Make-up and Cosmetics
Make-up and Cosmetics

Which Foundation Type is Best for You

by Paula Begoun

When you’re shopping for a foundation, it is important to be familiar with, and understand, your overall skin color. The goal is to find a foundation that matches it, regardless of the underlying tone. For the most part, foundation (like skin) should be some shade of neutral ivory, beige, tan, dark brown, bronze brown, or ebony, with a very slight undertone of yellow (but without any orange or pink).

Why a slightly yellow undertone? Because skin color usually has a yellow undertone: that’s what the natural color of melanin (the pigment in the skin) tends to be. There are a few exceptions to this rule. Native North American or South American women, a tiny percentage of African-American women, and some Polynesian women do indeed have a red cast to their skin. Women with these skin tones need to look for foundations that have a slight reddish cast to them-but that’s only a hint of brownish red, and not copper, orange, or peach.

An attractive makeup application must begin with a light-textured foundation that blends impeccably; otherwise you will look as if the makeup is wearing you. Even if you feel that you need a foundation that provides good coverage, obvious coverage is a big mistake and can negatively affect your entire makeup application. Of course, foundation is about providing coverage, but it is also your personal key to enhancing-not masking-your complexion.

Oil-free and matte liquid foundations

These almost always contain oils or ingredients that act or feel like oils, such as silicones. These oils and oil-like ingredients are not necessarily bad for any skin type, but their presence demonstrates that the term “oil-free” is another cosmetics industry contrivance that won’t necessarily help you find the best product for your skin type. Keep in mind that what most of these foundations have in common (when they are well formulated), is that they dry to a matte finish, with no shine or dewy appearance. On the skin, oil-free, matte foundations look like a traditional liquid foundation, although they are often thicker in appearance and have no shine.

Pros: These foundations are the best choice for women who want balanced coverage with no shine at all, and who like a smooth, matte look. They last much longer on oily skin or oily areas than most other foundation types (except for the ultra-matte foundations).

Cons: There aren’t many disadvantages to using this kind of foundation. Some of them can make the skin look or feel dry and flaky, but this is usually only true for those that contain talc or other absorbent ingredients.

Examples: Clinique Stay-True Makeup Oil-Free Formula ($16.50), Almay Wake Up Call Energizing Makeup SPF 15 ($11.99).

Ultra-matte foundations

These are an amazing group of products that truly stay put. Most have a very liquid consistency and are blended on like any other foundation, though precision blending is key. You have to be very careful about using a moisturizer under ultra-matte foundations. If you use too much or if you don’t allow it to be adequately absorbed, it can make the foundation streak.

Today’s ultra-matte foundations are less tenacious than earlier versions, but are also noticeably easier to blend and more forgiving of mistakes. The tradeoff for this added convenience is they do not wear as long as they used to, but most women will appreciate the extra “play” today’s ultra-matte formulas have.

Pros: These foundations are a superior option if you have seriously oily skin, have trouble with makeup slipping or disappearing as the day goes by, live in a humid climate, exercise but still like having your makeup stay put, or like a completely matte finish. Ultra-matte foundations will outlast any other foundation, with no slippage or movement. If you have very oily skin, these are an absolute must to try.

Cons: There are many disadvantages to using ultra-matte foundation. Primarily, most of them go on rather heavy and look masklike, leaving the skin feeling very dry and taut. In order to get this makeup on evenly, you must blend quickly or it will dry in place before you know it, and then it can be difficult to blend further. Ultra-matte foundations have less movement than more emollient foundations, which means eyeshadow and blush have a tendency to stick to them; that can make blending and correcting mistakes a bit irksome.

Women of color should be careful when choosing ultra-matte foundation. Even if it is the right color, these foundations can tend to look gray and ashen after being applied to darker skin tones.

Ultra-matte foundations are also the most difficult type to remove. The number of ultra-matte foundations is dwindling, as women have undoubtedly had problems with them. This is unfortunate, as these ingenious formulations can work so well for truly oily skins.

Examples: Maybelline EverFresh Makeup SPF 14 ($7.49), Estee Lauder Double Wear Stay in Place Makeup SPF 10 ($28.50), BeautiControl Color Freeze Liquid Makeup SPF 12 ($20).

