The Best Foundation for Pale Skin: a roundup plus colour swatches

The Best Foundation for Pale Skin: a roundup

The Best Foundation for Pale Skin

Following on from my post on being Pale and Proud, a lot of you asked for advice about finding the best foundation for pale skin. Trust me, I feel your pain on this: I think for most of us palefaces, finding foundation that doesn’t look orange (or, in my case, just make me look like I haven’t washed for a week) can turn into a lifetime’s search with nothing ever being just right.

The list that follows, then, is a highly biased list of my own favourite foundations for pale skin. Needless to say, these are just the products I’ve used myself, so the list is far from exhaustive, and I’m hoping some of you will help add to it by leaving your own suggestions in the comments. Before I start, I’m also just going to go ahead and state the obvious: that not all pale skin is pale is pale in exactly the same way, so what works for me may not work for you, and vice versa.

For reference, my skin is pale and freckled, with pinkish undertones. In MAC terms, I’ wear NW10, which isn’t quite perfect, but close. Here are a few of the foundations I use, or have used, instead, in no particular order:


41 Comments

  • Diane says:

    I used to use the Bare Minerals one, but it’s expensive and hard to track down (in my city), plus it takes a lot of messing around to apply and get a good finish, although the end result is usually good. I did some internet research into heavier coverage foundations as I don’t have good skin, and Revlon Colorstay was frequently mentioned, so that’s what I’m using now (with their pressed powder) and the lightest colour is a pretty good match for me, plus I LOVE that there’s a version for oily skin (which doesn’t feel too drying).
    I’m interested to see how their Photo Finish measures up in comparison — have you tried that, Amber?

  • Sandra says:

    It is so hard to find light colours! I use Gosh in porcelain which is great in summer and I have a bottle of Stargazer white foundation to mix it with for winter!
    I have tried several mineral powders, but I prefer liquid foundation, since it gives a better coverage.

    • cookie says:

      I used to mix Stargazer’s pure white with a lot of my foundations, or applying it as a base before I put on the foundation, but I found the texture to be a bit… grainy. Any tips/advice on that one?

  • Brittany says:

    It took me years to figure this combination out, but I’ve found that Clinique Stay True liquid foundation in 001 Ivory (the palest color they make) with a dusting of the Invisible Blend powder on top is the perfect shade for my super pale face. It’s the right amount of coverage without looking too cakey, and doesn’t made my face a scary color either. Clinique is definitely my go-to brand for any kind of face makeup.

  • Amy says:

    Oh, this is such a good idea – I’ll be writing all of these down and going on a foundation hunt when I run out of the custom blend Prescriptives that I’m hoarding (they last a few years unopened in the fridge). The only other foundation that has matched my pale winter face is powder foundation from Alima Pure in 00 Neutral, and if you like powder foundations I highly recommend their range – finely milled and a lovely range of colors – and even better they sell samples! Bare Escentuals fair is a good summer color for me (I prefer powder in summer and liquid in winter). Part of my problem with matching foundation is how fair I am, but most of the problem has to do with my undertones – which are very strange and not purely cool, but also not as yellow or pink to be truly warm, so even if a shade is in my shade range, often the undertones are all wrong. In the summer I pick up more yellow/golden tones so it’s easier to find a match.

  • Tara says:

    I still vividly remember falling in love with Lancome’s formulas, and being rather bothered by the fact that their lightest shade was still way too dark for me.
    I like Clinique’s Superpowder, in matte bisque. My daily wear however, is usually Maybelline PureStay powder foundation in 10- Ivory.
    When I was younger, and even paler, I often mixed a bit of gothy pure white liquid foundation with the lightest shades I could find.

  • Karen says:

    I’m hooked on Revlon ColorStay in 01 Ivory (USA). I buy the “Active” one that has SPF 25 in it, plus it claims to hold up better on hot, humid days (translation: sweat-proof), and it comes in a squeeze tube instead of a glass bottle, which I prefer for easier application and easier travelling. :)

  • wendy says:

    I can’t live without Bare Escentuals “Fairly light”. I wear it every day and it gives really good coverage for my drink & age induced broken veins. I regularly get comments from friends and co-workers about how fresh my skin looks & nobody ever believes I’m wearing foundation. Considering I turned 50 this year I consider that a major success!

