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Base desires: foundation masterclass

By Liz Hancock

Base desires: foundation masterclass
Once you’re over 35, finding the right foundation can be a bit of a challenge. Get your know-how up to speed with MiNDFOOD’s foundation masterclass.

With age, they say, comes wisdom. So why is it such a difficult task to choose a foundation for maturing skin? Sometime after you pass 35, the texture of your skin changes, often becoming more coarse, dry and lined, turning it into a terrain with visible pits and troughs that your usual foundation loves hunkering down into. When you’re younger, you’re able to move carelessly from base to base because colour and coverage are usually your chief concerns. But cross that all-important 35-plus Rubicon and foundation textures no longer seem to sit right.

“We all have different skin but as age creeps up on us we do need to be aware of the lines that are starting to appear and the damage that the sun can cause,” says Karen Barlow, national education and retail HR manager L’Oréal Luxe. Make-up supremo Bobbi Brown puts it more candidly in her book Bobbi Brown Beauty Evolution (2002 HarperCollins). “If I had to sum up the [40s] decade so far, I’d say this is definitely the ‘oh shit decade.’ It’s when you first notice that you actually do look older than you used to.”

For many women, updating their foundation post-40 is a daunting task and it’s not surprising we are confused. A quick search for “foundation” on Sephora, the huge online beauty retailer owned by LVMH, comes up with 176 products – and that’s before you’ve added primers, concealers and brushes. Do you BB or CC? Do you tint, cream or fluid? Do you sponge, brush or use your fingers?
“Foundation can be an overwhelming category because there are so many things to choose from,” says Amber D, senior artist for Oceania at M.A.C Cosmetics. “Technology’s always changing so it can be super difficult to keep up. Foundation is the most important makeup product, because obviously it’s the biggest part of the face that you see, so it’s the part you need to get right.”

Cut loose. Foundation is the one area where it really is advisable to stick to beauty “rules”. For women past 35, heavy coverage and matt formulations will quickly settle into the lines and open pores that tend to come as skin matures. “I would be wanting my foundation to form a bridge over the lines, meaning that it won’t fall into them making them more obvious,” says Barlow. “I would definitely look for a good SPF protection as the sun does accelerate the ageing process and it creates unattractive dark spots on the skin’s surface.” Barlow advises against powdery or matte foundations, which can accentuate and exacerbate the dryness that often comes with ageing.

Do your groundwork. Primers used to be an optional extra; an avoidable step in your beauty routine that stood between you and an extra five minutes under the duvet in the morning. Over the past few years primer technology has advanced to the point where they can correct and even out everything from texture to skin tone, making foundation application easier and more seamless. “Your primer is now really important because they can do so many different things,” says Amber D. “There are ones formulated for dry skin, oily skins, dark skin tones. They do a lot of the work for you.” M.A.C Cosmetics’ Prep & Prime Skin Smoother ($49, is a compact primer that helps to fill in fine lines and open pores, and can be used to even texture over or under your foundation. Estée Lauder’s Illuminating Perfecting Primer, $48, gives the skin a radiant glow while smoothing the surface for foundation application.
Ask an expert. Visiting a beauty counter is advisable for foundations, because it’s the best way to get a perfect colour match and test a variety of products for your skin concerns. Once you’ve selected your favourite(s), ask the assistant to apply the product and wear it for the rest of the day before purchasing. You’ll be surprised at how a favourite foundation can fast become an enemy after a few hours’ wear.

Shade match correctly. This is of prime importance if you want a stealth foundation look (who doesn’t?). Many brands now have a wide range of foundation colours to match most skin tones; Estée Lauder’s iconic Double Wear Stay-in-Place Makeup SPF10, $50, comes in a massive 29 shades. To test foundations, apply in stripes that run from your cheekbone down to your jawline; the product that “disappears” on your skin is the right shade. Getting the colour right is something which Rebecca Morrice Williams, founder of Australian beauty company BECCA Cosmetics, says is particularly key for Australian women. “A mis-matched foundation will look more obvious in the harsher light here.” BECCA is known the world over for its wide range of make-up shades and products, and foundation is their core category. “My mission was to empower women to discover their most perfect foundation … the one that would match all skin tones and skin types,” says Williams.

