A surprising palette goes into building a solid foundation.
When the beauty brand Prescriptives went online, only three years ago, its phenomenal custom-blended-foundation service was discontinued. You can't perfectly match a foundation to a woman's complexion without seeing that complexion in the flesh. Or can you? Prescriptives has revived its Custom Blend program by allowing customers to video conference with its makeup artists. Intrigued (and dubious), I scheduled an appointment, logged on at prescriptives.com, and watched a "Beauty Genius" pop up on my screen.

My genius, Nikki, wasted no time in probing my foundation history: When and how do I usually wear foundation? What foundations, and in what shades? What do I like, and dislike, about those products? Her knowledge of foundation varieties rivaled James Watson's command of DNA structure. Then she wanted more information about my preferences: Did I want moisture or oil control? (Definitely moisture.) Did I like sheer, medium, or full coverage? (Sheer, please.) Interested in ingredients to smooth lines and prevent foundation from creasing? (Sign me up!) What about finish—luminous or more matte? (Hmmm...matte.) Finally, Nikki asked me to e-mail her a photo of myself wearing no makeup, and ideally baring my neck and dÉcolletage (I get that request a lot). Two days later, she sent me my "recipe," and I dutifully entered the cryptic information (Pink 4, Blue 1, Green 1, White 5) at prescriptives.com.

Within a week, one frosted-glass foundation bottle (and a bonus travel size) arrived at my door. The formula is faultless—both the color and the texture are perfect for my complexion. But if it hadn't been the stuff of my dreams? I could send it back—at no charge—and my recipe would be tweaked. The patient folks at Prescriptives will redo the formula as many times as necessary.

($65 for foundation, $48 for powder; prescriptives.com)

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