  • Ciara says:

    I’ve never understood why it’s so hard to find pale foundations that aren’t a dark yellow/orange….’ivory’ my ass. having said that, I like Bourjois foundations (I use the Healthy Mix one at the moment, it’s great for me though if you have any dry patches of skin it makes them all flaky and weird, so a no-no for dry skin). L’oreal Infallible is nice as well, but it’s a VERY annoying product because the pump on it doesn’t reach all the way down! So you end up with about a quarter of the product at the bottom of the bottle you can’t even use…gahhhh. Not as long-lasting as the Bourjois Healthy Mix either, which is odd considering that Infallible is supposed to be specifically a long-lasting formula and Healthy Mix isn’t.

  • Juliet says:

    Really minimal mineral makeup is a godsend, and thumbs up for their full-skin-spectrum colour ranges on offer: BE, Cover FX, JI, LM, Pür Minerals, and assorted others–and works on oilier skin or in hotter sweatier weather. 2nd some of the suggestions above…

    But I heartily recommend Silk Naturals Perfect Harmony Foundation:
    1) this is about the most minimal mineral makeup I’ve found, cos besides being pale, my skin reacts to 101 things, including some of the stuff in the aforementioned otherwise lovely mineral makeups. Pale is interesting, but red reactions are a bit too exciting really.
    2) colour range: You mix this stuff yourself from a kit, so you can get the exact shade; actually easier for us sub-NW15s, as that’s mainly white with a dash of colour. Easy to mix, too, as it’s just powder rather than using a liquid or gel base. Once you’ve got the right proportions of pigment:white base, mix up a larger batch, and that’ll keep you going for months. If your skin tone changes, just remix or mix up another lot as needs be. SN have another whole bunch of pigments you can add in for the whole range of pinkish, yellowish, etc. tones and undertones.
    3) range of uses: I’m mainly using the SN stuff on small areas as concealer, I very rarely actually use foundation all over my face. Works best over a primer; I’ve mainly been using powder ones, either plain silica or some variation on a silica/silk powder/mica/rice powder mix; from various brands (including SN but lots of other too, and plain rice powder from local grocer’s). They have heavier versions/finishes too, but this basic one is pretty adaptable for different weights of coverage.

    Runners-up that haven’t irritated me and come in glorious range of shades, including all the pale ones:
    —Alima also have, ready-made, a stupendous range of powder foundations.
    —Some of the Fyrrinae pigments can be mixed in with a pale base, even with white foundation (like your Illamasqua one, or Chanel Blanc). But it’s fiddly and I’m lazy.

  • Natasha says:

    I have incredibly pale skin and this has been an issue for me for years as a lot of pale foundations seem to have peachy tones whilst my skin is on the “cool” colour spectrum. However my worries are over!
    I absoulutely LOVE http://www.lilylolo.co.uk/ mineral cosmetics. They cruelty-free and nasty gubbins-free and gentle on my eczema-prone skin. For a small fee they’ll send you samples so you can match them exactly to your skin tone. The concealor is so good it even hides really bad eczema break-outs.

    It’s really easy to apply and lasts all day. I can’t recommend it enough.

    They’re also extremely efficient. I can order stuff mid-afternoon and it arrives the next day, though they are only a few miles down the road from me which may help as far as The Royal Mail is concerned. Despite this I have no links to them and this isn’t a sales pitch (though if anyone at Lily LoLo wants to offer me a summer job…), I just love their stuff.

  • Dollface says:

    For some reason WordPress neglected to email me any comment notifications from this post, so I’ve only just seen these! Thanks for all of the suggestions, guys, and please keep them coming – I’m goint to try and work my way through all of these at some point!

  • Kaycee says:

    My holy grail foundation is a mixture (such a chemist, I am lol) of Stila Illuminating Tinted Moisturizer in Shade 01 (too sheer and orange-y on its own) with Make Up Forever Mat Velvet + in 015 Alabaster (the lightest shade). The opaque mattifying coverage of MUFE sheered with a tinted moisturizer with shimmer makes for a light foundation where a little goes a long way, and the result is a dewy natural glow that still doesn’t look oily! Favorite for the summer especially.

