Sephora Color IQ: Best Beauty Invention of the Year

Sephora + Pantone Color IQ matches foundation to your skin toneSelecting foundation can be daunting—with so many options to choose from, how do you select the right brand, the best formula, and, toughest of all, the perfect shade to match your skin tone?

Makeup artists often advise matching makeup to your skin when you're standing in natural light. But that's not so convenient when many products are sealed and you can't exactly step outside to apply it before purchasing. Thankfully, Sephora and color specialists Pantone teamed up to create Sephora + Pantone Color IQ, a new service that helps women find the perfect foundation. 

Their service is currently offered in select Sephora locations. I visited the Times Square store in New York City to check it out myself.

The Color IQ device at Sephora in Times Square. Photo: Joanna DouglasSephora + Pantone Color IQ uses a handheld device to to determine the exact color of your skin. In the store, technicians removed my makeup to reflect my natural skin tone, then applied a very light moisturizer. They also asked whether I had recently worked out, used self-tanner, or received a chemical peel (no, no, no), all which can alter natural skin tone. No messing with accuracy, here!

Next, they used the scanner to take three photos of my skin—on my neck, lower cheek, and forehead. Then, the machine averaged those colors to calculate a comparable hue within the official numbered Pantone skin tone shades. Mine was 5Y04.

Now for the fun part:  The device connects wirelessly to an iPad, and scans Sephora's database of more than 1,000 foundations from various brands, to determine my perfect match. My results included two powder formulas and two liquids.

Since it's summer, we opted for the lighter powder formulas. First up: BareMinerals Ready Foundation Broad Spectrum SPF 20 in Light R230. It looked dark in the compact, yet when applied, my skin looked yellow. Next, we tried Benefit Hello Flawless! SPF 15 in "Never Settle Petal." A perfect, seamless match! I stepped outside with a mirror and it still looked amazing.

Benefit powder foundation was our perfect match. Photo: Joanna DouglasHowever, if none of the product results match the skin, there's also a handy function that searches for additional products that are slightly darker, lighter, or redder. Plus, a person's skin tone number and product selections are emailed from the device, so they can purchase at a later date, if they choose. How did we live without this thing?

Even better: This technology will soon be applied to more than just foundation. "We see this as the first application of this patented Sephora exclusive technology, and are excited to expand its capabilities for other uses in the color world," Margarita Arriagada, SVP of Merchandising at Sephora said in a press release.

Want to try Sephora + Pantone Color IQ? Click here find a Sephora store near you. Since participating locations are currently limited, you can also try their online tool. Just select one foundation shade you love, and the site will calculate your skin tone number and share comparable products in that shade from other brands.

Who would have thought computers could determine the perfect foundation? Fingers crossed for more Jetsons-like devices in the future to help style our hair!

Related links:
Sephora Revamps Beauty Insider Program
The Official Pantone Color of 2013
7 Tips from a Sephora Beauty Advisor on Primping like the Pros