Sephora & Pantone Color IQ
Available at any Sephora Location
Those of you who have heard of Sephora Color IQ are probably wondering "Does it really work?" I was wondering thast too so I decided to put it to the test....and I really tested it.
What IS Sephora Color IQ?
Sephora teamed up with Pantone and decided to make the ultimate shade matching system so that no one ever chooses the wrong shade of makeup ever again. This is undoubtedly one of the most refreshing ideas in the world of foundation matching that the cosmetics companies have ever seen.
How was Color IQ created?
Step One: Design a camera; a "special" hand held camera. (No, it's not a cellphone.) What this photographer's delight does, is capture images in complete darkness...
The concept behind the "total darkness" attribute is simple; if you take an image in total darkness than you won't have to worry about light interfering with the resulting images so you'll end up with a purer picture which has virtually no chance for errors.
Step Two: Design a numerical system that could be applied to every possible skin tone in the world. A system which could easily identify one's skin tone intensity and undertone with one number.
Step Three: Catalog every single foundation shade of every single foundation formula in the world. (Well, o.k., just the 1500 formulas sold at Sephora stores.)
Step Four: Train every Sephora "cast member" to use the special camera & accurately take pictures of ever customer's skin.
Does Color IQ actually work?
Not many people would argue that this is a wonderful idea. Almost every women has purchased a foundation in the past that wasn't a perfect match so of course a universal tool like Color IQ would be helpful, BUT, Color IQ DOES have a few hiccups.
I don't find there to be an issue with the Color IQ "Library of Shades." Each shade is given a 4 digit code and each place represents a different attribute of the shade.
This numerical system is easy enough for people to remember their shade and thorough enough to account for most skin tone variances.
The two biggest issues of Color IQ?
Consistency & the way they assign foundation shades a number.
Because the Color IQ camera isn't "scanning" your skin in any high-tech way and it's simply taking a photo, there are alot of things that can affect the result. I'm exceptionally pale so when I run through the mall to get to Sephora before they close my face is red, and it stays that way.
This means that anytime I have my Color IQ given to me in the next two hours the results will say that I lean heavily toward the pink end of the spectrum instead of my normal yellow to neutral range.
On the flip side, if I have my Color IQ taken when I don't have blood circulating, I can end up with a shade that's far too pale for me (and yes, there ARE shades that are too pale for me.)
Another thing that will influence your Color IQ results (perhaps the most dramatically) is what makeup you're currently wearing. If you're not wearing a foundation that is a perfect match for your skin you may get a funky reading.
The second big issue with Color IQ is the high level of inaccuracies in the way that Sephora & Pantone matched each shade of each foundation.
Instead of matching dried, set, and potentially oxidized shades of foundation, each shade was given it's respective shade when it was "fresh and wet". (That sounds so dirty.)
Because of this, shades like
- Tarte's Amazonian Clay Full Cover Foundation in Fair Sand
- Kat Von D's Lock-It Tattoo Foundation in Light 45,
- Nars Sheer Glow in the 6th shade Ceylan.
- Urban Decay Naked Skin Weightless Liquid Makeup in Shade 2.
- Laura Mercier Smooth Finish Flawless Fluid in Vanilla,
- Becca Ever-Matte Shine Proof in Sand
are all given rankings of "3Y03" when there is little consistency between all of them. Yes, they are absolutely similar in color when they are wet, but many of them dry much darker.
For example, I wear
- Tarte Full Cover in Fair Sand,
- Kat Von D in Light 42 mixed with about 10% of Light 45 (just to neutralize the pink),
- Nars Sheer Glow in shade 1 or shade 3 (not 6),
- Urban Decay Naked Weightless in Shade 0,
- Laura Mercier Flawless Fluid in Creme,
- Becca Ever Matte Shine Proof in Porcelain & Shell (a 50/50 ratio of the lightest shades).
A perfect example is Marc Jacobs Super Charged Genius Gel Foundation in shade Ivory Medium. It is rated as shade 3Y02 (so lighter than 3Y03), but once dried, it measures 4Y03 with the Color IQ tool.
This is a pattern which continues throughout the 1500 shades and it's extremely unfortunate that there wasn't a stricter testing policy to ensure that shades were matched to the the correct value.
This will undoubtedly cost Sephora thousands of dollars in sales too because in addition to the returns that they are likely to experience, they are losing tens of thousands of dollars in sales!
Don't forget common sense when finding a foundation match!
I have personally witnessed at least a dozen customers walk in to a Sephora location to purchase a particular foundation, only to then be told that they unfortunately don't have a match in their coveted makeup.
Several of these women had researched and read reviews on the foundation they were looking for so when the color specialist suggests an alternative formula, they often don't pull the trigger.
This is incredibly unfortunate because before Color IQ existed, the color specialists would have been able to make a recommendation for a shade based on good old fashioned common sense (and by matching the actual product to the customer's skin.)
Several women across the country have reached out to me about being matched to Color IQ incorrectly and after initially calming them down and talking them off the ledge, I have been able to find most of them a match in their desired foundation. (Your welcome Sephora.)
Since the addition of the Color IQ system, it seems that color specialists are only being trained to use the Color IQ camera and have forgotten how to match people to their correct shade the old-fashioned way.
Of course, the issues of being matched to wet foundation instead of dry foundation is in no way exclusive to the Color IQ camera and can absolutely be an all-too-common-issue with sales associates at every makeup counter in the world.
The most important things you MUST do to find a correct match are
- Swatch Heavily (better if you don't blend)
- Let the Foundation Dry THOROUGHLY before making a decision and
- Swatch Multiple Shades!
The reason it's important to not blend out a swatch is because you want to see the foundation in it's truest form. You want to know what it's like without interference.
You also want to make sure that you don't make a decision while the foundation is still wet. This is especially important with long-wearing, oil-free, transfer resistant, and matte formulas. Those types of foundations are the most likely to oxidize as they are very difficult to manufacture in realistic shades because they dry so much darker than they apply!
It IS worth getting matched by the Color IQ system. It is absolutely one of the most "advanced" color-matching systems on the market and it's worth knowing what your shade match (range) is.
For years the general shade match comparison has been based on Mac Foundation shade ranges (we've all seen someone ask if a shade was suitable for their "NW15" skin), and there's a good chance that Color IQ's numerical system may replace Mac's...eventually.
Color IQ certainly has a few quirks to work out, especially with the values they've assigned to each foundation shade- but it's very new and essentially still in Beta Testing.
Hopefully Sephora will take this concept and improve upon it so that everyone can actually find their perfect match effortlessly; but until then just use the Color IQ system as a general guideline!
You have to be able to keep in mind the variances in the types of formulas that you're looking for and you have to swatch products yourself.