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The right way to use foundation

May 17, 2012 Reviewed by admin 6 Comments

Truth #23: At any age, a full face of foundation is not beautifying.

Applying foundation all over the face, whether it’s liquid, cream or powder, is a pretty common mistake I see primarily in women in their early 20s (who typically have enviable skin) and women over 40 (who could do without accentuating the wrinkles).

Note that foundation is not the same as a tinted moisturizer, which I’m in full support of using for most skin types and ages. When we talk about foundation, this refers to a heavily pigmented base designed to do more than just lightly even out skin tone; rather, it provides coverage and an opaque canvas... kind of like a paint primer for walls.

The issues with using anything more than sheer foundation on the entire face are numerous. Here are a few of the most important points:

1. Unless the color is an exact match to the skin on your face, neck and chest, it’s going to look fake.

2. Foundation doesn’t allow the natural skin to show through, which can create a mask-like effect.

3. As the day wears on, the mask will crack. Some combination of oiliness, dryness, sweating, touching or rubbing will break down the pigments and create rather unflattering results where the makeup has slid or crusted.

4. Depending on the formula, certain foundations can aggravate acne, rosacea, psoriasis, etc. because skin needs to breath in order to function in a healthy way, and it might not be able to through all that gunk.

5. If the foundation contains what I consider to be “toxic” chemicals, you may also be absorbing some rather nasty things into your bloodstream through the living, breathing organ that is your skin.

In very rare cases, is it necessary to apply a coat of foundation all over the face.

One of them is not for sun protection. Over and over you will see and hear makeup experts tell you that using your foundation with SPF as your method of sun protection is a bad idea. With makeup it’s much harder to guarantee consistent coverage over the face. As a sunblock, you’d have to apply so much makeup to ensure proper coverage that you’d look like a Kabuki performer.

The only two exceptions that would justify wearing a full coating of coverage would be:

1. For severe discoloration visible on most of the face

2. If you are having professional photos taken or appearing in a video, in which case you would also need to put foundation all the way from the neck down, wherever skin is exposed.

Instead of piling on the makeup, focus on making your skin look amazing through a nutritious, healthy diet and an awesome skincare routine. That way you’ll only have to even out skin with a light sweep of tinted moisturizer or mineral powder and conceal only where there is visible discoloration to keep you looking fresh and radiant.

Watch Kristen Arnett's video about how to choose the right foundation color for your skin tone.

  • July 5, 2012

    by MaryEllen

    ITA with Sandy. Also, I've found that spot-applied foundation looks, well, spot-applied. The shade may be a perfect match, but the skin texture is different, and it's noticeable.

    I'm having great results with D&G's creamy foundation, which isn't a cream at all, but a liquid. Good coverage, great texture, looks great almost all day.

  • June 1, 2012

    by Kathy

    This is an enlightening article for me. I simply never considered not using foundation on every exposed surface. I tried it for the first time and find I like avoiding the creasy areas. As a result, the makeup does not end up accumulating in the creases and I look better. Bravo for the advice.

  • June 1, 2012

    by Emilia Ruiz

    Kristen, do you have some "how to" suggestions?
    I'm so embarrassed to admit that I've been making that mistake! I think my foundation, which is fairly light-weight, matches quite closely, but it would be great to have tips on the *right* way to wear any foundation (match-right or otherwise).
    Thanks!!

  • May 30, 2012

    by Sandy

    This article should be titled "how not to wear foundation". It says nothing about how you should wear it. Also, there are lots of foundations that provide coverage without creating a mask like effect.

  • May 18, 2012

    by Julie Kay

    Kristen- Great article! and I so agree. I am one of the lucky ones that has found an absolute perfect match in my (loose) mineral foundation by Sterling Minerals thereby allowing me to puff it where needed and avoiding my wrinkles entirely and you simply can't tell where the foundation begins and ends on my face. Within an hour if I look closely I can't even tell if I'm wearing it- meaning I can't "see" it laying on my skin. Yet I can see the smoothing effect it has compared to days when I go without. As much as I dislike putting it on, it really does make a difference. ~jk

  • May 17, 2012

    by Oksana

    I love tinted moisturizers for their sheer, flattering effect. Mixing Vapour Atmosphere foundation with some moisturizer or Devita SPF works really well for me.

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