Sunday, September 15, 2013

Beauty Newbies: Foundation Top Picks!

My friend Emily works in the high-stress medical field and is constantly wearing surgical masks and the dreaded bouffant hair covers.  With so much of her day spent, you know, saving lives, she doesn't have a lot of spare time for lipstick touch-ups or powdering her nose.  Suffice it to say, a smoky eye isn't high on her list of morning to-do's.  
"I'm too sexy for this hat!
Whatchu think about that?"
She's never been a big cosmetics user to begin with, but after years of living makeup-free, she approached me for help.  I was so excited!  Not that I think everyone should start wearing a full face at age 13 - far from it - but if enhancing your natural beauty with the help of cosmetics makes you feel more self-confident, I'm all for it!  She came over and I did her makeup; well, technically she did it.  I just picked out the products and tools and answered her questions while instructing her through the application process.  I wanted her to apply everything herself so she'd get the feel of it and wouldn't have any trouble doing it on her own.  She was adorable.  

After applying primer, base, and concealer, I had her do a very simple neutral eye using the UD Naked palette, she buffed on a soft neutral pink "easy breezy" blush (Tarte Exposed), and she finished the look with a swipe of soft pinky brown lipstick (UD Super Saturated High Gloss Lip Color in Glinda).  I could see that she felt good about the finished look, but she wanted to have a little fun.  She wanted to try something totally out of her comfort zone, which I think is great!  Out of everything in my arsenal, she reached for NARS Carthage, an absolute BOLT of in-yo-face matte magenta madness!  She applied it as sparingly as one could, smacked her hot pink lips together and headed for the better lighting and bigger mirror in the bathroom to check out Emily 2.0.  

While she hasn't picked up a tube of Carthage just yet, I did make her a list of fantastic no-fail products that she should add to her shopping list.  I thought I'd share the list here in a series of posts called Beauty Newbies in case anyone else is just starting out and doesn't know what to invest in.  The world of cosmetics is seemingly endless and can be quite overwhelming!  

Where should you start?  A GREAT foundation.  
While there is no universal "best" choice since people have different skin types, tones, issues, and wishes, I do suggest you invest in a great foundation.  It's a product that you will use every single day, so finding one that works best for you is literally the KEY to the rest of your makeup turning out well.  After all, it's called foundation for a reason!  The rest of your look is built upon it.  

If you have no idea where to start:

Determine your undertone:  Are you warm, cool, or neutral?  A solid guide is sitting right in front of you!  Look at the color of the veins in your wrist in direct sunlight.  Are they green?  You're probably warm.  Are they blue?  You're probably cool.  My wrist veins are blue and my arm veins (inside the elbow) are green.  I'm neutral, and if you've got the green and blue vein thang going, you can technically wear warm or cool colors.  

Another great way to determine undertone is to think about your clothes.  What shades are you wearing when you think you look your best?  Rich, warm colors like plum, saffron yellow, warm magenta, and golden brown?  You're probably warm.  If your features come to life in icy blue, cool pink, true kelly green, and blue-based red, you're probably cool.  If you can pull off colors from either spectrum, you're neutral.  

The best thing I can recommend to anyone just starting out is to get shade-matched.  Go to a makeup counter, MAC, or Sephora and ask them to match you.  Sephora has a cool new shade matching option from Pantone that will help you find your shade in any line.  MAC is great, too.  Knowing your MAC shade number can really help you find great matches in other lines as it's a guideline used by many beauty bloggers.  If you're matched to NW20 (that's me!) and you're reading a foundation review at a blogger's site who is matched to NW25, you'll know they are a bit darker than you but have similar undertones.  If you're NC30, you'll know they are lighter and have cooler undertones than you.  It's just a great starting point, whether or not you're planning to purchase a MAC foundation or powder.  

If you already know your shade match in a particular foundation, a visit to Temptalia's Foundation Matrix can really narrow your search for a new base.  You enter your undertone and skin tone, then you can narrow it further by brand, finish, coverage, and type.  For instance, if you're cool toned and deep dark pink and you're curious about a shade match to a Clinique product, you enter that info, click submit, and BOOM - there you'll find that your match is Clove in their Superbalanced Liquid Makeup.  The Foundation Matrix is especially helpful if you're looking for a drugstore match since you can't go to CVS and swatch them or ask for samples!  

Back to you getting shade matched at your local beauty counter!  Ask for a sample of the foundation shade you are matched to, and go one shade lighter or darker depending on your observations about the colors.  Does your match seem a bit yellow or pink to you, even though the sales associate or makeup artist says it's perfect?  If you think the lighter shade might be a closer match, ask for a sample of that, too.  Sometimes the best person to determine your tone is YOU!  Having a lighter or darker option to try in addition to your match is a great way to ensure you find your perfect color.    

What do you want from your dream foundation?  Flawless, full coverage?  Light coverage with a dewy finish?  Do you have hyperpigmentation or melasma that you know won't be masked by a sheer coverage product?  Then you probably want medium to full coverage.  Is your skin in need of a more subtle effect to even out your face?  Sheer coverage is probably all you'll want.  

Is your skin dry, oily, or combination?  Knowing this will help narrow down the formulation that's right for you.  If you have very oily skin, anything that says it "adds radiance" or "moisturizes" is probably not going to be your new BFF!  You're naturally "radiant", amiright?!  Regardless of your skin type, choose something that flatters it.  If you're dry, something labeled "hydrating" could be right up your alley!  

EXPERIMENT!  Try different brands and formulations and types!  Try out a powder, a creme, a tinted moisturizer, a BB or CC cream, a liquid!  If you're lucky enough to live near a Sephora, they will give you samples of different foundations so you're not stuck with a 2 ounce bottle that breaks you out or leaves your skin dry and uncomfortably tight.  I know it's harder for people in certain countries to experiment as freely since return policies are incredibly restrictive or completely non-existant and that is a huge bummer.  However, from what I've learned from friends around the globe:  you can ask for samples at beauty counters, which is a BIG HELP!  

