It’s more than just a shade: mastertones and undertones in foundation explained

Flashback to your earliest foundation memories and chances are it was probably at least two shades (or ten) too light or dark—if you could even find your shade, at all—with a cake-like consistency and a tell-tale chin line to prove it. Thankfully, finding the right foundation shade is now easier than ever with cult-favourite brands like NARS, M.A.C, Too Faced all expanding their selection.


Urban Decay’s exciting new Stay Naked foundation takes this concept one step further introducing mastertones and undertones to help you find your perfect match. “There are three Mastertones (Cool, Neutral & Warm),” explains Steve Kassajikian, global makeup artist for Urban Decay. “If you tend to burn out in the sun then you’re cool, if you tan you’re warm and if you burn then tan you’re neutral." There are also seven undertones (Pink, Green & Blue for Cool, Neutral for Neutral, and Yellow, Red & Orange for Warm). You can choose your undertone based off the hue in your skin.” The formula itself is super lightweight so it applies seamlessly and quickly transforms into a suede-like finish that looks and feels like skin—the hallmark of a good foundation in 2019.


If you’ve never had your foundation matched before, it can truly be a face-changing experience. The wrong foundation shade can make you look washed out, flat, too yellow, pink or ashy or make it look like you’re wearing makeup, which is not the goal. The right foundation enhances your skin and sets the tone (pun intended) for the rest of your face.

The best way to find your number? The process of elimination. “First, you need to select your shade intensity (10 ultra-fair, 20 fair, 30 light medium, etc.),” explains Kassajikian, a 51NN. “Next choose your mastertone (Warm, Neutral, Cool). After that, you will have 1-2 options for undertone based on the shade intensity and mastertone you choose.” Simply swatch the shades along your jawline and blend out a little—whichever one “disappears” or looks closest to your natural skin is the winner.


But why stop at one shade? According to Kassajikian, you can use multiple shades to shape your face and tweak your complexion. “I wear a shade slightly warmer to look tan, I also recommend wearing a shade lighter towards the centre of the face to highlight.” With new formulas and creative techniques like these, It’s safe to say the mask look is a thing of the past.

Words by Romy Erdos
August 2019


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