For most of my life, I didn’t wear foundation. I was lucky that I always had “good skin” with few breakouts, rosy cheeks and a few freckles. I couldn’t understand why I would want to wear foundation.
I thought it was messy and heavy. Although I can’t remember the brand, I can see in my memory a bottle of liquid foundation that I bought many years ago on a whim. I was never sure I chose the right shade, and it was difficult to apply. Back then, I never really got the hang of it and never knew why I needed it.
After years of not listening to my mother during adolescence when she warned me not to sit in the sun with a reflector with baby oil on my skin, I now know that moms usually know what they’re talking about. The few, formerly cute, freckles I used to have grew together and were joined by their friends, and I now have bonafide sun damage on my nose, the sides of my face (especially the side closest to the driver’s side car window — I must always drive with the sun on my left!), and on my cheekbones. Yikes. Now, I can truly appreciate the benefit of wearing foundation: it evens out skin tone and hides imperfections.
In addition, foundation provides, well, “the foundation” or “canvas” for the rest of your makeup. If you’re very pink like I am, you can tone down overly pink cheeks with foundation and use a blush that’s less pink and more peachy than you really are. If you have a yellow undertone to your skin, you can use foundation and blush to warm up your skin tone. Using foundation also gives you a base for contouring your face with a little bronzer, at the jawline to make it look firmer, under the cheekbones to give your face dimension.
Another benefit that you may not think about is that foundation gives you protection by creating a physical barrier against environmental pollutants. The SPF in many foundations adds additional protection beyond your moisturizer to help protect against sun-damage from UV light and, importantly, to keep free-radicals from harming skin. As the weather warms up and humidity increases, environmental pollutants increase. Though you may be less inclined to wear foundation in the warm weather, think again. It’s actually helping to keep your skin healthier than if you didn’t wear it.
As you get older, you do need to be careful about how you apply foundation. In other words, don’t over do it. Wearing too much can make you look like you’re wearing a mask. Foundation makeup can settle into fine lines and wrinkles and make you look older than you really are. If you need more coverage, use concealer on the areas that need more coverage rather than more or heavier foundation.
Be sure to apply any foundation makeup to clean, exfoliated skin. Because it forms a layer or physical barrier on your face, you do not want to trap any dead cells, bacteria or dirt on your face. Washing your face with water, a gentle cleanser and a soft facecloth is all the exfoliating that you may need on a daily basis.
Finally, be sure to remove your foundation and the rest of your makeup before going to bed. Have makeup remover towelettes on hand for those nights when you’re so tired you’re tempted to go to bed without washing your face. Older skin tends to have larger, more visible pores. Not removing foundation at night can clog those pores and cause blemishes, even in older skin.
These days, there are more options than ever when it comes to foundation. I’ll take you through the major types, but leave the real product reviews for another time.
If you haven’t been wearing foundation, try a tinted moisturizer. With a tinted moisturizer, you’re not adding an additional step. You get moisturizer and a little sheer color at the same time. Usually tinted moisturizer comes in only 3 or 4 shades but because of the relative sheerness, color isn’t typically an issue. If you don’t have many imperfections, tinted moisturizer may be all you need to even out your tone and provide both moisturization and protection from sun (get a tinted moisturizer with SPF of at least 15) and free-radicals.
Next up is BB cream. One of the relatively new, alphabet soup darlings, BB cream was originally created in Asia, and BB stood for Blemish Balm. The original Asian BBs contained ingredients to treat blemishes and control oil, and whitening to lighten skin. For today’s BB creams in the U.S., BB stands for beauty balm. BB cream usually provides moisturizing ingredients and SPF, but may or may not contain ingredients to treat blemishes. Most do not contain whitening ingredients. It is usually formulated to provide more coverage than tinted moisturizer, and that coverage should last longer than a tinted moisturizer. Like tinted moisturizer, BB cream shades are relatively limited. BB creams are very popular now, and more and more brands, both premium and popularly-priced, are introducing them. Again because of their growing popularity, brands are introducing higher SPF than the SPF 15 that was all that was available at first.
I’ve heard some good things about Revlon Photoready BB Cream. It seems to provide good coverage, and it’s got an SPF of 30. I’ve got a coupon for a couple of dollars back from CVS purchases I’ve made, and CVS is running a Beauty Club promotion for more off, so I’ll look and see what else I need and give Revlon’s BB a try. I’ll let you know what I think.
Liquid foundation makeup continues to be plentiful in spite of new types of foundation, and it has been updated and significantly improved. The benefit of using a liquid foundation is more coverage, longer lasting coverage, and lots of shade choices so you can match the color of your skin.
If you are choosing a liquid foundation in a store like Sephora, Ulta or a department store, do test the color on your face rather than your hand to get a really good match. Make stripes on your cheek with a few shades that are close to your skintone and choose the one that is closest to your own. If you’re a drugstore brand purchaser, check out L’Oreal True Match with 15 shades, a high water content for hydration and healthy ingredients like anti-oxidants. For the adventurous, there’s Almay Smart Shade Foundation that comes in only a few shades. It comes out of the tube white with black flecks. But when applied, it “magically” changes into a shade that, Almay claims, will match your skin. A few years ago, I tried it and had good luck matching my skintone.
Consider applying liquid foundation with a brush rather than with your fingers or with a sponge. It’s less messy and it goes on lighter, smoother, and there’s less chance of creating a “line” at your jaw.
In order to prevent liquid foundation from settling into lines and wrinkles, either use a primer or look for a foundation with silicone (“dimethicone”, “methicone” or anything ending in “cone” in the ingredient list is a tip-off that there’s silicone in the product). Silicone in a primer or liquid foundation sits on top of the skin forming a smooth layer for the pigment to adhere to. Because silicone molecules are large, they can not penetrate skin and are considered to be safe for skin. And it definitely makes a difference in the look.
When Bare Minerals first launched a few years ago, I was in San Francisco for two weeks on an extended business trip, conducting focus groups for a South American cosmetics company. Since Bare Minerals’ parent company, Bare Escentuals, was based in SF, I decided to see what all the talk was about. I went in to one of their stores and asked the young woman behind the counter if she would apply Bare Minerals foundation on me. Boy, was I disappointed! The powdered minerals settled into lines that I didn’t even realize I had, ugh. I told her I thought I was too old for mineral makeup, and I washed it off before leaving the store.
Every time I saw a commercial or ad for Bare Minerals, I kept thinking about how much I wanted to be able to use it successfully. That’s when I discovered primer. This time I went to Sephora when I was in Boston, and I asked one of their makeup artists to apply Bare Minerals for me. He put primer on first, then applied the makeup. What a difference! The minerals did a great job covering my sun damage. He just painted away my dark spots and freckles with powder and a brush, and for the first time probably since I was born, my skin was one color. I was converted.
For me, mineral foundation is just easier to apply. And now, in addition to Bare Minerals, there are many brands offering mineral makeup at all price points.
So, for those of you who don’t use foundation, consider the benefits for your skin. Today, there are so many different ways to go, most of which are very easy to use. And if you do use foundation and don’t love it, give something new a try.
And please let me know what you think! Do you wear foundation? Why or why not? What kind of foundation works best for you? Got a brand or product that you love? Do share it with us.