How to Choose the Right Foundation If You're Suuuuuuper Pale

And don't worry, you can contour too.

make up
(Image credit: GETTY)

The temptation to pursue a sun-kissed Beyoncé or J.Lo glow will always be there, but for those of us with ultra-pale complexions, it's but a dream.

This realization—married with increased sun damage awareness and a slew of alabaster stars such as Rooney Mara, Krysten Ritter, and Emma Stone opting out of faux tans—is making it easier and easier to embrace a natural, Casper's-got-nothing-on-me visage.

This said, it doesn't make the challenge of evading chalky, clown-like territory when choosing a foundation any less daunting. So, to ensure pale women everywhere are putting their most luminous faces forward amidst the dull winter weather, we looked to celebrity makeup artist Fiona Stiles for her quick and dirty tips.

In pursuit of a flawless finish, one must always make the all-important decision of powder versus liquid. While the former may seem suited to milky-white complexions, if your skin is dry forget it. Plus, it makes it that much harder to achiever the ever-desired, lit-from-within look.

"I prefer a luminous liquid foundation as paler skin tones can often be more on the dry side," explains Stiles. " The more luminous it is, the less ghostly the complexion will appear as anything too matte reads 'goth' very quickly."


(Image credit: GETTY)

Try: Bobbi Brown Luminous Moisturizing Foundation, $47; or Nars 'All Day' Luminous Weightless Liquid Foundation, $48;

Test a shade on your body

Foundation is primarily for your face, but all is lost if its one shade, and your body is another. The best rule of thumb? Test it on your limbs. "I'll put the foundation on the inside of my arm or the back of my hand and walk around for a bit to see if it oxidizes," she says. "If it remains neutral then I know I have a good match."

Pay attention to undertones

In general, fair skin either has pink or yellow undertones. Identifying which you possess is the easy part—the hard part is making sure that it doesn't lean too far one way. 

"Anything with too yellow of an undertone will read as very sallow if you aren't careful," says Stiles."When in doubt go with the most neutral shade you can find."

She finds her happy medium by keeping one pale foundation in a very neutral "bone" shade and one with a hint of pink in her kit to match either undertone.

Use two different *neutral* concealers

"Find one shade for under the eyes and another for covering blemishes," she instructs. "They'll be doing different jobs so you'll need different shades; something with a touch of peach for under the eyes to counteract the blue/purple tones and something more neutral to cover blemishes."


(Image credit: GETTY)

Try: Laura Mercier Secret Camouflage in "Very Fair Skin Tones", $34; or Kevyn Aucoin The Sensual Skin Enhancer in SX 01, $48;

Contour, but do so cautiously

"Pale women get to contour, too!" insists Stiles. Since fair skin reveals all of the undertones in in color cosmetics so easily, she recommends using a cream contour verses a powder so you can blend it out more into the foundation. 

"Neutral is key since anything too orange will read as really orange, so a contour that has grayish tones will be more believable and undetectable," she adds.


(Image credit: GETTY)

Try: Cover FX Contour Kit in N Light, $48;

Follow Marie Claire on Instagram for the latest celeb news, pretty pics, funny stuff, and an insider POV.

Lauren Valenti
Beauty Editor

Lauren is the former beauty editor at Marie Claire. She love to while away the hours at coffee shops, hunt for vintage clothes, and bask in the rough-and-tumble beauty of NYC. She firmly believes that solitude can be a luxury if you’ve got the right soundtrack—that being the Rolling Stones, of course.