Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Tips and Tricks: How to Choose the Correct Foundation

Being a woman of colour myself (I am a MAC shade NC42), my biggest makeup difficulty in the past has been how to find the correct foundation. Through trial and error (mucho error..!) I believe I have got the technique down now for getting the correct foundation.

The Real Foundation is your Skin

The best advice I was ever given was that no foundation will make your skin perfect, you need to get good skin to get good foundation. I have the most problem skin out there, and I was so intent on getting a foundation to make my skin appear magically better - NOT POSSIBLE! If you have problem skin, whether it is dryness, oiliness, blemishes, acne, eczema, anything - you need to tackle this first. So I put my holy grail foundation hunt on hold and took a long hard look at my skin and decided to totally change my routine. I got a mixture of Dermalogica and Avene products, I have changed my diet (more fruit and water), and just take much more care - simple things like not touching my skin as much, washing my face thoroughly after any kind of facial depilation and closing the pores back up again. I use sunscreen every single day now, and use AHA (alpha hydroxy acids) on my skin at night once or twice a week. My skin is far from perfect, but I have definately noticed changes for the better.

Know Your Skin Type

Prior to my skin revelation, I had always thought my skin was dry, weirdly enough, once I started looking after my skin I realised it was actually oily/combination!! So many people don't know their skin type, and just go for a foundation because it is popular. The number of (particularly South Asian and black) girls who wear MAC Studio Fix Fluid because, well I assume because the colour options at MAC are better than other brands, amazes me! But Studio Fix Fluid is a medium to heavy coverage foundation which has a matte finish and is a generally drying formula. This is just my personal opinion but it is NOT suitable for dry skins, it is NOT suitable for sensitive skins and if you have good, blemish-free skin and just need your skin tone evening out, it is not suitable for you either. If you like a dewy, natural finish from your foundation - it is not suitable for you either..!!!

The general rules are:

Oily, blemish prone skin - oil-free, matte finish, medium to heavy coverage, liquid or mineral foundation.

Dry, sensitive skin - moisturising, light-medium coverage, liquid foundation.

Normal skin - you are the lucky ones! You can choose your finish - whether matte or natural/dewy, but go for lighter coverage and perhaps consider a tinted moisturiser instead of a foundation.


N.B. Regarding knowing your skin type, remember this can vary depending on season, as winter weather can cause your skin to be dryer, more sensitive and red, summer can cause your skin to be more oily. My advice would be to change your skincare routine depending on seasons, rather than your foundation. Obviously, your skin may also be more tan in the summer so watch out for that too.

Buying Foundation

So, you have sorted out your skin routine, and you know your skin type. Next is to go foundation shopping. Here are my top tips for foundation shopping:

1. You already know the first rule, which is not to purchase a foundation just because your friend/sister/colleague/whoever looks amazing in it. Your skin may react differently.

2. Never just go out and buy foundation full stop. By this I mean, take your time, shop around and be patient!

3. Don't just buy foundation because a make up artist has put some on you in store and you think it looks good. Remember that store lighting, different application techniques and sales pitches can cloud your judgement. Instead, get the makeup artist to apply the foundation all over your face, not just a patch. Walk around in it all day. See how it feels and looks under natural day light and after wearing it for several hours. See how your skin looks and feels after you have washed it off, and also the next day to see if you have reacted to it at all.

4. If you have done all of the above, and you still love it, don't buy it.. yet! Instead, go and ask for a sample, take it home and play, play, play with it. Remember, you have to feel comfortable being able to apply it on yourself with the tools and primers etc that you have at home. Use the sample on a night out, see how it wears throughout the night, and most importantly see how it looks on you in pictures and under a flash etc. (N.B. High SPF content can cause that ashy/mask like effect under a strong flash)

5. Use the sample trying different techniques to apply it. Sometimes, a foundation may not go on as smooth using, say, fingers to apply it, but try it with different brushes (flat foundation brush, stippling brush, flat top buffer brush etc) and you may find that by changing the technique you can vastly improve the look of the foundation.

6. Treat this like a piece of coursework - take notes! I know it sounds silly but you may lose track if you are trying lots of different foundations out. Keep a log to refer back to.

7. Don't limit yourself to a certain brand or budget - I know that money does not grow on trees, but you may find that spending a few pounds less or more will widen your options and you may find THE ONE! With regard to brands, you may feel that MAC have the best colour range, they definately do, but they aren't the only ones. There are so many great brands out there now that recognise that their customers come from a wide range of ethnic backgrounds.

I know its a lot to remeber, and a lot of people don't have the patience, but believe me it is worth it. After all you are looking for something that you will put on your face, in full view of the world, possibly every day. If you are concerned that this will mean you have to get by with no foundation until you find the perfect one, just use a tinted moisturiser and make sure you get enough samples to try out so you will always be able to complete your makeup during the hunt.

I know its another long post, but its something I feel strongly about as the wrong colour and type of foundation can completely ruin a look.

Me and My Foundation

My skin - Oily/combination, sensitive, hyper pigmentation (when I get spots/blemishes it scars my skin to a dark colour and the scars remain for many months). Small, occasional blemishes.

Shade Equivalent - MAC NC42-43

My light coverage, daily foundation - MAC Face and Body in C5

My Holy Grail, took months and all of the above steps to find, foundation - NARS Sheer Glow Foundation in Syracuse

My Silver medal award winning foundation which was just pipped to the post by NARS - Armani Luminous Silk Foundation in No. 8

My Bronze medal award winning foundation - Smashbox Healthy FX in Medium 3.

Hope that helps!

xoxo Angel5ace xoxo


  1. What do you use as a concealer to cover your acne scars? I have really bad scarring too from blemishes and am still in search of the perfect cover-up product. I find that the same concealer I use for under my eyes doesn't quite conceal the darkness of my acne scars; it rather makes it look ashy. Should I be using something with more salmon/orange in it?

  2. Shark777 I am so sorry it has taken me this long to respond to your comment. For acne scars I would use a combination of a silicone based primer such as Smashbox, pat this lightly onto the scars to even out the skin tone. Next, for dark greyish coloured scars, lightly pat on a salmon based gel concealer such as Benefit Erase Pste or Eve Pearl Salmon or Bobbi Brown peach corrector in the darkest shade. Then take a concealer which is the same shade as your skin tone and pat over and blend. Then touch up with your foundation very lightly and set with powder. The key is to use very small amount of product and gently build the layers. You may find you need to repeat the first 2 steps to get really good coverage. Concelaer for under the eyes is generally one shade lighter and should be more moisturising for a good finish. This is why your undereye concealer wont work for covering blemishes. I really hope that helps, feel free to email me at my personal email address if you have more questions! xoxo