Base Makeup

Current Base Testing Rotation

August 18, 2015

I have a love-hate relationship with foundation these days. The summer sun is impossible to avoid here in Southern California and I’ve gotten a bit of color even with sunscreen. On our three weeks trip to Europe we spent a lot of time outdoors and on beaches – I got 2-3 shades darker. I’ve been trying to stay indoors more since I’ve been home so my tan is fading and I’m in that in-between stage of foundation colors. Some I have to mix to get the right match. These days I’ve been loving sheerer coverage formulas that are more forgiving. They have enough coverage to even the skintone but are sheer enough that you don’t need a 100% exact match.

Another tricky thing about foundation is color matching at the counter. In the past several trips I’ve made to the beauty counters and asked about foundation, the reps have looked at my skin and asked, “do you want to be darker or lighter?” Foundation is supposed to be a close match and I understand it can’t always be exact, but I can’t count the times I’ve been mis-matched at the counter. My solution is to ask to try 2-3 shades on the jawline, side by side and decide for myself. Or just go to Sephora where I know I can shop on my own and swatch at my own leisure.

I have a roundup of some new formulas I’ve been trying out along with a few tried-and-true. Some formulas I’ve found the next shade up is too big of a jump for me to purchase. Here are swatches of all the colors shown above. More detail below by coverage type.

Sheer Coverage

Sheer coverage foundations are something I haven’t been able to wear for a long time, but my skin has cleared up over the past 6 months thanks to skin resurfacing treatments like the Hourglass Equilibrium Biomimetic Night Serum and regular use of clarifying masks from Aesop, Caudalie and Glamglow.
  • I recently received a sample of the Glossier Perfecting Skin Tint ($26 for 1 fl oz) in Medium. There is a skin chart online to help determine what color will be your match. I wasn’t sure what to expect – this looks like the kind of product that looks so sheer it might designed for those with near-perfect skin. I’ve tested this for the past month and am really pleased with it. It is truly a skin tint. It’s very sheer so it’s forgiving but it gives the skin that natural healthy glow. It evens out the skin and brightens. I do need to set with powder or powder foundation but it’s really good. It’s lightweight and lasts all day without getting greasy. No breakouts or reaction to the formula either.
  • Armani Luninessence CC Color Control Bright Moisturizer ($52 for 1 fl oz) has been raved about by so many. I know Armani foundations are really well-loved, I like a couple of the formulas but find the color selection very limited in the ones I like (Luminous Silk has the most options and it’s one I cannot wear more than 1 hour without getting greasy-looking). When this product launched I was in between shades. Since I got a bit darker I thought it was the perfect time to try Shade 5. It’s pink-based but very sheer so it adjusts to my skin without looking too pink. I do wish it was a tad bit more olive, or that they released yellow versions of this formula. It gives the skin a natural glow with sheer coverage. It’s on the hydrating side so I think it’s better suited for normal to dry skin. If it had a wider color selection I’d give this a rating of 8.5 out of 10 stars.
  • By Terry Cellularose Moisturizing CC Cream ($86 for 1.41 fl oz) is extremely expensive but in terms of formula for CC creams, it’s the best I’ve tried. It’s very lightweight, very hydrating and sheer but buildable. It gives the skin a well-rested glow look like you just had a facial. I like that it has enough yellow in it for my skintone. Right now it’s a bit light but since it’s sheer I can make it work by dusting a bit of darker powder like Chanel Les Beiges 30 on top. If the next shade up was a good match I would get it, but my rep said there’s a huge jump and that it would be too dark. If you have oily skin I don’t think this is the product for you. For normal to dry skin it’s a great one.
  • Chanel Les Beiges All-In-One Healthy Glow Fluid ($45 for 1 fl oz) is a sheer glow product. The colors pull pink but the formula is very sheer so applying this all over gives the skin a warm glow. I like to use this as a base and then layer a heavier coverage foundation on areas that need more coverage. It gives the skin a natural healthy look.
Medium Coverage

