How to Find the Right Foundation

Mineral foundations typically don't contain chemicals, dyes or preservatives found in traditional makeup. See pictures of makeup tips.
Mineral foundations typically don't contain chemicals, dyes or preservatives found in traditional makeup. See pictures of makeup tips.
© Hanke

If you've ever applied makeup, you probably know that the goal is to look like you're not wearing any makeup at all. Unless you're opting for bright lipstick and dramatically lined eyes, most women want their skin to seem vibrant, glowing and completely natural. In no case is this truer than with foundation, a flesh-toned makeup that creates an even, smooth complexion. For most women, foundation is a must: It can help hide scars, blemishes, blotchy skin and wrinkles. Furthermore, some varieties can moisturize your skin, control oil, fight acne or provide sun protection [source: Pearl].

Although foundation is sometimes called the blank canvas for all other makeup, it's often difficult to find the right type and shade of makeup. There are literally hundreds of foundations on the market, and they all come in different colors and consistencies. It can get even more complicated trying to figure out if you should use a liquid, powder, stick or mineral foundation. And once you decide on a type, you still have to select the foundation that best matches your skin tone.


Clearly, there are many factors to consider when choosing and a foundation. In this article you'll learn about the different types of foundation, which kind will work best with your particular skin type and how to best match a foundation to your skin tone, so keep reading to learn how to get the beautiful, natural look you desire.




Liquid Foundation

You'll undoubtedly see a wide variety of foundation options when you walk through a cosmetics aisle. However, you'll notice that liquid foundations are by far the most common option. Liquid foundations are available for people with normal, dry or oily skin, and they offer the greatest variety of colors, formulas and costs [source: Dolezal].

Liquid foundations are available in water-based and oil-based formulas, and each type has a slightly different look to better match your particular needs. Water-based foundations blend more easily over the face, giving the skin a smooth, even look with a little bit of shine. Water-based formulas typically work well for people with oily or acne-prone skin. Oil-based foundations, on the other hand, are often greasier and work well for people with dry skin or wrinkles. Because of their thickness, oil-based products are able to trap moisture within the skin, making it appear shiner than water-based formulas [source: Colino]. When applying liquid foundation to the skin, use small brushes or a dry sponge to evenly spread the makeup across your face [source: Kaylor].


Liquid foundations vary in cost -- bottles can range in price from a few dollars to $60 or more. If you opt for the higher-priced bottle of beauty, you may want to do your homework to make sure it's worth the investment.

If liquid foundations don't work well for your skin type, you may want to consider a matte foundation. Keep reading to learn more.


Matte Foundation

Matte means "lacking shine or luster," and matte foundations, which are thicker than liquids, and are meant to conceal. This type of foundation easily covers up blemishes and scars while still giving skin even coloring. When it's applied, the cream dries into a power-like substance, giving skin a "matted" appearance. If you have oily skin, you may prefer the shine-free look a matte foundation provides [source: Yahoo].

Matte foundations come in several forms, including creams and mousses. Cream foundations work well if you're trying to conceal wrinkles -- they moisturize the skin, and their thick consistency helps fill in the appearance of lines [source: Kaylor]. Like creams, mousse foundations dry into a shine-free appearance; however, mousses typically provide lighter coverage. If you have acne-prone skin, you may want to pass on mousse foundations, which can clog pores, but if you want to minimize the signs of aging while giving your skin a less shiny appearance, a mousse foundation may work for you. Most matte foundations come with a brush, but you can also apply it with a small dry sponge [source: Kaylor].


Keep reading to learn about pressed-powder foundations.

Pressed Powder Foundation

Pressed-powder foundations provide a matte-like appearance, but unlike liquids, creams and mousses, pressed powder goes onto the skin dry. This makes it the ideal choice for people with oily skin -- it doesn't add more shine to the face or clog pores. If you have sensitive skin, pressed powder may be a good choice for you -- this foundation contains fewer preservatives and ingredients, making it less likely to cause irritation [source: UAB]. Pressed powder is also a good choice if you spend a lot of time in the sun because it typically contains titanium dioxide, an ingredient used in sunscreens [source: Kaylor].

Mineral foundations, which are type of powder foundation, are composed of finely ground minerals. They don't usually contain chemicals, dyes or preservatives found in traditional makeup, so they're another good choice for sensitive skin [source: Bouchez].


Powder foundations must be carefully applied because they don't go on as uniformly as liquid or cream foundations -- most women use a thick powder brush or sponge to apply a solid base without clumping. And you may need to use a separate touch-up powder throughout the day because reapplying the foundation could lead to that caked-on look [source: Kaylor].

If you've had it with bottles and compacts, you may want to try a stick foundation. Keep reading to learn more.


Stick Foundation

If you like the way lipstick can slide into a small, convenient space in your purse, you may like stick foundations. Stick foundations are the go-to option for people seeking portability and convenience -- they come in a small tube, and they're easy to apply to a specific area on your skin. These sticks, like cream foundations, can also be used as a concealer to hide certain imperfections. There are many different types of stick foundation on the market, and they're available for oily, normal, dry and combination skin.

