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Put This on Your Face: Foundation (and Things Like It)

Welcome back to Put This on Your Face, the series where I tell you what you should be putting on your face! Last time, we went back to the basics and covered sunscreen. We’re gonna continue our journey through the basics today and talk about foundation!

Foundation is makeup that you can put all over your face to help you get an even base. It comes in a bunch of forms: liquid, serum, powder, stick, etc., not to mention the products like foundation that aren’t quite the same but definitely cousins (tinted moisturizer, BB creams).

You definitely don’t need foundation, but if you decide you want to try some, hopefully this guide helps you get closer to the type of foundation that you want!

As a quick note, I know it’s hard to online-shop for foundation. You can definitely try and shade-match at home — there are plenty of tools on popular makeup sites that can help you find the right shade in your desired product based on what you currently wear — but I’ve personally had better luck checking YouTube and TikTok for folks with similar skin tones to see what shade they’re wearing in the thing I’m thinking of buying.

If you’re comfortable, having a professional shade-match you is the best way to get a good match for your skin. Once you have your desired shade in the product that you want, ask for a sample! I love samples! The only way to really know how a foundation will feel and look after 6-8 hours is to try it on your skin, and hopefully you don’t have to pay full price just to try something.

Liquid Foundation

I don’t usually trust celebrity makeup, but I feel like it’s really having a moment. Both the Rare Beauty (Selena Gomez) and the Haus Labs (Lady Gaga) are getting surprisingly great press. For something with longer wear, I’d recommend the L’Oreal, Estee Lauder, or the Fenty, but if it’s a matte finish you’re after, try the latter two.

Application-wise, liquid foundation is pretty easy. Technically, you can use your hands if you really want (we all know I’m a big fan of finger makeup), but I’m willing to bet this’ll leave you looking a little uneven. Also, I think you might wind up wasting product since you’ll have a bunch of liquid foundation left on your hands once you’re done. Instead, try using a foundation brush or a damp sponge to get more even coverage.

Apparently, people are whipping their foundation which I think is just an extreme version of using a damp Beauty Blender (water + foundation), but if you’ve tried it please tell me because I simply must know if it actually works!!

Powder Foundation

The first foundation I ever used was the bareMinerals powder foundation. I’m pretty sure it was this one, but also… it was 15 years ago and my memory is kind of hazy so it could’ve been something similar in the bareMinerals lineup! I just remember hating it at the time. I was a preteen and a swimmer, and the chlorine left me with perpetually dry skin. Puberty didn’t help much either. I wanted something more full-coverage that also wouldn’t emphasize my dry skin, and a powder formulation just wasn’t it. But!! Now that I’m older, not a swimmer, and live (sometimes) in a more humid environment, I do sometimes like a powder foundation.

Powder formulations have some superpowers. For one thing, they’re TSA-friendly. If you’re going to an airport, you won’t need to stick your powder foundation in your tiny quart-size bag of liquids, which means you’ll have more room instead for tiny little bottles of shampoo! They’re also lighter coverage. Powder foundations are easy to apply — just take a brush and swipe the product all over your face — and they’re great for oily skin.

Serum Foundation

love serum foundations. They’re not quite traditional foundation, nor are they tinted moisturizer, but they’re this secret special third thing and they deserve their own category! They’re lightweight, often have buildable coverage, and come with a bunch of skin benefits. I use the ILIA daily, and I love it. It comes with squalane, niacinamide, and hyaluronic acid (but I’ve heard that the L’Oreal linked above is a dupe for it!), and it has a shade range that actually works for me.

Serum foundations are super easy to apply — no brushes necessary. Just pop some on your face and spread it out evenly using your fingers!

Foundation Alternatives

Tinted Moisturizer

If you want something more hydrating than a standard foundation, try a tinted moisturizer! Tinted moisturizers are generally less coverage than their foundation counterparts, but what they lose in coverage, they make up for in hydration. Most are fairly easy to apply, no brushes necessary — the sheer coverage means forgiving application — and they’re good for all skin types. They’re great for those days when you want to wear a little something, but not do a full face. Also, they make you look super glowy!

P.S. If you already have a foundation you like, but it’s a little too full coverage for your liking, try mixing it with a little moisturizer. This might work, but how well they mix is super dependent on both your moisturizer and your foundation, so no guarantees.

BB / CC Cream

BB and CC creams aren’t tinted moisturizers, but they do have some overlap! BB and CC creams are actually slightly closer to foundation in terms of coverage, though they do (like tinted moisturizers) often have other good-for-your-skin ingredients like ceramides, SPF, and more. If you like the ease of use of tinted moisturizers but wish they came with slightly more coverage, BB or CC creams are a great option.

When using a BB cream or a tinted moisturizer, you can also get targeted coverage by using concealer after application!

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Ashni is a writer, comedian, and farmer's market enthusiast. When they're not writing, they can be found soaking up the sun, trying to make a container garden happen, or reading queer YA.

ashni has written 51 articles for us.


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