As part of my quest for the best foundation, I booked in at Bobbi Brown, Clinique, Estée Lauder and Smashbox to put their foundation matching services to the test

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When it comes to cringe-worthy makeup mistakes, I’ve made my fair share. The ones that come to mind though are my questionable foundation choices during the ages of 16 to 18.

Unfortunately my love of makeup wasn’t matched by the shade selection that was available to me at the time, and that combined with my relative inexperience in the beauty arena made for a recipe for disaster. If there was ever a time where I was in need of a guiding hand, this was it - a journey of bogus bases, inconsistent neck and face colours and clown makeup became an all too familiar (and embarrassing) tale and when I did book in for a consultation, I was often left feeling uncomfortable and pressured to make my skin tone fit a shade that was clearly completely wrong for me.

While some of my escapades on the high street may have provided a mixture of mismatched results in the past, shade ranges appear to be in the midst of a makeover of their own. So I booked in for the complimentary foundation match services offered at Bobbi Brown, Clinique and Estée Lauder at Selfridges  and Smashbox at Boots  to see how they matched up. Here’s how I got on...

Bobbi Brown

The Look: ‘The Secret to Perfect Skin’ 20 minute Makeup Lesson for glowing skin.

USP: Got dark circles, redness or pigmentation? This one’s for you.

The consultation

I’m a glow-getter through and through and as soon as I saw the skin of my makeup artist Adeola, I instantly knew I was in the right hands. Her skin was unbelievable. I’ve heard of life goals, but her complexion gave me skin goals: glowing, radiant and even-toned, she was the Obi-Wan Ken-glow-bi to my Ana-skin (apologies, I’m a huge fan of Star Wars...and puns).

The consultation was thorough and in depth, but also supremely efficient. Adeola asked me all about my skin type (combination), what my key concerns were (fatigue, dark circles and dullness) and what kind of finish I would like (glowy of course). She then devised the perfect skincare product protocol for me - it was interesting to see the emphasis that was put on good skincare before choosing a cover up: it made sense that I would need good foundations to make the most of my foundation.

The right foundations...

I hadn’t really tried a lot of products from the Bobbi Brown skincare line, but after seeing the results of my makeover, I will definitely be doing so going forward. I particularly liked the Soothing Cleansing Oil , £31 which was nourishing and deep cleaning in equal measure and the Intensive Supplement Serum , £45 which gave my skin a wonderful dose of high octane hydration. To help tackle my under eye bags, Adeola smoothed a light application of Extra Repair Eye , £44 to prep them for the most incredible of transformations...

Dark circles SOS

The key to flawless skin? As I learned, the devil is in the detail.

To tackle my dark circles, my concealer was given an upgrade with a Bobbi Brown Corrector , £19 in Deep Bisque. The idea is that this extra step helps correct any discolouration to prevent the concealer applied on top from looking too ashy. A Creamy Concealer , £19 in Almond was then smoothed on to finish. When I saw the contrast to the other side of my face, I was astounded - it looked like my made-up side had been given a needle-free facelift.

How did the foundation match up?

Extremely well. For an even finish, Adeola first prepped my skin using a CC Cream in Golden Nude , £29 to offset any sallowness - it acted a bit like a pair of Spanx for my skin; lifting it in all the right places.

In order to achieve my Adeola-inspired dewy glow, Bobbi Brown Intensive Serum Foundation , £39 proved to be the perfect pick. Adeola applied a few shades to my cheek to see which one would fit most naturally and after careful consideration, concluded that Warm Almond was best with a Skin Foundation Stick , £29.50 in the same shade for touch-ups on-the-go.

Combining the best bits of a foundation and face serum in one, its super silky formula just glided over my skin, providing the ideal dose of medium coverage for my skin. The look was finished with a light application of Sheer Finish Pressed Powder in Soft Honey , £26 to tackle any shiny areas, with the Bronzing Powder in Deep , £28.50 and Rose Blush , £19.50 used to add a delicate hint of colour and depth. Blue Raspberry Creamy Lip Colour , £20 provided the perfect finishing touch to the look - a hydrating lipstick that capped off my natural makeup look. I loved it.


