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Confused About the Best Foundation to Use? Here's All You Need to Know

10 Mar, 2020
By Cathi Trevor
When it comes to making your way through the foundation aisle of your favourite beauty store the choices can seem endless and overwhelming. What level of coverage do you want? How do you choose between a mousse and a liquid foundation? What foundation is best for covering up your breakouts? Should you use a sponge or a brush? What even is a CC Cream?

You are not alone. Studies have found that only 15% of women are actually using the right foundation for their skin. No worries. We have all the insider tips & tricks you need to know before choosing the foundation to best suit you, your colouring and your skin, plus the best drugstore foundation options in South Africa.

Read on before you waste your money on a product that doesn’t look good on you, a formula that makes your skin flake, or mix up your BB and CC cream…

How to Choose the Best Foundation for Your Skin Type

First things first: remember that foundation directly interacts with your skin so you need to find one that complements your skin type.

A quick and easy test to find out your skin type is to take a blotting sheet (or one ply of tissue), blot it all over your face and then hold it up to the light. If it comes away dry you have dry skin, if the sheet has picked up oil mainly from your T-Zone you probably have combination skin and if it picks up a lot of oil from all over your face you have oily skin.

Now that you know your skin type you can choose the foundation formula that will work best to suit the oil levels of your face.
 
  • Oily/combination skin: The key is to avoid anything that would make your skin look oiler. Powder formulas are great as they absorb excess oil while providing coverage and any liquid, mousse or compact foundation that is labelled “matte-finish” is sure to be your new best friend. If you don’t have many dark marks to hide, opt for a lighter weight oil-free BB cream to show off your natural beauty.
  • Acne prone skin: Avoid very heavy formulas as these not only irritate your skin even more, but can often accentuate any bumps. Rather use concealers to downplay any blemishes or redness. As with oily skin, powder is your best choice or, if you prefer a liquid, choose a lighter weight oil-free mousse foundation, BB or CC Cream, especially if it contains anti-bacterial and oil control ingredients like salicylic acid.
  • Dry and/or mature skin: Skip the heavy, matte formulas and powders and go for dewy finishes – look for words like moisturising, hydrating or illuminating – to lift your face for a fresh natural finish. Many anti-aging foundations are naturally dewy and also include skin treatment benefits. Tinted moisturisers, BB and CC creams are also a great choice if you don’t need a lot of cover up. And if you’re not looking for a dewy finish, creamy compact foundations are a perfect choice for normal to slightly dry skins.
  • Sensitive skin: The best foundation for sensitive skin is one that helps even out your skin tone without irritating ingredients. Lightweight BB or CC creams are a good choice - particularly the ones from the French pharmaceutical sensitive skin care ranges - as heavyweight formulas may aggravate your sensitivity even more. If you prefer to skip liquids altogether, then a skin soothing mineral powder foundation is your best choice.
 
Read More. Go-To-Guide on The Best Foundations (And Reviews) For Your Oily/Combination Skin

How to Choose the Best Foundation Shade for Your Skin Tone

Next up let’s talk skin tone. Most of us are clued up when it comes to our actual skin tone - we know if you have fair, medium, olive or dark skin. What can be confusing is your skin undertone and how that affects the shade of foundation you use.

Your undertone will be one of three types – warm, cool or neutral - no matter your skin tone. A warm skin will have ‘yellow/olive/golden’ undertones while more ‘pink/blue/red’ undertones means you are cool. A neutral skin has a mix of the two undertones.

The best way to find out your undertone is to check the colour of the veins on the inside of your wrist. If they are mainly blue/purple, you are cool; if they are more green/olive then you are warm; and a mix of the two means you are a neutral.

Cool toned girls are prone to getting sunburnt easily and will also find that silver jewellery is better suited to their colouring. They should choose shades that look more pink or red in the bottle.

If you are warm toned, you will tend to tan rather than burn and look better in gold jewellery. Your choice should then veer towards shades which have a yellow/orange hue. A useful hint: most South African women have warm skin undertones.

Once you have chosen the correct shade - a ‘natural beige’, a ‘caramel’ or ‘toast’ - many of us then make the mistake of thinking we stay the same tone all year round. Change your foundation as the seasons change to avoid a too-light base in the summer or a foundation that’s too dark for your paler winter skin.

Read More. Want to Find Your Perfect Foundation? Here's What NOT to Do

How to Choose the Best Foundation Coverage for You

When makeup artists talk about ‘coverage’ they mean the thickness of your foundation. Heavy or full coverage will leave you with totally even skin that looks like it’s been air-brushed to perfection, medium coverage will allow a few freckles to show through, and light coverage gives you that barely-there natural look.

Coverage depends on both the consistency of your foundation formula, how you apply it and with what tool.

