Wednesday, 5 January 2011

Foundation matching: A way to get yourself arrested?

During the recent online Q&A session with Proctor and Gamble brands, I put a question to Caroline Barnes regarding foundation matching. Caroline Barnes is a professional makeup artist and UK brand ambassador for Max Factor (I'm sure you've seen the adverts). I'm not great with colour matching as I've mentioned before and find it particularly difficult in places like Boots and Superdrug where it's a DIY job. I was interested in trying the Xperience foundation and asked if she had any tips for matching myself in store.

I thought Caroline's answer was really interesting and different to the standard advice of applying to the jaw and going outside, so I thought I'd share. She recommended taking a couple of little sample pots along and decanting a little of the foundation from the testers. You pick a couple of shades that you think will be the closest match, make your samples and go home and check the match in natural light. I think this is great advice for getting a good match. But...and this is a big but, what do we think the shop assistants, (and possibly the security guards) will make of this? I have read many rants online about how eating in the supermarket before you've paid is theft, so would this be viewed the same way? How likely is it that my pursuit of a perfect match will get me arrested for shoplifting? I'm not sure that "I was advised by a celebrity make up artist" would wash with the security guards...

Honestly, I was just trying to find a shade that didn't make me look orange!

What do you think, would you give it a try or have you ever done this before? It sounds like a great way to get the right match by trying at home and seeing how it settles. I do wish that it was easier to get sample of different foundations shades.

Update: I contacted Boots to ask whether or not this would be acceptable behaviour. They wouldn't recommend you bringing your own pots in to store but in larger stores they have staff that can help you select the right shade and they should allow you to take a small amount of foundation away if you need to. I'm still waiting to hear back from Superdrug.


  1. I think that's one reason why off the shelf drug store products are cheaper, you do take the risk getting the wrong shade and trialling shades is more difficult. And they know this. I wonder how much of their revenue comprises of items bought and discarded because the shade was wrong? Probably a lot I think. High end lines with their own counter and assistants can charge more because they can spend time with you in your colour matching quest.

    Although in our local Boots (it's a big one) they have assistants at the Max Factor display and sometimes one lurking about the Too Faced / Urban Decay stands.

    So it's getting better I think.

    Have you been arrested yet? ;-)
    Polish. Potions. Whatever.

  2. LOL- great advice, but really? I certainly wouldn't want to try it, and be told "Errr excuse me what do you think you are doing" by some big angry gorilla ;)

    I take the chance to be honest, when it comes to cheaper foundations, and yes most of the time I get it wrong-ish, and don't use it..

  3. I thought exactly the same thing when I heard that advice. It's the idea of using actual pots and having to tip product in. If it was something that didn't have a lid, like I dunno, the top of a pot of cotton buds (!) I might be willing to dab some blobs of foundation on that and take them swiftly home before they dried. Or maybe I am talking complete rubbish! Where I live I'd just whack the stuff on my face and go outside for a look in a mirror - yes I have no shame.

  4. THIS is why I don't wear foundation ;)

    It's good advice, but even if you are cautious and ask a sales assistant if it's okay to do so first, I'd give you 50-50 odds they'd say no. I would absolutely ask first if I was going to do it.

    I've found that dept store counters will quite happily do this for you though, if you take along a small pot and not a huge one, even if they don't have ready made samples.

  5. In reference to your point about paying for 'wrong shades' and the above point about assistants and counters... In premium brands you pay for the quality control and the packaging. I used to work at a well known high street cosmetics brand which has a sister brand which is as premium as you can get. The only difference between the two was the quality of the pack and the fact that the premium items go through very high quality control procedures... you're not paying for your one item, but the three items they throw away to ensure everything is top notch.

    I think that as long as you don't try to do it dodgily and take half the pot you're good! Boots and Superdrug in particular now have trained beauty assistants as this is an area they're investing in. They should be encouraging this so I wouldn't worry! I think you're perfectly within your rights anyway with a foundation... it's not like you're nicking a nail polish!

  6. @CleverRabbit: Yes, I appreciate that offering lots of samples to take home probably would mean fewer mistakes and fewer sales. I generally try and use the online foundation matrices to predict the right colour match or opt for shade 2! I have seen assistance in some of larger Boots. I assume they offer general help for a couple of brands. I’ve not been arrested. I have to decide whether I dare risk it first!

    @Cheeky Beauty: Yes, great idea in theory. I’d struggle to be discrete though, no doubt my 3 year would loudly ask what I’m doing! I think the options are take your chances or pay more for the a product you can get help, which isn’t without mistakes as we well know!

    @La: I would be quite involved with all the opening lids and pouring. The MU stands are always in view and have an assistant lurking where I go. I certainly wouldn’t do it in Superdrug, There’s an assistant who ask me if I’ve bought the blusher she re-stocked for me. She’d be on me immediately! I love the fact that you’d brave putting it on. Knowing my luck, I’d end up goth white or tangerine and bump in to everyone I know.