When it comes to foundation, it’s all in the application. “A lot of the time, I think women tend to put on more foundation than they need,” says Amber D. “It’s best just to apply it to the centre of the face, and then blend out rather than going the whole shebang, edge to edge and into your hairline.” Many make-up artists advise using concealers rather than foundations to correct issues like dark circles, blemishes and skin tone, then applying something like a BB cream over the top to even things out.

Foundation technology has advanced at a rapid rate over the past decade, giving us high performance formulas and a wardrobe of finishes. So how do you choose the formulation for your skin? Williams says women 35 and over need to look for foundation formulas with skincare properties that also contain hydrating ingredients to plump and soften mature skin. Thankfully the biggest market trend in foundations has been for bases with cutting edge anti-ageing formulations (see MiNDFOOD’s product recommendations, right) that are ideal for maturing skin. If shine is a concern, go for products such as BECCA’s Matte Skin Shine Proof Foundation ($70,, which contains vitamins E and A, and is deeply hydrating while giving a matte finish. “We now have incredible multi-purpose formulas that offer the benefits of skincare, sun care, colour correction and light reflection within the same product,” says Williams.

The above is nowhere more true than with the BB and CC cream revolution. BB creams are products that have moisturisers and often primers and SPFs built into the foundation and are ideal for women who don’t have time for numerous steps in their daily routine, or don’t like the feel of layers of product. BB creams are similar to tinted moisturisers (try Dr.Hauschka’s new Toned Day Cream, $62, if you’re after a good, natural tinted moisturiser), so for those wanting greater coverage, follow up with a concealer on areas of concern. CC creams take the above tick-list and turbo-charge the moisturisation, anti-ageing and coverage ingredients. Clinique’s new Moisture Surge CC Cream Hydrating Colour Corrector SPF 30, $45, comes in six shades and offers the brand’s hydrating Moisture Surge skincare benefits, plus vitamins, antioxidants and sunscreens for protection, and a glowing colour correcting finish. Biotherm has also just released its first CC cream: White D-Tox CC Smoothing Base, $49, which comes in five colour corrective shades. While each of the five Biotherm White D-Tox CC Smoothing Bases contains and SPF and ingredients to brighten the skin, you choose your product based on your skin tone concerns, from redness to uneven.

Modern technology has enabled today’s products to evolve beyond compare to the original theatrical greasepaint foundations that our grandmothers, and even mothers, used to use. So where to from here? Will we ever achieve the holy grail – a clear fluid that leaves all skin flawless without the need for pigment? “The idea of a product automatically prescribing the finish after application could be a possibility for future developments,” imagines Williams. “Colour adapting – product matches individual skin colour automatically. And skin adapting – product assesses skin condition and matches with the required mattifying, pore-minimising, tightening luminosity.” Sounds like a base made in heaven.


The foundation application method you choose can greatly alter the resulting look. The tool you use is a matter of personal preference, the need for speed, and desired end result. Soft fluffy brushes are fast to use, and buff the product into the skin, giving light but good coverage and a flawless finish. Bobbi Brown Full Coverage Brush, $68, is great for cream and fluid foundations, and super-quick application. Stippling brushes such as M.A.C Cosmetics’ 159 Duo Fibre Brush, $64, tend to have “sharp” white tips and are great for getting foundation into the skin, particularly pores and fine lines. A traditional base brush, such as Estée Lauder’s Foundation Brush, $70, is good for building and blending product and achieving heavier coverage.

Sponges have come a long way since the wedges that used to soak up half your product. Shu Uemura Sponge Pentagon, $16, is a house-shaped sponge with defined corners for applying foundation to the contoured areas of the face. A damp sponge gives light coverage and is good to use to go over foundation if you’ve accidentally put on too much.
There’s nothing wrong with using your hands; in fact many of the world’s top make-up artists prefer to use their fingers to help press the product into the skin.
Cleanse your brushes every three months with a gentle cleanser such as a baby shampoo. Rinse, pat with a towel, and then shape before letting them dry.


Bobbi Brown Luminous Moisturizing Treatment Foundation, $80; Yves Saint Laurent Le Teint Touche 
Éclat, $78; Lancôme Teint Visionnaire, $65; Shiseido Radiant Lifting Foundation, $72; Chanel Vitalumiere Compact Douceur, $100.



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