.

Yellow undertones tend to tan easily and rarely burn.
Pink undertones tend to burn more easily. You can usually tell if a foundation looks more yellow/golden or pink in the bottle.

It’s important to know your undertone because brands are getting smart and starting to elaborate on the shade names, particularly on their own websites.
I’ll just let you know, it’s hard to find good yellow-undertone foundations at the drugstore. It’s getting better but you’re going to find more in the pink and neutral range for sure. Did you know that you can return makeup you’ve opened to Walgreens and CVS? You can do this at Ulta as well. If you’re shopping drugstore foundations, these are the places to buy them. Don’t get me wrong; I adore Target, but you can’t return makeup that has already been opened there. Return until you get it right. No shame in that game. If you have dry skin, look for foundations that use words like glow, dewy, radiant. If you’re combo to oily, you’ll likely happier with formulas that are described as matte, long-wear and oil-free. You can find a wealth of swatch photos as well as those with similar skin tone to you by searching Instagram hashtags. Some examples: #macnc40, #lorealtruematchw6, #wetnwildphotofocusfoundation. There are also some amazing swatch-dedicated accounts. @cocoaswatches and @willitlookgoodonmetho are both helpful accounts. You can also utilize the OG, Google image search. If you currently own a foundation, or even a concealer that is a great match, bring it along in your purse so you can compare bottles side by side. You can also put a swatch on your hand or an index card and bring it along if the store you’re shopping at has testers available to compare with. If testers are available, first of all, hallelujah! Swatch on your jawline, not your neck, wrist or hand. To swatch, swipe a thin, even stripe along the jawline and compare it against 2 other options. The one that disappears most is a winner.

Though I do not purchase from these brands as they test on animals, both L’Oreal and Maybelline seem to be doing the best job at delivering large and varied shade ranges. Their respective True Match and Fit Me lines come in a wide spectrum of shades. CoverGirl’s Queen Collection offers the deeper shades that other brands are lacking. Here are a few good cruelty-free drugstore foundations:

I sure hope this post has been helpful and that it prevents you from having a mid-aisle freakout, muttering the s-word to yourself over and over.


  1. Chelsea

    06/01/2017 at 10:14 PM

    I love your blog! I found you through Pinterest of all places. Target does actually accept beauty item returns. “Most beauty items bought in stores or online can be returned, even if opened, within 90 days with your receipt, or up to 120 days if purchased with your Target REDcard™.” I’ve never had an issue. Maybe that’s just my experience though, I hope not!

    1. Ivy Boyd

      06/01/2017 at 10:22 PM

      Hi Chelsea! First of all, thank you so much for reading my blog and your kind words. You are the second person now to tell me that the Target policy has changed and as a REDcard holder myself, this makes me very excited! Thanks so much for clarifying!!

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