    @Grace: A cunning plan! I don’t wear foundation as much these days and it does avoid the issue of getting it wrong. There are a few I would like to try though, including some available from dept store. I think I’ll start there with my small pots first!

    @London Beauty Queen: Thanks for information about the costs and QC. I think there is a certain expectation about the quality and finish of more expensive items so I can appreciate that is the focus.

    Clever Rabbit mentioned the assistants popping up in Boots and in my local Superdrug the girls will ask if you need help. As Grace says, I’d probably be better off checking first, I get eyed with suspicion with my pushchair enough as it is!! ;)

    Thanks for the interesting comments,
    Jane x

  7. I wanted Experience foundation before Boots had it so hauled off to Superdrug armed with wet wipes and a mirror and absolutely NO SHAME. I slormed one foundation on after another on the basis that if its good enough for that gaggle of teenaged girls then its good enough for someone old enough to be their mum who is actually going to make a purchase. It took an age, I looked like I was stealth shop lifting - apply full face of foundation, inspect face closely in own mirror, wipe off and repeat. But it worked, I got the shade I wanted first time and to date it has proven to be my all time fave foundation, and there have been a few! Boots is much easier as it comes equipped with a lady and sample pots and she is only to happy to send you on your way with one or two, but the Superdrug experience was fun and I would certainly do it again.

  8. I've pretty much given up on the idea of finding a colour match in Boots or Superdrug anyway. However I'm still not sure I like the idea of using anything from a tester pot on open use to the public on my face. Yes growing up with cold sores has made me OCD I freely admit it. When I was on the makeup course I did recently, there was talk of timelaps photography done on lipstick testers and how seeing peoples hygiene habits would put you off for life.

    I know Sleek have come under a lot stick recently for their 'bound to be a nightmare' 50% sale, but I think they have a great thing going in this area with their foundation tester kits. I see they have gone up in price a little since they launched, but even still £3 for a set of 5 2ml vials or 5 small pans of cream is a great way to let you colour match at home. I believe they also intend to to widern their colour selection this year too! I bought a set of each when I ordered the goodgirl palette ahead of their disaster, just need to find some energy to have a play, might even manage a blog post!

    Sorry I feel like I just wrote an essay! xx

  9. If there is a tester I would save give it a go, I mean its there for you to test anyway, doesn't specify that you have to test it in store. I wouldn't ask either as they would proberbly not have heard the question before and just jump to no with no thought.
    On a different note, I remember being about 14/15 wanting to try mac foundation so bad but I couldn't get to a counter to be matched up so I guessed by looking at the online swatches on the mac site. Clearly one of the most stupid and expensive mistakes I've made, considering I am NW15 but matched myself to NC30.... Still wore it though :)

  10. I don't really wear liquid foundations anymore, but when I did I usually just tested on the wrist or jawline, walked out of the shop to see it in natural light and went back to bought it if the shade was a match :)

  11. I've asked and been told no before, now if I must try a foundation I squirt a bit on my hand and then go the ladies and try it out, just don't squirt too many or you'll forget which is which!

  12. It does sound like a pretty full proof method and I'd like to believe that I'm brave/confident enough to do it, but I'm just not. I get sick of security people stalking me round stores anyway, without giving them a reason to! I like to get my wallet out of my bag before I gt to a counter just so I'm prepared, but I always worry that by putting my hand in my bag, staff will think I'm shoplifting - call me paranoid! The only counter I've been to that were really helpful with foundation were Laura Mercier, giving me some in a little pot. I wish others would follow their lead X

  13. It is good advice...but then again it isn't! As it really isn't the done thing and you risk being told off and being embarrassed.

    I have asked staff in Boots and Superdrug about samples and testing products...mainly if they can open a product when there is no tester (or finding a tester) and it has always been a no!
    Which I think is the answer for most things to do with samples.

    But I still would ask if you can pour afew foundations into sample pots as there really is no harm in asking :)

    Fee x

    PS. Totally un-related to it - but about stealing (well kind of). I recently was swatching some makeup in Tesco and noticed some baby wipes on the side so without thinking, opened the pack and used two!
    But then realized I'd just opened a product and effectively stolen a part of it! I felt so guilty that I walked off shame faced and makeup less haha

  14. I am with Grace, I struggle so much with foundation, and when you have a pink toned face and a yellow toned neck to try and marry the 2 shades is frustration itself, my son is struggling with UCAS info and all I can talk about is "am I cool or warm" not as daft as it sounds as he is off to uni to study fine art and did my portrait last year...but I digress, I would not feel happy decanting into pots in a supermarket/high street chemist and this is what irritates me about advice from some MUA, do they live in the real world? would they do this themselves? Anyway happy new year, as you can see the grumpy old beauty bag is back! Jan x

  15. It would be the best way to test but I can't see it going down well, you put an image in my head of you running clutching your filled sample pots with a angrey mob of SA's and security guards behind you! x

  16. This is an excellent idea taking sample pots with you but as everyone has expressed, this is also quite tricky task to manouvre as it can be viewed as theft! lol!

