Today’s post has been many months in the works as I’ve been testing various makeup bases including foundations, primers, concealers and powders. Finding good base makeup is paramount as it sets the tone for your entire beauty look. That being said, finding the right combination that caters to skin type, tone, coverage preferences, common skin concerns and issues is a whole different entity and can make the process quite tricky, if not harrowing. Each season the market is flooded by new base formulas and innovations – while many work extremely well for me, there’s a large number that unfortunately do not and this includes many of the new launches I sometimes have really high hopes for. Counting from last year on, this whole past year has been no different. I’ve been putting a range of base categories to the test for months now to see how they work for me and listed here those that out-performed others as well as my expectations.
A little backstory on my skin and coloring. I have a medium complexion with pink undertones and tan extremely easy. Skin type is dry/normal with areas of recurring dryness during certain seasons only (nose, cheeks and under the eyes). My neck is the lightest part of my body, while my body (chest, etc.) is the darkest. My face has a true medium with pink undertone form. As a result I find color matches that are medium with pink or peach undertones suit me the best since it connects my face to my chest for a cohesive layer of foundation and nothing is off-color. Although the foundation cannot be too pink in tone since it will contrast very starkly against my complexion and the coloring of my chest. During the Summer when I am at my most tan I will shift to a foundation that either has neutral undertones or carry more red/rosier undercurrents since those match my chest the best.
When it comes to makeup application, staying power and the overall result, a good primer is step #1. There are so many things to take into consideration when choosing one that caters to your specific complexion type, skin issues, wants vs needs, etc, but most importantly of all, will it truly keep my face in place all day long? Nowadays a lot of primers contain skin-benefiting ingredients and properties that target common issues like anti-aging, pore refining, acne-reducing, texture improvement, etc. So, just like any other makeup product, your primer choice depends not only on what you need but also what you need out of it.
I’ll start with the primer I discovered last year, the J.One Jelly Pack. This is a multitasking, anti-aging formula that works both as a hydrating morning mask as well as a makeup primer dubbed the “corset mask” meant to firm and lift the face. The Jelly Pack is a multitasking innovation that was designed to simplify your everyday skincare routine. Basically it combines your morning skincare routine, a mask and a primer all-in-one. This is one of the best glowing, moisturizing and firming primers I’ve ever tried. It helps extend the wear of makeup and adds a glow without making you greasy. It helps smooth and plump the skin and adds an all over radiance to prevent your makeup from looking flat. What I truly love about this one, and what initially sold me on it, is its instant tightening effect. This is amazing if you have textured/pore-like skin or if you have pronounced lines and emphasized creases on certain parts of the face. It melds seamlessly with your skin, smoothing and erasing every single pore, fine line, and wrinkle – even acne scars. Out of the countless primers I’ve tested and worn over the years, this one by far exceeded expectations, and then some.
Around the same time last year, I completely stopped using eyeshadow primer. I could for the life of me not find anything I truly liked due to a variety of reasons, including: product pilling, creasing, premature fading, etc. Instead, I just started using one of my other complexion primers for the eyes which happened to be the Smashbox Iconic Photo Finish Foundation Primer. This primer has been with me for a super long time, in fact it’s been so long I could not even ballpark an age estimate. Aside from being a really good complexion primer, it also works extraordinarily on the eyes. It has a soft, silk-like consistency that virtually melts into the skin and works amazing to smooth out the lids. I find it perfect for bringing out the vibrancy of eyeshadows and it keeps the colors in place for at least 12 hours. After you work it into the skin not only does it create a gorgeous satin veil but it also kind of mattifies to a certain degree and powders blends flawlessly into the lids and layer beautifully with each other.
It has been a heartbreaking process going through quite a bit of new foundation formulas only to discover that none 100% worked for me. I was really excited about some of the new releases that launched, including from Bobbi Brown, Jouer, Becca, etc., but alas, every single one lacked somewhere whether that was in terms of coverage, finish, color match, longevity, settling and creasing, weight, flow and fluidity, etc., the whole experience was just not the business and rather disappointing. Aside from formulation technicalities, one of the main issues was color compatibility. Shades were either too pink, too yellow, some were even gray (?), and it made my complexion look like a hot mess. Years ago I had myself professionally color matched at Sephora and was matched with the Nars All Day Luminous Weightless Foundation in Vallauris based on both color as well as my personal criteria. Getting color matched was the smartest thing I’ve ever done in terms of finding out what exactly my shade matches were, but it also connected me with my foundation soulmate.
