When it comes to makeup, I'm more of an easy-does-it type. (Let's be honest: I'm lucky to get a brush through my mop most mornings. Sorry, Mom! You tried.) Sure, I can manage a swipe of mascara if it looks like that first coffee hasn't quite kicked in, but as for attempting a coat of evenly-applied, color-correct foundation at 8 am? I'll be damned if I've ever even bought the stuff. Where to begin?
That said, the design student and mess-making extraordinaire in me likes toying with beauty goods just as much as any girl, so when I started seeing press about Sephora's new partnership with the palette wizards at Pantone for a new "scientifically precise" color system—COLOR IQ—that matches skin tones to the right foundations, I perked up. On one hand, I'm not one to powder and primp. However, Sephora + Pantone? If there were ever a good reason to begin, I can't imagine consulting two better experts at once.
To make matters more enticing, the consultation is quick (under 30 minutes) and free. I arrived at the Times Square Sephora makeup-less and sweating heavily from my trek à pied uptown. My kind COLOR IQ consultant Ali acted as though my makeup virginity was totally normal (bless her) and explained the technology behind Pantone's CAPSURE, a handheld "spectro-colorimeter" while dabbing my face with moisturizer on a very soft brush. I could get used to this...
The CAPSURE device looks like a GPS from 1999 but is vastly more reliable. It eliminates ambient light (because skin looks different under fluorescent lights than it does outside or in your dodgy makeup mirror) to record 27 color images in 1.8 seconds for pretty incredible color accuracy (100 x 100 pixels in each of 3 skin images that inform the final composite).
Ali tested my forehead, cheek, and decollete for color samples by pressing the meter to my skin for a moment in each spot. In a few seconds the little device beeped in my resulting Pantone swatch, which included a "Y" to tell me that my undertones were yellow. (Which sounds gross and sickly but is apparently normal! You're either yellow or red; who knew?) We plugged that code into their handy COLOR IQ iPad app and within moments were looking at a list of 29 in-store results that matched my skin tone precisely. Imagine trying to find that match just by browsing Sephora shelves. Ali emailed the list directly to my personal inbox; it could not have been easier or less intimidating.
From there, I got to filter in my preferences. If you're loyal to a certain brand, you select those. If you like the idea of a liquid foundation with light coverage and a "luminous" look (for timid users like myself), you can choose to show just those options. Ali pulled a few from the shelf and applied them to my cheeks, bringing us to the most difficult moment of my day: Decision making. (It's hard to pick between three foundations when they all match perfectly!)
In the end, I went with a Tinted Moisturizer SPF 20 by Laura Mercier in Bisque because I do wear a face SPF with some regularity and its silky finish didn't feel like makeup at all. The only downside that I could find to COLOR IQ is that it's only currently offered in a Manhattan and San Francisco branch of Sephora. But if I'm any indication of a typical success story (and I understand it's been mightily received), I'll bet more and more will be popping up soon. Sephora hopes to have it available in all their stores by 2014.