I Tried Pantone’s Skin-Matching Technology at Sephora (and It Was Incredible)

Has Sephora cracked the code behind finding your perfect foundation shade?


Ace your base. | Shutterstock.

Last week, I stopped by my the Sephora store on Walnut Street to buy liquid foundation. But because Sephora is like a candy store, I ended up confiding all my beauty wishes (“Pale-pale lipstick, not pink-pale lipstick, but mod-pale lipstick”) to a very nice saleslady who sat me in a stool and then scuttled off to find a basket of things to show me.

Among the beauty troubles I confessed to her was my difficulty finding a foundation that matches my skin tone. Though I’m a ride-or-die Clinique devotee, my foundation just hadn’t been quite right, veering either too dark, too light or too pink. I was ready for a change. So I allowed the saleslady to show me Sephora’s Pantone Color IQ machine, a tiny camera-like gadget that scans your facial skin in three different places and quickly analyzes it — disregarding things like blemishes and store lighting. Then it pops out a number that corresponds to your exact skin tone. The number is so precise, the saleslady pronounced, that you can take it to a paint store and have them create paint for you that is the exact same color as your skin. Your walls can match your skin! (I’m not sure why you’d want to do this, but just know the option’s there.) 

The saleslady plugged my number (2Y07, in case you’re wondering) into one of the store’s handy little iPads and it pulled up all the foundations in the store that matched my skin exactly. There were 64 of them. The world was my oyster.

The technology isn’t anything new — it first launched in a New York flagship store in 2012 — but it’s the first time I’ve tried it. These sorts of things always feel gimmicky to me. But I’m happy I reserved my skepticism, because the foundation I walked away with, Givenchy Teinte Couture in Elegant Honey, is a perfect match. And when I run out (or decide I’m over spending $50 on foundation)? Sephora automatically emails you a list of all the items that match your skin tone number, so you can easily restock.

And by the way, the mod-pale lipstick I bought is fantastic. (It’s this one.)