Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Sephora's Pantone Color IQ

On Monday, I got a chance to try the Color IQ system at Sephora. Working together with Pantone, Sephora now has a incredible tool to aid in one of makeup's most frustrating chores: getting the correct color match for foundation. According to Sephora:
SEPHORA, the leading beauty specialty retailer, and Pantone LLC, the global color authority, unveil SEPHORA + PANTONE COLOR IQ, the most advanced foundation matching tool available in North American beauty retail.   Powered by Pantone and based off the color matching technology developed by X-Rite, the SEPHORA + PANTONE COLOR IQ system is the first and only beauty device to scan the surface of the skin and assign an official Pantone skintone number, to find your scientifically precise foundation shade amongst our 1,000 foundations, brands and formulas.

“SEPHORA + PANTONE COLOR IQ POWERED BY PANTONE is an incredible tool that delivers a real benefit to our clients,” says Margarita Arriagada, SVP of Merchandising at Sephora. “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.”

The SEPHORA+ PANTONE COLOR IQ is a hand held tool based off the Pantone X-Rite Spectrocolorimeter used in the design world.  As the first of its kind in cosmetics retail, the device works by taking an image of your skin, analyzing and assigning you an official Pantone skintone number.  With that number, Sephora beauty experts referenceSEPHORA’s Universal SkintoneGuide(via iPad) which holds over 1,000 foundation skus to determine what products are a precise match for your skintone. 

“SEPHORA + PANTONE COLOR IQ eliminates many of the variables that can affect shade selection, including pigment challenges, skin texture and undertones which can often distort the clients match,” added SEPHORA PRO Gilbert Soliz. “As an artist, I know the right foundation is essential to a great makeup look so this is an amazing resource to have for my consultations.  It allows me to pull the best matches across all our brand offerings for my clients personalized consultation.”
It's only available at the 5 Times Square location in NYC and the Powell Street location in San Francisco. Sephora has plans to roll out the system to other locations. Enough recap, onto my experience!

I was helped by a lovely and friendly SA. The Color IQ tool is a handheld device, a little smaller than the Clarisonic Mia, that takes snapshots of your skin. My SA took multiple snapshots of my cheeks, neck, forehead, and right beside my nose. It was an extremely quick process and about half a minute later I received my Color IQ code or Pantone skintone, 2Y06. The 2Y represents my undertone (Y for yellow) and the 06 represent the depth of my skin color (lightness/darkness). I got a bunch of matches to products in Sephora, which you can email to yourself. I got matched to shade 118 Flesh for Makeup Forever HD foundation. The SA applied it on and it matched very well under the store lights.

I wish I could show a neat display of all my color matches. However, the email I received was a jumbled mess of HTML coding. Luckily, I was able to copy+paste the matches over to Word. I received 26 products results and oddly, I got two shade matches for a couple of products. Looking at my results, I was pretty confident that Color IQ worked for me. I have Tarte's Smooth Operator tinted moisturized in Agent 06 and it matches my skin pretty well. They have since repackaged it into a BB Cream and renamed the shade into Light, which is described as  light skin with yellow undertones. I was matched to Tarte's Amazonian Clay 12-Hour Full Coverage Foundation in Light. So the Color IQ system was able to give me my perfect foundation shade?

Not quite. 118 Flesh ran into the same problem I have with my Tarte Smooth Operator. It matches in terms of the lightness and darkness but there's hardly any warmth in the shade. It gives me an almost white glow to my skin. The foundation matches quite well but... it's a little off. I was also disappointed that I didn't see more product recommendations. 26 hardly touches the number of foundations Sephora has to offer.

Then, I wanted to see how the information I got from Color IQ can help find foundations outside of Sephora. Using and Temptalia's Foundation Matrix, I wanted to find my shade for MAC's Pro Longwear foundation using the MUFE 118 Flesh shade. Findation tells me that I should be a NC25 and Temptalia has me at NC20-25.

Today, I went to the MAC in Times Square (where the staff did a rousing rendition of Chicago's All that Jazz). A great SA helped me get matched for the Pro Longwear foundation. She applied Prep + Prime Moisture Infusion on my skin first. On a sidenote, OMG, that stuff feels amazing on. It smoothed out all the fine lines and creases that became more prominent from my overly dry skin. The foundation looked great on and matched very well. Just like 118 Flesh, it made no foundation line at my jaw and looked the same from my chest to my neck to my face. I asked her what shade it was and she told me that it was NC35.

Uh, what? The Internet said I was suppose to be NC25. But there was no denying it. It looked great under the store lights and great out in daylight. Even after a couple of hours, it still stayed perfect. No oxidizing orangey at all, a usual sign that you picked a too dark foundation.

So what gives? Did the Color IQ system fail? Not necessarily. After all, I tried only one foundation from my list of matches and the foundation did match pretty well save for the undertone. Also, I got more than one suggestion for a few products so my skintone falls in between for some products. In addition, it shows that these online foundation shade comparisons aren't super reliable.

Despite the non-100% foundation match, I'm really very happy with the Color IQ system. Correcting for the lack of warmth is easily so it's a non-issue for me to purchase 118 Flesh full-size. If I wanted a better match, I know that I only really need to look one shade up.

I would love to see this system take off and more features come along. Maybe I could use the Color IQ code to filter products on Sephora's website or eventually use it to match to a concealer. Would be very awesome too if products in store were labelled with corresponding Color IQ codes.

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