January 3, 2014

Beauty Basics: A Guide To Foundation

Hello, Beautiful!

This is another one of my Beauty Basics post -- Beauty Basics: A Guide To Foundation. If you recall, a year ago (January 2013) I posted a Beauty Basics: All About Foundation Primer. And even further back, in February of 2012 I did a Beauty Basics post on getting the most out of your skincare products

I actually wrote this article almost a year ago, but it was buried here in my drafts. I think I had planned to add photos, so it just sat there and I never took the photos for this post. I'd rather just get it up on my blog and if I add photos in the future, great, and if not, well at least the info is here! 

My Beauty Basics series is aimed at younger readers just getting into makeup, my nieces included, or anyone wanting to read some basic points of reference. I hope these Beauty Basics posts will be helpful, and if you already know all about foundation feel free to skip this post all together.

Also, CLICK HERE To see one of my most popular posts: My Before & After Pics for Over 25 Foundations (from back in April 2012). I'll be doing an updated post of this hopefully this month, but not too certain. I'll be doing before & after's with every foundation I currently have! I've made more foundation reviews on my blog since that post back in April 2012, so if you want to look those up just scroll down on the left side and click on "foundation" and it will bring up every post that I tagged with the word foundation.

Beauty Basics: A Guide To Foundation

What Is Foundation?
Foundation is designed to even out skintone, hide flaws, and create a perfect canvas for the rest of your makeup. The word 'foundation' is subjective to the user; some people like to say 'base' or even 'makeup'. Some people call powder foundation 'powder', liquid foundation 'foundation', and cream foundation 'base'. I've heard so many things in the past, even from my own friends who claimed to never use foundation but then whip out their powder compact and start applying. It's foundation. To sum it up for easier reference, foundation is your starting point for makeup (after skincare, moisturizer, and primer). Although sometimes you apply concealer before your foundation, but that's a whole other topic that I'll get into when I post the Beauty Basics: A Guide To Concealer.

Foundation Formulas
There are several foundation formulations out there. Finding the right formula for your skin type can be a long and expensive process. I've tried them all, and for me, liquid foundations are my best match. That doesn't mean all other foundations are out of the question; I use many different foundations depending on my mood and coverage level I need. We'll talk more about selecting the best foundation formula for you later in this post. For now, here are the main foundation formulations out there:
  • Liquid
  • Cream
  • Gel
  • Loose Powder
  • Pressed Powder
  • Mousse/Whipped
  • Plus many blends between them all, like liquid/gel or liquid/cream
There are also foundations formulated for both face and body, which are usually transfer resistant but also usually low in coverage (though, buildable).

Coverage Levels
Foundations come in a range of coverage levels, and most can go from light to full when layered. Many foundations offer a mix of coverage, such as "medium to full" or "light to medium" - and those are usually the most buildable. Here's a list of the coverage levels:
  • Sheer -- Just enough coverage to even out skintone but won't hide blemishes or other flaws. Pair with a concealer.
  • Light -- Offers enough coverage to even out skintone but likely won't cover up all blemishes and other flaws; often buildable. Likely still need a concealer.
  • Medium -- Offers good coverage to hide most blemishes and other flaws, but you may find you still need a concealer. For many, Medium coverage is their perfect coverage level because you can usually build up to fuller coverage in areas of concern.
  • Full -- Offers excellent coverage to hide just about every blemish and other flaws. You may still need a concealer depending on how many flaws you have to hide. Many foundations that claim to be full coverage are not, but may be considered full coverage to someone with less-flawed skin.
  • Complete -- Offers the highest amount of coverage available. You won't need a concealer. This will hide everything, including birth marks and tattoos. The formulas are usually cream or liquid and usually require a specific application method to get best results.

Choosing The Right Shade Of Foundation
Choosing the right shade of foundation can be a frustrating task, especially since our skintone changes over the years and often with every season. I know for me personally I use a darker foundation in the summer than I use in the winter, and that seems to be true for most people.

With that in mind, you want to choose a foundation shade based on what shade your skin is at that moment. You can always buy a lighter or darker shade when you need it, or even deepen/lighten your foundation with a powder or bronzer (if needed).

To start, you'll want to determine what your undertone is. It's actually pretty easy to find out. Hold out your arm, looking at the underside so you can see your veins. 
  • Do your veins appear blue in tone? If so, you have cool undertones. 
  • Do your veins appear green in tone? If so, you have warm undertones.
  • Can't tell? Then you may fall into the neutral undertones category.
Once you know if you have cool, warm or neutral undertones it will be so much easier to find a foundation match. 

Cool Undertones: pink, red, blue
Warm Undertones: yellow, olive, golden
Neutral Undertones: beige

Next, you'll want to test out shades. Many stores like Wal-Mart and Target don't have testers, which make finding the right match a little difficult. That's when it comes in handy to search blogs for swatches and find others with similar skintones. Maybelline is actually wonderful with including small samples of their foundation (the entire range for whatever foundation they are currently promoting) in magazines. Other drugstore brands, however, are not that nice so it can be difficult.

Going to a store like Sephora or Ulta, or even department stores, will allow you to test out shades and even get matched. 

TIP: If you can go to a MAC store I suggest you do so and get color matched. Many bloggers will compare foundation shades to the MAC shade names. For example, in MAC I'm NC30/NC25. 

TIP: MAC is backwards in their undertone coding. You would think that the 'C' in 'NC' would stand for 'cool' but it actually is for their warm undertones. Just like their 'W' in 'NW' doesn't stand for 'warm' but is actually for their cool undertones. 