Formula-wise, the Nars All Day Luminous Weightless Foundation is one of the best full coverage liquid foundations I’ve ever tried. It’s very concentrated and highly opaque but doesn’t produce a fake look like most full coverage foundations do. It has a natural-looking luminous finish that is not so dewy or luminous to where it looks like an oil slick, but is also not a flat matte. The finish is natural and beautiful and looks radiant and fresh at the same time. Lasting power is excellent and stays put all day long – no oxidizing and no budging. This is one of the two foundations that stand the test of extreme Vegas dry heat without a hitch. It has smooth, lightweight coverage, buildable pigment, blurs imperfections and neutralizes redness to give the skin a gorgeous glow. The consistency is quite watery and a little goes a long way. Two pumps is more than enough to cover my entire face. For me, I found that application works best by blending with a damp Beautyblender.
Just like with any full coverage foundation, properly prepping your base is key. If you have dry skin that is prone to patches or flakes, a full coverage foundation has a tendency of emphasizing those dry areas so moisturizing prior is paramount.
For color, I am consistently the shade Vallauris, which is a medium with pink undertones until Summer when I am much more tan and switch to the Natasha Denona Face Glow Foundation in 45 Medium Neutral (reviewed here) which is a just a tad darker and more reddish in undertone. Vallauris could not be more perfect for my skintone though and needs no tweaking to be exact.
Concealer & Complexion Enhancers
The Nars Radiant Creamy Concealer in Custard has been a long-time go-to for me. As with my foundations, I prefer a concealer with a radiant finish because I find that in general it makes my skin appear much fresher and youthful especially when used around the eyes. Also, I find that a radiant concealer finish blends much easier and better. For me matte concealer finishes are either too opaque, too matte, tend to emphasize lines and other imperfections and can age my eye area significantly or make me look very tired. To put it short, matte finishes just don’t work the best for my skin.
For this one, the coverage is medium to full but buildable. It has a hydrating feel and subtle glowy look but isn’t heavy. The consistency is quite thick so blending is key to get it to lay down nicely and evenly – preferably using a damp Beautyblender. Texture is smooth and creamy. It is highly pigmented and opaque so once again properly prepping with a thoroughly moisturized base is key. The Radiant Creamy Concealer works well to cover dark circles and blemishes, it also brightens up the face when used in highlighting and the creamy radiant finish makes it feel so nice on the skin. Lasting power is very impressive, it also doesn’t oxidize nor turn gray after a few hours.
Unfortunately, it does minimally settle over the course of a long wear day. I have come to terms with the fact that all concealers crease despite how hydrating or creamy they are, especially when you already have fine lines or creases around the eye area. There is no going two ways about it. I have noticed in isolated testing phases that the concealer tends to settle more depending on the powder. Without any powder it stayed smooth for a very long time but with powder tended to settle in half the time. It also depends on which powder I used because sometimes it would crease immediately.
The Hourglass Veil Retouching Fluid (reviewed here) was the one step I didn’t know I was missing in my routine. This is a sheer, weightless, oil-free fluid that cancels out dullness, illuminates any darkness, and retouches fading makeup without caking or creasing. This is not a concealer more so that it is just a finisher or retoucher to touch-up makeup throughout the day or to bring life to the face when skin is looking a little dull. It’s actually quite a neat product with a really nice formulation. It offers sheer to light coverage that does not crease and blurs imperfections rather than covering them. The fluid has a nice creamy texture with a thin consistency that is easy to blend into the skin. You’re supposed to use it on top of already existing makeup, even when you’re powdered since it is meant to refresh. Simply dab it on the areas where you could use some TLC and than lightly dab with the finger to smooth out and brighten the skin. It does a really good job of refreshing the makeup and looks natural in the process while providing a soft luminosity. Like a filter for the face. It’s sheer and not very opaque but it evens out my skin and the subtle radiance is just enough to diffuse everything beautifully. Finish is smooth and doesn’t emphasize pores, texture or lines.