  • Neasa says:

    Hi! Like you, I tried the NW15 but found it a bit too orangey. The woman in MAC suggested the NC15 which I always though would be completely wrong but its perfect. I’m so delighted, because the studio fix is my holy grail foundation. The MAC people also said loads of people beg for a NW10, which they’re thinking about!

    Love your blogs!

  • Clinique superbalanced foundation for dry combination oily skin in shade Alabaster is AMAZING on my pale skin.

    A lot of people don’t realise it’s the palest shade clinique do as it’s number is 27! (That’s what the lady on the counter told me anyway!) I’d been using the Ivory and couldn’t understand why it was making me look orange……

    I have found my pale foundation and won’t be switching I’ve tried alot of cheaper brands palest shade and they are nothing compared to the clinique one!

  • Ruth says:

    I definitely think more brands need to make paler foundation and concealer shades – this isn’t the only blog I’ve been to where its been said that palest shades of many brands are too dark/orange

    • Rock Hyrax says:

      I second that – I’ve got one tub of foundation that’s supposed to be a brand’s lightest shade, which I use as bronzer…

  • cookie says:

    I usually take Revlon’s colorstay 110 Ivory (which is still too dark for me) or Max Factor’s Miracle touch creamy ivory 40 and apply either Manhattan’s soft compact powder in 0 transparent in the winter or Essence’s moonlight collection 01 sparkling dawn in the summer so my face isn’t all matte and weird looking in this Mediterranean heat.
    It is, however, a real darn shame that it’s almost impossible to find a shade that isn’t too orange/yellow or too pink (yea, i get that too).
    Well, serves us strange pasty-faces right for not using tanning booths or spray-on tans like the rest of the normal world does ;P

  • Julia says:

    I spent about 2 hours in a Sephora back in February looking for a foundation match for my wedding. On a daily basis I wear the Clinque superpowder in Matte Bisque over moisturizer. I think I found my holy grail though with Fresh Cosmetics foundation. They have one in the color Fair Isle that worked fabulously for me and photographed really well.

  • Kezia says:

    Oh gosh, just found your blog. As an ultra pale redhead, with pink toned skin, it is nice to see someone has done some foundation legwork for me! I find I always get the same answer at makeup counters “do you have a very pale pink toned foundation?” “we have this one” “but that’s yellow” “yes, but it’s pale”. Argh!

    I have found By Terry Lumiere Veloutee in Ultra Fair, is brilliant. Perfect shade, but expensive at £54. It has lasted me a very long time, but you need to watch out for the foiling on the cap which will rub off on your fingers and make your face sparkly.

  • AuroraShock says:

    I also use Bare Minerals in Fair. I find it works best over a light tinted moisturizer.

  • AnnB says:

    I am impressed with Lancome as that must be the first to have an SPF of 20! As a pale skinned freckled-face person SPF15 is not enough for me so I tend to add a SPF 50 on my face. I use Simple as I have very sensitive skin and wish they did a foundation! I also like the fact that they are supporting real people in their latest campaign to find someone to work for them and promote their products, rather than go down the celebrity route – they have taken it one step further than Dove’s Real Beauty Campaign. http://www.simple.co.uk/star

  • Nools says:

    Clinique is also my choice I have just changed to their Even Better range with SPF15 which is a little thicker than the superfit foundation that I was using. I also like Simple as it is so reasonably priced and they do so many cleanser products – interesting idea of running a recruitment drive as a competition – it looks like it would be ideal as a part time flexible job from home – with loads of prizes and a real job.

  • Hannah says:

    Maybelline Dream Matte Mousse in Ivory or Cameo is perfect :)

  • Andrea says:

    Illamasqua now offer more pale shades, have a look at their website.

  • Ellie says:

    Another thumbs up for Lily Lolo from a very ghostly pale brunette. Their “Porcelain” is the first shade I ever found that actually matched me perfectly.

    Other foundations I quite like are the Barbara Daly for Tesco moisture foundation in Porcelain, and Prescriptives Anywear cream stick in Camellia.

    There definitely need to be more very pale, pink toned foundations out there as the high street brands seem to completely ignore anybody who doesn’t want to coat themselves a fetching shade of dark tangerine.

