Nobody minds being complimented on a lipstick. But you never want to hear the words ‘I love your foundation’… Base is meant to camouflage flaws – yet disappear like magic into the skin. Getting it right is a major beauty challenge. (Which is why bathroom cabinets are cluttered with bottles, jars and tubes of foundation that aren’t quite right – but it seems too extravagant to throw away…) So here are the ultimate secrets on choosing, applying and wearing face base. Flawlessly.
The right foundation takes just moments to apply – but (sometimes) hours to track down, in the perfect shade. We are huge fans of foundation, believing that base – plus mascara and blusher – are the true make-up must-haves, especially as we age and skin and tone becomes more uneven. (AND As Trish McEvoy observes: ‘if you’re looking for one product that makes a difference to older faces, it’s foundation.’)
Shopping For Foundation
• Take a hand mirror with you, or a compact, so that you can easily walk to daylight and check the shade.
• You need to remove existing base before trying foundation. Swipe away from the jaw-line with cleanser or toner, before sampling. Preferably, go foundation-shopping bare-faced, so when you’ve pinpointed a ‘maybe’ shade, you can apply it all over.
• Partly thanks to the pervasive influence of Bobbi Brown, the majority of foundations today are based on yellow pigments – which create an infinitely more realistic effect than yesterday’s pink tones. Too-pink foundation, in the words of Hollywood’s Carol Shaw, ‘looks like calamine lotion.’
• Don’t even think of using foundation to ‘perk up’ your skin by changing its colour.
• If in doubt, Bobbi Brown advises buying one shade lighter than your facial skin tone. (Going darker looks unnatural.)
• Gun Novak, founder of the FACE Stockholm brand suggests trying ‘stripes’ of as many as three shades of foundation from under your cheekbone to jaw-line – applied in a downward stripe with a Q-Tip – before heading for a window or door. Then you can make up your mind in full, natural light. ‘The right colour will simply disappear into your skin. try to match it to your neck – which is always lighter – rather than your face. You can always use blush to add warmth. Gun advises shopping for foundation during daylight hours, not after-dark; ‘that’s when mistakes are often made.’
• If for any reason you don’t want to try foundation on your face, the next-best place to test base is the inside of your forearm – most definitely not the back of your hand.
• Test for depth of coverage on the blue vein on the inside of your wrist.
• There are literally dozens of foundation ‘finishes’ available today, as well as a thousand shades. What we find most flattering are all those formulations that feature ‘light-reflecting pigments’, which bounce light off the face to create the optical illusion of softness and flawlessness. In our experience, a slightly dewy finish is more flattering than totally matte (especially on slightly more mature skins.)
• It can actually be worth taking a teeny-sized plastic bottle to the counter and asking the beauty consultant to decant into it a little liquid foundation in a shade that you both agree should suit.
And once you’ve found your perfect shade…
• Bobbi Brown always likes to put on make-up facing a window, if possible: ‘Daylight is the truest light, and you won’t get any nasty surprises.’
• Priming the skin before foundation can really help make-up to stay put. To do that, cover your face with a light layer of moisturiser and let it sit for about ten minutes; less for oily complexions. Then blot off. This not only provides better coverage, but it also keeps the foundation from changing tone and looking mottled during the course of the day.
• We absolutely cannot live without our O Wow brushes, which make foundation application child’s play. (Jo often uses hers on the train – which may not be fabulous beauty etiquette but never fails to elicit a query along the lines of: ‘What is that? How can I get one?’ (To which the answer is always: ‘Victoria Health’, of course!) This velvety-bristled brush enables you to ‘smoosh’ foundation seamlessly into your skin – you could almost put base on in the dark with it – and we’ve now given it to countless friends who declare it ‘Best Beauty Pressie Ever’!
• Ideally, apply base and powder, then (if you’ve time) waiting five full minutes before you add colour to the face. It allows make-up to ‘set’ better, so it will last much longer.
TIP: Be sure, too, you’re using the right moisturiser for your skin type; if it’s delivering too much moisture – or not enough – your make-up will disappear more quickly and need re-touching more often.