If it’s not to set concealer, powder is something that I rarely use. I usually reserve all-over powder for the Winter season in order to enhance and illuminate the complexion and give it a beautiful candlelit warmth. One of my favorite finishing powders for the face has to be Radiant Light from the Hourglass Ambient Lighting Powder line. The Ambient Lighting Powders are designed to give a candlelit glow to the face. Their unique formula is infused with the innovative Photoluminescent Technology, and each finishing powder captures, diffuses, and softens the look of the skin. Texture is really soft and the powder contains the right amount of balance of pigment and softness to make the entire face glow without affecting foundation color or oxidizing. These powders virtually melt into the skin and illuminate the face beautifully while buffing away any flaws or inconsistencies. What I also love about the Ambient Lighting Powders is that they provide the perfect base to blend other powder products on, application becomes a lot more seamless and smooth.
To set concealer, I’ve fallen head over heels with the Hourglass Veil Translucent Setting Powder (reviewed here). The powder is weightless, non-drying, doesn’t emphasize or settle into lines, pores or cling to texture and patches, and doesn’t leave a white cast. I love that it has a demi-matte finish and leaves a beautiful, soft radiant glow. The Veil Translucent Setting Powder seamlessly melds and disappears into the skin once it is blended creating an actual blurring effect. The powder is extremely fine and has a velvety smooth texture that yields to soft, silky skin when on the face. It’s very lightweight and I can apply it underneath the eyes without the powder accentuating my lines. It’s just utter perfection!
Chanel Soleil Tan De Chanel Bronzing Makeup Base has been a staple in my collection for years and I don’t think there’s anything like it. This is a light cream-gel bronzer that can be worn alone over foundation or as a bronzer base to leave the skin with a beautiful sunkissed look and outdoor radiance. It’s a lighter bronzer, which would make it more suitable for fair to light-medium complexions but is likely to get lost on medium and deeper skin tones. I honestly wish it was available in more shades so I could use it on its own instead of as a bronzing base. It does have really good pigmentation which is buildable to more coverage, or easily sheered out for a barely-there warmth. It also has a really nice smooth texture that is easy to buff and blend along the edges. Finish is more like a satin-matte but not too luminous or flat, it looks quite natural but still gives the skin a good touch of glow.
After foundation, I will apply the Chanel Soleil Tan De Chanel Bronzing Makeup Base on the areas where I usually sweep bronzer. Doing this prior gives any bronzing powder a good base to adhere to and really brings out the depth and color of each individual shade. It is an extra step but I just really enjoy the effect that is achieved when using the Soleil Tan de Chanel as a bronzing base. As I said, I wish Chanel would release more shades so I could use it as a standalone bronzer instead. The texture, consistency, blendability and pigment is just out of this world and exactly what I always look for in other cream bronzers.
One of my favorite things to do year-round is mix in a drop or two of liquid highlighter with either my primer or foundation – although I’ve come to prefer primer better. Doing this gives an added gorgeous, natural-looking lit-from-within glow without altering the color of the actual foundation or other color products that follow. It’s just an easy trick to level up the glow factor starting at the base. As of right now, the go-to’s for me are Marc Jacobs Beauty Dew You (reviewed here), Fantasy (reviewed here), and Tom Ford’s Fire Lust (reviewed here).
Unsurpassed in its ability to perform is the Urban Decay All Nighter Makeup Setting Spray. I’ve been using it for literal YEARS and cannot imagine my daily routine without it. Months back Sephora had the All Nighter Makeup Setting Spray for sale on their regular sale page and I stocked up. I mean, stocked.up. The packaging for the spray has been updated in the meanwhile but I still have 3 bottles left in my stash before I get to enjoy the new look.
The All Nighter Makeup Setting Spray is perhaps one of the most hydrating mists I’ve ever tried. It’s a classically, refreshing lightweight mist that takes the extra step of adding nourishment for a smoother canvas. I love how it instantly locks in the glow and keeps makeup in place all day. Featuring a patented Temperature Control Technology, it’s actually supposed to lower the temperature of your makeup to keep it all in place – even in the face of sweltering conditions and trust me when I say that this is 100% Vegas approved.
