Choosing foundation

The most important contributor to a great appearance is healthy and flawless skin. Naturally smooth and silky skin is either a blessing of nature or the result of continuous and expensive care, but we can all improve the look of our skin with very little time and effort. We just need to find the right foundation.

When choosing a foundation, you should consider:

  • its colour.
  • whether its formulation is appropriate for your skin type.
  • the coverage required for your skin condition.
  • the finish you want to achieve (satin, natural, or matte).
  • its staying-power.


Foundation colour

Your choice of foundation colour will depend on your natural skin tone and the complexion you want to achieve. Match your foundation colour with your skin tone, but don’t put pink foundation on a reddish complexion, or yellow foundation on sallow skin. Instead, go with flattering neutral beige shades. In the illustration you can see that the best foundation colours for various skin tones—from pink to yellow, and from very light to almost black—are in the middle, between the cool and warm palettes.

Test your foundation in daylight, along your jaw line where the colours of the face and neck merge.

Formulation and coverage

Foundation formulation

Dry skin requires moisture and looks best with a satin finish.

If you need to add some colour to your complexion and want a product that offers light coverage and is easy to wear, tinted moisturiser is your best option for natural day makeup. It’s a good choice for younger women, and for those who normally balk at the feeling of foundation on their skin, but it doesn’t last. If you need to brighten your face and slightly even out your skin tone, use a colourless foundation (also called primer or complexion enhancer). These products generally contain light-diffusing particles that allow light to reflect evenly off your skin.

For medium coverage, choose a creamy liquid foundation with moisturising and nourishing ingredients to promote younger-looking skin. This type of foundation gives light to medium coverage with a natural, velvety finish. Its light-diffusing qualities will lessen the visibility of wrinkles and discolouration, and will add luminosity to the face.

Normal skin doesn’t require much hydration, particularly if you live in a humid climate.

A light oil-free moisturiser or light liquid foundation is easiest to wear, giving sheer coverage and a natural finish. Colourless foundation with light-diffusing particles is also a good choice for evening out your skin tone and brightening your face.

A stick or a compact cream-to-powder foundation is a good choice when you want better coverage; even a very thin layer will smooth away blotchiness and slight discolouration, and you can build up more product on problem zones that require special attention without the undesirable effect of uneven and chalky coverage.

Oily skin requires extra powder to balance sebum production.

A compact powder foundation gives good coverage and a matte finish; however, it can look very unnatural and it doesn’t stop sebum production. Moreover, powder foundation contains oil to facilitate pressing the powder into a compact, which is obviously undesirable on oily skin. Don’t confuse compact powder foundation with light finishing powder that is pressed into a compact without using oils. Excess sebum is better absorbed by a powder-based oil-free liquid foundation specially formulated for oily skin. It gives good coverage and a natural-looking matte finish. If your skin is very oily, you will need to use a separate skin-care product with great sebum-absorbing power, at least on your T-zone.

Extremely uneven skin or scars require maximum coverage.

Although there are a range of maximum-coverage foundations on the market, these products are not well-designed for covering your entire face. Firstly, the product is so opaque that it’s almost impossible to find a shade that will not clash with your skin tone; secondly, it is very difficult to evenly blend and to remove. The best choice for high-maintenance skin is a heavy-duty concealer applied on spots or scars, followed by solid light-diffusing foundation, and set with loose or pressed powder.

Finish and staying-power

Quality light-diffusing foundation contains agents that create a satin finish with a skin-smoothing effect through the uniform diffusion of light at the surface. Flaws and imperfections are blurred, making the skin appear even and silky with very little coverage. This effect makes it compatible with a range of complexions, so it’s almost impossible to get the shade wrong.

Cheaper light-reflecting foundation with a bit of shimmer will give a glow to dry skin; however, be careful with these products as many of them are too shiny. For a healthy glow, use highlighter to accentuate your bone structure rather than applying shimmery foundation all over your face.

Quality matte foundation may contain a very small amount of microscopic iridescent glitter that will add vivacity to dull-looking skin without unnatural shine.

Light moisturising foundation may feel good on the skin; however, it has a limitation: reduced staying power.

For makeup that lasts, look for quality long-wear foundation; this matte product regulates sebum production and can withstand humid air.