The announcement, several weeks ago, that Shu Uemura would be withdrawing from counters in the U.S. filled me with panic. And the rate at which my sole Shu counter (in Neiman Marcus) has been clearing out did nothing to abate my nerves — so little time left to swatch the line before it disappeared forever!
Knowing that time was not on my side, I tried to think which swatches would do the most good. I decided to make foundation my top priority. So I’m starting with Shu’s Face Architect Smoothing Fluid Foundation — mainly because there are the most shades of this formula (and I think it will do the best job of illustrating Shu’s somewhat odd naming conventions).
Shu foundations are numbered. The first digit tells you how pink or yellow the foundation is: 1 is the most pink; 9 is the most yellow; 5 is neutral. The second digit goes from black to white. A second digit of 0 has the most black/is the darkest; a second digit of 9 is the lightest. The third digit tells you chroma — whether the undertone of the foundation is blue or violet.
To slice the information a different way, Shu’s website groups the shades by skintone descriptors. I don’t know if this helps or just makes the subject more confusing, but: In the Fair/Light category: 784 (fair beige, warm undertone), 774 (light beige, warm undertone), 974 (light honey, warm undertone). In the Medium Light category: 165 (medium light peach, cool undertone), 164 (medium light peach, cool undertone), 365 (medium light amber, cool undertone), 964 (medium light sand, warm undertone), 764 (medium light beige, warm undertone), 564 (medium light sand, neutral undertone). In the Medium category: 355 (medium amber, cool undertone), 345 (moderate amber, cool undertone), 554 (medium sand, neutral undertone), 754 (medium beige, warm undertone). In the Medium Dark/Rich category: 734 (rich beige, warm undertone), 934 (rich honey, warm undertone). And finally, in the Deep/Dark category: 524 (deep sand, neutral undertone), 504 (dark sand, neutral undertone).
Face Architect Fluid is a water-based, sheer-to-medium coverage, buildable foundation — which is to say it’s medium coverage, but could be applied more sheerly with the right tools/technique. Its finish is natural and semi-matte. Face Architect Fluid is $42.
I asked a former Shu employee (now reassigned to YSL) to match me to a shade, and with a jawline swipe, he recommended 774. I feel I should mention that even though it’s early in the summer, my arms are already darker (and probably more red/pink) than my face — the unavoidable consequence of spending so much time outside. Foundation swatching never seems to provide enough information; still, I hope these help somewhat.