Makeup Foundations: How to Choose the Right One

Suzann Kale

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Using a foundation that's just right for your skin is like turning your face into a perfect, flawless canvas. Ready for whatever your mood dictates - red lips, a glittery bronzer, smoky eyes. However you want to look, it begins with that perfect, blank canvas.

There are two main choices in makeup foundation:

1. the texture of the makeup itself

2. the finish of the makeup, after it's on your skin.

All makeups have one of three finishes: dewy, matte, or satin. Dewy leaves a slight sheen (not a shine!) on your face. Satiny finishes give a natural look, and matte is a dry, flatter option. Oily skin works best with a matte or satin makeup. Combination or dry skin looks good in a satin or dewy finish.

Textures are more about ease of application, and coverage. Coverage can be light, medium, or full. Let's look at our options.

Liquid Makeup

Matching the color to your skin is key. Many stores have testers, department stores usually will give you a small sample to take home, and most stores allow returns if the color turns out to be wrong. Test the color in daylight, incandescent light (yellow-based home lighting), and fluorescent light.

Liquids vary in how much they cover. But it will usually say on the bottle if the coverage is light, medium, or full. You can personalize liquids further by choosing either an oil-free base, a water-base (good for combination skin), or a moisturizing base.

Creativity is the word here. Mix and match. You might choose a non-oily liquid to use on the t-zone, and the same color and brand but in a moisturizing version, to use on the rest of your face.

Most liquid makeup is easy to apply using fingertips, but oil-free liquids should be applied with a foundation application brush, or a damp foam wedge.

Some new foundations (and blushes) will match the color of your skin once applied. If you have rosacea or melasma (dark patches, often on the cheeks), a smart-foundation won't work. It's less about covering and more about evening out your existing skin-tone.

Mineral Makeup

Ooo, the ease of application is totally irresistible. And mineral makeup looks good on all skin types. Coverage is not an issue. For quick, light coverage, just buff on one quick coat. For more coverage, use a thicker, more tightly packed brush (make sure your brush does not contain fur - see Perfect Makeup Brushes , and work the minerals into the skin. Don't worry, it won't clog pores and it washes off easily with soap and water. The more coats you apply, the more coverage you get.

Different brands of minerals have different finishes. Some impart a slight shimmer to your face, some are pure color. Most need to set for a few minutes after application before applying a setting powder, although some women prefer to skip the powder.


The fastest and easiest way to be out the door. And because these foundations come in compact form, usually with built-in mirror and sponge applicator, they are totally handbag-friendly and can go with you anywhere. Which is a good thing, because cream-to-powders tend to fade more easily than other foundations, and need touch-ups during the day. Coverage is light to medium.


Just plain fun! Who doesn't love to play with soft, whipped, luscious, cool-to-the-touch textures. Mousse makeups blend easily when applied. You may even feel like you're airbrushing your face. Coverage is usually light, and unlike minerals, applying more coats doesn't work well. Choose mousse if you're complexion just needs a light boost.

Cream Makeup

Full coverage is the reason to choose a cream. Application takes time and skill, but with the right color and texture for your face, you can achieve a gorgeous, movie-star look. Loose finishing powder is a must - choose a shade that is translucent so it doesn't fight with the foundation color. Cream makeup can be applied with the fingers, carefully blending small sections of the face at a time. Or try a damp foundation application brush. Work the makeup until it is totally smooth, and don't forget your jaw line and a little below.

Stick foundations are similar to creams in consistency, but are not as thick. You will need a finishing powder.

Personalize Your Foundation

  • Some women skip formal foundation and simply spot conceal, then finish with a light dusting of loose or pressed powder.
  • You can always use a tinted moisturizer and be done with the whole thing in seconds!
  • Foundations come packed with add-ins. You can find makeup with sunscreen, with moisturizer, with wrinkle-reducers, or with acne medication. It's all out there.
  • And because we are beautiful from the inside first, remember to check before you buy to make sure the product has not been tested on animals. For an ever-growing list of cruelty-free cosmetic companies, check out Makeup Without Cruelty
Now that you've got on your most flawless, even-toned canvas, you're an artist - and ready for eyes, lips, blush, lashes - or nothing else at all.

Suzann writes for the website My Makeup Mirror , a potpourri of articles, product reviews, and how-to's on hair, cosmetics, and well-being.


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