Foundation: The Basics

13 Apr

The world of foundations is extremely intimidating. There are tons of colors and formulas out there… where do you start?

So let’s begin with your skin undertone. By tone, I don’t mean whether you are Caucasian, Asian, Black, Latin, etc. It will come down to two choices: Are you yellow/warm or pink/cool? (Being yellow has nothing to do with being Asian, although generally, those with East Asian backgrounds (like myself) will have yellow undertones.) There are several ways to identify your undertone, and one is to check the veins on the inside of your wrist. If they are green, you are warm. If they are blue, you are cool. If there is a mixture of both, then you are most likely neutral, meaning you don’t fit into one extreme. This is not as uncommon as you think. Everyone has different skin tones, and it is incredibly hard to ever find a perfect match for your face. Another method is to see whether you look better with gold jewelry (yellow/warm) or silver (pink/cool). This step is extremely important if you plan on wearing any type of foundation with a higher level of coverage because it can make your skin look totally off.

When you can, test the foundation on your neck. You don’t want your face and neck to be two different colors (an obvious giveaway you are using the wrong shade). Afterwards, step outside in natural daylight to see if it blends into your skin. If you can barely see it or it disappears completely, you have found your match! If it looks orange or too yellow, try a warmer or cooler shade. If you tend to have a lot of redness from acne, do not make the mistake of automatically trying to match your ‘redness’ with a foundation that is too pink for you. Check your neck!

You have probably heard people throwing around terms such as “NC30”, “NC20”, “NW30”, “NW45”. What does this mean? It is MAC’s general foundation numbering system. NC’s are yellow-toned. NW’s are pink-toned. (I’m not sure why NC is yellow, I would think C is for “cool”, but my best guess is that it means, “neutralize cool”.)  I personally have a lot of yellow tones in my skin, and I am currently a NC25-30 in MAC.

Now let’s look at your skin type. Dry? Normal? Oily? Combination? Wash your face, and pat dry. After 10 minutes, is your skin tight and uncomfortable? You have dry skin. Feeling fine? Normal. Shiny and slightly greasy? Oily. If you seem to have a mixture of oily and dry (ex. dry cheeks, oily nose), you may have combination skin. Why is this important? Well, based on your skin-type, you can narrow it down to what kind of formula your skin can handle.

Foundations come in liquid, cream, powder, etc. Liquid tends to be the most skin-friendly, and also the one that can provide the most coverage (depending on the foundation — tinted moisturizer doesn’t provide a lot of coverage). Sometimes liquid foundations can come in different formulations depending on skin type (ie. Revlon Colorstay for Oily/Combination skin and for Dry/Normal skin). They are usually easier to blend, thus making it quicker to work with. Cream foundations are more recommended for dry skin types, as they can be quite thick. The coverage CAN be opaque, but requires more blending than a liquid foundation. However, it can emphasize dry patches, and also if you have sensitive skin, it can break you out. (Not to say that other formulas cannot, but there is a higher chance of this happening). Also, they will usually come in a compact cake form, reducing the hygienic aspect. Irritants to look out for are mineral oil (which my skin is personally sensitive to), and petroleum. Powder foundation tends to be the least able to provide maximum coverage. It is more targeted to those with few flaws, and just want to look cleaner and matte. A branch of powder is mineral makeup, which has become very popular over the past few years, and out of all 3 formulas, it is probably the most natural looking. It is actually pretty hard to mess up, in terms of blending. I would recommend it to those with oily skin types, as the powder can absorb some of the moisture on your skin.

Another aspect to look for is SPF. SPF is very important to protect your face when you are outside, regardless of how sunny/cloudy or how hot/cold it is. Make sure you have a minimum of SPF 30 on your face whenever you are going out. More and more foundations these days are including SPF into their products. This is great for a daytime product, but if you are planning on taking photos with flash (especially at nighttime), please be aware that the more SPF a foundation has, the more it can reflect light (blame the titanium dioxide) and give you a white cast, aka “ghost face”.

Coverage may be important to you, especially if you tend to have a lot of acne scars or just prefer a made-up look. Look for products labeled, “full coverage”. If something says, “natural-looking coverage”, it is probably not going to cover much. It might nix some of the redness we all get, but you will still see some of it peeking through. However, be careful when applying a full-coverage product, because it will cake on you very easily.

Foundation is probably the hardest beauty product to purchase, because it is the one that will make or break the rest of your makeup. I hope this post has helped you a little in terms of how to choose a foundation! It can be a long process, but I guarantee, when you find your HG, it will be worth it! Happy shopping!


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