Foundation samples are available at Bobbi Brown counters nationwide to take away and try at home.

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The Look: Radiant skin that could cope with the humid weather.

USP: Skincare and makeup that suits a multitude of different skin problems, from acne to sensitive skin.

The consultation

My consultant Becky kicked things off with a thorough consultation to find out about my skin type, my skincare routine, my skin concerns and the finish I would like to achieve. She then prescribed the ideal combination of skincare products to create the perfect base.

What I liked in particular was Becky’s openness and approachable manner: we spoke about her experiences with the brand and how the products had helped her improve her specific skin problems too which gave the whole experience a really interesting personal touch.

The right foundations...

For dullness, a pre-makeup cleanse using the Clinique Sonic System Purifying Cleansing Brush , £79 proved to be the perfect skin treat: my skin felt smoother and softer for a cooling refresh that helped to expertly offset the effects of a sweaty commute on the Tube.

When used in conjunction with the 3 Step Introduction Kit , £20, a glow-inducing application of the brand’s Turnaround Revitalizing Treatment Oil , £30 and Daytime Revitalizing Moisturizer , £30, my skin felt suitably polished and prepped for my foundation shade selection.

How did the foundation match up?

I was definitely impressed. The finished look was even and uniform for a natural, semi-matte finish that I really liked - the ideal day to night transformation if you ask me.

To help give my makeup extra longevity in the heat, Becky applied an even layer of  Universal Face Primer , £20 to keep everything in place. In terms of a foundation that best suited my cover up needs, she suggested that I try the new  Beyond Perfecting Foundation and Concealer in Golden , £25. A 2-in-1 multitasker, it fit my makeup regime requirements to a T - good skin in the least amount of time possible.

In order to find my perfect match, Becky applied three different shades in stripes to my cheek. This acted as a really useful indicator to see how it not only how it matched my skin tone as a whole, but also how it catered to my specific undertones. She explained how best to apply the foundation too: dot three dots to the forehead, three to each cheek, one on the nose and one on the chin and use fingers or a brush to blend in, working in to out. This was topped off with a dusting of translucent powder ( Clinique Blended Face Powder in Invisible Blend , £23.50) to see of my shiny T-zone.

The look was finished with a quick pop of colour courtesy of Blushing Blush Powder Blush in Innocent Peach , £22 and a slick of Chubby Stick Intense in Grandest Grape , £17 (which by the way has now become new favourite lip colour - a pinky plum number that straddles the line between winter and summer amazingly).


Foundation samples are available at Clinique counters nationwide and last for up to 5 days.

Estée Lauder

The Look: A long-lasting full coverage foundation that would last all day. The menu of makeovers are built on the ethos, “3 minutes is all beauty should ever take.”

USP: A techie’s dream.

The consultation

Finding the right combination of skincare products and makeup was easy with my consultant Baneeta’s help. After finding out the ins and outs of my existing routine, she then went through the different Estée Lauder lines to find out the best one for my needs. After testing them out and seeing what they felt like on my skin, we decided on the Nutritious range - ideal for addressing radiance and clarity in one fell swoop.

The right foundations...

Puffy eyes are a big skincare concern of mine and to help aid lymphatic drainage and prepare my skin, I was treated to possibly the most relaxing face and head massages I’ve ever had. So much so that I nearly fell asleep. Yep. An oasis in the midst of the bustling shoppers on the Selfridges Beauty Hall floor, my skin was given some expert R&R thanks to a luxurious concoction of products from the Nutritious line: the Vitality Essence Oil , £47 was a great skin pick-me-up in particular and when combined with a few drops of Advanced Night Repair , £50 and a light application of DayWear SPF50 , my skin felt like a million bucks.

How did the foundation match up?

What made this particular foundation service stand out was the nifty little Foundation Matcher that Baneeta used to find my perfect shade. Carefully positioned on my skin, it gave its answer in a matter of seconds and it produced the perfect match - Amber Honey in the brand’s most well-known foundation; Estée Lauder Double Wear Foundation , £30.