Three medium coverage base products I’ve had in rotation are from La Mer, Charlotte Tilbury and NARS. This is my foundation coverage of choice. I like medium coverage to cover the entire face but something that still has a bit of transparency so if it’s not an exact match it will adjust.
  • La Mer The Reparative Skin Tint ($95 for 1.4 fl oz) is the most I think I’ve ever spent on foundation. Color selection is limited but it’s sheer to medium in coverage and adjusts to the skin after it sets. My closest match is Light Medium 3. It looks pinkish in the swatch but it blends out really nicely. The warmth gives a glow to the skin and makes it glow. When I went to the counter to try this I really appreciated the honesty of the rep who helped me. His initial thought was that I would be in between shades but was really nice and swatched two colors, one on each side. We were both surprised #3 matched. I had one of my friends with me to give a second opinion. She gave it the thumbs up so I bought it. It gives a similar glow to that of the By Terry but it has more pink undertone and it has more coverage. It has SPF 30. I hate to say it but I really love this one.
  • Charlotte Tilbury Light Wonder ($45 for 1.4 fl oz) is an amazing foundation. It gives the appearance of a youthful glow with perfect medium coverage. It’s thin-to-medium in texture so it feels weightless. It blends into the skin flawlessly and lasts all day long. The downside is the color selection and until now I’ve been in between colors. I swatched #6 and #7 above to show you the jump. If you’re at the counter and look at the shades in consecutive order you may find them confusing. There’s a huge jump in colors and undertones. Right now I’m a perfect match to #7 but I can tell any day I’ll have to mix in a light color to adjust it. If you can find a good color match this one is amazing in formula.
  • NARS Pure Radiant Tinted Moisturizer ($43 for 1.9 fl oz) has been my holy grail medium coverage tinted moisturizer for a long time. My go-to shade has been Groenland but over our trip I found St. Moritz to be a better match. I got even darker than St. Moritz however the next shade up is too dark. I still love this formula – it’s the best tinted moisturizer I’ve tried but it doesn’t have that tinted moisturizer feel. It has medium coverage and feels super lightweight. It evens out the skin and looks very natural.
Medium to Full Coverage

I have a few favorites for medium to full coverage but I can’t wear all of them now with hot humid weather. There are only two that truly hold up to the heat.
  • Chanel Perfection Lumiere Velvet ($47 for 1 fl oz) has never let me down. In my lightest I wear 20, I’m normally a 30, right now I’m a perfect match to 40. It’s been a long-time go-to for me. It has a perfect velvet finish without looking too matte. It holds up really well in the heat and for the coverage and pigment I’m really happy it doesn’t oxidize or darken.
  • Marc Jacobs Genius Gel Super-Charged Oil-Free Foundation ($48 for 1 fl oz) is my new favorite (tied with the Chanel Perfection Lumiere Velvet). It’s an oil-free foundation that comes in a wide selection of color undertones. I matched myself at Sephora to Golden Medium which is really yellow (I swatched 4 different colors on my face at the store). It’s concentrated but fluid so you only need 1-2 pumps to cover the entire face. It’s lightweight but gives medium to full coverage. It blends out nicely and is easy to layer. I don’t know what took me so long to try it but it lasts all day.
  • Tom Ford Traceless Perfecting Foundation ($80 for 1 fl oz) is something I repurchased recently. I’m usually Bisque 4 but it pulls light so I went up to Natural 5. I really adore this for the coverage, color selection and finish. In hot humid weather this time of year it just feels too heavy. It holds up pretty well to the heat but on the skin if I’m outdoors I can feel it.
  • Chanel CC Cream Complete Correction Sunscreen ($55 for 1 fl oz) is another Chanel love of mine. It has a high SPF of 50 and covers the skin really well. I wore this all through spring and have been using it on and off in the summer. In 83+ degree weather it feels thick on the skin although it holds up well and looks good. I’ll be saving this for cooler days. It still works on warm days I just prefer something that feels more lightweight.

Overall my top three picks for right now include the Chanel Perfection Lumiere Velvet, Marc Jacobs Genius Gel and Glossier Skintint. The La Mer follows close behind but due to the price and limited color selection I don’t know how likely it is I will repurchase once I finish it up. NARS is almost always at the top of my list but I don’t have a color match. Do you have a summer favorite right now? If yes, please share!