  17. @Debbie: Thank you so much for sharing your experience (pun unintentional). Good on you for being brave and taking the time to find the right match. I think it’s worth it in the end as it’s no annoying ending up with a full tube that you can’t use. It’s very useful to know that Boots have the facility to do this anyway. I love reading your comments Debbie.

    @Sparklz and Shine: I understand your worry. For me though, it depends on the way the foundation dispenses whether or not I would be worried. The ones with nozzles and pumps wouldn’t present a problem (in my mind) nothing should contaminate the foundation inside. It sounds like Boots offer the service anyway so I presume they would use sanitary methods. In terms of lipsticks, lipglosses and eye products (yes I have seen a girl you a tester to line her waterline) I wouldn’t recommend anything other than swatching you the back of your hand, The lips and eyes present more of a problem in terms of microbiological hazards than the other areas of the face.

    Thanks for the Sleek information too. I know that Face Atelier also let you buy samples, I think it’s a good idea. Especially at the right price. Don’t worry about writing an involved comment. I love it, never apologise for useful information and a different view point!

    @Kelsey: The man from Del Monte says no! Oh well. I do like some of the other ideas such as trying out a few in store or taking some on your hand and applying elsewhere. Bless you about the MAC foundation. I’ve looked at their swatches online before and I can totally see how that would happen. I bet the NC30 was a particular statement on you! Most of my colour choices are based on what other NC20 wearers recommend. The foundation matrices are very handy.

  18. find that applying to my jaw isn’t the best way for me to see if it’s a match. I need to apply to the whole face and check how it looks against my neck and chest. The inside of my wrist is a totally different colour too. I think it depends on your sun exposure and colouring whether or not these areas can be used to colour match. I wish it were possible for me, it would be a lot easier that way.

    @Sarah: I think your suggestion is great. I’d happily walk out with some blobbed on my hand. It can be a bit pressured in store making a decision. The official response from Boots is no. It sounds like they will provide samples though. I may go on a fact finding mission and try out their in store helpers sometime. No doubt this will be a fraught with danger as choosing myself!!

    @Lipstick Luuvie: Definitely an excellent way of finding a good match though I think it’s probably a better idea to do this at the Department store counters. My pushchair sets of security at the best of times so I would most likely have an audience! As an aside, I see you have tried the Bourjois foundation. It’s nice isn’t it? I went with my tried and tested method of going for the second lightest when I bought this!

    @Fee: It is good advice and would probably get you a great match but I think the response from Boots means it’s a definite no-no. It sounds like they will provide samples but I suspect this is restricted to the larger Boots stores. I think it’s a blog experiment waiting to happen isn’t it? Bless you about the wipes, As a big baby wipes user I don’t think I’d hold it against you ;). From the forum arguments I have seen about eating grapes or similar from packets before paying, some people have very definite views about it.

  19. @Jan: I agree about the neck and face being awkward to match up. I have the same problem. Funnly enough Caroline did mention this and she recommended that you try and match to neck and chest in order to avoid the floating head problem (as described my Katy). Grumpy or not, it’s great to see you back Jan x

    @Replica: I had the same image in my head. I would need a photographer on hand to capture the moment! It sounds like Boots are apply to offer the service themselves. I will put the in house service to the test sometime. I might not get nicked but there is a distinct possibility of a call from the beauty police for crimes against colour matching!

    @Imo: It is a great idea isn’t it? I will bear it in mind for colour matching at Department store counters (getting the SA to do it of course, I don’t suppose they would like me to self serve either!). I’d rather not take my chances and get arrested in Boots!

    Thank you so much for all the great comments, I’ve enjoyed reading them very much.
    Jane x

  20. I've done this!!! :-)

    You inspired me! ;-)

    I armed my self with a little plastic tub and cooly mooched about my local Space NK, tub in hand. Sort of... hidden.

    Located the Touche Veloutee that everyone's raving about and I clicked the pen (it comes in a pen) a good few times til there was a lot on the brush then smooshed it into the tub.

    Then casually looked about a bit more and waltzed outta there. *PHEW*

    I made sure the assistant wasn't looking first.

    :-O I'm half ashamed and half so proud!

    I'll be testing the Touche Veloutee over the next couple of days (figured I've got enough for that) and this way I won't waste £33 unnecessarily!

    What d'you think?

    I would have asked but didn't want to risk being disallowed. It's the ONLY place that stocks this particular concealer. So... I did it slyly.

    The way I see it I could have tested it in store or test it at home. Either way I'm using the tester.

    And if it's good I will obviously be returning to purchase it.


  21. I love that you did it! Very wise idea with the Touche Veloutee too. I got some the weekend before last and I'm not 100% that I didn't get the wrong shade. They didn't have all the testers out so I was limited. I had £10 credit though so felt less anxious. At £33 for a concealer you do want to know that it's going to be right for you.

    I believe that SpaceNK are ok with giving samples. Especially if you have your own pot. The response I got from both Superdrug and Boots suggests that it would be frowned upon in those stores.

    Thanks for sharing that you did it! I look forward to hearing how you find TV too :)
    Jane x


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