Making the experience all the more bespoke, Baneeta recommended I mix a little of the Illuminating Primer , £24.50 into the foundation to cater to my glowing skin obsession. It provided a clever beauty hack for changing it up on days when I would prefer a bit more dewiness without compromising on humidity-proof longevity.

To cover up my dark circles, an effective combination of Double Wear Concealer   in Deep , £22 and Brush On Glow BB Highlighter in 5/6N , £24.50 helped fight the signs of fatigue, with a swift application of  Double Wear Perfecting Loose Powder in Medium , £28.50 used to combat any extra shine. Bronze Goddess Powder in Deep , £33 gave the finish look an extra dimension and to top it off, Baneeta encouraged me to take a step outside my comfort zone by opting for the Pure Colour Envy Sculpting Lipstick in Defiant Coral , £25. I’m glad she did though as it proved to be a great summer switch-up which I wouldn’t have been brave enough to try had I not booked in.


Estée Lauder offers foundation dramming all year round across all of their foundations. Customers receive a 10-day foundation sample for free, with the disclaimer being: *One 4ml sample per customer, whilst stocks last.

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The Look: A ‘Studio Makeup Session’ to get ‘camera-ready.’

USP: A pretty amazing range of primers that suit a range of different skin types.

The consultation

This makeover was all about learning the makeup basics: how to ‘prime, perfect and set.’ My consultant Vicky was open, friendly and informative. The range of products that the brand has is incredible, but any feeling of being overwhelmed was quickly alleviated as she talked me through each of their different foundations and how each related to my specific base wants and needs.

The right foundations...

When I arrived at my appointment, the weather had become noticeably more humid: the threat of rain was the air. With that in mind, Vicky emphasised the importance of a good primer to help give my finished look extra longevity. With a reputation for producing some of the best and most hard-working primers out there, I was keen to try them out.

Vicky picked out the Smashbox Photo Finish Foundation Primer , £25.50 for me - a lightweight clear, fast-absorbing piece of makeup underwear that melted into my skin and left it soft, smooth and supple.

How did the foundation match up?

For luminosity and an even finish, I was matched with the Liquid Halo HD Foundation in shade 8 , £29. When it came to finding the right shade, it was very much a collaborative effort which I appreciated - there was no pressure and it was very much a case of trial and error as Vicky applied a trio of possible shade matches to my cheek (it’s amazing how different a colour can look on your skin compared to in the bottle).

My skin looked even and healthy, for a natural finish that I really liked. To eradicate the discolouration underneath my eyes, Vicky applied an expert application of the BB Cream Eyes   in Medium , £20 and to eradicate any residual shine, a quick brush of Halo Hydrating Perfecting Powder in Medium/Dark , £31, did the trick. For a dose of natural contouring, Vicky used a combination of blush and bronzer to make my cheekbones pop - Heartbreak Blush Rush , £22 and Deep Matte Bronze Lights , £25 specifically, with a slick of Sunset Junction Be Legendary Lipstick , £16 to provide a lovely hint of summer colour.


To try before you buy, foundation samples are available from Smashbox counters nationwide.

Would I recommend these foundation matching services?

Yes, definitely. The consultants at the counter were seriously clued up when it came to cover-ups and acted as the perfect guides for helping me navigate my way through their different foundation ranges. What struck me as particularly interesting though was the emphasis placed on skincare in each of the consultations - an approach that I completely agree with in encouraging us to use foundation to enhance rather than cover up and for addressing our skin problems in both the short and long-term.

I was also given a helpful list of the products used afterwards so that I could walk away and think about it before making a final decision on what I actually bought. There was zero pressure, zero clown faces and zero questionable shade matches. When it comes to finding the right foundation for olive and darker skin tones on the high street, it seems Bobbi Brown, Clinique, Estée Lauder and Smashbox have it sussed.

Follow Get The Gloss  @getthegloss  and Ayesha  @Ayesha_Muttu .

To find out how to find the best foundation for your skin tone, check out our video with Ruby Hammer below where she shares her top makeup tips for applying foundation like a pro.

Created in collaboration with  Estée Lauder Companies .