While I use the Urban Decay All Nighter Makeup Setting Spray as an actual all-over-the-face setting spray, I use my beloved MAC Prep + Prime Fix+ to blend and diffuse cream or liquid-based products, i.e.; concealer, cream bronzer, cream/liquid blush, highlighter. Fix+ is another staple that has been with me for a long time and over the years I’ve discovered a multitude of uses for it, including blending out concealer and whatnot. Typically I will dampen my Beautyblender with water just lightly prior to spraying it with Fix+ and it honestly makes such a big difference in the overall finish of the product vs just using water. With the Fix+ I notice that the finish of concealer, other cream products is much smoother and looks more alive, if you will. It gives this nice subtle radiance to them without ever looking/feeling greasy, oily or glossy. Especially with concealer I’ve noticed that it significantly reduces the risk of enhancing fine lines or drying out the under-eye area if you’re naturally dry there.
Some of my favorite brushes and applicators include:
- Beautblender – not shown here because I’m in dire need of a new one!
- Mikasa Beauty F100 Powder Brush ($21) – is one of my favorite powder brushes. It never fails me to apply all-over setting powders, bronzers or to blend out everything at the end before setting spray so everything looks uniform and gives me the assurance of no harsh lines
- Mikasa Beauty F110 Angled Blush Brush ($17) – has steadily become one of my favorite blush brushes because of the shape. It’s medium-sized and shape is perfect for hugging and contouring the cheeks with a flush of color. The pure high grade natural goat hair has just the right amount of density to pick up color and dispense it evenly on the cheeks. It’s also a great powder contour and blending tool. The angled shape helps control application
- Mikasa Beauty F111 Blush Brush – is one of the best to pick up and deposit blush colors with. Some brushes pick up either too much (even with tapping off excess) or pick up too little, but this one picks up just enough. I have been looking for a blush brush like this exact one for a long time. I love how it flawlessly blends color into the cheeks that resembles a pure natural glow without the fear of overdoing it
- Mikasa Beauty F120 Tapered Contour Brush ($16) – is a soft and silky brush featuring synthetic nylon hair and has a tapered end. One of the things I love about Mikasa brushes is that a majority of their brushes are multi-functional and the uses for this brush are endless. I like to use mine to sweep highlighter across the high-points of the face for a beautiful diffused look but more so to apply translucent setting powder underneath the eyes. The tapered end allows me to get as close to the inner corner as possible. I have been looking for a proper powder setting brush for the longest time and was immediately floored when I saw this brush because it’s exactly the likes of what I had in mind. You can also use this brush to sweep a powder contour along the jawline, under the cheekbones, and outer edges of the face
- Mikasa Beauty F300 Foundation Brush ($16) – is a firm brush that’s great for smooth foundation application. I’ve tested this one for about a week with liquid foundations and find it performs really well to evenly blend product on the face. I typically prefer a sponge for this step because in past experiences I have found a bit of streaking caused by the bristles and always end up smoothing out my face with my fingers. This brush seems to work much better because the bristles are more naturally tapered. I experienced no streaking or skipped patches with this brush.
- Mikasa Beauty F310 Round Buffing Brush ($20) – is one of the most dense yet extremely soft brushes I’ve tried. It can easily be used for powder applications as well as creams and liquids. I personally like to use it to buff out foundation after I applied it with a sponge applicator for a natural and flawless finish
- Mikasa Beauty F320 Angled Foundation Brush ($21) – is just a bit denser than the F310 but is smaller in size. This brush works absolutely perfect to blend and buff liquid foundation especially along the flat planes of the face. I tend to use this the most for cream contour or bronzers. It’s a versatile brush so it can really be used for anything
That wraps it up for my complete base edit. I hope you found this helpful in the event you had your eye on one of these products and wanted a short, yet direct review. In my opinion, aside from skincare one of the best investments you can make is in your base products since your base ultimately sets the tone to your entire makeup look. When your base is not right, neither will that bomb smokey eye look or a strong eyebrow game. All that being said I don’t think it’s necessary to spend a ton of money on foundations or powders. These days there are so many options on the market you can definitely find products that work for less. However, just make sure to research and educate yourself on your skin type, coloring, and what common concerns/issues you have in order to find base layers that cater the best to your complexion.
I’d love to hear about your current base routine and other complexion favorites. Let me know what you’ve been loving!