The Glossier Skintint was provided as a courtesy sample for review consideration. All others purchased by me.

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  • clara August 18, 2015 at 8:48 pm

    sabrina, i was so happy to see this post! i love love love when you discuss foundation. you really tick all the boxes in terms of coverage, longevity, and glow factor.

    my wedding is next summer, but of course, i'm already thinking about my makeup! what would your recommendations be for base? would you mix a liquid highlighter in (like becca or byterry ice dream or koh gen do illuminator) for photos? my holy grail base is koh gen do aqua. the staying power is only so-so, but i love the finish and the way it photographs. recently i've also been loving the too faced born this way and the tom ford traceless foundations.. and i always use the hourglass mineral veil primer.

    i too prefer medium coverage. i like a bit of glow as well (nars tinted moisturizer is one of my faves for that je ne sais quoi luminosity).

    your comments re the glossier skin tint are very intriguing – i tried the moisturizer and face mist and did not love either, but i want to support the line.

    keep it up – i look forward to every one of your posts!

  • Emmys Beauty Cave August 18, 2015 at 8:48 pm

    I really want to try the Nars Tinted Moisturiser sounds like one i need! x
    Emma | Emmys Beauty Cave

  • SJ Sellers August 18, 2015 at 9:03 pm

    Another highly informative and well written post! Thank you for all the details on these products!!! This is a huge help.

    My HG foundation is Ellis Faas. I tend to avoid it in summer because i like my coverage on the sheer side in the summertime — Ellis is medium to full. Ellis has THE most skinlike coverage of any product I've tried. I adore it.

    I've been using ByTerry CC Cream or 3Lab BB Cream this summer.

    xoxo sj

  • Rachel Polansky August 18, 2015 at 9:20 pm

    Great picks! I've also been loving the new Marc Jacobs foundation 🙂

  • Amanda Hollingsworth August 18, 2015 at 10:36 pm

    If you want to break the bank I can heartily recommend Skin Caviar Concealer – Foundation by La Prairie. There is a pot of concealer in the lid which makes it a bit more cost effective but at £140 it is a huge investment. I also love By Terry CC Cream, Tom Ford Traceless Perfecting, Ultra Foundation by Face Atelier Cosmetics and Omoroviza Complexion Enhancer. Kevyn Aucoin is also doing great things and the Sensual Skin Enhancer is awesome and if that translates to a base… on my wish list to try. Also Charlotte Tilbury has a new foundation coming in the next few weeks called Magic Foundation. Lisa Eldridge has also been raving about a Japanese Gel mask foundation by Albion. Not available in UK but I'm thinking of taking a risk and trying it out as Lisa Eldridge is my most favourite make up artist. Being my ageish she seems to make up women how I want to look……not someone else but the best possible version of me! I've dropped all Chanel Foundations from my repertoire….too pink and thanks to Space NK / Tom Ford I finally have a skin tone diagnosis that works for me. Xxxx

  • Meliza Joyce August 18, 2015 at 11:36 pm

    This is such a great post with lots of useful, detailed information. I'm not much of a foundation/tinted moisturizer junkie – when I find one that works, I stick to it. Although, I've been really wanting to branch out more with foundations and just trying out new products in general. I really appreciated this post and I'm very interested in trying the Charlotte Tilbury Light Wonder foundation and NARS Pure Radiant Tinted Moisturizer after reading this!!

  • Beauty Bloss August 19, 2015 at 12:45 am

    This was a great post! A few favourites of mine appeared – Chanel Perfection Lumiere is one of my HG's I love this stuff. I also really like the Chanel CC & Nars TM. I have been dying to the Charlotte Tilbury Light Wonder and the Marc Jacobs one sounds really interesting too – I'll have to check it out.
    The Beauty Bloss

  • Adia G August 19, 2015 at 1:31 am

    I've been loving Lancome Miracle Cushion compact. I bought it for travel, but have been using it daily. It's extremely lightweight (but buildable) and has just enough of a glowy finish. It's really great and so convenient. I also like Dior CC cream but the color selection is limited.

