Strong foundations

Finding the right foundation can be a real mission. Last summer I embarked on just that quest. And after kissing some frogs… well, enduring some cakey, heavy, over-perfumed products, I finally found my holy grail. Now, I wouldn’t want you to think that in all my years of make-up devotion I have failed to wear a decent foundation, let me clarify (if you missed my previous post) that in recent years my skin has changed, and the Bobbi Brown Skin Foundation I’d been devoted to looked and felt terrible.

After watching some beauty blogs I’ve been surprised to see that some of those girls have more than 10 foundations on the go. Since a single high end number is going to set you back a minimum of £25, and probably more, 10 seems excessive. I thought that my makeup bag was pretty overstuffed, but it turns out that it might be on the minimal side. At the moment I have one BB cream and one foundation. Let me tell you how I chose them.

It all started with a very disappointing visit to the Bobbi Brown counter. I asked the counter lady about brightening my complexion, and adapting my regime to accommodate my changing skin. After saying something vaguely insulting about the horrors of seeing her future mapped out in other people’s ageing faces, she caked on a tonne of makeup that sat in uneven globs on my face. This is a pretty classic mistake with trying to cover up flaws. What I’ve discovered is that you should do the opposite. Fine lines and wrinkles are accentuated by heavy foundations because they sit in the creases. I don’t have many lines at all, but I find that I really feel like I do if I wear the wrong foundation. Anything that is overly drying will have the same effect.

While the make-up counter experience was pretty unsatisfying (if not downright annoying) it got me thinking. I needed to do some research of my own, without relying on someone who’s trying to sell to me.   The problem is that trying something on at the counter doesn’t give you much of an idea of what a product is going to be like to use day to day. It turns out though, that all the counters & shops I asked – YSL, Lancome, Estee Lauder, Chanel, Origins, Clinique, REN, Bobbi Brown (no use chucking the baby out with the bath water) and finally Space NK were all amazingly helpful and each provided me with a colour match and a tester pot with a couple of days worth of product to try at home. I felt kind of guilty for trying so many products. But doing proper testing was really worthwhile.

I have awkward skin, which is dry, easily irritated and allergy prone. I also have awkward lungs, and have realised recently that my early love affair with perfume coincided with the beginning of asthma in my mid teens. 25 years on I have ditched fragrance as much as humanly possible, which means limiting heavily fragranced face products too. And I try to use things that are paraben free, since the jury is out about their effect on the endocrine system. The last thing I want to do is to use stuff that messes with my hormones. I don’t think that I’ve managed to eliminate the things that mess with my allergies, or the icky chemicals altogether, but I am certainly more aware than I was about what I put on my skin, and I try to make the best choices. So, my ultimate decision on the foundation front was partly about look and feel, and partly about ingredients.


I finally chose the gorgeous, natural-looking, smooth-applying Laura Mercier Creme Foundation. This stuff is so good it makes me want to cry. It goes on perfectly – no smearing, no caking, no blobbiness. It provides a nice, natural looking base that evens out skin tone and can be used fairly sheer if applied with a damp sponge, or can be layered effectively if applied with fingers or a brush. It is eye-wateringly expensive, even for a premium brand, at £42 a pot. But it lasts amazingly well, and is really worth the investment.

I also use REN’s BB cream. I liked a few BBs that I tested – Estee Lauder (lovely, luminous, brightening, good converge), Origins (too much chemical SPF which irritates my face, though it looks fantastically illuminating and flawless), but it came down a toss up between REN and the Balance Me BB based on their clean(er) credentials and ingredients. I chose REN because I was on a big REN kick at the time, and because it provides a lovely, natural finish. It’s great for everyday use and results in healthy looking skin. I would definitely re-purchase this, but I would also like to try the Balance Me for the summer because it has a higher SPF (25 to REN’s 15). Some people might find these products strange at first because they are silicone free. That means that they don’t provide as much slip as most of the make-up products on the market, but I really really like them, and it didn’t take long to get used to the texture. I’m surprised that when it comes to good skin that less really is more.


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