July 26, 2012

Sephora + Pantone Color IQ

So you’re having issues matching your foundation? Who hasn’t run into that problem! The new Sephora + Pantone Color IQ is one of the most advanced foundation matching solutions available in North American beauty retail and you can try it out at Sephora locations.

Never struggle with your color match again!

Check it out!

Sephora, the leading beauty specialty retailer, and Pantone, the global color authority, unveiled the new Sephora + Pantone Color IQ System this week.

Using Pantone’s color capture and measuring technology, the Sephora + Pantone Color IQ is the first and only beauty system to scan the surface of the skin, assign an official Pantone SkinTone number, and match a scientifically precise foundation shade from Sephora’s 1,000 foundations, brands and formulas.

“Sephora + Pantone Color IQ is an incredible process that delivers a real benefit to our clients,” said Margarita Arriagada, senior vice president of merchandising at Sephora. “We see this as the first application of this exclusive Sephora technology, and are excited to expand its capabilities for other uses in the color world.”

“Skin tones are comprised of many distinct shades so developing this particular application for our color measuring technology was an exciting challenge for us,” explained Lisa Herbert, vice president of consumer licensing at Pantone. “Even within the broader range of fairest ivory to deepest ebony, there are nuances that need to be calibrated correctly to determine the right match, and this solution eliminates many of the variables that can affect shade selection.”

The device works by taking an image of skin and references that swatch with Sephora’s Universal Skintone Library on an iPad which holds over 1,000 foundation SKUs. This determines what products are a precise match for each skin tone.

Interesting tidbits about the Sephora + Pantone Color IQ Handheld Device:

  • Uses powerful tri-directional image capture technology
  • Records 27 color-accurate images in 1.8 seconds using 8 different visible illuminations and 1 ultraviolet illumination for unsurpassed accuracy
  • Grid of 100×100 pixels across skin sample, which then becomes one color composite
  • New method of color measurement, including texture and surface sample variables, allowing for the most accurate definition of color

Cameras vs. Color IQ device for pigment precision:

  • Traditional cameras use ambient light, creating huge pigment variables
  • Color IQ illuminates skin surface from 3 different directions, and does not require ambient lighting for precision matching

Facts about the Sephora + Panton Color IQ SkinTone Library:

  • Ethnicity isn’t the only consideration when color matching – there are more factors in the physiology of the skin that determine color (hemoglobin, sun exposure, freckles, skin conditions, sun burn, excess or absence of melanin)
  • 110 shades comprise the PANTONE SkinTone Library
  • Foundation shades are based on SEPHORA’s current foundation landscape and can be expanded as more brand offerings are added, making the most comprehensive foundation library available at retail

The iPad app platform is exclusive to Sephora and has email capabilities so matches can be emailed directly to you!

Sephora has compiled a list of recommendations before you head to a store and try out the Color IQ System:

  • Do not work out for 30 minutes prior to match
  • No chemical or harsh peels 3-6 days prior to match
  • Drink more water and less caffeine prior to match; caffeine restricts blood flow, effecting flush of skin
  • Disclose if you are wearing self-tanner to the Sephora artist for a better match

The color match technology has launched at Sephora 5 Times Square right here in Manhattan today, July 26th. So if you want to try it and you’re in the New York area do head to Sephora Times Square today!

It’ll be available at Sephora Powell Street on August 2nd.

I don’t have details for the nationwide launch but I imagine by Fall most locations will offer the technology.

I am terribly excited about this so I might just head to Sephora Times Square later this evening to check it out but I fear that I’ll be spending $$$ on new foundations if I do…!

I have a list of foundations I’ve wanted to try that’s a mile long but I find the task of finding a good match very daunting and I never have success with sales assistants at Sephora matching me correctly.

Hopefully this Color IQ system works because if it does it could revolutionize the way we choose and buy our base products!

About the Muse

Isabella MuseIsabella is just an average everyday geeky girl who doesn’t blend her eyeshadow correctly, wears too much blush, and hopes she never finds her holy grail products because she likes the thrill of the chase so much. Her mission is to bring you super honest reviews on makeup, skincare, fragrance and all things beauty. She’s in no way an expert on the topic and she sure as hell isn’t a super model. But she’s passionate about makeup and is seeking like-minded individuals that like pina coladas, getting caught in the rain, and ones that enjoy spending hundreds of dollars at Sephora without feeling buyer’s remorse. If you’re that person feel free to reach out and leave a comment or follow me on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Bloglovin‘.

Leave a Comment


  • Louise

    This is awesome! The other day I went to the MAC counter to find out my exact number, and she wouldn’t tell me anything but “medium skin!” It was so bizarre. I really, REALLY love Sephora.

