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Glow on: How to buy foundation without feeling swizzed

By March 8, 2020May 22nd, 2020No Comments

Photo by Glow Repose on Unsplash

Forking out for a new foundation can be a stressful experience. Louise McSharry wants to make sure you never experience makeup buyer’s remorse.


I love shopping for makeup. Walking around the shop, lashing bits of this and touches of that on the back of my hand, my mind runs wild with all the possibilities of who I might be with the various products on. The right red lipstick might give me a day or two as a french sophisticate, a brightly coloured eyeliner will let me play the role of a bold creative, a finely milled bronzer in just the right colour can turn me into the queen of boho chic, just back from Ibiza.

Alas, shopping for foundation does not usually inspire much in terms of fantasy, and based on the enquiries I get on Instagram, it occasionally goes so far as to entirely bamboozle beauty shoppers. It’s tricky business. First of all, there are the many formulations, then there’s the fact that everyone’s skin is different and reacts differently to the various formulas (oh and don’t forget that your skin also changes in its behaviour throughout your life) and then you have to try to pick the right colour.


Throw in the fact that it usually ain’t cheap and that makeup counters can be scary and you’ve got yourself a high pressure beauty situation. So today, I’m going to try to simplify it a little for you.The first question you should ask yourself when it comes to foundation is how much coverage you need. This is a matter of taste and skin type.

Obviously, no one should feel like they have to cover up their skin, you absolutely don’t owe anyone a flawless face, but if you like to have a perfectly even skin tone or have areas that you’d like to conceal, then you probably want a full coverage foundation (e.g. Charlotte Tilbury Airbrush Flawless FoundationEstée Lauder Doublewear) . If you’re relatively happy with your skin and like a natural finish, then you want something lighter (Nars Sheer Glow, It Cosmetics Your Skin But Better CC+ CreamThe Ordinary Serum Foundation). If you want light coverage during the day but a heavier look for nighttime, then you want something buildable (Giorgio Armani Luminous SilkHourglass Vanish Seamless Finish Foundation StickCatrice Liquid Camouflage). 


Next, consider formula. It’s important to know that some foundations are silicone-based, while others are water based. If you try to use a water-based foundation on top of silicone-based products, you’re not going to have much success. The foundation will sit on top of the product and end up looking grainy and unpleasant. If you’ve found that you’ve tried a foundation that a pal loved and it hasn’t worked on your skin at all, this could be a factor.

Do a quick google of your skincare products to make sure they won’t clash with your foundation before making a purchase. For example, this week I’ve been using Giorgio Armani Luminous Silk, which is a silicone-based foundation. It won’t work well on top of the Bobbi Brown Water Fresh Cream I’ve been wearing recently, so I swap it out for a different product. Not everyone has a wardrobe of skincare products to choose from, however, so best to be sure that what you have will work in combination. 

Formula is also important to consider in terms of your skin type. If you have dry or mature skin, a hydrating formula will probably work well for you (Clarins Skin Illusion Natural Hydrating Foundation, Chanel Vitalumière AquaNo 7 HyrdraLuminous Moisturising Foundation). If your skin is oily then a matte formula will work best (Giorgio Armani Power FabricLoréal Infallible 24H-Matte, or if you have acne, Clinique Anti-Blemish Solutions


Now, the colour. As a nation, we have a deep-running, generations-old issue with choosing the right foundation colour. We struggle to accept our natural hue, and for that reason have a tendency to ask for something ‘a little bit warmer’ when we’re trying and buying foundation.

I desperately wish everyone would give up the ghost on that one, but I also entirely support a woman’s right to choose to do whatever she wants with her face, so do you, honey. If, however, you want to get the right colour, this one’s for you.

Whether you’re buying from a chemist or a beauty counter, I believe the best advice is to try the shade you think is accurate on your jawline or the back of your hand, and then leave the premises. The lighting in shops is often soft or aggressive, and neither one will give you an accurate idea of whether the colour works for you. Instead, give the makeup a chance to settle for a few minutes and then have a look at it in the daylight. If it blends seamlessly into your skin, you’re on to a winner.

Of course, you can consult with a professional working on a counter or in a shop, but in my experience this can be a bit hit and miss. You don’t always know what kind of journey the person themselves is on when it comes to skin self-acceptance which may influence their advice, and you will know yourself when you look whether or not the colour is doing what you want it to do. 

Finally, if you are thinking of shelling out for a new foundation, but you’re not entirely sure about it, ask for a sample. I know this can be scary. I know sometimes the staff can be unpleasant. I know the shops themselves can be intimidating.

However, if you’re going to spend €40+ on something which should last you months, you want to be sure it’s for you. It is not unreasonable to ask for a sample. It is not unreasonable to ask for a sample of more than one colour to be sure you’re getting it right. If they make you feel like you’re being unreasonable, then frankly, you should take your business elsewhere. There is nothing worse than feeling like you’ve been swizzed. I won’t have it happen to you on my watch!


YSL Beauty hasn’t always been synonymous with skincare, but they’re trying to change that via their new range Pure Shots (€60-76). There’s a lot to like here, the packaging is all recyclable, with refills available for the bulk of the range too. It also looks gorgeous. The serums are lovely, with largely layerable and potent ingredients (you’re best off using the Night Reboot serum on its own due to the Glycolic Acid), and the Perfect Plumper Cream really does give your skin a slight plump and glow. The product I’m taking most pleasure from, however, is the Hydra Bounce Lotion-Essence. It’s not a toner, it’s thicker than that, and you apply it with your hands. It’s aim is to hydrate and prep the skin for the other products. My skin is definitely hydrated, but tbh, I just find it really pleasant to use and it feels like a treat for my skin. Is it cheap? No. Do you need it? Probably not. Would you like it? I think so.

Sure, you could go and spend twenty quid on a liquid eyeliner, but why would you do that when Essence Liquid Ink Eyeliner is excellent and costs three euro? I need a liquid eyeliner to be very black and very long-lasting. This one is both. It’s easy to apply thanks to its consistency, and I simply won’t be without it.

For many of us, lip balm is the beauty product we reach for most frequently. Thus, treating yourself to a fancy one from time to time is a great idea because you get a little buzz every time you use it. Lately, I’ve been loving Nars Afterglow Lip Balm (€28), which is slightly tinted and has a lovely finish. The packaging is gorgeous, and yes, it does all the moisturising stuff too. 


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