  • Melissa A August 19, 2015 at 2:09 am

    Right now I've been loving the Glossier Skin Tint and Chantecaille Just Skin. Really loved seeing you talk about so many different bases. I also have the Marc Jacobs and Chanel (lumiere velvet) but haven't used them because I've just been really into a very light base.

  • Maria August 19, 2015 at 2:11 am

    Love this! Such a nice idea to let us know what's in your rotation!


  • Louisa August 19, 2015 at 3:01 am

    What a great post! I have been wearing Tom Ford Traceless Perfecting mixed with a little Chantecaille gel bronzer (to deepen the hue) and a Tatcha camellia oil. The oil thins the consistency of the foundation, providing a more dewy glow than its typical matte finish. I also like Chanel Les Beiges on good skin days, but the color pulls pink on me.

  • Unknown August 19, 2015 at 3:49 am

    i've been combining nars tinted moisturizer (in st. moritz, which is just a tad too dark for me) with laura mercier smooth fluid foundation (in macadamia, which is a tad too light). to me nars is sheer to med., i guess i have a bit more flaws and LM helps control my shine and gives a bit more coverage. this is my all time fave combo so far…although i have not tried any other of the foundations you mention in this post. i'm intrigued with the charlotte tilbury, although i'm not sure if it will hold up to my shine. i am very oily in the summer, and i hear it's pretty sheer.

    xoxo juanita

  • Anonymous August 19, 2015 at 4:45 am

    I'm in Greece right now. I brought the Armani bronzing serum with me and it's great. Just add a few drops and my cc creams and foundations adjust to my colour. Great product.

  • Londontowngal August 19, 2015 at 5:03 am

    I've been wanting to try out CT's foundation but I heard she is coming out with a full coverage semi-matte foundation in Sept so I'm waiting to buy that as I have discolouration and acne prone skin, so I'm always for full coverage. You've listed some brilliant foundations here! x

  • Gina August 19, 2015 at 7:13 am

    Great post! I am a big fan of Chanel Perfect Lumier Velvet too! I have always been on a hunt for great summer foundation and since I live in tropical summer year round country it doesnt hurt to find great addition. I recently found YSL Fushion Ink foundation and totally love it. It is light to medium coverage, great for oily skin, glided on to the skin easily and smooths out my skin beautifully. The only drawback for me is it contains only SPF 18.

  • Katya Van Bick August 19, 2015 at 11:36 am

    Some of these sound so glorious! Chanel Perfection Lumiere sounds like one that I definitely need to try!

    Katya | The Beauty Harbour

  • Stacey Jane August 19, 2015 at 3:44 pm

    Brilliant post thank you!! I gotta get my hands on the new Marc Jacobs and the Chanel xx

    Stacey | Expat Make-Up Addict

  • Anonymous August 19, 2015 at 4:55 pm

    This was another great post! Well done.
    I am normaly a Chanel 10 or 20 but after a beach vacation and some hot weather days here in Germany I have a really dark complexion. Btw. this was not planned,I promise!
    Because I do not want to spent my money on a pricey foundation that I only can wear for a few weeks or next year when this tan accident repeats, I bought the BM Skin Rescue in Spice. I love this formula so much and because I am bit lighter now I bought the ginger version. It looks fantastic on my skin.
    Greetings from Germany

  • Eileen August 19, 2015 at 5:46 pm

    As much as I loved Chanel foundations, I haven't worn one in several years because, with the shifts in formulation, I can no longer find a good color match. I don't mind mixing foundations when I'm in-between seasons because it is only necessary for a relatively short period of time, but I'm not willing to do that on a regular basis 🙁 Tom Ford's original Traceless and Clé de Peau's Radiant Fluid, on the other hand, both offer me the perfect color match in a luminous, dewy base that offers light to medium coverage. When I need a heavier, longer lasting coverage, I just can't find anything that beats Tom Ford's Traceless Stick. Because I have dry, mature skin, they work for me by diffusing light and giving a soft, real-skin glow. For extra longevity, I always apply a light veil of finishing powder such as Météorites, La Mer, or Clé de Peau.

    There is such an abundance of foundations from which to select, I can't imagine anyone not being able to find an excellent one that meets their needs. It does take a bit of trial and error, though, but for those of us who enjoy trying new foundations, it just goes with the territory 🙂