Although there are many different variations to the theme, you will find that generally speaking, cream compact foundations and many liquid foundations offer medium to full coverage, whilst powder foundations and BB and CC creams are on the lighter end of the spectrum. Whatever you use all depends upon the look and finish you would like to achieve…

When it comes to application, using a wet or damp sponge to apply a liquid formula will give you light coverage, while a foundation brush is great for medium to full heavy coverage.

Read More. The Ultimate Pro Guide on How to Do Foundation Perfectly

The Best Foundations for Your Skin Type

Liquid Foundation
Best for all skin types

Liquid foundation is great for the wide variety of shades it comes in and its versatility in terms of coverage and finishes ranging from matte to dewy.

Dewy finishes are perfect for dry to normal skin types to brighten up dull and tired skin. However, they should be avoided by oily skin girls as they tend to exaggerate the shine; rather look for an oil-free product with a matte finish. Matte foundations also tend to ‘stick’ better to your face so are perfect for our hot tropical coastal climates in South Africa where you may struggle to keep your makeup from slipping in the heat.

Liquid foundations often contain SPF to protect you from the sun and make your skin appear smoother by filling in your pores, lines and wrinkles. However, when it comes to blending, liquid formulas are less forgiving than, say, a powder formula so be extra aware of the neck-to-chin area. On hotter days, if the formula tends to melt, set it in with a translucent powder.

Use two pumps of foundation and a foundation brush with dense bristles to give you heavy coverage. A single pump’s worth of product plus a sponge or stippling brush is perfect for a more natural finish.

Our product picks:
Oily/Combination Skin: Revlon Colorstay Makeup - Oily/Combination (the best-selling foundation in South Africa), L’Oréal Infallible 24-Hour Mattifying Foundation, Maybelline Fit Me Matte & Poreless Foundation and Yardley Stayfast Foundation.

Normal/Dry Skin: Rimmel Lasting Finish 25h Foundation, Yardley Even Complexion Foundation, LA Girl Pro Coverage HD Long Wear Foundation and Black Opal True Color Pore Perfecting Liquid Foundation (also good for sensitive skins).

Dry Mature Skin: L’Oréal Age Perfect Anti-Aging Radiant Foundation, Revlon Age Defying Firming & Lifting Makeup, and Clarins Everlasting Youth Fluid.
 
Tinted Moisturiser
Best for dry skin

A tinted moisturiser works best for someone who has borderline flawless skin and is just looking to even out their skin tone. If you don’t suffer from breakouts or have any discolouration to cover up but want to keep your skin looking fresh and even it out a bit, then a tinted moisturiser is for you.

These formulas will moisturise your skin, add a hint of colour plus provide protection from the sun. If you don’t want to spent a lot of time on your makeup in the morning a tinted moisturiser is ideal as you can apply it as you would your regular day cream.

One of our faves is Eucerin Tinted Sun Crème with a super high SPF 50 sunscreen. Otherwise Clarins Hydraquench Tinted Moisturizer SPF 15 is a great choice. If you have extra dry skin, you might want to apply a layer of your usual moisturiser beforehand.
 
BB Cream
Best for all skin types

BB Cream formulas are too varied to make general rules about so test a few out before you commit to a certain brand. BB creams are great if you’re looking for light to medium coverage and want your makeup to benefit your skin as well as make you look fabulous.

Many of these creams will contain anti-oxidants to boost your skin’s health, anti-ageing properties, a moisturiser, SPF and a touch of colour. The oily skin BB options help control shine and minimise the appearance of pores.

The downside is the range of colours available is very limited, with most brands only carrying four different shades. However, the lighter coverage means that each shade can cover a larger range of skin tones than a heavier coverage liquid foundation – it’s just a matter of testing to find out which one ‘disappears’ into your skin.

You can use a foundation brush to apply your BB Cream like you would liquid foundation, but if you’re more low-maintenance you can just use your fingertips. Dot the formula at the five key points of your face (chin, nose, forehead and each cheek) and blend outwards from there.

Our product picks:
Garnier 5-in-1 Skin Perfector Oil-Free BB Cream specially for oily/combo skins; LA Girl Pro HD BB Cream and Olay Total Effects Touch Of Foundation BB Cream, both with added vitamins.

Physicians Nude Wear Touch Of Glow Foundation includes illuminators making it perfect for dry or mature skins. And if you need to tone down redness or have any skin sensitivity, then opt for Bioderma Sensibio AR BB Cream.

Read More. Natural No-Makeup Makeup: The Savvy Girl’s Guide to Dewy Fresh-Faced Skin
 
CC Cream
Best for uneven skin tones

The main difference between a CC Cream and a BB Cream is a CC Cream is aimed at colour correcting. The art of colour correcting is using complementary colours to balance out discolouration in your face and a CC Cream in the right shade for you can do wonders.

Pale girls who suffer from redness and dark circles under the eyes will love the effects of a good CC cream, but if you have severe discolouration like rosacea, just double up and use a foundation or concealer on top of the problem areas.

