Sephora Color IQ, Marc Jacobs Genius Gel, and How (Not) To Buy Foundation

Disclaimer: this occurred on a Friday evening after work when I was tired, hungry, and not thinking clearly. I knew better than to buy a foundation this way, but with Sephora’s easy return policy and my sleep deprived brain, I did it anyway. Don’t let this happen to you!

I was in the market for a new foundation, so it seemed like a good time for a trip to Sephora. I normally try to avoid salespeople because I find that their recommendations often aren’t too good and I don’t like the pressure they sometimes put on you. But this particular day, I decided to trust the salesperson.

I explained that I was looking for a new foundation and she analyzed my skin tone using the Sephora Color IQ. It’s a device that scans your skin in three places to determine your color depth and undertone (how light/dark and how red/yellow you are). You’re then assigned a code that represents your skin tone and that corresponds to various foundation shades, which are pulled up automatically on the touch screen device the salesperson uses. It’s all very high tech looking, but unfortunately, not too accurate. I was matched as a 3R6. The R means I have a red undertone, the 3 represents how red I am, and the 6 represents how dark I am. Sounds great, except it’s totally wrong. I do have a lot of redness in my face, but overall I’m fairly neutral, and because I have a reddish face, I need yellow to correct the color, not red. I’m also quite fair, not a 6 on their chart. But I didn’t do my research beforehand and I didn’t know what the code meant.

The salesperson asked questions about my skin care, what type of foundation I wanted, etc. She tried a couple on me and decided the Marc Jacobs Genius Gel looked the best.

Marc Jacobs Genius Gel Foundation

Marc Jacobs Genius Gel Foundation

This is a lovely foundation. I only wore it once (when applied in the store), but from what I could tell, it gave good coverage and it didn’t settle into my pores. The packaging looks and feels great, and it should because at $48 it is quite pricey. (I knew I was returning it and couldn’t get the bottle out of the box without damaging the box, so I didn’t get a picture of the bottle.)

The Genius Gel foundation didn’t come in a shade that matched my Color IQ code, so she went one shade darker (and my number was already too dark). The lighting isn’t great in the store and I was looking more at the texture of the foundation and how it sat on my skin than I was at the color (big mistake!). But the salesperson said it looked good so it must be okay, right? She didn’t even really ask if I wanted to buy it, she just grabbed it for me and asked if I wanted anything else. I caved under pressure and bought it, knowing that Sephora has a great return policy. As soon as I got in my car and looked in the mirror, I knew I’d made a big mistake. My face was completely orange. Luckily, I was able to return the foundation, but even so, I felt pretty annoyed with myself for buying it in the first place.

So how should you buy a foundation? Here are some tips:

  • Know your skin type, your coloring and undertone, etc.
  • Know what you want in a foundation – how much coverage, what texture, type of application
  • Don’t just go along with whatever the salesperson says! Take a really good look in the mirror and either ask for a sample or look at yourself with the foundation on in daylight outside the store (or both) before you make a purchase
  • Know the return policy. As disappointing as it was to end up with a foundation that was completely wrong for me, I was able to make an easy return. I’d hate to have been stuck with a $48 foundation I couldn’t use!
  • Lisa Eldridge has a great foundation course on her YouTube channel that is really helpful, whether you’re a makeup newbie or a dedicated enthusiast (and if you haven’t already, you should check out her channel and blog – she’s amazing!)

In case you’re wondering, I ended up purchasing a completely different product, a BB cream I’d been using a sample of. Look out for a review coming soon!


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