Water-based and standard liquid foundations

Water-based does not mean oil-free, even if the label says so. What it does mean is that the first ingredient is water and the second or third ingredient is some kind of oil or slip agent. These foundations look like a somewhat thick liquid and pour slowly but easily out of the bottle. They are perfect for women with normal to dry skin and the number of foundations fitting this description and performance abound.

Pros: Most water-based foundations are best for those with normal to dry skin. The oil or emollient part of these foundations gives them good movement, which allows blushes and eyeshadows to blend on effortlessly and evenly over the face. Mistakes are easily buffed away with the sponge.

Cons: If you have oily or combination skin, this is not the foundation type for you. Even the little bit of oil or emollients in a water-based foundation show shine almost immediately if you have oily skin. For those with breakout-prone skin, the small amount of oil or emollients in this cosmetic may make you nervous. I personally don’t feel there are any disadvantages to using water-based foundations and I recommend them wholeheartedly. Water-based foundation is also a great option for women of color. The slight amount of emollient these contain helps create a nice glow on the skin, preventing darker skin tones from appearing dull or ashen.

If you are concerned with the small amount of shine that water-based foundations leave behind on the skin, try adding a light dusting of loose powder after you’ve blended the foundation in place.

Examples: Laura Mercier Moisturizing Foundation ($38), L’Oreal Visible Lift Line-Minimizing Makeup SPF 12 ($9.99).

Oil-based foundations

Oil-based foundations have oil as their first ingredient and water usually as their second or third ingredient. Oil-based foundations feel greasy and thick, look and go on greasy, yet can blend out quite sheer.

Pros: Oil-based foundations can be very good for women with extremely dry skin or wrinkled skin. The emollient ingredients help the skin look very dewy and moist, which can minimize the appearance of wrinkles.

Cons: Oil-based foundations tend to be very greasy and thick and can look that way on the skin unless you are very adept at blending. They also have a tendency to turn orange on the skin because the extra oil in them affects the pigments in the foundation. This can be true for women of color, too, and it explains why oil-based foundations can look orange after they are worn for awhile. The typical recommendation for applying an oil-based foundation is to add water to your sponge so that it goes on thinner, but that can be tricky to gauge and can cause the makeup to streak. Why not just use a water-based foundation in the first place and skip the negatives of the oil-based foundation? Additionally, if you wear face powder over this type of foundation, the oil grabs the talc and the face can appear coated and heavily made up. The same is true for blushes and eyeshadows-they will go on more heavily and will also become darker once applied. Traditional cream blushes tend to work best over this type of foundation.

Examples: Alexandra de Markoff Countess Isserlyn Cream Makeup ($47.50), NARS Balanced Foundation ($38).

Pressed powder-based foundation

These foundations come in a compact and perform much like any pressed powder, which is what they really are, only with a bit more coverage and ability to stay put. Almost all of them have a superior creamy, silky feel, but when applied to the skin they blend on as easily as any pressed powder.

Pros: Powder-based foundations are great for women with normal to oily or combination skin. They blend on easily, last all day, generally don’t change color, and feel light on the skin. They are best for those who want a minimal feel and appearance from their foundation. They also work very well over sunscreens, and can help take down the shine some sunscreen ingredients can leave on the skin.

Cons: This is not a good option if you have any amount of flaky skin. The powder content makes this type too drying for someone with dry skin. Also, women with very oily skin might want to be cautious, because powder-based foundations can get a thickened, pooled appearance as oil resurfaces on the face during the day.

Examples: Laura Mercier Foundation Powder ($38), Chanel Double Perfection Makeup SPF 8 ($45), M.A.C. Studiofix Powder Plus Foundation ($22).

Cream-to-powder foundations

These foundations are an interesting cross between a pressed powder and a creamy liquid foundation. They come in a compact and have a very creamy, almost greasy, appearance. When you blend them, the creamy aspect disappears and you are left with a slightly matte, powdery finish. Cream-to-powder foundations provide much better coverage than pressed powder-based foundations.

Pros: Cream-to-powder foundations blend on quickly and easily and provide a semi-matte, medium coverage. They work well for someone with normal to slightly dry or slightly combination skin. The consistency doesn’t require powdering after you apply it. If you wish to use powder, make sure you apply it as lightly ads possible to avoid a caked, heavy look.

