makeup-foundationWhen people compliment me on my skin and how good I look for my age (almost 46), I give all the credit to sunscreen usage. But the truth is that I also learned long ago how to wear foundation for maximum benefit.

This is one product that not every woman needs. If you have the same perfect translucent skin as Scarlet Johanssen, don’t even think about wearing foundation – you will be able to get away with concealer where you need it and a dusting of powder.

The rest of us most likely need some foundation on part or all of our face. In my case, it’s necessary to hide the diffuse redness caused by broken capillaries resulting from harsh Canadian winters, cumulative sun exposure and blowing my nose all allergy season. I also have brown patches from the drug therapy to treat my hormone-related illness, and some residual scarring from a bout with teenage acne. All in all, not a pretty picture.

At least not until I get out my tubes and pots and start applying the lotions and potions that even out my skin tone!

Foundation is one makeup product where price can make a difference. Drugstore foundation colours are, for the most part, limited in shade range – especially for darker skin tones – and tend to be too pink for most people to wear well.

A notable exception is the L’Oreal True Match line. This light-weight, liquid foundation comes in 24 shades coded warm, cool and neutral to suit every tone. It’s also very affordable and regularly discounted in drugstores, making it an excellent choice for those new to makeup or on a budget.

In North America, the end to the era of pink-toned foundations came with the introduction of the Prescriptives line by the Lauder Corporation in 1979. Not only has this small branch of the major makeup conglomerate been a forerunner in the introduction of more natural colours, they’ve also been innovators in the area of product development, creating foundations that seem to disappear into the skin rather than sitting on top of it. The originators of the “color-printing” method of finding your perfect foundation shade also offer custom-blended foundation and powder at a price many can afford.

The most difficult task when it comes to foundation is finding one that suits you. This is one reason why it is usually better to buy high-end, department store brands – you can try before you buy, while most drugstores no longer offer testers due to public health laws.

Find the two shades that you feel are closest to your skin’s natural colour without makeup, paint them on your jaw line back toward your ear – this skin tends to not get tanned or discoloured as we age. The colour that seems to “disappear” into your skin is the one that’s right for you. This is the method Prescriptives calls “color-printing”.

If you are in between two shades and can afford it, buy both. You will find that your skin darkens in the summer, even with daily sunscreen usage. I wear MAC NC 15 in the winter and NC 20 in the summer and mix them when necessary.

A couple of things to be aware of when it comes to foundations: DO NOT rely on them to provide you with sun protection. Most commercial liquid foundations appear to offer a maximum SPF of 15. Wear sunscreen underneath – even mineral foundations that claim SPF 20. DO NOT buy foundation in shades much darker than your own skin tone in attempts to try “special effects” like hollowing out your cheeks or slimming your nose. It is very difficult to place these properly on yourself and if you don’t blend carefully, the effect can be mask-like and harsh. And if you feel you “need” a tan, use a self-tanner to get one, not foundation.

Once you’ve found your shade, you have to decide on the finish you want on your skin. No longer are we restricted to liquid and pancake creams like my mother’s generation. Foundations are available in liquids, powders, creams, gels, sticks, sprays, liquid to powder, and cream to powder formulas. Your skin can be matte or dewy and everything in between!

The choices can seem overwhelming, so let personal preference be your guide. I like a matte finish, though I know this will have to go by the wayside in a few years as these lines become more pronounced – matte finishes tend to settle in wrinkles. However, the dewy look is far too shiny for my liking and can also magnify lines on aging skin.

Personal preference will also be your guide in application technique. I realize that some forms of foundation require a sponge or makeup brush for proper application, however I am a firm believer in using my fingers to apply it. Several years ago, I read an article in More magazine where makeup guru Bobbi Brown recommended using your fingers to apply foundation, essentially rubbing it into your skin. This gives the “flawless” look one sees in magazines without having to use a messy spray or an expensive primer underneath. Over time, I have found that it also allows me greater control in application, and that I only place the foundation where I need it.

Foundation should always be applied from the inside of your face out. You might have read that you should apply it from the top of your face down in order to help facial hair lie flat. But it is a rare person who would need foundation at their hairline, while most of us seem to need it around our nose the most. I always apply from around the nose and blend it outward.

Remember that concealer goes OVER your foundation and that you should set everything with translucent powder that closely matches the foundation.

Once you’ve found your shade and mastered the application techniques, laying a foundation for your colour makeup products will only add a few minutes to your beauty routine, and you’ll find that it’s time well spent!