    • blauriche

      I was mismatched a couple times at MAC stores. I had the best luck visiting a stand alone MAC Pro store, although I ended up having a great experience at a MAC counter in downtown Minneapolis. It can be tricky because not all MAC foundations run in the exact same shades, but it’s very useful to know that I’m basically somewhere between NC20 and NW25. Interestingly Urban Decay’s new foundation matcher thing on their site actually matches to the Studio Fix shade numbers so it’s good that I also knew that I’m roughly an N5. Funnily enough, I don’t even buy from MAC, but it’s a good benchmark, until Sephora and Pantone completely take over with this amazing new technology. I’m so happy someone finally got around to doing something like this!

      • JJ


        I went into a MAC for the first time ever last year, and asked to be color matched for a liquid foundation….The man who helped me told me I’m NC35… But my friend who’s several shades darker than me is between NC 30-35… It made no sense to me whatsoever. Blah. Talk about being color mismatched. 🙁

        • Ryou

          I know how you feel. I have light-medium skin and now I know that I’m somewhere between NC/NW 20-25 (hard to say because their foundations either run too pink or too yellow on me). The first time I tried getting matched, however, they tried to match me to NC45! o_O

    • Moon

      Yeah I am somewhat disappointed with MAC. I only went to the Macy’s MAC counter once and I was matched with a NC35 for the prolong wear SPF10. I think it’s too much beige in it, but I have been using the NC35 for 2 years. The other day I went to the UD naked foundation matching tool online and they only match with the Studio Fix shade numbers, I put in NC35 and they matched me with a 7.0, which I think it’s way too dark. (Is different MAC foundation product don’t share the same shade number? i.e. Can I be a NC35 for one foundation line and a complete different number for the studio fix?), but I saw someone’s blog saying she is NC35 but she was matched with a 5.0 at the IMATS for the UD product…So now I am really confused if I should buy a 5.0 or 7.0 or somewhere in between like a 6.0…this technology will help big time, if it will just make it down to where I live before I run out of my NC35…

  • Moon

    Lucky you Muse! I hope they will have it available nationwide soon as you predicted. (Maybe I should hold off on buying any new foundation until I run out, and hopefully the device will be available in Houston’s Sephoras by then) Let us know how the consultation goes for you!

    • the Muse

      will do! I think I’ll post about it after I tried moon ;D hopefully can make it there later tonight!


    This is why Sephora is the best! I would love to try this, and see what it recommends for me.

  • marron

    I hope this comes to my local Sephora soon!! This is so exciting!!

  • anna

    This is so awesome! I can’t wait to try it. I’m so sick of being recommended wrong color matches by SA’s or choosing the wrong ones myself.

  • Tammie

    If they end up having it nation-wide I’ll have to try it. I am SO pale, it’s impossible for me to find the right color. Maybe this will help~.

  • Nita

    This is so exciting…i always end up getting the wrong shade under Sephora’s horrible store lights 🙂

    • Barb

      I work at sephora and yep the lighting can be tuff on colour matching… remember we sample most things so always feel free to ask for a sample of the colour you think suits you… then you can try it at home in a more natural light setting ;o)

  • Kim

    This sounds amazing but I doubt my Sephora will get it any time soon (if ever). My store doesn’t even have Guerlain, Givenchy, or Bobbi Brown!

  • Alanna

    Ahhhh I can’t wait! I hope it makes its way to my buffalo ny store soon!

  • Jo

    Sounds cool! I’ll have to check out the Powell street one next month. How do they account for the numerous freckles I have? I would imagine that it could give me a much darker reading than I really am.

    • the Muse

      not sure jo! perhaps they’ll look for a clear spot to take the scan!?

  • Boone

    With all the money I’ve wasted on foundations that are just sliiiiiiightly not the right shade, I could have bought a plane ticket to NYC to visit the Times Square store. This sounds like an absolute god-send for those of us with impossible-to-match skin tones. I might have to bump New York up on my vacation priority list now!

  • Suzi

    That is so cool! My problem is….so many colors look good the first of hours, and then go orange. I wonder about that when testing this out.

  • Monica – Pisica albastra

    This is awesome, but I have my reservations. I don’t think this technology can compensate for the colour changes that occur through the process of oxidation.
    Nor it will be able to tell you if the foundation you are matched to color-wise will be good for you in terms of texture and finish. Or if it will brake you out…

    Our best bet, now and forever, will still be to try out the foundation we like before we purchase it. I’m glad they came up with this new and wonderful piece of technology, but I would have trully jumped for joy if the press release stated that from now and ’till forever they would offer a free sample prior to purchase for any and all of their foundations.