Cons: Cream-to-powder foundations can blend on slightly thick, providing a made-up look. They don’t work well for someone with oily skin because the cream components can make skin look more oily, and they don’t work well for dry skin because the powder element can be too powdery looking and cause more dryness. They are best for normal skin types.

Examples: Clinique City Base Compact Foundation SPF 15 ($21), Maybelline True Illusion Liquid to Powder Makeup SPF 10 (despite the name this is definitely a cream-to-powder makeup) ($6.99).

Liquid-to-powder foundations

These liquidy powders with a gel-like wet feel, apply easily and dry to a satiny-smooth, slightly matte finish. They typically contain water as the first ingredient, along with a slip agent such as glycerin. In contrast to cream-to-powder foundations, liquid-to-powder foundations feel lighter on the skin. They also tend to last longer over combination or oily skins since the creamy, waxy ingredients are either decreased or absent.

Pros: Liquid-to-powder foundations blend on quickly and relatively easily and provide a semi-matte to matte finish with sheer to medium coverage. They work great for someone with normal to oily or slightly combination skin. The consistency doesn’t require powdering after you apply it.

Cons: Liquid-to-powder foundations dry quickly and can blend on choppy. This type of foundation does not work well over dry skin, as the water portion tends to cling to dry areas, leaving a powder finish that is not easily moved. The product itself must be kept tightly closed, as the water component will evaporate if it is left exposed to air. Some of the compact liquid-to-powder makeups can break apart if you are not careful.

Examples: Vincent Longo Water Canvas ($45), Aveda Cooling Calming Cover Sheer Face Tint ($18), Cover Girl AquaSmooth Makeup SPF 15 ($8.50).

Stick foundations

These foundations are essentially cream-to-powder foundations in stick form, and the application, pros, and cons mentioned in that section apply here. The main difference between stick and cream-to-powder foundations is the variety of coverage available from sticks. Whereas cream-to-powder makeups provide medium coverage, stick foundations come in formulas that range from full to sheer coverage with either matte or creamy coverage. Many stick foundations also feature effective sunscreens, making them a great all-in-one option. In addition, they can do double duty as concealer, and most product lines offer a wide selection of shades.

Pros and Cons: Refer to the section for cream-to-powder foundations.

Examples: Elizabeth Arden Flawless Finish Stick Makeup SPF 15 ($18), Trish McEvoy Foundation Stick ($38), L’Oreal Quick Stick Long Wearing Foundation SPF 14 ($10.99)

Foundations with shine

A definite trend in the world of makeup is having your entire face shine, either with a makeup primer, a foundation or a powder that shines. In real life it tends to look sparkly or extremely artificial, and if you have normal to oily skin, it looks like the oil you were trying to do away with. It works better as an evening look than for a classic daytime look.

Pros: For dull, lifeless skin, the foundations with shine can indeed add a subtle glow to the face, but the more product applied, the more the glow turns into sparkly shine or looks somewhat greasy.

Cons: In a word, shine. There’s a lot variation when it comes to how much shine you’ll get from these products, so pick and choose based on whether you want a subtle glow or high-wattage shimmer.

Examples: Revlon Skinlights Diffusing Tint SPF 15 ($11.99), Giorgio Armani Fluid Sheer ($42).

Self-adjusting foundations

These foundations supposedly stop oil production and also prevent moisture loss. I’ve yet to see one perform as promised, but it would be great if someone ever came up with one that could!

Custom-blended foundations

If a foundation is made for you and you only, will that get you the best shade? The premise is that there are only so many ready-made shades and you might be better off having one custom-blended. Unfortunately, the idea sounds better than the reality. The major problem with custom-blended cosmetics is that the success of the match depends on the expertise of the salesperson-and there are huge variations in skill.

As nice as custom-blended foundations sound, the formulations are not necessarily superior to (or sometimes even as good as) standard products. The foundation may be too greasy or too dry and it might turn too rose or peach as you wear it. With so many off-the-shelf foundation products available, in many excellent colors, custom blending turns out to be more an expensive gimmick than anything else.

When should you try a custom-blended product, particularly foundation? When you have tested many standard foundations and are still frustrated with the color of your foundation.

article reproduced from Paula