Whenever testing out shades on your own I suggest trying out three shades you think will match the best. Don't go by how a shade looks on your hand or arm because your face is often lighter (at least for me it is). You want to always test on the face, specifically the jawline so you can see how it blends in with the skin on your neck. You want your foundation to blend into your neck and chest skintone. Sometimes if you self tan you'll skip your face, so your face will be lighter than the rest of your body. You don't want to match your face, but instead your neck and chest so it doesn't look like you're wearing a mask. You could even swatch the shades directly on your neck if you wanted.

Sephora has a wonderful return policy, so even if you have to order online, you can always return a product if it doesn't work for you -- even if you've used it! Some stores, however, don't allow returns on open beauty products. Be sure to check with their return policy first if you're worried you may need to return a product.

Another point I want to mention is some brands don't make certain skintone ranges all that well. Some brands may do great with light and medium skintones but when it comes to fair skintones their shades may be too dark and when it comes to deeper skintones their shades may be too ashy. Don't give up if you try a brand and their shade choices don't work for you; another brand is bound to work. For example, I have a really hard time finding a shade match in Dior's foundations but can easily find a perfect match in Bobbi Brown and Laura Mercier.

Finding the right shade of foundation is important. Even the most natural coverage foundation can look noticeable if it's too light or too dark. Finding the just right foundation is key to keeping even the fullest coverage foundations looking like your own skin. Don't let your makeup wear you!

How to Choose the Best Foundation Formula for Your Skin Type
Dry skin, oily skin, combination skin, sensitive skin, normal skin... we all have different skin types. What does that mean? Some foundation formulas won't work for you. Some people have more trouble than others. I have a lot of trouble in the summer when my skin is most oily; I look forward to fall and winter when my skin is more combination, allowing me to have more foundation choices and longer wear.

Here are some recommendations.
Please Note: What I recommend and don't recommend are just my general recommendations. I just list some general recommendations to help you get started. Feel free to contact me for specific product questions! A lot comes down to the brand you choose and the actual foundation you choose; for example: within one brand you may have a powder foundation great for dry skin and a powder foundation awful for dry skin.

If you have dry skin...
You'll want to choose a moisturizing formula. A dewy finish may be best; avoid matte finish formulas, which may highlight your dry spots. A cream or liquid formula may work best for you. You may want to stay away from pressed powders and sometimes even loose powders, depending on the powder formula itself. 

If you have oily skin...
You'll want to choose an oil-free formula, that isn't too moisturizing. A matte finish is usually best; avoid dewy finish formulas, which may turn into an oil slick on your face. Stay away from cream formulas, which can also tend to turn to a slippery mess. A liquid or powder foundation may work best for you.

If you have combination skin...
You may have a difficult time finding the right option because where one foundation may be best for your dry skin, it may be awful for your oily skin. I recommend choosing a liquid foundation which I find is usually easiest to find a match for combination skin. 

If you have sensitive skin...
You'll want to pay attention to the ingredients list. Choose a natural, organic brand that may cause less irritation. Heavier formulas (fuller coverage) may not be the best option for you, but it all comes down to ingredients. Likely you know what bothers your skin, so just read first and see what may be best.

If you have normal skin...
Guess what? You may be the luckiest of the bunch. You can wear just about any foundation formula out there. Congratulations, you have it easy!

Application Methods
You can apply your foundation a number of ways, depending on the formula. There are so many combinations between methods and tools used so it's almost impossible to list them all. Here are some basics:
  • Application Tools: brush, sponge, puff, fingers
  • Application Methods: stippling, buffing, strokes

When to throw it away?
If you're wondering when to toss your foundation and replace it with a new one, then you'll want to take a few things into consideration.

In general, foundation has a shelf life of 1 to 3 years depending on formulation. Most brands now have a shelf life indicator printed on the product (it will look like a jar and have a number; 24 = 24 months or two years). The shelf life starts when you first open it and use it.

If you are applying your foundation in a clean method (meaning your fingers never touch the product and you only use clean application tools), then you will get the maximum life out of your foundation. If you use your fingers or dirty tools, then you're just introducing bacteria to the foundation, causing it to breakdown and go bad faster. 

How will you know if you're foundation goes bad? This can be tough to really know. If it has an off smell (different from when you first purchased it) then it's bad. Sometimes a foundation will oxidize over time (oxidize means it will get darker or change in color tone), that usually means it's gone bad - but not always. Other times you won't really know until you start using it and notice it doesn't apply like it used to or you start breaking out from it when you previously never did.

Sometimes you'll never need to worry about using a bad foundation because you may use yours up before a year is even up. But if you're a makeup hoarder like myself, well then you may keep foundations for years and will need to use them on a case by case basis.

Now if you're wondering how long an actual bottle/compact/jar/tube/etc. of foundation of use will last you, it will vary. There really is no specific answer to that question. For example, most liquid foundations are about 1 fl oz and they can last anywhere from 2 to 6 months with frequent use. A lot will depend how often you use it, how much you use, and how you apply (sponges sometimes can soak up extra product, which adds up over time). Some people apply foundation every morning, plus touch-ups throughout the day. Some people only apply foundation a few days out of the weeks, and others may only apply foundation for special occasions. You'll get a feel for how long your foundation will last after you start using it. Just write a date on the product of when you first start using it (this will also help you to know when you should replace it). Then write the date when you've used up half (if you can see inside the bottle/jar/etc. to know how far along you are). You'll then have an idea for how much longer it will last, and then a total average for how long that bottle/jar/tube will last you.

Do You Have More Questions About Foundation?
I didn't go into too much detail, so it's understandable if you have questions. Feel free to email me (my contact info is listed under the "About Crystal" tab). I do my best to respond in a timely manner to anyone who emails me.

Now let me know what you think...
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