Does SEPHORA + PANTONE Color IQ Actually Work?

Finding the perfect shade of foundation often feels like an impossible task. The brand-new SEPHORA + PANTONE Color IQ Foundation Matching Tool sounds like a miracle solution, but does it actually work? Well, I tried it for myself, and I can now say that SEPHORA + PANTONE Color IQ delivers. This new technology is going to revolutionize the way we select foundation.

Sephora and Pantone have partnered to develop a new device that scans the surface of your skin and assigns your complexion an official Pantone Skintone Number. That number is then compared against SEPHORA’s Universal Skintone Guide of over 1,000 shades of foundation to determine which products are a precise match for your skintone. 

SEPHORA + PANTONE Color IQ is currently only available at the San Francisco Powell Street and NYC Times Square Sephora locations, with plans to launch in more stores in the Fall. I live in the Bay Area so I ran over to San Francisco yesterday to give Color IQ a test drive. I didn't bring my digital camera so I don't have high-res photos, but I snuck some cell phone pics so you can get an idea of what it looks like.

SEPHORA + PANTONE Color IQ Foundation Matching Station
SEPHORA + PANTONE Color IQ Foundation Matching Station

The SEPHORA + PANTONE Color IQ Foundation Matching Tool has its own glossy, high-tech station with the handheld Color IQ tool and an iPad to view your results. I sat down with Elizabeth, a super helpful Sephora employee who walked me through the whole process:

Step 1:  Remove your makeup. The SEPHORA + PANTONE Color IQ Foundation Matching Station is stocked with makeup removing wipes so the technician can get your skin nice and clean. Don't be afraid though, because they won't let you leave the store wearing less makeup than you came in with!

Step 2:  Use the SEPHORA + PANTONE Color IQ Foundation Matching Tool to take three photos of your skin, which are then averaged to find your ideal shade. The technician presses the Color IQ tool directly against your skin in three different places, taking care to avoid areas with hyperpigmentation or dense amounts of freckles. Elizabeth took photos of my chest, neck, and cheek. The tool assigns each area a Pantone Skintone Number and finds the average of the three results.

SEPHORA + PANTONE Color IQ Foundation Matching Tool
SEPHORA + PANTONE Color IQ Foundation Matching Tool

Step 3:  Read the result on the screen of the Color IQ handheld device to find out your official Pantone Skintone Number. The Pantone Skintone Numbers fall on a spectrum from cool to warm and light to dark. The tool assigned my skin a number of 2Y04. The "2Y" stands for "2 Yellow," which means that I am two notches over to the warm side. The "04" indicates that my skin is the fourth lightest shade. 

SEPHORA + PANTONE Color IQ Foundation Matching iPad

Step 4:
  Type your Pantone Skintone Number into the iPad at the Color IQ station. 

Step 5:  View your foundation matches! Because my skin was only two steps over to the warm side, I am close to neutral and received a lot of foundation matches. The matches include all types of foundation formulas for all different skin types: liquid, cream, powder, tinted moisturizer, etc. 

Step 6:  Filter your results to find your perfect foundation. For example, you can choose to only view liquid foundations or products that are formulated for sensitive skin. If you plan to get a tan, you can also view shades that are one notch darker than your current color. I filtered my results so that I could view 2Y04 shades that work well for oily skin.

Clinique Superbalanced Makeup in Nude Beige
Clinique Superbalanced Makeup in Nude Beige
Image from Sephora.com

Step 7:  Play with makeup! Elizabeth applied a different foundation to each side of my face so that I could choose my favorite. Clinique Superbalanced Makeup in Nude Beige ($23) ended up looking absolutely gorgeous, so she removed everything else and applied that all over my skin. 

Step 8:  Email your matches to yourself. The Color IQ iPad has an email option so that you can view your results at home. The email includes a link to each product on Sephora's website for easy shopping.

Clinique Superbalanced Makeup in Nude Beige is a medium coverage foundation for combination skin. It's designed to add moisture and control oil where needed. I've only worn it once, but I can say that it looks and feels amazing

I always struggle to find a good foundation shade so I'm thrilled with this result. I've finally found a perfect foundation color match, and it's all thanks to SEPHORA + PANTONE Color IQ. I can't wait to purchase Clinique Superbalanced Makeup in Nude Beige. I also plan to consult my list of matches in the future to take the guesswork out of shade selection if I'm looking for a powder or tinted moisturizer.

I am so impressed with SEPHORA + PANTONE Color IQ. This revolutionary foundation color matching system is fun, easy to use, and incredibly accurate. So many of us struggle to find a good foundation shade, and Color IQ finally eliminates that frustration. I'm excited for SEPHORA + PANTONE Color IQ to launch in other Sephora stores so that everyone can give it a try!


  1. That's pretty amazing! I will have to check it out next time I'm in NY

    1. It's really cool. I had so much fun trying it and testing out my matches!

  2. Nicole, we are so glad that you had a positive experience with the Pantone + Sephora Color IQ, we recently had someone report back from her experience with the Color IQ in NYC. She was also happy to report back that it worked great for her as well! Makeup color matching can often be quite a disaster, but we are proud to be involved in making makeup more accurate.

  3. Found your blog via Pinterest. I am SO excited to try this once it makes its way down to Alabama (which could take a century)! Thanks for the review!