Stick foundations are similar to creams, but they're made of a denser formula that contains moisturizing oils so they can be more easily applied. This thicker consistency makes them ideal for covering blemishes and filling in fine lines and wrinkles [source: Kaylor]. In fact, many women turn to stick foundations after surgery because they easily cover bruises and conceal scars [source: WebMD].


Although stick foundations are easy to apply, it's best to use them in specific problem areas, such as your chin or nose, instead of an all-over application. After the stick is applied to the skin, use a thick powder brush to spread out the concentrated spots of makeup to produce a more even look [source: Kaylor].

If you're still confused about which kind of foundation is best for you, keep reading to learn more about selecting the perfect makeup for your skin type.


Matching Foundation with Skin Type

Although many kinds of foundation are suitable for many skin types, some foundations may be better for your skin than others.

If you have dry skin, it's important to find a foundation that moisturizes your skin and gives it some shine. Liquid foundations, certain cream foundations and foundation sticks will all help trap moisture in the skin -- avoid matte foundations that can make your skin appear dry [source: Kaylor].


However, if you have oily skin, a foundation with a matte finish is a great choice for you. Such foundations include creams, mousses, powders and mineral foundations. A matte finish will make your skin appear less shiny, and these products are often noncomedogenic, meaning they won't clog pores [source: Yahoo].

Most foundations will work well if you have normal or combination skin, so you can just focus on color or level of coverage. If you don't have to worry about dry or oily skin, you may want to use heavier foundations, such as a cream or stick, to conceal wrinkles or blemishes. However, if you don't have much to conceal, you can go for a lighter option like pressed powder.

If you have aging skin, use a thicker foundation that can better conceal fine lines and wrinkles. Consider liquids, creams and mousses, but don't cake them on too thick. If you opt for a thicker foundation, it's even more important to match your makeup with your skin tone [source: Kaylor].

The next section will help you select the right color for your skin, no matter what type of foundation you choose.


Matching Foundation with Skin Tone

You don't want to look like you're wearing a mask after you've applied makeup, so it's important to choose a foundation that matches your skin tone. This may sound easy, but it's often difficult to find the right shade.

To simplify the process, first determine whether you have warm or cool undertones. If your skin appears golden, bronze or olive, then you probably have warm undertones. People with this skin type usually look best in nude, beige or pink foundations -- these tones help bring out the natural colors in your skin. People with skin that's pink, rosy, beige or brown have cooler undertones and should use foundations with light porcelain or pale brown hues that will give skin more color [source: Beauty and Nutrition].


The next time you're looking for foundation, try a few different products before you buy. Test potential foundations on the skin along your jaw line -- the shade that matches your neck and face is the right foundation for you. If you have oily skin, makeup may turn darker when you apply it. To test, you may want to try a shade that's a bit lighter than your skin and then wait 10 minutes to see if the foundation turns the correct shade [source: Pearl].

For more information on choosing a foundation, see the links on the following page.


Lots More Information

Related Articles

  • Beauty and Nutrition. "Skin Tone, Foundation, and Makeup as we Age." (Accessed 8/17/09)
  • Bouchez, Colette. "The Lowdown on Mineral Makeup." WebMD (Accessed 8/25/2009)
  • Colino, Stacey. "Say Goodbye to Dry." Prevention. (Accessed 8/25/2009)
  • Cosmetics Business. "Animal testing ban comes into force in Europe." March 11, 2009. (Accessed 8/17/09)
  • Dolezal, Chrissy. "Makeup Foundation: Best foundation formula for you." June 26, 2006. (Accessed 8/16/09)
  • Kaylor, Annalise. "Different Foundation Makeup Types." April 4, 2008. (Accessed 8/16/09)
  • Kaylor, Annalise. "How to Find your Foundation Match." March 18, 2008. (Accessed 8/17/09)
  • Pearl, Eve. "Get a sun-kissed glow without the skin damage." MSNBC. July 13, 2009. (Accessed 08/25/2009)
  • Pearl, Eve. "Struggle with Makeup? Tips to Look Flawless." Today. April 20, 2009. (Accessed 8/14/09)
  • UAB Medicine. "Cosmetics (Sensitive Skin)." June 9, 2003. (Accessed 8/17/09)
  • WebMD. "After Cosmetic Surgery: Covering the Bruises." April 1, 2005. (Accessed 8/17/09)
  • WebMD. "History of Makeup." (Accessed 8/16/09)
  • Web MD. "Makeup and Cosmetic Safety." (Accessed 8/16/09)
  • Web MD. "Makeup Myths and Facts." (Accessed 8/16/09)
  • Yahoo. "Cosmetic Foundations." Yahoo Lifestyle: Reference Library. April 22, 2008. (Accessed 8/25/2009)