A CC cream moisturises, nourishes and colour corrects your skin, making it an excellent primer to use under your regular foundation too. Apply it in the same way you would a BB Cream.

Our product picks:
One of our faves is the multipurpose 12 in 1 colour corrector from Coverderm for an instant blemish free effect. Uriage Roseliane CC Cream SPF30 is ideal for rosacea-prone and sensitive skins.

Read More. Valuable Tips on How to Use Concealers to Really Conceal
 
Cream Foundation Compact or Stick
Best for slightly oily, normal or slightly dry skins

Foundation in a compact is great for a girl on the go who wants to be able to touch up throughout the day without messy brushes and liquid formulas. Because the formula is so moist it’s easy to layer on top of, meaning your skin won’t get cakey as you reapply later on. Use a sponge if you want a fairly heavy finish and a Kabuki brush for medium coverage.

A cream foundation stick is a true multitasker - it can either be used all over the face, or to just spot conceal blemishes and dark marks - but is also a life saviour for quick touch ups during the day.

Steer clear of cream products if you have oily skin; they can make you look even shinier than usual. As with all liquid or cream-based face make up, it’s a good idea to dust your face with translucent powder which will set the foundation in place without altering the colour of it.

Our product picks:
Revlon New Complexion One Step Make Up and Clarins Everlasting Compact Foundation. A great option for quick on-the-run makeup and touch ups is Revlon Colorstay Life Proof Foundation Stick.
 
Mousse Foundation
Best for all skin types

A mousse formula has a bit of air whipped into it, which results in a foundation that’s less likely to settle into fine lines and pores. The luxurious texture of this will add extra hydration to your skin and the formula of the product will give you a medium level of coverage. Use a damp sponge to apply or a dense-bristle foundation brush for a thicker coverage.

The same rules as liquid foundation apply to oily skin – opt for a matte formula to control your shine and steer clear of those that offer a dewy finish or glow which are more suited to dry or normal skin girls.

Our product picks:
Maybelline Dream Matte Mousse and Revlon Colorstay Full Cover Foundation for oily skins, or Rimmel Fresher Skin Foundation for a more dewy finish.
 
Loose Powder Foundation
Best for oily, combination, acne-prone and sensitive skin

If you’re not someone who needs to take their foundation with them everywhere they go and you love a light-weight and natural finish, then try a loose powder formula foundation. It instantly de-slicks your skin and offers an even look and finish. The messy nature of the powder means it’s not easy to pop into your handbag but because it’s a dry formula it won’t melt off during the day so you’re less likely to need to reapply.

Dip a thick brush into the powder, tap off excess product then apply in swirling motions. Take note that if you are going to use more products like bronzer, blush or highlighter on top they need to be a powder-based product too as liquid formulas will cake.

Our product picks:
Try Yardley Loose Powder or Black Opal True Color Soft Velvet Finish Powder.

A mineral powder is a great option for acne-prone or sensitive skin girls, as aside from all its other skin loving natural benefits, it also soothes the skin.
 
Pressed Powder Foundation
Best for oily or combination skin

A pressed powder is ideal if you have tried a loose powder and feel the coverage isn’t enough for you. This powder is dense so you get more product on your applicator which makes for a fuller coverage. It’s easy to blend, stays in place for longer than liquid or cream formulas and gives a great matte finish.

Apply with a dry sponge for medium to full coverage and a powder brush for a lightweight and sheer finish. Avoid powder foundations all together if you have dry or flaky skin as these products will exacerbate it.

Our product picks:
Revlon Colorstay Pressed Powder, LA Girl HD Pro Face Pressed Powder, L’Oréal True Match Powder, and Yardley Stayfast Pressed Powder.

Black Opal True Color Mineral Matte Crème to Powder Foundation or Bioderma Photoderm Max Mineral Compact are good options for those with sensitive skins.

How to Choose the Perfect Foundation Shade for You

While you can sometimes get away with not testing an eyeshadow or lipstick, if you want to avoid looking like a clown, it is important that you follow the correct testing procedure for foundation.

Once you have decided on the right product type and tone for you, test the shade you think you should use on a clean cheek and jawline - not your hand, arm or even your neck (their skin tones and colour are very different from your face). Then take the two shades closest to this (both darker and lighter) and swipe on either side of the first shade.

Check first under the bright lights of the store and then, very importantly, move into natural light and check the shades again. Foundation looks very different under fluorescent lights compared to natural light and you need yours to work in both.

The one that ‘disappears’ into your skin is the correct shade for you. It shouldn’t settle into fine lines and wrinkles or accentuate any pores. Instead it should lightly cover up any kind of discoloration and uneven skin tone without being noticeable.

HOW TO APPLY LIQUID FOUNDATION LIKE A PRO! PORELESS SKIN!

My POWDER FOUNDATION Routine! UNDER 15 MIN!

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Visuals: Pinterest
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