Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Updated Tech Tuesday: Sephora Color IQ Experience & Review

If you've been following Sephora on Twitter, you have probably come across the fact that they have partnered with Pantone to come up with the concept of Color IQ, a way to target your exact skin tone shade in order to take the guess work out of foundation selection. Originally this technology was rolled out in select locations (never really looked into which ones), but this month is the big push/official unveiling of this new tech. Curious about this? You can find a Sephora store in your area by going here. Most locations have Friday-Sunday event dates from noon-6pm during the month of August. I did confirm with the Beauty Adviser that helped me, and she informed me that this technology will not go away after this month so if you can't make it, don't fear.

To continue reading the specifics and my experience, click the link below.

This tech is available using a "special" handheld Color IQ camera that contains a technology that captures color (skin tone) based on pitch darkness to prevent any distortion of skin shade. Once you get your "scientifically proven" color match, you can find THE perfect match in foundation among the 1,500 available options at Sephora. I suppose you can then use your perfect foundation color as a base for finding drug store options if that's your preference.

What did the process entail? Nothing painful or difficult. I just walked into my local Sephora, went to where the Beauty Advisers hang out (where they put makeup on you), and asked if I could get the Color IQ match done. I was sat down in a chair, and the process began. I do (for obvious reasons) recommend you go without any colored face products. The adviser will double check to make sure you don't have any on though, and offer a makeup wipe to take any off if you don't want to go into Sephora bare-faced. Next the adviser kindly explained the process to me. The Sephora/Pantone Color IQ "camera" is used to read the color on 3 areas of your face to get an average to create the best color match. My adviser then placed the camera on my forehead, cheek, and jawline. She was a little wary and wiley about the Color IQ camera being taken (odd since you can see the image on all the in-store ads), but I had a persistent partner in crime to take pics (thank you very much).

The following is an in-store ad pic of what the device looks like when it's in use/lit up.

The whole process of the "picture taking" literally took less than a minute. In terms of my skin condition, I went in on a "normal" day. I have naturally warm/yellow undertones to my skin, but I have rather pink/red overtone, especially around my cheeks. I did voice this concern to the adviser, and she informed me that the reason they take an average of 3 areas is to try to account for variation in skin tone on the same face. My official skin tone came back as 1Y07. I was told this is a lucky thing since the "1" means that my skin tone is rather neutral, making foundation matches easier due to a wider available selection. Yea me! The "07" indicates the depth of color in my skin. She didn't specify what the "Y" meant (and I forgot to ask), but based on the color chart below, I'm guess it stands for "yellow" while the "R" in the chart stands for "red").
So far, so good. My "neutral" with a hint towards yellow seemed to fit based on my skin. Next, the adviser took me over to their iPad to input my Color IQ number.

Which spits out a list of color matches for your based on the different foundations available at Sephora (looks like the list below). If adjustments are needed to your foundation color there is an option to go lighter/darker or redder/yellower. The adviser told me off the bat that she thinks the shade 1Y07 is a little too dark, so recommended I try 1Y06. The foundation choice list is emailed to you as well with direct links from the email. My adviser sent both shade lists to my email for future reference.

The adviser then asked me what my skin type was (oily, dry, combo), and what type of coverage I preferred in my foundation. I told her it depends on the day, and she suggested I try a tinted moisturizer and full coverage foundation to try out and take a sample home. According to my shade match for 1Y07, I am the color Nude in the Laura Mercier Tinted Moisturizer, and shade 35 in Make Up For Ever Mat Velvet +.  Now to see if these matched? Drum roll please....Nude was a good match (which I knew from prior experience), but it's good to keep in mind that tinted moisturizers will always have a little bit more "give" than a more opaque foundation. Shade 35 in the MUFE foundation was visibly too dark even in the low light setting inside the store (maybe what accounts for the darker reading of the Color IQ?). If you go by the recommendation for a shade lighter (1Y06) it actually recommends shade 40, which I find odd. The adviser applied shade 30, which was a better match in store. I haven't tried my samples in natural light, so that will be the next step. I'm also curious to find out if the reading would be the same if I went to a Sephora inside a JC Penny, which has brighter fluorescent lighting? If I do go back and do that (and I just might), I'll let you know my findings.

So you're matched now, and want options? Go here and enter the number that was given to you. Then from there you can even adjust the Color IQ number to lighter or darker (on your own) to give you options year round. Can't find a store near you, or don't have the time? You can figure out your number by inputting your current foundation and shade.

Update: I did try out the Color IQ at another Sephora location with better lighting. My idea of lighting making a difference in reading is seemingly accurate. I was matched as 2Y06. I went more toward the yellow range of the scale, but the depth of color is what I was matched to once the first Beauty Adviser adjusted my color. Also the locations of the 3 pictures taken was slightly different. Instead of my jawline, the third spot was my neck. Otherwise, everything is on par. Still a fun gadget.


Below is the Laura Mercier Tinted Moisturizer in Nude. I took half of it off on my cheek (top part is bare) to try to show you the rather accurate color match.

And this is MUFE in shade 30 on my entire skin. This shade seems to blend better and matches my neck as well. On a side note, the Mat Velvet + helps blur my pores, and hides my dark eye circles rather decently.

Bottom Line: Very interesting technology, and a nice way to help narrow down foundation options. Is this fool proof? Not quite. However, it does a good job in figuring out where in the spectrum between red and yellow undertones you lie. From there it's easy to go up or down in shade depth as necessary (especially since most people aren't the same skin color year round). I think it's worth a try, but I would always get a sample to ensure that it's a good match before committing to a full size.


  1. I did this yesterday and I also found it to be interesting. I am surprised the person helping you was being wary of you taking photos. The young man helping me let out a few chuckles when I said I was going to write a blog post, haha. But I agree that this is something people should try to help them get a good idea of their skin shade. Especially if they are new to makeup!

    1. I know right? Glad you had a good experience too.

  2. I had the same color outcome (1Y07). The girl at Sephora picked out a few foundations on the suggestion list. She put one foundation on the left side of my face and another on the right. The one on the right side was seriously 3 shades too dark. The one on my left side also seemed a little dark, but she convinced me it looked great and it was the lighting in the store throwing it off. I asked about the return policy and decided to buy the foundation. The next morning I put it on and walked outside...in the sunlight it was far too orange and a shade off. I went back and decided to go through color shades myself. I was two shades lighter than what the color system (and her) matched me to.

    1. I agree that it's definitely not a fool proof method. I'm sorry to hear that your color matching was off too. It's a fun idea, but the best is to always try it and go out in the sunlight (like you did). Hope you were able to find a better match on your own :)

    2. This actually happened to me last year too. I got 1Y06 (a tad lighter than you) and the color matched tinted moisturizer (yeah, not even a foundation). The girl convinced me too that the TM looked great even though I felt it was too dark, and I bought it too. The next morning I put it on and it looked way too orange and dark lol. Went back and exchanged for one shade lighter. It still looked dark on me though, but I decided to save the hassle and live with it. Let me know what you think about findation.com though! It's another interesting idea in finding the right shade for your skin.

    3. Sorry for such a late reply. From playing around on findation.com it seems to work pretty well on some foundation matches, but not others. I suppose it's the same with anything that tries to match you blind.