  • Amy says:

    I just tested the Chanel Vitalumiere in 05 Diaphane and it was a pretty good shade for me – not too yellow, not too pink. The texture was lovely, as well, and it has a nice light scent – PLUS SPF 15. I don’t need foundation at the moment so I’ll try this again on my whole face and in natural light (I only tested by my jawline).

    • Haley says:

      Hi there. Was wondering if you know what shade you are in MAC, or MUFE? I am trying to figure out what shade I would be in Chanel Vitalumiere, but I don’t have a counter near me anywhere. =(

  • Leigh says:

    Oddly enough, I’ve usually had the opposite problem for you. Most of the foundations I’ve found that were pale enough for me were too pink. I second the love for the Maybelline Pure Makeup, though. It’s what I wear for about two-thirds of the year. For the wintertime, I haven’t found anything to beat L’Oreal’s True Match foundation. I used to wear it year round when I lived in Washington state, where the sun never, ever shines. Their lightest shade is so pale, and it’s available in warm, neutral, and cool tones. (Porcelain, Soft Ivory, and Alabaster, respectively.)

  • RachelSophie says:

    Just found this blog and you have literally made my week! I have very similar colouring to you, redheaded, pale etc. but a pink pale not a warmer pale. I literally despair at finding foundation and just gave up and wear concealer and translucent powder but I am wanting a bit more coverage… So I am definitely going to try a few of these out! Where can you get the Maybeline Pure Make-up, as that looks a really good colour?
    And… thank you, you porcelain angel! I am not alone!
    x

  • Nic says:

    I am very very very pale too and I’ve tried pretty much all of the ones you have listed. I used to use revlon but it was little dark on me too. I just started using Make up forever in 15 and it’s awesome! Almost the perfect color white for me light enough but not so white that it looks clownish. I also have pink undertones so sometimes its hard to find light foundation without a yellow tint to them. I would absolutely recommend it. It’s also got pretty good coverage, I would say its probably medium?

  • clare says:

    missha m bb perfect cover bb bream in number 13. Unbelievably pale. The Holy Grail!!!!

  • clare says:

    Also, for a powder, MAC Prep and Prime loose powder. It is translucent powder, so very fine, but is totally white in the pot. Really lovely.

  • Keisha says:

    These are all still to dark for me :( The lightest foundation I’ve found is Maybelline Fit Me in 110, and that is still a bit off.

  • Emanuela says:

    I use MAC Matchmaster in shade 1 (which is equivalent to about a NW10, I believe – it’s a lot lighter than NW15) and Urban Decay Naked Skin in 0.5 (which is pretty much the same shade as the MAC one). I’m loving them both at the moment. Definitely worth checking out if you, just like me, have a lot of trouble finding foundations light enough for your skin.

    • emma says:

      I stumbled upon this post while searching for pale foundations and just wanted to comment re this post. I absolutely adore the texture, finish and ease of application of Matchmaster but I find Shade 1 way too dark and nowhere near NW15, let alone NW10. I think it’s more of a NC20, which is really disappointing, because it would have been my holy grail otherwise. The (relatively) new studio fix NW10 is pale enough for me and fairly called a NW10 in my opinion but it’s nowhere as good a foundation as Matchmaster.

  • Amy says:

    I’m also somewhere between a MAC NW5 (if it existed) and NW10, and my current favorite is MUFE Face & Body Liquid Makeup in Pink Porcelain 38. I finally managed to get my hands on a bottle when Sephora got it back in stock for approximately five minutes. The coverage is light to medium, so maybe a little less than you’re looking for, but I love the fact that it’s waterproof so I can wear it while I sweat in the summer heat. In the winter, I wear YSL Touche Éclat Illuminating Foundation in Beige 10 because it’s a little more moisturizing. The name makes it sound too brown/yellow, but it’s not.

  • Mana says:

    I’m shade b10 in Chanel’s vita limiter aqua, which is yellow toned but I believe they do a br10 which is pink toned. And I also love Nars sheer glow in Siberia and the lightest shade of nars pure radiant tinted moisturizer. And lancome’s Tient visionaire in 100n which is a great match for my super pale skin.

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