If you don't live near a shopping mecca or have limited access to beauty brands, it is possible to pick out a foundation online but it's certainly not as simple.  My recommendation?  Find a blogger with a similar complexion to you and look at their foundation reviews.  Google "beauty blogger" and millions of possibilities appear.  If there's a specific base you're itching to buy, Google "[name of foundation] review and swatches" and look through the results, or even through the Image Search results, until you find someone who has your coloring and tone.  Bonus points if you find someone who also has the same skin type! 

Here are a few of my top foundation picks broken down by coverage type!  
NARS Pure Radiant Tinted Moisturizer:  This product is a perfect fit for anyone looking to simplify their routine since this combines a facial moisturizer with a bit of foundation.  [Full review & swatches here]
bareMinerals Matte SPF 15 Foundation: This used to be the only foundation I used!  I've since graduated to fuller coverage formulas, but I still have a fondness for this one.  It offers light coverage but can be built up to medium, and the matte powder formulation is great for anyone with oily-combination skin.
L'Oreal Magic Nude Liquid Powder: Ok, so my personal results with this one aside (not enough coverage for my liking and left my already oily skin too oily), I do think this is a nice drugstore pick for someone with normal skin who wants sheer coverage.  It's literally a liquid that dries to a powder finish and offers just enough coverage to even out the skin.

Lancome Teint Miracle: This is one of my absolute favorites and one I have recommended time and again.  This medium coverage beauty gives you a youthful lit from within look without making your skin appear greasy (KEY for anyone with oily skin!).  It blends like a dream.  This is one foundation I would recommend across the board if you're not sure what type of coverage and finish you want.  It's right in the middle: not too dewy, not too flat, and the medium coverage can be sheered out by applying it with a wet sponge, or built up by applying it in layers with your fingers or a foundation brush.  
Illamasqua Skin Base: Medium coverage and a natural finish, this one is ideal for someone looking for a bit more coverage without the "heavy" feel sometimes associated with fuller coverage products.  
MAC Studio Fix Powder: Medium coverage powder foundation that can be applied wet or dry.  Applying it wet bumps up the coverage, and it sets to a beautiful matte finish. 
CoverGirl Clean Whipped Cream: This one feels DE-LUXE!  Like whipped butter!  The medium coverage can be layered over areas where you desire more and it never feels heavy.  In fact, it feels like you're not wearing anything on your face!
Guerlain Parure Extreme: This is my #1 favorite foundation in ze world!  It feels like a satiny serum when applied, and gives you radiant full coverage without the shine.  This one is very similar to the Lancome Teint Miracle; both give you a lit from within look sans greasiness, the Guerlain just offers more coverage.  This is one of my go-to products when I want my skin to look as close to flawless as it can.  Granted, everything about it screams luxury, including the price tag, but it's truly the best foundation I have ever used.  
Tarte Amazonian Clay 12-Hour Full Coverage: This is a great matte finish option that lives up to it's long-wearing claims.  It performed especially well for me this summer!  No melting or sliding, even on the hottest of days, and the coverage is pretty fabulous, too.  The only thing I wasn't wild about was the thickness of the product, which I felt didn't work perfectly with my extra oily summer skin.  I think this could be a dream product for someone with combo, normal, or dry skin though.  I plan to use it this winter when my skin is less of an oil factory!
Laura Mercier Silk Creme: AMAZE!  Feels light as clouds but leaves you with a full coverage, airbrushed result.  This one is an ultimate fave.  [Full review & swatches here]
Lancome Teint Idole Ultra 24H: Breathable, full coverage liquid that delivers a matte finish without a hint of powdery-ness.  Lancome knows what they are doing when it comes to foundation! [Full review & swatches here]

If you're a beauty newbie, I hope you've found this post helpful!  If you're a beauty junkie (you know who you are...), what are your top foundation picks for someone new to makeup?


  1. TracyBeautyReflectionsSeptember 16, 2013 at 1:17 AM

    I love how you helped your friend out! That's so cute! Most of my friends don't wear a tome of makeup either-it's fun to show them what just a few products can do to to make them look just that touch better! Their smile is so worth it!
    Nice picks for foundation! For newbies I always say MAC is a good start, and something sheer like a tinted moisturizer-sometimes all that blending is too much for them haha! ;)

  2. I know, right?! The BLENDING! I did tell my buddy the catch phrase that pays: Blend til you bleed, honey! Her exact response was "Oh my gosh!" with raised eyebrows! I think my next installment will be links to great foundation application tutorials because having the right product and knowing what the hell to do with it are two different animals! :) Great point - thank you! Isn't it funny that most beauty junkies have non-makeup wearing/loving friends? I'm lucky I have a couple of friends who know what "HG" means and get excited about new nail polishes and BLUSH and PALETTES, oh my! Can't wait for holiday collections to start rolling out!

  3. Fantastic post, Kristen, I bet a lot of people will get a lot of useful info from this!

  4. The BEST way to find out if you are warm, cool or neutral. You rock!!

  5. Thank you so much, Melissa! :) It just started pouring out, much like liquid foundation, once I started, LOL!

  6. Great post for foundation newbies for sure!
    Personally, I've always preferred lighter foundations due to the weather here. Also, it's very hard for me to find a good shade match and fuller coverage foundations are not very forgiving :-P

  7. Thank you so much, Lily! You're right, it's definitely easier to find shade matches in lighter formulations as they're less intense and more forgiving. Ha! I just noticed that our Disqus avatars are similar! We both dig the side face, lol! :)


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