    • the Muse

      monica, it’s just for getting a proper color match. Having a machine that tells you whether the finish and texture would be good for your skin and if it would break you out would be a miracle lol. Many Sephora’s will gladly give you a small sample of a foundation to take home so you can try it out.

    • Barb

      i mentioned this above… that i work at sephora… and yes just ask for a sample of the foundation you think you like… then you can try it out at home under a more natural light setting

      • TwirlyGirly

        Sephora is fantastic about giving samples. My daughter was pining after a VERY purple MUFE lipstick, but I was hesitant to fork over 19.00 for a lipstick she hadn’t tried. I went to Sephora thinking I would swatch the tester on the back of my hand so she could see what the shade looked like in person, but the tester for that shade was gone. The SA said “No problem! I’ll give you a sample for her to try” and proceeded to open up a NEW lipstick, chop off the end with a knife, and put it into a sample container. She then packaged the whole thing in a small zip bag with 2 brushes. I was pretty amazed, but she explained “We can give you samples of ANYTHING.” Good thing I got the sample – it turned out while my daughter loved the shade, it didn’t look good on her (made her teeth look very yellow), so I saved 19.00 by not purchasing a lipstick she wouldn’t have worn anyway…..

        • Cindy

          They are so so good with giving samples! They always ask when I’m ready to check out if there are any samples I want! The same thing happened with Too Faced Primed and Poreless, they went and opened a new container and filled the little plastic sample container for me!

          • Monica – Pisica albastra

            OMG, I’m sooo jealous of you guys! I live in Romania and our Sephora stores and not so generous…most of the times, if you ask for a sample, you have to have your own little pot, cause they don’t (or they pretend that they don’t so they won’t meet ur request) And don’t even get me started about the range of products available…or their prices. I swear, I’m better off buying them online AND paying for transport fees. They’re like 50% more expensive…and our incomes are usually under 1000$ a month…go figure!

  • Majick

    this is WAY COOL and I may even make a special trip to check it out. What I think would be even better is if someone came out with a spreadsheet or chart that had all the foundations, brands, and colors that were equivalant to each other.

    I find people on the boards helpful in selecting shades when I’ve not tried the brand before but a chart saying what colors were similar to each other would be phenomenal. Maybe I should start a second career. LOL

  • Cindy

    This looks so awesome! I can’t wait for this to make its way down to my local Sephora!

  • blauriche

    I emailed them yesterday to see when I could expect it in my Sephora in Chicago and depending on how I interpret the response I got, either they have no idea when it’s coming here or it isn’t coming here. Time will tell!

  • Winni

    I am BEYOND excited about this. I can’t exactly figure out my coloring. Mac says I’m warm (NC35), Estée Lauder says I’m cool, Chanel says I’m neutral, Nars says neutral sephora says I’m warm. I think Chanel is the closest, but I’d like to know once and for all!! I have hazel eyes, the veins in my wrists are green, I tan easily…….I NEED TO KNOW!! :D. Thx for telling is about it.

    • the Muse

      i seem to have the same problem as you! I’ve had mac rec me nc30-35 but that’s WAY too dark. Estee Lauder has said I am neutral and Chanel says I’m cool. I tan easily, have blue veins, my body is darker than my face, im confused!

      • Ryou

        My skintone is similar to Christine’s (Temptalia) and she’s an NC25. You’re probably around NC/NW 20, or 25 at the darkest. Too bad MAC foundations run either too pink or too yellow, so it’s pretty hard to get a good match for me. Most either make me look sunburnt or jaundiced. :/

        • the Muse

          they always fit me for nc30-35 when I go to mac and it’s SO dull and dark! I’ll have to swatch the 20 range. Thanks ryou! same issue with me, they make my skin so dull!

      • Winni

        Well, hopefully this new technology clears things up! I bet you’re neutral, maybe leaning cool. Like a true winter. 🙂

  • LIlly

    For those wondering when/if it will come to your store here’s some info. I work for Sephora & was recently at a training with our CEO where he explained the innovative technology. He also mentioned its in a few test markets right now to see how it works and gather feedback, Usually they do this first to see what improvements can be made so that when it’s launched into all doors it’s the absolute best it can be. They did a similar test with both Scentsa & Skin IQ. the process (depending on needed improvements) could take one to two years so don’t loose hope, just keep an eye out. 🙂

  • Penny Wilson

    I have been to 3 different Sephoras’ and I am NOT impressed with the color match. I have come up as 1y05, 3y05 and 1r05. The only constsancy is 05.